To say Orlando City’s match against Columbus Crew SC was a tale of two halves would be an understatement. The Lions were outplayed the first half and started the second half down two goals. Then a bit of Orlando magic allowed the visitors to send the Columbus fans home disappointed. It was an eventful match, so here are our five takeaways from the season's first meeting with the Crew.
Corners, a Tale of Two Halves
The Lions had two corners in the first half. The service into the box left a lot to be desired. When the team is struggling offensively and getting out-shot, Orlando City has to take better advantage of set pieces. The team failed to get into any rhythm and basically gave the ball away. Thankfully, the team was able to defend corners better tonight. In the second half, City earned a lone corner kick, but with Kaká taking the cross, the service was improved and was placed in a dangerous area. Kevin Molino was able to pounce on the loose ball in the ensuing scramble in the area for the team's first goal.
Injuries Test Depth Again
Prior to the start of the match against Columbus, word came out late that Brek Shea and Antonio Nocerino both sustained minor injuries late in the week and didn’t travel with the team, causing the Lions to only field 17 players. I was holding my breath when an Orlando City player (Seb Hines, and later Kevin Molino) was down on the pitch longer than usual for an injury. Somehow, the team was able to stay fresh down the stretch in the match and keep it together in the end.
Adjustments and Substitutions Key
The turning point of the match came in the 60th minute. Interim Head Coach Bobby Murphy decided to end Hadji Barry's and Julio Baptista’s night early by bringing in Carlos Rivas and Kaká. The speed of Rivas on the left side and shifting Molino to the right created more opportunities for the team, while putting more pressure on the back four of the Crew. Specifically, Columbus defender Harrison Afful was causing all sorts of problems for the men in purple prior to the change. Changing Servando Carrasco for Cristian Higuita shored up the team defensively, adding more pace and physicality six minutes later, when the game opened up with a flurry of shots from both teams. Good use of subs by Murphy.
Communication Breakdowns and Turning On/Off
It’s been a challenge to get a full 90-minute effort from Orlando City defensively. Short lapses in focus seems to always led to an opponent's score. We’ve seen this over and over all season. The first addition to the squad during the summer transfer window was defender Jose Aja, who could see minutes as Jason Kreis creates changes to improve the back line. There doesn’t seem to be any other solution, because what we have defensively hasn’t been good enough to make playoffs.
Kreis Has His Work Cut Out
Orlando needed something to take the next step to get, and stay, above the red line in the MLS Eastern Conference standings. Consistent effort from our talented players will translate to wins. Generally, the Lions have been able to score, and as long as they keep fighting, the team has been able to grab results. With a new head coach, the players should be fighting for playing time and a roster spot this year and next season as well.
Well, this is what I took from the match, how did you see it? Leave a comment below and share your thoughts on the Lions' performance in Columbus.