Orlando City SC took the field Sunday evening in their first ever regular season MLS game drawing New York City FC 1-1 at the Citrus Bowl in front of 62,510 fans. The Lions dominated possession for most of the game but failed to score until the dying minutes. A major reason for that was the lack of quickness in playing the ball through the midfield.
Many expected Orlando City striker Bryan Rochez to start the game Sunday and were surprised when the young Carlos Rivas, who hadn't played the position since joining the club this winter, started in his place. However, Rivas' speed proved to be problematic for the opposition, as the young Colombian consistently put himself in dangerous positions.
Rivas' speed would've been deadly for Orlando City had the play through the midfield been quicker than it was. Several times throughout the match, Rivas had the position on the last defender, where a quick through ball would've had him in on goal. Unfortunately, that ball never came, with the result being either Rivas offside or losing the option all together.
Quickness through the midfield had other implications as well. Orlando City has become famous for their attacking style which, in the past, has resulted in the team being one of the highest scoring and most exciting teams in the league. A major factor that results in those goals is the fullbacks overlapping down wing and sending in crosses to awaiting attacking players.
On Sunday the starting fullbacks, Brek Shea and Rafael Ramos, spent much of the game flying up the wing, looking for balls to send back into the box. But again, with a lack of quickness playing the ball outside, Orlando City lost that opportunity. Several times throughout the game a quick, one-touch ball outside would've meant pushing more attackers forward and creating an advantage in numbers. But by the time the ball got played outside, the defense was already prepared.
The main reason for the lack of quickness through the midfield is touches. Head Coach Adrian Heath's system is set up for quick, short passes, which lead to either a through ball or a pass outside, setting up a cross. When the midfielders take too many touches in the middle of the field, often being any more than one, the through ball or pass outside comes too late to make an impact. That was evident Sunday evening.
Orlando City looked very strong for much of the game Sunday, keeping possession for large amounts of time. But, while they certainly had more chances than their opposition, the Lions were unable to convert. Playing the ball on the ground is key for the Lions, and in order to do so successfully, they must play the ball quickly. The lack of quickness hindered the team in Sunday's draw and is something to keep an eye on in the future.