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Orlando City’s Keys to Set Piece Success

How and why Orlando City has done well this season on set pieces.

MLS: New York City FC at Orlando City SC Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

I know there have been a lot of unfavorable opinions this week, especially after the game against Seattle. And it’s hard not to feel a bit dejected after losing at home for the first time in a good long time. However, if we learned one thing from the game, it is that we have an excellent set piece offense this season.

From either the corner spot or anywhere from 30 yards and in, when Orlando City is lining up, the opponents need to be very cognizant. What makes the Lions so good? Let’s break this down from a technical standpoint.

Kaká or Boden – Two excellent takers:

Whether it is Kaká’s right foot or Luke Boden’s left, these two men have the ability to put free kicks in places most players can only dream of. A quality service into the box normally consists of high, lofting balls that players can get under and get a head on, or a low line drive that can be driven home, ricocheted off a foot or even a stray defender.

The main difference between the two is the quality of strike if the situation to shoot presents itself. Kaká is a masterful striker of the ball and if he is in range, can generally get off quality shots to make the goalkeepers work. Boden is better off sticking to the high lofty services.

The Receivers – Larin and Seb

Once the ball is in the air, no matter how well the service is, if a team doesn’t have guys on the other end who can parlay them into goals, set pieces won’t work. Forward Cyle Larin and center back Seb Hines both have been on the finishing end of some masterful set pieces. In fact, in the game against Seattle, I’d say that corner kick that Hines headed home was almost perfect.

Both guys are big and strong, two things you need to create separation from the gaggle of defenders that generally hang on the offensive team’s players. Then, when you get separation, you need both timing and height to beat out everyone else to get your body on the ball.

As for the low liner attempts, this is the situation where you need players with excellent ball skills — guys like Larin or Kevin Molino stick out to me, and late in games, Julio Baptista. You don’t see many attempts like this due to the low percentage of success, but Kaká has such ability to deliver perfect balls that you will see it every so often for the men in purple.

The Army

Getting separation isn’t that easy. While sometimes you can do it alone, it always helps to have friends who don’t mind getting dirty. Your fullbacks who drop down to help (if not playing safety) are good at this, as they are used to combating these tactics on the other end. And don’t forget your defensive midfielders – these guys know how to mix it up and aren’t afraid to get themselves or someone else dirty.

The key to helping your receivers is to not get caught. How many times have you heard the whistle go off because someone got busted pushing, pulling, tripping, or elbowing to create space for a teammate? You need guys who are sneaky, crafty veterans, i.e. Brek Shea and David Mateos. In addition to freeing up their teammates, guys like this can also bust the walls up if the occurrence for a direct shot opens up.

To sum it up nicely, Orlando can and does set pieces rather well. As the season progress, if the playoffs are to be made, this team will need to keep relying on its strengths.