If I showed you the stat sheet from Orlando City's game at Yankee Stadium on Friday night, nine out of 10 people, without knowing the final score, probably would have said "there's no way Orlando could have walked away with three points" -- and the 10th person probably would have shouted "NYCFC sucks!"
NYCFC out-shot Orlando, attempted almost twice as many passes, and held possession for twice as long, and it was Orlando City that, in fact, walked away from the Bronx with three points in hand as they head into their first bye week of the season. The Lions got an early goal from Cyle Larin, the sophomore's third of the season, and it was enough to propel them to the victory on the road in a tough environment.
Let's take a little look beyond the box score to see just how Orlando City managed to pull this one off.
The Starting Lineup
Adrian Heath went with the same starting group we saw last week against the Chicago Fire, with just one tactical difference: the Lions ran with a 4-2-3-1 instead of the 4-3-3 we saw in the first two games, with Antonio Nocerino pushed up on the left side of Kevin Molino and Adrian Winter.
This was a little surprising to see from Heath, especially at Yankee Stadium, where the field is comically small and near impossible to play with any width, which we usually see from Heath's lineups. Attempting the play with two wingers and fullbacks running up each side is a challenge at this park.
Larin made the start up top, while Darwin Ceren and Cristian Higuita controlled the defensive midfield. Brek Shea, Seb Hines, Tommy Redding, and Rafael Ramos held down the back line in front of goalkeeper Joe Bendik.
The Right-Wing Party
Take a look at this first half passing chart from the Lions against Chicago last week:
Now look at how the Lions came out on the attack against NYCFC:
Against Chicago, Orlando City was fierce, forcing themselves up the field and applying plenty of early pressure on the Fire. The Lions spread the field well and played their normal game through the wings. This was a typical Orlando City passing chart.
The Lions only scored one goal in that game against Chicago, of course, but they played well enough to grab a few more.
Against New York, however, the Lions didn't push themselves up the field early, and they certainly didn't create enough chances down the wings to be effective on the counter attack. Orlando almost completely ignored the left side of the field when it did try to play down the wings, and gave Nocerino, who was seemingly invisible for most of his time on the pitch, few chances to do anything.
As you can see, anytime the ball was on the left side of the field, the end result of passes was usually a switch over to the right.
The Best Defense Is A Constant Defense?
Orlando City only held 34 percent possession for the entire match, which if you've watched a lot of Orlando City matches, you know that's a small amount for an Adrian Heath side.
Take a look at the second half possession numbers for both sides:
The Lions had stretches near the end when Carlos Rivas came on that tilted the scale a little closer towards their favor, but even then they never actually held the ball for more than a handful of side passes on the back line.
All things considered, it's a miracle Orlando City was able to hold NYCFC scoreless.
What Needs To Change?
Well, for starters, the Lions should stop playing any road games at Yankee Stadium.
But seriously, Orlando City's next game is home against the Portland Timbers. The Timbers are a good, dangerous team, but playing at the friendly confines of the Citrus Bowl will present a big tactical advantage for the Lions, who could also benefit from having Kaká back in the lineup.