Orlando City came back from the dead to steal a point at Yankee Stadium in the final game before the Copa America break. Taking five of a possible nine points from three matches in nine days was a positive entering the break, especially considering a number of injuries, suspensions and even the captain leaving for Brazil duty. Again.
Meanwhile, the similarly shorthanded Pride suffered its worst loss since entering the NWSL, falling flat at FC Kansas City to the tune of a 2-0 loss. Orlando never seemed a threat against a team that had entered the match without a win and with only two goals to its credit all season. Woof.
Joining us at the big purple table this week to talk about such things are Logan Oliver, Wade Williams, and Scott Crumbly. They've got takes on these topics (mostly).
Orlando City was largely outplayed on Sunday, which is not surprising given the circumstances (third game in nine days, on the road, missing several first-choice players, against a rested team that had been embarrassed the week before). Given that, are you satisfied with the single point? Why or why not?
Logan: With as many starters as we had out for one reason or another and being on the road in a difficult situation, it was a great comeback from a team that should have lost. The old adage for competing in soccer has always been win at home and draw on the road, and to that extent they were successful. Can't complain about the result from the team in those circumstances, they got the job done.
Wade: I'm satisfied with any result that brings points on the road, and given these circumstances, one point is a blessing. We were a David Villa slip away from being beaten -- I'll take the point with a smile and a sigh of relief.
Scott: Heading into the weekend down five starters and playing on short rest, I'd have absolutely taken a point if you'd offered it before match time. When David Villa's chip gave NYC a 2-0 lead and then he went to the spot for a penalty kick later in the half, I couldn't help but think of last summer's five-goal outing for New York against Orlando in Yankee Stadium that featured a bevy of second-half goals. But the subsequent slip and miss gave the Lions new life, and along with a shot of adrenaline from Júlio Baptista off the bench, the Lions were able to steal another point. Playing on the road against a team that - despite coming off a 7-0 drubbing - is near the top of the East with so many unusual absences had me prepared for disappointment, so I couldn't help but feel pleased that the Lions salvaged the draw.
Cyle Larin failed to score in New York for the first time. He obviously had a couple of good opportunities, but how did New York City FC keep him from finding the net?
Wade: I don't know that they did anything markedly different to make a difference. Or maybe I'm just allergic to giving NYCFC praise. To me, the run had to end at some point. On a large enough sample size of data, the data will always regress towards the mean. As he played there more and more, there was no way he could keep up his rate of production. Like streaming hot streaks in fantasy baseball -- eventually, every run has to end.
Scott: Could it have been some form of karmic retribution for the weirdo header Larin scored in his first game at Yankee Stadium this year? I suppose there's no way to know.
NYC has certainly seen its share of Larin goals on that tiny pitch, so holding him off the score sheet was certainly a priority. That being said, he still had a couple of chances that he could have put away, most notably the header off an Adrian Winter far-post cross early in the match that Josh Saunders made a big save on. His 60th-minute breakaway that was again stuffed by Saunders was another very good chance, and although he didn't find the net on this day, the fact that he got himself into those dangerous positions still shows his quality, not to mention his assist on the game-tying goal from Kevin Molino.
Add in the fact that he came to NYC having played 174 out of a possible 180 minutes in a two-game week and still went the distance on Sunday, and NYCFC was probably a bit fortunate that he didn't hurt them more than he did with the critical assist.
Logan: They had some great stops and last-ditch defending, coupled with denying him opportunities for most of the match. Limiting him to three shots total was key and any time a team can starve him for service, he'll struggle. Larin probably should have capitalized on the few chances he did have, but clutch stops by Saunders and the NYC defenders kept him out of the box score. Larin may never be the type of forward to carry the ball forward, but until he is he will be heavily reliant on his teammates to have any impact.
Obviously we've seen plenty of Servando Carrasco but this was our first look at Harrison Heath in 2016. What is your assessment of the defensive midfield in the absence of both Cristian Higuita and Darwin Ceren?
Scott: Yankee Stadium is certainly a strange place to make your MLS (season) debut, but I thought Heath showed fairly well in the tight confines of that pitch while going against the likes of David Villa, Mix Diskerud, and company. It wasn't an all-world showing from the 20-year-old, but that is to be expected in a (season) debut, and especially one alongside a fellow midfielder who finds himself behind the two first-choice DMs in Higuita and Cerén. His 69% passing rate wasn't great, but that small pitch (again) has something to do with that number, and he lent a hand in breaking up play with two tackles and a pair of blocked shots. All things considered, it was a good day for Heath to get some experience under his belt and help fortify depth for the future while Orlando managed to snatch a point. Everyone's got to start somewhere.
Logan: Heath had a decent season debut. His passing percentage hovered around 70% and he did an admirable job on the defensive end. His yellow was for a professional foul, which is a lot more than I can say for Carrasco's. He's not a terrible option off the bench if we're going to consistently have one or both of Higuita/Cerén unavailable. Both Carrasco and Heath are solid passers but neither are defensive stalwarts like Higuita, which is something that would be nice to see in the second-choice pairing, but Higuita seems to be the only destroyer on the roster. The really interesting thing is that Heath has now pushed Antonio Nocerino to fifth choice and it will be interesting to see if the Italian sees the field again anytime soon.
Wade: Yikes. I mean, neither played particularly bad, and I've written before of my appreciation of Carrasco's ability to accurately send the forwards deep, letting them use their speed to get behind the defense. As for Lil H, he always seems to do better than I expect. Whether I set the bar too low for him is subjective but one thing that isn't -- Orlando City needs Higuita and Ceren there in the long run.
What do the Lions need to work on over the Copa America break in order to start turning all these draws into wins?
Logan: Turnovers. Sloppy play in midfield has left the defense in precarious situations, often with the fullbacks nowhere near a position to defend and the defensive midfield chasing the opposition. The defensive line needs fixing too. Too many goals have been conceded because a defender was caught napping, but stopping the cheap giveaways is a quicker and simpler method to limit the defensive bleeding and provide a more consistent attack.
Wade: The defense has to be better. Joe Bendik has been outrageous, but he isn't 24 feet wide and eight feet tall -- he can't block everything. Positioning along the back line, stepping up on attackers, these are the things the Lions need to improve from within.
Scott: The good thing is that many of these draws would have been losses a year ago. The obvious downside, however, is that City could have taken a full three points from several of its draws and those points left on the table can come back to haunt you later in the year. While perhaps obvious, consistency would go a long way toward curing the team's ills. The Lions have been most consistent this season in stoppage time, where they've netted five (!) goals. Not leaving their urgency for so late in matches would be nice, as would clamping down when holding onto a late-game lead, as we saw them cough up against Philadelphia last week.
With three months of the season down, what moves, if any, should the club make in the summer transfer window?
Wade: Defense. Center back would be nice. I love most of what I've seen from David Mateos this year, but I'm still not sold on Seb Hines and I think Tommy Redding needs more seasoning before being truly ready to be an every game player.
Scott: Orlando's improved depth has shone over the course of its three-games-in-nine-days stretch, which was good to see. It seems like another central defender could be on the way, so is there any way to reverse the Antonio Nocerino move in the summer window? That allocation money, not to mention his salary, could be put to more effective use, to say the least.
Logan: They need a defender. Dionatan Teixeira may be that answer, but he's a relative unknown. The Lions need a physical stopper who can break up attacks. The forward and midfield areas seem filled out, and with roster spots and cap space so tight they can really only afford to bring in one player, especially if he takes up an international spot. It's got to be the right guy.
This is where Wade tapped out, having not watched their match. SMH. #FireWade
We got our first look at the Pride without several key starters over the weekend, and the result wasn't pretty. Yet there were portions of the first half that were very positive. How did FC Kansas City get (and stay) on the front foot against Orlando?
Scott: The Pride's failure to capitalize on their strong start to the game was what left the door open for Kansas City, and Yael Averbuch's deflected free kick was a bit of luck that helped them close the door on Orlando and assert control on the match once that solid start faded for the Pride. The lack of firepower up front without Alex Morgan ultimately limited the danger Orlando could generate in attack, and Kansas City took advantage, to their credit.
Logan: Goals change games. It's a cliche, but after Averbuch's free kick deflected in the Pride seemed deflated. FCKC had only scored two goals all season before the match and the Pride made their offense look dangerous in the second half. Maybe all Orlando teams are going to be slump-busters this season. Pair that with a limited Pride attack and Orlando never really looked like getting back in it.
With Alex Morgan, Kristen Edmonds, Laura Alleway, and Ashlyn Harris all out, who was missed most and which player was missed least?
Logan: Morgan might have been the most missed, even if she hasn't had the greatest impact so far this season. The Pride needed someone to finish the decent chances they had in the first half and to provide any sort of threat in the second. Harris might have saved Erika Tymrak's curling shot, but I doubt even she gets to the deflection off Sanderson. Alleway was probably the least missed, Pressley has been a pretty good replacement in the last couple of matches.
Scott: As mentioned above, the Pride weren't able to turn possession into truly threatening chances, which leads me to believe Morgan was missed the most. Even when she's not scoring, she commands extra attention from defenses, and given the fact that Aubrey Bledsoe wasn't at fault for either FCKC goal, Ashlyn Harris wasn't missed quite as much on this day.
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And thus concludes your roundtable discussion for this week as Orlando City and the Pride are off this week for the international window. OCB hosts Louisville City on Sunday and of course we've got Copa America Centenario to watch.
Feel free to add your answers to the questions above or explain why our staff is right/wrong in their predictions or analysis in the comments section below.