From one week to another, it feels we like get a different outlook on this Orlando City team each time they take the field. The collective takeaway through the first eight games of the season is that this group the Lions have, while better than what James O’Connor took over last summer, are neither very good or very bad.
They’re a middle of the pack team, ugly at their worst and exceptional at their best, but in-between mediocre.
Fifth place in the Eastern Conference with 11 points is good, that can’t be taken away. It’s a better spot than a lot of people thought they would be in right now (having both New York teams and Atlanta United all struggling helps), but as we all know, the law of averages dictates that things will eventually even out and we’ll start to see things fall more into place.
But all we know now is what we’ve seen. So what do the advanced stats say about Orlando City?
Let’s take a dive into those stats, using numbers from the fine folks over at American Soccer Analysis.
The metrics say that Orlando City is under-performing defensively, which is really no shock. The Lions’ real life goals against total is 13, compared to their xGA (the expected number of goals a team would give up based on ASA’s data) of 8.2. Right off the bat, that’s a -4.8 difference.
Conversely, their 12 goals actually put them above their xG (expected goals scored) of 11.1, so the Lion are out-performing the numbers on that side of the ball. Putting the numbers together and putting the actual goal differential against the xGD the Lions are at -3.9.
Even over-performing on xG, the Lions are still just slightly under the aggregate line.
So what can we learn from this? The Lions are catching bad breaks at times when they are playing well, and that’s what we’ve already been able to see, but the numbers can now back that up. Orlando, I would argue, is much-improved defensively over last year’s team, but there are still moments that go against the mean and gift goals to opposing teams.
Here’s where it gets more interesting.
I want to focus on Dom Dwyer, the supposed focal point of the Lions attack up front. With just three goals this season, and another very quiet day against Vancouver over the weekend, he’s under-performing on xGs by -1.3.
By comparison with his teammates, Nani is +1.9 and Chris Mueller is +1.5, meaning both are scoring well over the xG model that ASA uses, taking into account that they typically have fewer chances to score in a game than Dwyer.
That brings me to another interesting stat on Dwyer that could be used to explain much of why he’s been so little of a factor for Orlando to this point: his solo shot percentage, which is the number of shots he’s taken unassisted.
Last season, that number was 15.4 percent, a fair number given his position and the type of forward he is. This year, that number — and keep in mind the sample size is much smaller — is 8.3 percent. Among some of the league’s top-scoring players and xG leaders, only Jozy Altidore (5.9 percent) has a lower solo number, meaning the bulk of Dwyer’s shots are coming directly off of passes from the guys around him.
The fact that his number is so low, shows that without good or even consistent service into the box, Dwyer isn’t creating many chances for himself. Like I said, Dwyer’s not that kind of player anyway. When you look at the other players in that graphic above, guys like Carlos Vela, Marco Fabian, and Darwin Quintero, they’re more known for their ability to create chances for themselves and those around them.
Dwyer, like Altidore, isn’t taking on players 1-v-1 and dribbling through defenders. Those guys make runs, split defenders, and count on teammates to find them in space. But again, the sample size is so small and I would expect that number to rise a bit as the season goes on.
Nani is still leading the team in Key Passes (passes leading directly to shots) with 14. Playing as somewhat of a False 9, he’s been one of the Lions’ primary chance creators as someone that sees the ball a lot in the final third. Second on the team in Key Passes is Mueller, with three more than Sacha Kljestan (8), despite having played 258 few minutes, and his expected assists total (1.9) is actually the highest on the team, although he only has one actual assist to his name.
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