To say we learned a lot from Sunday's game may be an understatement. We saw a lot of positives and quite a few things that need to be improved on. With less than a week until the next game, Orlando City SC's players and coaching staff need to address issues that have arisen from the New York game.
1. No Aurélien Collin for Friday
Due to his straight red card in the 82nd minute, Collin will be suspended for the game in Houston. It was a rough challenge that, at the end of the day, probably deserved a red and it put Orlando in a tough spot for the last 10 minutes of the game on Sunday. He was also given a straight red in the final preseason game against none other than Friday's opponent, the Houston Dynamo. Seb Hines and Sean St. Ledger will man the back line out in Texas, which may work out in the end. Both defenders have yet to take the field together during a game and may be able to develop a good pairing going forward if Collin continues to struggle.
2. The strikers must stay onside and finish chances
Carlos Rivas could've scored two goals during Sunday's game. Unfortunately for him, he couldn't seem to stay onside. If he or his up-front partner Bryan Rochez can better time their runs with the midfield players, they both have a chance of having breakout seasons. At this point, it's still early and we can't expect too much from brand new teammates. Give it another few games and we can readdress the situation.
3. No More Simulations
This was a first for me. I don't think I have ever seen so many yellow cards issued for simulation, or "flopping" as most people know it. Orlando has already, after only one game, seemed to develop the reputation of being "cheap" and may have been labeled "divers" by most of the commenters on MLSSoccer.com. Orlando's players need to be careful when it comes to simulations. In some of those calls, there was contact before the simulation, but the ref made the call from the aftermath. Needless to say, Lions players need to watch themselves on Friday.
4. More Shea, Kaká and Molino
These three looked very good combining passes and getting into dangerous spots in the attacking third. Brek Shea looked to be back in form from his days in FC Dallas back in 2011, Molino continued his play from last year in USL and Kaká looks exactly like the player Orlando expected. He initiated the offense and distributed the ball well, giving his teammates on the wings ample opportunities to create scoring chances. Now all they have to do is finish those beautifully set up chances.
5. Cristian Higuita Needs to Play Better
It's easy to tell a player to simply play better. In the case of Higuita, there were too many "rookie mistakes" that he made in the midfield that need to be addressed. In his defense, he is still very young. He just turned 21 in January and hasn't played in MLS before, so there is definitely an adjustment period that he needs to work through. That will come with experience on the field, playing against good competition. It's just one of many growing pains that Orlando will go through this year.
All in all, it doesn't seem as bad as many people feel it is right now. It was the first game, in front of 62,000 fans in the Citrus Bowl. There's a lot to take in there, especially if you are a player who has never experienced that before. I fully expect the match on Friday to be competitive and a better showing of Orlando's play as a team overall.