It was an emotional night last Saturday, and the Lions found a 2-2 draw to be the result against the Earthquakes. Up next, Toronto FC comes to the Campground and looks to take a positive result back north. The Pride traded Lianne Sanderson, and Portland Thorns FC is next for the ladies in purple.
The Lions fought to a 2-2 draw against the Wondo-less San Jose Earthquakes Saturday night, scoring once again in stoppage time. How can that sense of urgency and precision in the attack be drawn out of the club during regulation?
Michael: I felt like Orlando City did a decent job in the attack in regulation, actually. Cyle Larin was a threat and should have done better with the opportunity that he shot into a diving David Bingham. Adrian Winter sent a good opportunity into the lake north of Camping World Stadium. San Jose can be a frustrating team to play against because they are very well organized defensively and have a good goalkeeper. But it was the same old problem for the Lions -- it's not about not getting chances. It's about not taking those chances when they're there.
Austin S.: I think it probably has something to do with Orlando's ability to effectively counterattack against opponents who park the bus towards the end of the matches. The Lions have scored six stoppage time goals through their first 14 games of 2016 and (until last Saturday) every single one helped the club salvage a draw. Against teams trying to kill off the final minutes of a game, Orlando City's attack has looked downright unstoppable. During regulation, Orlando must look to create chaos. While it's tempting to try and let the offense flow through Kaká, that's worked exactly once this season in a 4-1 win over the Portland Timbers. A far more promising strategy would be looking to create turnovers in the midfield that result in odd-man attacks, regardless of which player is on the ball. When a ticking clock hasn't forced the Lions to push the pace, they've looked far less threatening in 2016.
Dave: Orlando has a 2 wins, 2 losses, and 4 draws record when scoring first. Many teams have a habit of parking the bus once up by one goal, no matter how it frustrates fans. I think there needs to be a mental switch that must be flipped to keep pressing, even if the team does ease up a bit. Stay on the front foot! That being said, staying on the front foot of any game can be a challenge. Orlando has six stoppage time goals, and every single one of them resulted in a draw until last week. Additionally, they've conceded four goals after the 80th minute going 1 win, 1 loss, and 2 draws in those games. The only win was the 4-1 Portland game, where a late goal made no difference. So, while we've managed to salvage some points with those late goals, we've also lost points with defensive breakdowns late in some games. Since we're tied for second in MLS on goals scored, I feel shoring up our defense late in games might be more helpful. It's natural for players to get more tired as the game goes on, timely substitutions could go a long way towards keeping up the urgency and precision on both sides of the ball.
Luke Boden played great against the Quakes. We saw him and Brek Shea form the Killer Bees tandem out left at times last season -- is it time to revisit that lineup?
Dave: Absolutely! We know Brek can move up into the midfield and be effective on the left side. Indeed, if he's playing further up, it will allow him to attack with more crosses and shots on goal. Remember that beauty he had against Portland? Of course you do. Additionally, I think with Boden's form where it is, that tandem would allow both Luke and Brek to be more free flowing along the left with each able to push forward or drop back as needed. This would be a solid pairing that I hope we see sooner than later.
Michael: That was certainly the best we've seen from Boden this season. He has had a few opportunities and for the most part has not taken advantage of them. Inconsistent is the word I'm looking for. Despite the fact that he played well, I'm not convinced he's more than a nice backup in MLS. In Heath's system, a more pacey option is preferred. And playing the two of them keeps Carlos Rivas on the bench, which...did you see that sick cross to Baptista? Personally I'd prefer to see more of the Colombian because I feel like Rivas will only get better and more consistent if his minutes increase, but he's got to earn that every day in training and perhaps he's not doing that, I don't know.
Austin S.: I think Luke Boden's in a tough spot. He's looked impressive in the starting XI, but isn't likely to hear his name called when Orlando's at full strength. And as a bench option, he's not a player who's going to change the tenor of a match. For a team languishing outside playoff position, Orlando never seems content to allow guys like Boden to provide quality depth off the bench. With red card suspensions, injuries and international duty, Bodz is going to see plenty of action this season. I think Orlando is still at their best with Brek Shea at left back and either Carlos Rivas or Kevin Molino providing service on the left wing.
Orlando City will welcome Toronto FC to the campground June 25. It will have been almost one month since Cyle Larin scored a goal in purple. Can the Lions do anything differently to put him in position to score?
Austin S.: That's actually a little bit misleading because Orlando's been off for the group stage of the Copa America, so Larin's only gone two matches without finding the back of the net. As long as he's been playing FIFA during the break, I think he'll be fine. But having Kaká back should certainly help, taking pressure off Larin to create offensive opportunities and allowing him to serve as more of a target.
Dave: I think this has been on everyone's mind lately, including Larin. I'm going to go back to the Brek/Boden question, as a possible solution. Having Brek feed balls from the left would help. Additionally, getting Kaká back and healthy will help. As good as Molino has been, we'd be better with the Captain in the center and Molino on the right. If Cyle is getting balls from Shea, Kaká and Molino, with each of them able to be scoring threats as well, things will open up and allow Cyle to score more goals.
Michael: Part of the reason it's been almost a month is a three-week Copa America break, so I'm not too concerned about the number of days. Larin got himself into dangerous areas and had scoring chances against San Jose. If he hadn't I might be more apt to raise an eyebrow. I think Kid Fantastic is fine and the best thing for his game would be a healthy Kaká to pull defenders away from him and provide quality through balls.
One name immediately comes to mind when talking Toronto FC -- Sebastian Giovinco. How does Adrian Heath gameplan for the Atomic Ant?
Michael: It's got to be a team effort, with multiple defenders involved. It's a bit how successful teams have defended Lionel Messi. You have to start with a man on him. You can't just wait for him to get the ball and then try to surround him. Denying him the ball in the first place by choking the passing lanes between the ball and him is paramount. But once he has it, you've got to get players to step to him in concert, so that he doesn't simply shake one and then the other. It's not easy.
Austin S.: If I knew the answer to that question, I'd be shopping my resume around MLS. But I think Orlando's best shot may be to have Tommy Redding mark the Italian anytime he crosses midfield. The 19-year-old shut down David Villa when Orlando beat NYCFC back in March, and he may be Orlando's best shot at keep Seba under control.
Dave: It's funny, we just answered a question about Larin needing to score more goals since he only has seven this season. Giovinco has eight. The first part of the plan is Joe "You Shall Not Pass!" Bendik. He has 49 saves on the season, meaning Julio Baptista is not the only Beast on the team. I'm going to go back to the Brek/Boden pairing again. Boden has been excellent, and if he is in the left back position he'll shore up that side. Additionally, Rafael Ramos should be back in the lineup. A healthy back line with Ramos will go a long way towards defending against the Atomic Ant. Finally, win the time of possession. While it isn't necessarily a good indicator of wins or losses, keeping the ball off Giovinco's feet can't hurt.
How do you feel about Lianne Sanderson being traded to Western NY?
Austin S.: I'm in Western New York right now, and I think Lianne's going to like it here just fine. But this seems like a player-initiated deal that won't have much of a net impact on the Pride. I don't think Sanderson was the dynamic attacking partner the club needed alongside Alex Morgan, so why not take their chances on an international slot.
Michael: It saddens me because I felt she was the team's best distributor of the ball and it wasn't even close. Ultimately, I'm not sure if Tom Sermanni simply wanted a player with more pace to play in the middle of his 4-3-3, but he wasn't giving her the minutes she wanted and she asked to be moved. To the team's credit, they didn't hold her back and found a place to send her where she can't hurt the Pride this year unless both teams are in the postseason. I'd have like to have seen a 4-4-2 diamond with Sanderson at the top, feeding the ball to Morgan and Hagen. But what I would like doesn't matter. Sermanni has to do what he feels gives the team its best chance to win and he preferred Sanderson off the bench. She didn't like that and all parties have moved on, so we should too.
Dave: Seems to me that it will be a good thing for all parties concerned. While I'm always sad to see a good player leave, especially one than can contribute off the bench, I can also understand her desire to get some more playing time. As for the Pride, it opens up an international spot, and I'm sure we'll have no problem using that to fill a need, and we have those on offense (helping Alex out with the attack) and defense (shoring up the back line).
Portland Thorns FC visits the Pride this Sunday, and look to continue their season-long unbeaten streak. Are the Pride capable of snapping this streak? How?
Michael: They're certainly capable. Orlando has been a better, more confident team at home. Everyone seems more at ease and the offense has obviously worked much better, but some of that involved Sanderson. Beating Portland means slowing down Tobin Heath and Lindsey Horan, although the Thorns have gotten even better since the Pride played in Portland to open the season. Amandine Henry stepped right in and was productive. Allie Long and Nadia Nadim can both be dangerous, as can Dagny Brynjarsdottir and Meghan Klingenberg and Christine Sinclair and OH MY GOD ARE THEY LOADED. But seriously, the key is generally to control Heath and Horan. Oh, and the Pride should also score some goals if they want to win. They'll need Alex Morgan to be her best and finish her chances -- something she hasn't always done (see also: the last two road matches).
Dave: Any Given Sunday. The Pride have shown flashes of what they can become this season, and Alex Morgan has been healthy and productive, but she can't do it all. With Sanderson being traded it falls to the next woman up. Someone has and opportunity to step up and contribute. Jasmyne Spencer is certainly a possibility, or perhaps one of the younger players, like Jamia Fields. It is a short turnaround from the game against the Houston Dash on Thursday, but Portland is coming off a Wednesday night game against Chicago, and they have to travel. Hopefully that can help the Pride be more relaxed and productive. It certainly won't be easy, but that's why they play the game.
Austin S.: Why not? Orlando's won every home game they've played this season and the Thorns will be coming off a seven-hour flight from the Pacific Northwest. My gut says that Orlando is able to fight for a draw.
And this edition of the roundtable is adjourned. Let your opinions be heard below, and remember to get your Serge Ibaka jerseys as soon as you can.