Orlando City’s inconsistent form takes another turn, leaving the club searching for solutions

Oscar Pareja

Photo by Justin Glatt / Orlando Soccer Journal

Orlando City’s inconsistent form to start the 2023 season took another dissapointing turn following a fourth-round exit in the U.S. Open Cup on Tuesday after a 1-0 loss to Charlotte FC.

In a match that saw last year’s cup winners looking to repeat that feat again, it was Charlotte that controlled every aspect of the game — and the Lions were left dealing with a new reality that’s clouded the team’s form for much of the year.

At the start of the season, it was a grand opening, grand closing for Orlando in its first participation of the 2023 CONCACAF Champions League after falling through away goals against UANL Tigres.

And it was a similar fate after Tuesday’s disillusioned defeat in the Open Cup.

With MLS competition basically the only thing left to play for before this summer’s Leagues Cup competition, the Lions find themselves in a rut in which they’re 3W-4D-5L across all competitions following their Feb. 25 regular season opening win.

A conundrum that has the coaching staff scrambling for answers while mantaining confident on the tactics being deployed.

“It’s something at this moment that we’re all searching for, solutions, especially the coaching staff,” said coach Oscar Pareja in Spanish after Tuesday’s loss at Charlotte. “I come out and say, despite the defeat, that I’m satisfied with the effort this group is putting forth. I’m proud of this group that’s hardworking and looks for ways to search for these victories which will make us consistent.”

“Within the lines and the area, we have a defined system and the players are doing it well,” he added. “We just have to apply ourselves in improving our target and apply ourselves to scoring goals which will give us the opportunity to win games.”

Scoring has been another issue for Orlando this year. In the first 10 games of the MLS regular season, the team has only scored 10 times and conceded 12, and designated players Facundo Torres, Ercan Kara and Martin Ojeda have scored twice, respectively, across all competitions.

Rookie forward Duncan McGuire leads the team with 3 goals.

On Tuesday, however, Orlando was shutout again for the fifth time this year.

And for Robin Jansson, who’s worn the captain armband recently in Mauricio Pereyra’s absense due to injury, Tuesday’s performance wasn’t good enough, he said, adding the play hasn’t worked to 100% while calling out on indidivual players including himself to step up.

“I think all the players has to be better including myself. We need to play our game and we need to be able to create chances and score goals,” said Jansson. “Otherwise we won’t to win any games and obviously we need to be better in the back too.”

“It’s frustrating right now, but in the end of the day, it’s a tough loss, but we have to keep on going and we need to get better,” he added. “We need to get back back to Orlando, train a couple of days before we travel to Columbus and go for three points in that game. There’s there’s no turning back now. It’s just keep on going. We have to have to be better. We have to go through what we’re doing, good and bad and then just keep on working.”

Orlando City’s inconsistent form dates back to last season despite winning the Open Cup.

In their last six regular season games in 2022, the Lions finished 2-4 — enough to secure the last playoff position in the Eastern Conference, only to exit in the first round for the second consecutive year.

During the offseason, Orlando offloaded 11 players and brought in 10 new players, including DP Martin Ojeda for a reported $4 million transfer fee.

The Lions re-signed key players in goalkeeper Pedro Gallese and Mauricio Pereyra, who’s DP status was brought down to make room for Ojeda.

Whether Pareja is under pressure to perform with his overhauled roster and repeat winning silverware this year, the fourth-year coach who’s in his last year of his contract says the pressure doesn’t faze him.

It was there last year during the team’s inconsistent form to close out the 2022 season, and it’s there now at the first quarter of the 2023 season.

“We live a life of constant pressure that’s something we all share,” said Pareja. “This is a high performance game, and we’re constantly under pressure because when you don’t win, you feel it. This hasn’t happened now, it’s happened before but we’ve overcome it. We need to remain calm and try to search for solutions. It’s bittering, but I’m used to living under this feeling.”

Orlando City is back in action on Saturday against the Columbus Crew at 7:30 p.m.

For more Orlando soccer news, follow the Soccer Journal on Twitter: @OSJSoccer


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