ATLANTA — Yoshi Yotun left Orlando to play with the Peruvian national team in the World Cup in mid-May. The team had just seen their six-game winning streak snapped by Atlanta United in a 2-1 loss, but were comfortably above the playoff line.
When he returned to play in the team's July 7 match against LAFC, the Lions had lost seven straight and had a coaching change.
Yotun started all three matches for Peru, who were eliminated after the group stage in Russia, and has not been able to halt the downward spiral for the Lions. Orlando have lost four of their last five matches, 12 in 13 total, with Yotun playing 450 minutes. They currently sit in ninth place in the East, with their points per game figure of 1.00 behind New England's 1.33, as the Revolution currently hold the final playoff spot.
"We're going to get out of this by working hard," Yotun told MLSsoccer.com through a translator at MLS All-Star training Tuesday. "We're in a tough stretch but we know the way forward is by putting in the time, putting in the commitment, putting in the work. We're currently confident because of the way we performed recently and I think that we're going to be able to do this."
Yotun is the Lions' lone representative at the 2018 MLS All-Star Game presented by Target, with he and the rest of the All-Stars set to face off against Juventus on Wednesday (7:30 pm ET; ESPN, UniMás, TSN, TVAS). He's been able to register three goals and six assists in 1,341 minutes, as he looks to help Orlando reach the playoffs in his second season with the club.
Right now the odds are not in his and Orlando's favor. FiveThirtyEight.com's projection has the Lions with just a five percent chance of making the playoffs for the first time in club history. That number is the second-lowest in the East, ahead of only the Chicago Fire's. When asked, Yotun brushed off the figure.
"Those are just stats for us," he said. "It depends on us if we make it or not. It depends on us winning, winning at home especially, and I think that we're going to keep on putting in the work to make it happen."
Of course, Yotun was not around for the toughest stretch, when the club parted ways with head coach Jason Kreis and brought in James O'Connor from Louisville City FC. Since then, Yotun has noticed a couple changes under the Irishman but knows there's still a lot of work to do.
"It's tough to talk about differences when things aren't going your way but I think that with him we've been able to manage the ball more, we've been more aggressive," he said. "I think every club goes through a difficult stretch, we're in it right now, but I think we can get out of it."