The Pre-Season of Our Discontent: Replaying Orlando City’s 2017 MLS Season with FM18
Here is post #2 from the ongoing series recapping this technological autopsy of the Orlando City 2017 season by replaying it through Football Manager 2018. You can find part one here.
Seven road games later, the alternate reality Orlando City returns home undefeated. Unfortunately, much like the real Lions this season, something seems to feel a bit… off. Here’s how the pre-season went:
Nice wins against the Ft. Lauderdale Strikers and FC Cincinnati were augmented by very listless draws against Charlotte Independence, Miami FC, Pittsburgh Riverhounds, and our own OCB. The team struggled against lesser opponents throughout these seven games.
The best match of the pre-season came against USL high-flyers FC Cincinnati. Due to the quick succession of games, I was forced to play a rotated line-up. This included giving young Mason Stajduhar a start in goal. He performed magnificently, as did the whole backline. Dillon Powers struck twice, while Cristian Higuita and Cyle Larin added one apiece to create the “feel-good” win this team needs.
Even in a false reality, I know the Orlando City faithful were expecting a win away against the Tampa Bay Rowdies. Things weren’t looking good until Dom Dwyer struck in the second half, with a goal not unsimilar to the I4 Derby goal he scored in 2013.
Despite these positive steps, the locker room is a mess. FM18 has new features in place that allow your players to have more opinions about you and your coaching style, and so far no one has really taken to me. So we go into the start of the season on tentative ground.
The pre-season has given me a little more faith in the younger fringe players at the club, so I’ll be looking to give them chances early on. That does fit my FM style though, so it doesn’t come as a surprise to me.
I’ve decided on a 4-2-3-1 formation to start the season. The only two real issues are playing Yoshi out of his prefered midfield position and benching either Dwyer or Larin every game. Being that Orlando has so few forwards, there isn’t much of a line behind those two so the rotation has been good so far.
Registering an MLS Squad
FM18 does an excellent job of simulating the bureaucracy that is Major League Soccer. I’ll save a thought for the poor programmers who had to figure out how to make the ever confusing web of roster rules playable in FM. While registering a team, I ran into salary cap issues and had to make some cute. Kevin Alston, Josh Saunders, and Tony Rocha were waived per MLS rules. These weren’t easy cuts to make, but there is a lot of coverage on the defensive flanks, so Alston was expendable. My appreciation for Earl Edwards Jr. made Saunders an easier choice. Rocha has always been a mysterious fringe player, although I did really enjoy his real-life goal last week against Puerto Rico.
With the squad registered, only a few more clicks on the “Continue” button until the season opener against NYCFC. The club still has a lot of work to do on team cohesion and fitness until then.