Coming into the 2017 MLS season, Orlando City had a lot of questions that needed answering.
Second-year head coach Jason Kreis did well last season after taking over for the departed Adrian Heath but again, the former MLS striker had his work cut out for himself and his staff.
Fast forward over the first two months of the season and the Lions are currently atop the Eastern Conference and Supporters’ Shield table, and it doesn’t appear that Kreis and co. will relinquish that standing any time soon.
Cyle Larin has established himself as one of MLS’ top scorers during his first two-plus seasons in the league. His six goals thus far ranks second in MLS, only trailing Houston Dynamo attacker Erick “Cubo” Torres.
Larin won’t be able to do it by himself, but Kaka’s return is already paying dividends for the side after the Brazilian scored in his first match back from injury on Saturday against the Colorado Rapids.
It’s not Orlando’s offense that is catching the attention of many around MLS though, but instead the club’s completely revamped backline.
In the club’s first two seasons, the Lions allowed 116, which is tied with the Chicago Fire for the most of any team during that span of time.
Additions of Jonathan Spector, Donny Toia and MLS veteran Will Johnson has played vital roles in the team’s defensive turnaround, particularly Spector, who has started all seven Orlando City matches at centerback.
It’s Spector’s budding partnership with USMNT hopeful Tommy Redding that has allowed the Lions to quickly become one of the most stout defensive units in MLS. So far, Orlando has conceded five goals, the second fewest behind only Sporting KC’s three allowed.
Couple these factors in with Orlando’s seemingly impenetrable home-field advantage and the Lions have all the makings of a dangerous side in 2017. The club has yet to lose at home this season, starting out with five consecutive victories at Orlando City Stadium.
It’s clearly too early to state that Orlando will run away with the East or even clinch a playoff spot for that matter, but considering Kreis’ influence and all the proper adjustments the squad made during the offseason it seems like a pretty safe bet that this team will be playing into late October and beyond.Follow @MattReedFutbol