Orlando City knew that it would be facing an aggressive, high-pressing side when it took on New York Red Bulls this past weekend, but that didn't stop the Lions from playing into the hands of NYRB with a surplus of giveaways in dangerous areas of the pitch. The Lions' ball retention was poor Sunday night, and it helped the Red Bulls on their way to a three-goal showing in the second half of a 3-2 Orlando defeat.
Speaking after training this week, Orlando City manager Adrian Heath wasn't pleased with his team's ball security or its inability to put together a complete match to this point in the 2016 season.
"Our ball retention in dangerous areas is very poor," Heath lamented. "We haven't really put a 90 minutes together where I go, ‘That was really, really good, from the first minute to the 90th.' We've been playing in little bursts where we play a good 20 minutes or a good 25 minutes but we haven't maintained it long enough."
The Lions weren't even able to manage any good 20- or 25-minute stretches at Red Bull Arena, and that was thanks in part to too many cheap giveaways that helped a dangerous Red Bulls attack open the flood gates in a fast, 10-minute barrage from minutes 65 to 75, in which they notched all three of their goals. Had it not been for several critical, last-second blocks by defenders and a number of stellar saves by Joe Bendik, the Red Bulls would have run up the score on the Lions.
Between Orlando City's back line and two defensive midfielders alone, the Lions misfired on 22 passes inside their own half of the field at NYRB. Darwin Cerén set the pace in this regard, misfiring on eight passes in the Lions' half, with Brek Shea following suit with six errant passes of his own. In a system like Heath's that emphasizes forward movement from the fullbacks, these types of giveaways are particularly dangerous as the defense is caught badly out of shape.
As the Lions prepare for a rematch with New England this weekend, they know these types of turnovers will need to be curtailed as they search for their first win since the April 3 battering of the Portland Timbers. With a distributor like Lee Nguyen and pacey players like Juan Agudelo and Diego Fagúndez, the Revs are a team more than capable of capitalizing on cheap turnovers.
The return of Antonio Nocerino could provide a boost this weekend, although the Italian has yet to find his footing in MLS, and the possible return of Kaká would certainly fortify Orlando City's passing efforts. Regardless of Kaká's status, players like Cerén and Cristian Higuita will need to improve their distribution and ball retention from what we saw last week in order to avoid so many of these turnovers going forward, which would be a good first step towards a complete 90-minute performance for Heath's Lions.