Imagine you’re watching Aroldis Chapman pitch with an 0-2 count on the hitter he’s facing.
What’s coming next? The fastball, right? It’s his best pitch by far and an easy go-to in strikeout situations.
But nah, he’s thinking change-up. "The batter won’t even see it coming, he’ll be way too busy getting ahead of himself going for that fastball." He goes with the change.
The whole time, Chapman forgets he’s facing Mike Trout, one of the best hitters in the game, and Trout’s smart enough to see that change-up and knocks it out of the park.
Should have gone with the fastball, man.
What does this have to do with Orlando City? The Lions put themselves in that very similar scenario on Wednesday night when they took on the New York Red Bulls on the road at Red Bull Arena. Bobby Murphy, Orlando City’s interim head coach, decided to start Carlos Rivas up top instead of Cyle Larin, who has a history of scoring goals against the Red Bulls, hoping they would have been prepared for Larin and not Rivas.
Orlando City did not score in the match, and Rivas never even took a shot.
While it’s way too soon to put any final judgments on Murphy as a head coach, it can easily be said that Wednesday night’s match in Harrison, NJ, was not a moment to be proud of.
The lineup alone said it all: Orlando City was not trying to take three points away from this match.
Yes, the team was flying straight to Vancouver afterwards for a Saturday night game against the Whitecaps, but in no way, shape, or form should a game against an Eastern Conference opponent -- whom you already trail by three points in the standings -- not be taken seriously with an eye towards a Western Conference team you won’t see again this season.
Murphy told the Orlando Sentinel that the Lions were trying to "manage bodies" as they prepared for Vancouver on Saturday, which had a lot to do with starting Rivas over Larin and Antonio Nocerino over Darwin Cerén. Harrison Heath, a 20-year-old defensive midfielder, also started in the attacking midfield role with Kaká out.
"The plan was this: it was to not give them opportunities to press right away," Murphy said after the match. "If you notice, we went long with a lot of stuff. We put Carlos out there. They were probably expecting Cyle, who is a post-up guy. Carlos could stretch them. We saw flashes of that a little bit. It sort of goes against who we are. At the same time, down some personnel, being on the road, we didn't want to make it easy for Red Bulls."
And for about the first 10-15 minutes, they didn’t make it easy, coming out with a high press of their own to combine with quick play and a lot of energy. But that was until the reality set in and Orlando City was, actually, not a quality enough side to compete with the Red Bulls with the personnel they had on the field.
For a team coming off two straight shutouts, Orlando City couldn’t afford to not go all in and still hope for three points. And who knows how important those three lost points will be at the end of the season.
Next time, just throw the fastball, dude.