Orlando City has been held to nine shots in the last two games, with only one being on goal in the Houston Dynamo game. There are many variables off the field that could be contributing to the lack of attacking production -- there's been the turmoil at the coaching position, and the absence of superstar Kaká has created issues for the lineup. There are also some tactical issues that are plaguing the offense.
The Houston Dynamo decided to sit back and defend with a low line. They tried to force Orlando City to beat them with combination play and looked to counter when given the opportunity. This strategy has worked and is the blueprint to get a result against Orlando City. Houston and FC Dallas stymied the Orlando attack and countered on the center backs to create dangerous opportunities. Orlando's attack starts with the back four.
During the Houston match the back line did an excellent job possessing the ball. The back line would swing the ball from side to side with ease, but the problem is that it wasn't quick enough. The center backs of Orlando would take a couple of extra touches and allow for Houston's team shape to formulate on the ball side. If a team is not going to provide high ball pressure like New York Red Bulls, your team shape better be impeccable. Houston's was on Friday night, and they made it very difficult for Orlando to break them down.
The switching of fields can create options, but if done slowly it just frustrates the possessing team. Orlando City couldn't get the overlapping runs in as it usually does, and there was not a whole lot of attacking through the middle of the park. The outside backs' services have to be better, as Luke Boden and Kevin Alston's crosses left much to be desired in the small number of chances they had.
The times Orlando City did find joy in the attack were when Kevin Molino was found in the space behind the midfield but in front of the back four of Houston.
Molino and substitute Júlio Baptista do a great job finding the space and gaps in the midfield, but Orlando City doesn't get them the ball in those situations quickly enough. Kaká not being on the field makes this extremely difficult. Then there is the issue of when Molino does get the ball that he has to either quickly play out of the space because he will be closed down or look to turn and attack the back line. The support in the attack was only based on Brek Shea's side as he was playing higher up. Cyle Larin was playing on the last defender to try to stretch the back line and run down balls over the top. This turned out to be the majority of the attack, as Larin was played over the top over and over again with no major threat.
Larin in the Houston game wasn't checking back to the ball to provide support. He does well to hold balls but the ball wasn't played to his feet many times. I'm not sure if this was the strategy going into the match, but when Baptista comes on he creates dangerous opportunities when he bridges the gaps between Molino and Larin.
The Orlando City attack has to be cleaner from the back line moving the ball quicker. This, partnered with the need to find Molino more in the midfield, could solve the issue of the attack for Orlando City. The Lions need a central midfielder who can possess the ball and connect passes to the other midfielders. Sounds like a job for a $7 million Brazilian. The injury problems have plagued his play this year, and Orlando City's chances for a playoff spot by extension. The attacking problems will continue until these items are remedied.