During the first half of Orlando City's win Sunday against the Portland Timbers, the Lions did something they've seldom been able to do this season -- they scored first.
Scoring first in soccer gives a team many advantages throughout the game. It forces the opposition onto their back foot, which provides more opportunities to extend the lead. It also creates additional problems for the team that conceded.
Converting the opening goal allows the scoring team to play much more conservatively than they had prior to the goal. Their new aim is often to control possession and the pace of the game rather than scoring. This troubles the opposition which is now forced to push for an equalizer.
After conceding the opening goal, most teams will push forward in an attempt to grab an equalizer. This makes them vulnerable to potential counter attacks, providing the leading team with even more chances on goal. Often, the extension of the lead comes from such counter attacks.
The score of a game has an enormous impact on substitution patterns and team formations. While the team that scores first is able to bring on a substitute that plays the same position as the player he replaced, often the trailing team is forced to bring on an attacking player for a defensive one. This can cause havoc, even if that team equalizes, as they ask an attacking player to play more defensively, which he often is not used to.
Possibly the greatest advantage of scoring first is the energy used by the team that conceded. The term "chasing the game" is often used for a team has conceded and is now pushing to equalize. This term has been coined for a reason. The trailing team uses far more energy attempting to equalize than the team simply looking to keep possession.
Scoring first has been a problem for Orlando City this season. In four of the first five games this season, the Lions conceded the opening goal, and the game in which they did score first, the goal was an own goal by Dynamo goalkeeper Tyler Deric.
These advantages to scoring first displayed themselves for Orlando City on Sunday. As the game continued, the Timbers were forced to attack in greater numbers. While it caused some nervy moments for the Lions, it also gave them the opportunity to counter attack. One such counter attack ended in a penalty for Orlando City, which was converted by Kaká to double the advantage.
The inability to score first has been an issue that has been widely talked about concerning Orlando City this season. In four of the first five games this season, the Lions ended up chasing the game sooner or later. But that wasn't the case on Sunday as Cyle Larin's first half goal gave the Lions the opportunity play the majority of the game with the lead.
It's something Adrian Heath will hope becomes a trend in the future.