Orlando City SC played its second match of the 2015 Carolina Challenge Cup Wednesday night against the USL's Charleston Battery. After a first match against New York City FC, in which the team looked uncomfortable, the Lions seemed much more at ease in their up-tempo system Wednesday night.
Regardless of the level of the opponents, Orlando City looked to be uneasy about their up-tempo style Saturday night, especially early on. Adrian Heath's style of play puts an emphasis of playing the ball on the ground at every position, something that is emphasized even at the youngest ages of the academy. But on Saturday night, balls were often played out of the back through the air.
That wasn't the case Wednesday night. Against familiar opposition, Orlando City played the game as Heath designed the system. They worked the ball out of back on the ground in a calm manner, pushing the ball forward. The style of play produced results early, as the Lions scored in the 10th minute. Left back Brek Shea displayed his splendid finishing skills off of a cross from Kaká, who is expected to facilitate those opportunities this season.
Another difference between the first two matches of Orlando City's Carolina Challenge Cup was where the team created opportunities. Heath's system is built to play the ball outside, leading to a cross into the box. While there were chances created that way Saturday night, most chances were created up the middle -- something the boss was probably not too happy with.
Again, the opposite was true Wednesday night. Shea and starting right back Rafael Ramos continued to make solid runs up the flank with attacking midfielders Kevin Molino and Lewis Neal sliding in behind for support. The two delivered solid crosses from the touch line, providing excellent opportunities for those making runs into the box.
Orlando City's style is also one that takes time to get used to. The possession-based style of play requires time and patience to build up the attack before achieving a shot on goal. The fact that the starters seem to be getting comfortable with the style is promising with the start of the regular season just a week and a half away.
The team has been together for over a month now, but it's no surprise that it took a game to become comfortable with the style of play. The Lions competed in four games prior to this tournament, but all were glorified scrimmages, if not directly scrimmages.
This tournament gives the team its first games of the preseason which mimic regular season matches, from crowds to uniforms worn.
Despite the fact that Wednesday night's game was only 26 minutes long (called short due to persistent lightning and a waterlogged pitch), it was clear that the team was much more comfortable in Heath's style of play than Saturday night. They were able to build the attack the way Heath's style of play is designed, with more ease than the previous game.
While some of this may have been due to lesser competition, it seemed as though the team was just more comfortable in the style of play having played together four nights earlier in a similar setting. Although there's still more to improve on, this increased comfort is a good sign as the Lions head into the regular season on March 8.