On opening weekend of the 2015 MLS season, two new expansion sides squared off at the Citrus Bowl when over 62,000 psychopaths crammed into the building to see Orlando City and New York City FC battle to a 1-1 draw.
March was four months ago, and both teams have developed dramatically through both chemistry via training and player acquisitions. The question remains, however, what did the Lions learn from their first match with the soccer Yanks, and how can they capitalize on this intelligence?
Defensively Controlling the Box
In their first match, NYCFC attempted 63% of their shots from inside the 18-yard box. Solid number, but it looks fantastic when compared to Orlando's 27% rate in the same range.
While Aurelien Collin has generally been the exception, there have long been calls for more on-ball pressure as the attack approaches, the absence of which was glaringly noticeable when Sacha Klejstan recently curled in a beauty in NYRB's 2-0 win. With star forward David Villa getting service from midfielder Mix Diskerud, and potentially international stars Frank Lampard and Andrea Pirlo, it will be as important as ever to provide as little space as possible to work with.
Look for whoever replaces suspended midfielder Cristian Higuita to make this a priority.
Create Better Chances
Despite out-shooting the fake Yanks 15-8 and spending 30% of the game in the attacking third, 73% of the Lions' shots came from outside the box. Kaká led the team with four key passes, but it is imperative to turn these key passes into quality chances.
We aren't likely to see Carlos Rivas up top as we did in the opening match. Look for Rookie of the Year candidate Cyle Larin to make his mark on the match early and often, pressuring Chris Wingert with both his size and athleticism to create scoring chances with a higher probability of success.
Set Pieces are our Friend
If there was just one positive takeaway from this match, it had to be set pieces. Eight (8!) of Orlando's 15 shots came from set pieces, equaling NYCFC's shot total for the entire game, including the game-tying, deflected free kick from the Captain Kaká himself.
With both Kaká and Rivas proving their class in this scenario over the course of the season, look for aggressive dribbling while -- hopefully -- avoiding the simulation calls that plagued the early goings of this match.
OCSC travels to New York City this Saturday to play on the most ridiculous MLS field in the league with hopes of turning around their recent run of 0-2 results in league play. What adjustments do you think are necessary to bring home three points?