On Saturday night, Orlando City SC faced fellow expansion club New York City FC in the Carolina Challenge Cup in Charleston, South Carolina. It was the Lions' first matchup in the three game tournament, one of Major League Soccer's major preseason tournaments. One main takeaway from the game is that Orlando City's offense is still the club's strong suit and they must improve defensively.
Orlando City looked good on the attack Saturday night. With fullbacks Brek Shea and Rafael Ramos pushing forward, they held a lot of possession and created some nice chances on offense. It's what you would expect from the club, which has built its reputation through an attacking style over the past four years in USL.
As expected, attacking midfielders Kaká and Kevin Molino both looked the part of the stars the club is expecting them to be in 2015. While Kaká is what you'd expect from a former FIFA World Player of the Year, Molino has clearly raised his game from last year, as he quickly adapts to the higher level. Both were crucial in several of Orlando City's many opportunities on goal Saturday night.
However, defensively there was much to be desired. Three-time MLS All-Star Aurélien Collin struggled much of the game, losing possession in key positions on the field. One particular loss of possession by Collin led to NYCFC's lone goal by Khiry Shelton.
It showed what many already knew: that while there is certainly talent on both ends of the field, Orlando City's strong suit is on the offensive end.
Adrian Heath has used his attacking 4-2-3-1 formation during his entire tenure in Orlando. The style that became synonymous with Orlando City during its four years in USL play leads to plenty of offense with many goals, but also can create problems in the back.
In the system, the team's fullbacks spend much of the game pushing forward into the attack and sending in crosses from the flank. Pushing them forward allows more players to go into the box, creating problems for opposing defenses.
Because of how much time the fullbacks spend forward, a lot of pressure is put on the two center backs and the two defensive midfielders. In order for the system to work, they cannot turn the ball over in their end, giving the opponents an advantageous position.
While the Lions were able to create many opportunities offensively and the fullbacks were very strong in the attack, NYCFC had way too many easy chances given to them by defensive mistakes. If Orlando City is to survive this season, they must eliminate those mistakes.
Orlando City's attacking style has made the club one of the most exciting teams to watch in the country. They score many goals and create even more chances.
But it also leaves the team vulnerable to counterattacks by the opposition. That vulnerability was seen Saturday night and turnovers ended up hurting the team, leading to NYCFC's equalizing goal. It's clear that while the team is very strong offensively, their defense is a weakness at this point. The Lions must be much more sound defensively this year or it could be long inaugural season for the expansion side.