Good morning, Don Garber,

I doubt you feel much better than I do after the United States men’s national team was inexcusably eliminated from qualifying for the 2018 World Cup last night. Frankly, if you got a good night of sleep I would be surprised, because losing to Trinidad & Tobago exposed more than just how flawed the national team was.

It revealed that progress from Major League Soccer in 21 years might just be a fraud, too.

As commissioner of MLS, this should make your blood run cold.

Last night, in the midst of a take-no-prisoners rant that should be played in a loop in your office until every syllable seeps into your being, ESPN analyst Taylor Twellman included your league as part of the reason for this unacceptable collapse. And he’s right. He’s right because MLS fed this team the likes of Darlington Nagbe, Michael Bradley, Kellyn Acosta, Brad Guzan, et al. All of whom and many other MLS “stars” vanished on the world’s stage.

Hell, the USMNT was coached by a man plucked from your league’s glamour franchise, the Los Angeles Galaxy.

I could list the all of MLS contributions to the national team, but why rub your nose in it? I simply want to drive that point that players who honed their skills in your league just can’t cut it in international play. That is an ugly reflection on MLS. If the United States has regressed in soccer, which it has, then it must follow that MLS has not progressed in skill level, either. Clearly, it hasn’t.

The other item Twellman mentioned that sank like a bowling ball in the esophagus was the billion dollar investment Americans have made in soccer. We’ve made the investment in infrastructure for U.S. soccer, its youth program, and certainly in Major League Soccer. You have insisted on soccer-specific stadiums for franchises, and in most cases tax dollars have come in.

The thing about us ever-lovin’ capitalists, we expect a return on our investment. If we don’t get it, the wallets close. Philadelphia taxpayers foot the bill for most of the Union’s stadium snd nobody shows up because the team stinks.

So when we drop a billion dollars on a sport and this is the best you can do, oh immediate changes have to be made. I travelled to multiple USMNT qualifiers. I also have travelled to see MLS in Los Angeles, Portland, New Jersey, Dallas and Orlando. You think I want to climb aboard another plane for this?

Americans are looking at all those USMNT uniforms — why did they come out with five new jerseys in the last year, by the way? — with MLS player names on the back and thinking “these players are our best?”

Why would I want to see Nagbe and the Portland Timbers if Nagbe falters on the national team? Right now, Toronto FC is far and away your most exciting team. Why watch them play? Bradley and Jozy Altidore are outmatched against the rest of the world, even countries like Trinidad & Tobago. Hell, we don’t even know if Trinidad or Tobago have professional soccer.

This is not to say MLS is the problem, but it has to take an active role in being the solution. The future of your league depends on it. And U.S. soccer needs MLS to exist. FIFA doesn’t award a World Cup to a nation without a top-flight pro league.

If you haven’t already called the U.S. Soccer Federation headquarters and demanded the immediate resignation of president Sunil Gulati, you will become part of the problem. He has to answer for where that billion dollars went.

Gulati’s ouster is not a one-step fix to a systemic failure. It is a needed first step. It is one you must insist upon, because his failure is your failure. Last night’s failure, which marked the first time the USA didn’t reach the World Cup since 1986, indicates MLS has not progressed, either.

Which makes every other sport look pretty damn good right now.

LA Galaxy changes focus from stars to comets 

A little more than 20 years ago, when Major League Soccer debuted, its teams carried these fanciful names like the Wiz, MetroStars, Clash and Burn. As you might imagine, the Clash and Burn pretty much crashed and burned.

Only four of the original 10 franchises kept their nicknames, including the LA Galaxy — a moniker chosen because the club wanted to be among the stars of Hollywood. Eventually, the Galaxy backed that up with some of soccer’s biggest names — David Beckham the most glitzy of the lot.

Before training camps in MLS opened last week, the so-called glamour franchise abandoned that idea in a roster purge. It’s a gamble, not just in terms of name recognition. It also might be to the Galaxy’s benefit.

Los Angeles, which opens the season March 4 vs. FC Dallas, reinvented itself over the last two seasons by building its starting 11 from the back line up. In the process, the Galaxy are younger and quicker. Pardon me for overplaying the puns regarding astronomy, but they’ve replaced stars with comets.

There was a time when the Galaxy’s international presence boosted the entire league. The Beckham signing years ago forced the hands of other clubs to lure big names that were past their prime. LA eventually created its own bidding war. After a couple of years, even having Beckham wasn’t enough. So the Galaxy acquired other foreign stars such as Steven Gerrard and Robbie Keane. That was a lot of skill. It often led to a lot of goals. It also meant, for a league with a Byzantine salary cap, a drain on defense.

Other franchises across the league eventually took advantage of the Galaxy’s crumbling foundation. The big names — all in their mid 30s — couldn’t play 90 minutes twice a week, or were prone to injuries.

Ultimately, the exodus of talent from the roster at the end of last season — which also included Landon Donovan and coach Bruce Arena — might have been inevitable.

The changeover for LA began in earnest when it rebuilt its defense before the 2016 season. Led by Belgian defender Jelle Van Damme, only one team was better in terms of conceding goals last year. The next step this last offseason was to rebuild the midfield. The Galaxy will feature three new starters there this season. The “name” addition is Jermaine Jones from the US national team, who is a bit past his prime at 35. The franchise’s hopes, though, appear to rest on Joao Pedro of Portugal and Romain Alessandrini of France.

Pedro, 23, is known for thinking defense first with quick decisions on where to pass. Alessandrini, who is supposed to join the team this week, is a speedster at 27. Their job is to get the ball to the Galaxy’s one remaining star, Mexican national Giovani Dos Santos.

For those of us oddballs who enjoy MLS and wondered what the hell the LA Galaxy was up to, we now know: These acquisitions substitute international reputation for functional versitility. It will be curious to see how that plays out for a franchise that has won MLS Cup five times. Indeed, it’s a brave new world.

Played right, Orlando City wins Molino deal

It’s been a few weeks — because it seems like the offseason lasts only a few weeks — since we’ve chatted up Major League Soccer. Training camps opened on my birthday, but I was too busy drinking wood grain alcohol and drowning in a pool of my own bitter tears to write then.

Speaking of bitter tears, let’s get to marginally disappointing Orlando City. In my opinion, if the Lions play their cards right, they will win yesterday’s trade that sent attacking midfielder Kevin Molino and a reserve goalkeeper you won’t remember to expansion Minnesota United.

Oh sure, former Orlando coach Adrian Heath needs experienced attack-minded players such as Molino. Heath has tended to coach with an offense-first mentality. Local fans loved the cherubic little dude for his unkempt shirt and how the blood pressure turned his face a near lobster red. They loved it because clearly, it showed Heath had passion.

Here’s the flaw: Passion diminishes intellect. Passion makes you overvalue people you like. An over-reliance on passion is a horrible trait in a coach or front office.

Minnesota gave up about $650,000 worth of salary cap relief for Molino, who probably wasn’t even the third-best player on the Orlando roster. The amount of help Heath just gave his former employers is a league record. Now, in the major team leagues across America, $650,000 isn’t a lot of money. In MLS, it’s really helpful.

We know a lot about Heath and passion-driven contracts. Orlando City SC made a splash before playing a single game by signing Brazilian superstar midfielder Kaka, who was the last player not named Messi to be regarded as the best player on the planet. Orlando City overpayed. The Lions have yet to reach MLS playoffs.

It bears repeating: Heath signed one of the best players on the entire planet and it still wasn’t enough to get a team to the playoffs in a league that is inferior to most of Europe, South America and possibly Asia.

You could also suggest the Heath-driven additions last season of Antonio Nocerino and Christian Higuita didn’t help, either.

Orlando City, under Heath, gambled on offense and gave up far too many reckless counterattacks. The Lions last year were third-worst in both goals conceded and yellow cards allowed. It’s a good idea to bring discipline to a team like that. It was s good idea to replace Heath with Jason Kreis.

Moreover, if the Lions use that cap relief and upgrade their defense, they win that trade.

Because they have enough offense-first players.

What the Lions need is some common sense to balance it out.

There has to be more from the Galaxy

I read an authorless column from the Los Angeles Times this morning about how the moves made by the Los Angeles Galaxy were much ado about nothing because the team draws about 20,000 fans per game and the television ratings aren’t stellar.

I’m not sure that’s the point. Major League Soccer has mostly followed a slow-growth business strategy since its inception because it knew it wouldn’t surpass the NFL no matter what Fox News tells you about Colin Kaepernick. At some point, MLS might get ambitious and try to pass the NHL, but where club soccer ranks on the national landscape hasn’t been a factor.

Instead, Tuesday’s moves for the five-time champions appeared to be much ado about nothing because there is nothing to suggest the team will be any better next year. Even worse, it’s hard to tell if the team will qualify for the playoffs next year. Ultimately, that’s what matters to those 20,000 fans per game — which, I might add, is an attendance average that exceeds at least three Major League Baseball teams.

New coach Curt Onalfo is probably a good idea, despite what the afore-mentioned column suggests. True, the Galaxy have excelled at attracting internationally known soccer commodities. In my eyes, though, the least important star should be the coach. The U.S. men’s national team tried that approach with Jurgen Klinsmann and it didn’t exactly help.

In addition to four seasons as an MLS coach, Onalfo has served as the Galaxy’s USL coach. “Los Dos,” as fans like to call the team, has played pretty efficient soccer. To me, letting him run the big club is a sign of continuity. The Galaxy have earned that right to ask for fans’ trust there.

But the incoming players so far are underwhelming, at best. It seems to me the Galaxy have a trustworthy defense that doesn’t need addressing. Midfield and forward, though, are cringe-worthy at the moment. We already know about the departures of Robbie Keane, Landon Donovan, Steven Gerrard and Nigel De Jong. What might be under the radar for fans is that dependable scorers Mike Magee and Alan Gordon are no longer under contract, either.

The Galaxy acquired the rights to two midfielders yesterday. Jermaine Jones is a name MLS fans have heard of. He’s also a 35-year-old reserve. Miguel Aguilar is a guy who couldn’t regularly crack the lineup for his last MLS team. It’s hard to believe either of them will make an impact.

The team has two designated player slots for next year. For the uninitiated, it’s basically a way to circumvent the salary cap to acquire top-level talent. The rule was created so that the Galaxy could add David Beckham back in the day.

The sooner those slots get filled, the more likely we’ll be impressed.

There has to be more… Shouldn’t there? 

Major changes loom for the LA Galaxy

To say the pieces simply didn’t fit is an understatement. The names the LA Galaxy assembled were cornerstones for any franchise in Major League Soccer. The task was to mash as many cornerstones onto the pitch as possible.

The Galaxy couldn’t, after being eliminated from the Major League Soccer playoffs last week. Now, the marquee franchise of the league has no choice but to change.

I didn’t approach the subject last week because let’s face it: most of us were all worked up over the presidential election and its aftermath. But I’m tired of reading about that stuff, so here goes.

When the Galaxy first started playing a version of fantasy football instead of soccer, it seemed like a good idea at the time. The problem is that doing so suggests the franchise figured piling on international stars would simply overwhelm the rest of a league full of North Americans. As international fans will tell you, every continent has a fundamental different style of play. European clubs don’t play the same as South American clubs, for instance. Here in North America, the Galaxy took a sort of European/Mexican/American approach and as a consequence, I think there was little cohesion.

Put another way: Who was the go-to guy for the Galaxy? Robbie Keane? Giovani Dos Santos? Jelle VanDamme? Steven Gerrard? Hell, was it Landon Donovan with his brief comeback?

Consistently successful franchises have a plan, find the talent to fit the plan, and execute. The Galaxy was that type of franchise. Now it isn’t, so it’s incumbent upon the front office to simplify. Change is necessary.

Gerrard is likely the first to go. The former Liverpool midfielder suggested as much in a social media post that stated he will miss the city of Los Angeles. I don’t hate Gerrard. Seems like a great guy. He’s right. He didn’t fit.

This may sound absurd, but I think Keane might be next. He’s a free agent and the former MVP has suffered significant injuries the past two years.

The gut feeling is the team might purge older players and rebuild the team around Dos Santos, who is entering his physical prime, is among the leaders of a pretty damn good Mexican National Team and as a Latino, would blunt the competition for fans that expansion team LAFC will try to swipe.

A Galaxy team that returns next season with a healthy Gyasi Zardes with Emmanuel Boetang becomes lightning quick on offense, instead of one that chooses moments to counterattack. And an effective designated player signing, perhaps at midfield, would make up for the losses of two Europeans who are past their prime. Perhaps if Donovan is committed to a full offseason of training, that would be the guy to take.

I wouldn’t change a thing on defense. The Galaxy was effective there.

In the meantime, time’s a-wastin.’ Anyone who thinks the seasons in baseball or basketball is long hasn’t seen enough soccer to understand that we’ll be talking MLS sometime after Valentine’s Day.

Goodbye, LA Sports Arena, we didn’t know ye

This week, a guy climbed into one of those giant excavators, slammed its giant metal teeth into the roof of the Los Angeles Sports Arena, ripped opened a giant gash into the faded blue roof and the sports world reacted the same way I expect people to react to my death.

With nonchalance.

Eventually, a couple of reporters desperate to add copy to satisfy the 24-hour news cycle attempted to shed crocodile tears over the demise of a major arena that predates not just Staples Center, but every NBA and NHL arena currently in operation — including Madison Square Garden. And still, despite the golden prose of yon west coast wordsmiths, nobody cared.

Actually, that’s not true. Despite its use as an indoor sports arena, Major League Soccer and expansion team LAFC care very much in that the sooner it comes down, the better. LAFC doesn’t have a player under contract, but it does have a deal to build a soccer-specific venue in its place. Banc of California Stadium opens in 2018.

Perhaps the arena could have been rescued. The Forum earned an inner facelift as a concert-only venue. The Sports Arena? Not only did it not get a makeover, it didn’t even get one of those dramatic implosion send offs they put on the local news.

The Sports Arena was a venue so irrelevant it simply needed to flatline, have a sheet tugged over it, and wheeled away.

The first time I saw the inside of the Sports Arena was on television, but not for an actual sporting event. It was when Carver High School advanced to the city championship game in the 1980 CBS drama “The White Shadow.” So this fictitious basketball team strolls across the court of the arena, guard Morris Thorpe looks to the ceilings and says that place was the sport where a player like him could really shine.

And as a child, I’m looking at my TV screen thinking, “There? You want to shine in a dump like that?”

That was 36 years ago.

Since then, the Clippers moved into the Sports Arena — having left an equally nasty gym in San Diego. The Clippers were pretty much the only reason I ever set foot into that place. Tickets were cheap for a college student, $10. Later, I covered Clippers games for a regional newspaper.

Only the Sports Arena floors were liquor store-level dirty. The seating in some sections was held together with electrical tape, and it was the only arena in the NBA that hadn’t upgraded its scoreboard to a television screen for instant replay.

Reporters usually have to wait for the locker room doors to open after a game. Players get a few minutes to hear from their coaches, shower, decompress, etc., before listening to our inane questions. Having said that, I don’t ever recall stepping into the Clippers locker room. I remember Larry Brown and the players being brought out to us. It makes me wonder if the toilets worked.

So when Staples Center opened, the Clippers ran like hell knowing full well it would be the No. 3 priority tenant behind the Lakers and Kings.

From the outside, the Sports Arena looked like a swelling bruise on South Central Los Angeles, or perhaps like a pimple beneath the chin of the University of Southern California. USC playing football in the neighboring Coliseum is charming in historical context. Its basketball team had to panhandle its graduates for decades to abandon the Sports Arena, build the Galen Center, and finally compete with UCLA for top recruits.

So let’s get to the bottom line. The Los Angeles Sports Arena was a dirty, charmless, nondescript building that held no lasting memories for anyone. Its life was without consequence. And in a city like LA, when you are irrelevant, you vanish with nary a trace.

LAFC needs to keep that in mind when it opens its new digs.

Donovan may help Galaxy, but not MLS

If you’ve heard of the law of diminishing returns, know that I don’t take as much pleasure in sports as I used to. Only recently have I come to grips with sports as an addiction, like heroin or the music of U2. I often find myself watching sports not because of love as much as a function of the autonomic nervous system. I watch because the feeling of “must do” overrides the feeling of “ought to do.”  

For those rare occasions when an athlete does something truly thrilling, I love the guy for that fleeting moment of reintroducing the love of sport. This was the last time I honestly lost my composure watching a sporting event.

So know I love that Landon Donovan, who retired too early in my opinion, returned to the Los Angeles Galaxy last week and played in his first game Sunday in a 4-2 victory over Orlando City SC.

Overall, though, I have a sinking feeling this is a bad idea for MLS. The reason is that the league, while telling us repeatedly about its improving quality of play, rarely acquires an elite soccer player who is still in his physical prime. Indeed, there is a global reputation of the league handing out golden parachutes to international players who want a final decent paycheck before bowing out.

Consider that Donovan is currently the greatest American-born player. He isn’t the most recognizable player in MLS history. That would be David Beckham, who joined the Galaxy at age 32. Beckham’s arrival rang in a rule change for a league that was known for being miserly — the designated player rule. Basically, it’s a financial workaround to bring in a limited number of free agent talent. And other teams responded by bringing in international superstars that were a bit past their prime, such as the New York Red Bulls did with Thierry Henry, who was 33 when he signed.

Orlando City SC and NYCFC made multiple designated player moves to excite a fan base for their first seasons in 2025. Orlando signed 32-year-old Kaka. NYCFC added David Villa, 33, Andrea Pirlo, 36, and Frank Lampard, 37. Lampard’s ballyhooed arrival last year fizzled thanks to age-related injury.

Even when the league debuted, it touted as one of its main draws Colombian star Carlos Valderamma, who was 35 at the time.

Understand, I haven’t much of a clue how to make MLS on the same level as Serie A in Italy or the Premiere League in England. Heck, I wouldn’t know how to lift MLS past Liga MX.

But signing players on the downside of their careers isn’t a solution. If you name your MVP award after a guy, you shouldn’t ask him to play again and expect it to work.

On a personal level, as a fan, I’m glad Donovan is back.

But what’s left of my sports-fried addicted mind knows that this is simply the latest hit of bad heroin.

Where passion gets confused: Orlando City had no choice

Fans love the coach or manager who looks horrible in business casual, the guy who gets so worked up on the sideline it looks like he’s about to pull off his disheveled dress shirt, run-wobble onto the field and strangle the ref with his poorly knotted tie before collapsing in a heap from a stroke.

Yep, fans think. The guy who cares that much, who cares as much as I do. That’s who I want to lead my team.

Here’s the problem: That rarely works, and as such, Orlando City SC had no choice but to cut loose manager Adrian Heath.

And yes, guys, I did tell you so a couple of months ago but you didn’t want to hear me then.

There is a fundamental disconnect between fans and franchises as to what the role of their field manager is supposed to do. The reason I’m choosing the words “field manager” is because it relate’s more to the fan’s real life. You hopefully have a job. In that job, you have a manager.

Do you really want somebody out of control, screaming bloody murder over everything, in charge of signing your time card? Your employee review?

No, a good manager puts you and your coworkers in a position to succeed for the good of the company. Heath simply did not put his employees — his players — in a position for the company known as Orlando City SC to win. And that was despite having one of the greatest players on earth, Kaka, on the roster. That was with last season’s rookie of the year on the roster.

Only three teams have conceded more goals this season than the Lions this year. Only two have earned more yellow cards. Last year, Orlando City was dead last in goals conceded and red cards, which for the uninitiated is an automatic ejection for the player. I would compare it to an NBA player getting a sixth foul, only it’s even worse. You get to replace a basketball player who fouls out. In soccer, you play short-handed.

In other words, in almost two seasons it became abundantly clear to Orlando City’s management that the Lions play horrible defense. That’s not Kaka’s fault.

Heath’s job was an extremely difficult one. There are few analogies to football and futbol, but an effective coach is asking 11 people to function as one unit. That’s discipline. The Portland Timbers allowed the fewest goals in MLS last year and won the title for the first time.

But now, Orlando City’s swelling fan base is looking for a scapegoat. Throughout their entire MLS existence, the Lions fans and announcers have targeted the refs. That’s silly. If you slide tackle opponents from behind because you’re out of position, you’re forcing referees to make decisions.

Some fans are targeting players for lack of passion. If you are so silly as to demand Heath stay and Kaka go, there are 19 teams across the country willing to take the Brazilian mastermind off your hands.

The screaming, frumpled coach looks compelling in movies. The screaming coach works in high school because he’s an adult and teens can be intimidated.

But adult to adult, it doesn’t work. Adults tune out managers who constantly gripe. You know this as well as I do because you’ve worked with managers in your job like that.

Today is a great day for Orlando City SC. If they hire the right guy to replace Heath, that will make two great days.

And that will lead to happier days ahead for the franchise itself.  

The week in LA sports (6/9/16-6/16/16)

Ken Berger of asked a fair question: Why can’t we wait until the end of LeBron James’ career before we talk about his legacy?

The answer: Look to your competitors over at ESPN. James is a 31-year-old man. He came into the league at age 18 and was annointed the next Jordan back then by the network, and this was before the network debuted “First Take” and infected the nation with Skip Bayless and Stephen A. Smith. That cheaply produced hype show begat many more. Now, ESPN has 11 shows that feature at least two opinion flingers disguised as journalists chucking poo disguised as original thought.

And all of them, as recently as last year’s NBA Finals, still called James the greatest of all time even though he was about to lose yet another title shot.

I wish I didn’t have to write that. I don’t hate LeBron James. He’s had a damn good career to me.

But don’t direct “legacy” talk here like it’s my fault. Blame ESPN.

Now to the SoCal teams:

Dodgers: There is no good news on the horizon. The team simply can’t hit, aside from shortstop Corey Seager, and can’t pitch, outside of the incredible Clayton Kershaw. At their current pace, the $250 million roster with the alleged smartest front office in sports history will be sellers at the trade deadline. They are six games behind the Giants and only one Dodgers team has ever rallied from more than seven games out to win the division.

The Dodgers have not been to the World Series, let alone won one, since 1988. Every team in the division has gone since, even the Rockies and Padres. There is no reason to expect that streak to break this year.

I have many more thoughts on this plummet to mediocrity, but i will save that for a later time. 

Lakers and Clippers: I just read a rumor that claimed the Lakers will trade starting point guard D’Angelo Russell and starting forward Julius Randle to the Boston Celtics for the No.3 overall pick. Let me get this straight: Two starters — your two best players — to your worst rival for a couple of draft picks?

Now do you see why sports blogs aren’t worth a bucket of chum?

So let’s keep it simple: The Lakers have the following picks — the No.2 overall pick in the first round and the 32nd overall pick. They need height and shooters. In my opinion, they will take the best player available with No. 2 and the best center available at No.32.

The Clippers have the 25th and 33rd overall picks. They could use help at small forward and so-called “wing” players.
The draft will be held one week from tonight, June 23.

Rams: The death of former running back and career criminal Lawrence Philips in prison was ruled a suicide. I’ll shed fake tears the moment I find a needle.

New quarterback Jared Goff finally got to run plays with the first-team offense. The first-team defense confused him, but he said he liked it. In other words, spin. He’s a rookie. He wasn’t going to say anything else, lest he look like a punk.

Kings: Priority free agent Milan Lucic and the team are at a bit of an impasse in contract talks. It doesn’t appear to be acrimonious. The Kings are standing firm at $6 million per year, which doesn’t sound like much unless it’s the NHL. Then it’s a massive amount of dough.

Galaxy: While many of its top players are part of international tournaments, what was left of the franchise began U.S. Open Cup and earned arguably the ugliest win in franchise history — needing extra time to put away a team of amateurs.

Amateurs. Look at the link. The goalie has a bigger beer gut than I have.

This is my problem with the Galaxy. Not that I expect Robbie Keane, Giovani Dos Santos, et al, to play 90 minutes of every match, but this franchise doesn’t take tournaments seriously. The Galaxy is to MLS what the Cowboys are to the NFL. If MLS is going to grow on the world’s stage, the LA Galaxy have to dominate these tournaments.

Watching Orlando City soccer, the lion’s share is in rule-breaking

I’m an unusual person. I not only like soccer. I really like Major League Soccer.

It’s not as good as the Premiere League, Bundesliga or Serie A. Hell, Liga MX is a superior product, but MLS is the only thing we’ve got going without getting up insanely early for televised games or moving to Europe.

So I’ve sung with the Angel City Brigade in support of the Los Angeles Galaxy. In my travels, I’ve seen games in Portland (an amazing atmosphere) and Dallas (an inspiring collection of alcoholics) and now that I live in central Florida, I’ve seen a lot of Orlando City SC.

I don’t want to mince words. Watching a 90-minute Orlando City soccer game is comprised of about 75 minutes of pointless mind-numbing brutality and 15 minutes of excellence.

The excellence comes from Brazilian legend Kaka, the onetime best player to walk the planet. Tonight in a 2-1 victory over the Montreal Impact, it was Kaka who left the imprint on the Canadian team with two assists to Orlando’s second-best player, Cyle Larin.

Larin might not be long for the team. When you excel in MLS, foreign leagues come calling. Kaka might not be long, either. He’s in his 30s.

Which leaves Orlando City in a bit of a pickle because the rest of the roster isn’t nearly as good as its swelling fan base thinks it is. The Lions play with no discipline whatsoever, and the result is that they have allowed the most goals in MLS since they debuted last season. They also collect yellow and red cards at an alarming rate — including five yellows Saturday.

But that is not an accident. One could even say it appears to be part of the plan under coach Adrian Heath.

An expansion team in any sport lacks the talent level of established franchises. In soccer, as in the NHL, expansion teams lack defensive talent and usually make up for it by playing a physical brand of defense — tugging on the jersey, extra contact, and so on.

When you are constantly making contact, you will be called for more fouls. It becomes important that — if you lack the speed to keep up with superior opponents — you make up for it with good positioning so that you can disrupt their flow without drawing fouls. Soccer television analysts call it “keeping their shape,” when the defense keeps good positioning.

Orlando City’s positioning is poor. They let so many opponents slip past them, particularly the vastly overrated Breck Shea, that its shape may as well be an amoeba. The consequence is that the Lions are constantly chasing down their opponents to foul from behind, which will draw not only the ref’s whistle, but his yellow and red cards as well.

When you foul somebody that is facing you, it doesn’t look as bad as tackling somebody from behind. That’s just logic.

But good luck trying to find common sense on the Orlando City back line. Of the five yellow cards OCSC earned Saturday, one player picked up a yellow card in his first game back from a suspension. Not exactly a lesson learned from time off.

Yet when Larin was interviewed at halftime about the game’s growing foul count, he said he didn’t have a problem with it. Instead, he urged the team to play with even more aggression, more physicality.

That’s foolish. If you keep getting fouls and cards, a thin roster will be further hollowed out with suspensions. Instead of playing with more aggression, Orlando has to play with more discipline.

So where does discipline come from? The coach? Perhaps, only Heath was suspended by MLS earlier this year. The game he missed out on due to suspension, Orlando lost a winnable game against a struggling Sporting Kansas City.

How can you expect the defense to play with composure when the coach is getting suspended?

If Orlando City played with discipline, look out.

But you can’t tell that to an Orlando City supporter, because when I’ve gone to games they’re too busy complaining about the referees. Look guys, those were fouls. They really were.

For a few moments in Saturday’s game, Lions fans were throwing objects on the pitch.

On the plus side, at least that means those fans have something in common with the players and coach — lack of self-control.