The last time Orlando City squared up opposite the
New Jersey New York Red Bulls, the Lions faced off with 11 men and the officiating crew in what resulted in a 2-0 loss at home. You can learn a lot from a loss, and you can bet the rent that Inchy's boys have done just that. Changes will certainly be made, and I have some suggestions based on what we learned from the last go-round.
Crosses are Cool, but Accurate Crosses are Cooler
I get pumped about every goal from City, but I mark out especially when it's scored off a cross. There's just something about it -- similar to an alley-oop in basketball, only infinitely more impressive.
In that game, the boys went for crosses. A lot. Out of the thirty-two crosses attempted, how many of them would you guess were on target? If you guessed six, you're a poor, jaded soul who just happens to be right. Less than 20% of these tries were playable, and that is simply not good enough against the top team in the Eastern Conference.
Carlos Rivas was the worst of the group, putting in a 1/10 effort when trying the cross. It remains to be seen if Brek Shea will be getting the start, but surely, his presence would help the cause.
Soccer is Easier When You Play at Even Strength
While the Red Bulls may not actually play in New York, they sure have a flair for those Broadway theatrics. As if you didn't remember already, check out Sacha Kljestan make a mockery of the game with the most impressive dive this side of Greg Louganis.
It takes a man with positively no shame to roll around the ground in agony after doing nothing and just falling down.
This was atrocious, from the dive itself, to the acting job on the ground, to the call from Ted Unkel (seriously guy, go away). This was so bad, it was unanimously rescinded by the Independent Review Panel. If there's something to be learned from this -- and that whole stretch of games -- it's that while you want to be aggressive defensively, you also need to be smart. With the way the officials have been treating the Lions, it's imperative to remove as many judgment calls as possible from them. Keep the studs down, leave the sliding to the boys who've proven capable of delivering consistent, safe slides on the ball.
Dax McCarty is a Nuisance
This guy was all over the field for the Red Bulls, registering both assists and completing 85.8% of his team-high 76 passes. His team-high 86 touches show that despite the star power and scoring prowess of Bradley Wright-Phillips, this team runs through Dax.
Disrupting the chemistry between he and Kljestan will be crucial. BWP may be one of the most prolific strikers in MLS, but the looks he gets make it that much easier for the talented Englishman. Stop Dax, and the Red Bulls become the Red Calves.