What kept Cyle Larin out of the net against the Seattle Sounders? Did Matías Pérez García impress in his debut? Should we expect to win on the road against the Chicago Fire, and what can Jason Kreis do to make it happen?
This week we have Michael Citro, David Rohe, Austin Siegel, and yours truly to discuss all this and more in this week’s edition of The Mane Land Roundtable. Yes, it’s the ultra-rare, four-person roundtable!
Cyle Larin had scored in three straight games before being held off the sheet against Seattle. Did you think he had more to give, or was the Sounders defense just too strong for Kid Fantastic?
Michael: I think the Sounders squeezed Larin between Brad Evans and Chad Marshall and choked off his service. The pathways between Kaká and the Canadian international were closed. Still, Larin can’t be contained in the air if the service is good and there were a couple of chances for him to get onto crosses that didn’t quite come off, as they were both just a few inches too high. If they were a bit lower we might be talking about his brace this week. As far as whether he had more to give, I thought he looked a bit tired and sluggish at times, which Jason Kreis talked about after the match, as he’s been working his players hard the last two weeks to try to install his principles and systems.
Wade: It can be hard not to expect goals every night out from Cyle given his propensity for doing so, but there’s bound to be games where he comes up empty-handed. I was surprised he didn’t convert any headers, but he was marked well throughout the match. Sometimes, you have to tip your hat to the other team.
Dave: I think it's a bit of everything. I'm certain that Cyle would say he could have done more. Professional athletes often feel they could have done more or made more of their chances. Additionally, more chances might have resulted in another goal for Larin, but after the first goal, it didn't feel like those chances were coming. Much of that could be attributed to the soundness of the Sounders defense, but players of Larin's ability are supposed to be able to overcome such circumstances. As I say, I think it wasn't so much one or the other, but a combination of many factors. Hopefully, he'll get back on the sheet against Chicago.
Austin: Cyle Larin is an aerial threat and one of the best in MLS at getting on the end of crosses, so shutting him down requires a defense that's capable of preventing quality service into the box. Did Seattle do that? Well, Kaká's 70th-minute cross nearly brought the Lions back into the game, but Júlio Baptista and Seb Hines couldn't slot it home. Orlando City did a decent job creating scoring opportunities for Larin, but the Sounders limited the young Canadian to just one touch. Counting on that kind of defensive prowess from the last-place Chicago Fire seems like a risky bet. I think we'll see a bounce-back performance from Larin in Chicago.
Matías Pérez García made his debut, subbing on for Hadji Barry in the 55th minute. Did his performance inspire confidence, or concern?
Wade: Confidence, no doubt. Dude had 48 hours to assimilate with the coalition, and managed to be threatening, creative, and savvy — you don’t draw four fouls by accident.
His experience could prove to be a crucial piece to Kreis’ playoff puzzle down the stretch, should his outing be a sign of things to come.
Michael: Considering he probably hadn’t yet learned all of his teammates’ names, I’d call MPG’s debut with Orlando City a success. He immediately made the offense look more dynamic, slipping into pockets of space where he and Kaká could play off each other and drawing fouls to set up free kicks in dangerous areas. I think he’s the kind of player who can work well within Kreis’ system, and while I am not sure about his long-term viability in Orlando, he should provide some decent coverage in the attacking midfield during his stay with the Lions.
Austin: Matías Pérez García gives Orlando City the midfield depth they've been looking for ever since Adrian Winter left the club and he played like it on Saturday. With an 87.75% pass completion rate and several quality chances, it was a successful (but limited) debut for the first acquisition of the Jason Kreis era. The question now is what his role will be going forward and whether the former San Jose man will threaten the starting XI.
Dave: I don't think there's any concern with García coming in for Barry. Kreis has already made it known that he isn't afraid to play anyone, and that he's basing that on performance both during practice and in games. I suspect he felt that there needed to be a change in the attacking half of the field since Orlando was down 3-1 at that point. If your team is down two goals and the offense isn't clicking, why not give the new guy some playing time? It allows a coach to see how that player will do in an actual game.
Up next are the Chicago Fire, who sit bottom of the table and are coming into their third game in nine days. Is it unfair to expect three points on the road?
Dave: I don't think it's ever unfair to expect a win. Though the chances of a win as a percentage will certainly fluctuate depending on things such as days of rest and home/away. I imagine it was quite a week of work for the team following the 3-1 loss, and that our new skipper was all about not letting that happen two weeks in a row. I think we'll see a better performance against a team that shouldn't be as tough as our previous opponent, especially as the players adjust to their new coach and his scheme.
Austin: Probably not, because I don't think Orlando City is foolish enough to overlook Chicago. Coming just a few weeks after their head coach was fired and a key player sent packing (not to mention Sunday's disappointing loss to Seattle), I can't see the Lions walking into Toyota Park like they own the place. On paper, Orlando City is a better team than the Fire, especially with Chicago drained from a U.S. Open Cup run. I do worry that if the Lions come out overly aggressive, they could be exposed by Chicago on the counter attack.
Michael: Orlando City has had no trouble getting results in Chicago in MLS play, with two wins in the Windy City last year. With the Fire struggling all season and coming off a demoralizing U.S. Open Cup semifinal loss at New England in the midweek, this is definitely the Lions’ best opportunity to come away with three points on the road for the first time since March. That said, I have always thought the Kreis era might start with a bang and then get worse before it gets better and we may have seen the start of that last weekend against Seattle. I’d like to think Orlando can at least fashion a draw and the Lions are certainly capable of winning, but show me a second road victory this year before expecting me to predict one. That said, if not this weekend, when?
Wade: As a fan, I expect three points every time the club takes the pitch. When you factor in circumstance, this could prove to be a big three points on our way up the table.
Chicago — while potentially dangerous — is the only team in the league averaging less than one goal per game. Despite the problems along the back line, I think Orlando City should win this one.
What can Jason Kreis learn by watching the 1-1 draw at home early in the season to put the club in the best position to get the win?
Austin: David Accam's goal against Orlando City back in March sticks in the memory, because he basically caught Seb Hines from behind on a dead sprint, won possession, and beat Joe Bendik one-on-one. Even though it came against the good guys, that goal was pretty cool. Committing a few defenders to mark Accam probably isn't a bad idea this weekend, and with the Lions looking for all three points, I expect Chicago to concede the possession battle early and look to hit Orlando on the counter attack. Midfield composure is going to be crucial, and since Kaká was unavailable the last time these teams faced off, his impact could interesting to watch.
Michael: He can hopefully devise a way for his back line not to get beaten over the top on long balls. None of Orlando’s defenders can win any kind of race with David Accam, even with a head start, and therefore the team should not play as high a line at Chicago as it did against Seattle last weekend, where it looked at times as if the Lions were playing an offside trap. Players will have to be cognizant of where Accam is at all times and the attacking midfield and Larin up top have to be conservative in their approach to avoid turnovers. Kreis said he wants to concentrate on fixing the defense, which is smart. Let’s hope the lads learned something from that Seattle game.
Dave: That first draw against Chicago was a frustrating one, given the amount of chances Orlando City had to win it. That being said, this match will come down to how good or bad the defense plays. Orlando City typically scores goals, and Joe Bendik makes a bunch of saves. The question then becomes did we score enough goals, or make enough saves to overcome the play of the back line? Kreis will obviously be able to go back and watch how the players matched up against Chicago, but he won't necessarily be using the same players or having them in the same positions. Additionally, his game plan will be different from Adrian Heath's, and so there is only so much he can use in that regard. I still think that Kreis is in an ongoing evaluation and implementation mode. The players are learning the new scheme, and Kreis is still learning about his players. I'm not saying that the opponent, nor how Orlando played that opponent before doesn't matter, just that it’s only one piece of a much bigger puzzle for Kreis.
Wade: David Accam has to be contained. Given what we’ve seen from this back line, that’s a horrifying thought, but it is the truth. Having him shadowed might be what it takes — and if it is, then so be it. He’s the one weapon to fear on this team.
And that will do it for this week’s discussion as Orlando City prepares for its trip to Bridgeview. Sound off below with your answers.