Orlando City’s biggest problem reared its ugly head once again on Sunday night, with defensive issues the root of the Lions’ problems in a 3-1 loss to the visiting Seattle Sounders. The club’s back line struggled to keep up with Seattle’s fierce attacking lineup, with guys like Clint Dempsey and Jordan Morris running all over center backs David Mateos and Seb Hines.
"Obviously we were allowing their players to find the gaps we talked about we didn’t want to allow them to find," Orlando City Head Coach Jason Kreis said after the match. "They found those gaps, they were able to turn, and then they were playing passes in behind us. I think we had a little bit of confusion with our back four for what we were trying to do. Felt like we were almost trying to play an offside trap and that’s certainly not what we were asking."
The Lions’ biggest issue, as it has been often, was its pace in the back, most notably on Dempsey’s second and third goals, where, as Kreis said, it looked like the defense went for the offside trap. The back line got burned both times by Dempsey and Morris, giving Joe Bendik hardly any chance to make a save.
The loss was Orlando’s first at home since July of last year, ending a 17-match unbeaten run at Camping World Stadium.
"We are not happy," Mateos said of the result. "I think we can do more in the game. In the second half we could have done everything to tie the game but football is like this when you’re leading the first 15 minutes they can just score three goals just like that."
Orlando City has conceded 39 goals in just 22 games this season, and 14 of those in the last seven contests. In that time, the team has been without regular starter Rafael Ramos, who has been sidelined since late May with a hamstring injury, and Tommy Redding, who has missed the last few weeks with a hamstring problem of his own.
Brek Shea has been reverted back to a winger, leaving Luke Boden and Kevin Alston (both good in their own respects, but neither able to keep up with the MLS attacking talent surrounding them each week) as the only true fullbacks on the roster — a problem the team did not fully address in the transfer window despite adding young Mikey Ambrose from OCB.
Mateos and Hines, who have seen the largest chunk of minutes at center back this season, continue to struggle to produce consistent results.
"The thing about Seattle is we trained hard all week for stopping them and we made a good game until after they made a goal and everything go down," Mateos said. "We trained hard all week and this is not an excuse but we have a lot of games more and we look forward to Chicago."
The team has been training hard each day throughout Kreis’ first two weeks with the club. The new coach said that could have been the cause of some of the team’s problems on Sunday night.
"From what I saw tonight, we saw a group that the energy looked low, but we’ve been asking a lot of them for two weeks now," Kreis said. "I think some of the adjustment is going to take some time from a physical standpoint. I think that could explain some of the lack of energy. From a tactical standpoint we are still working. It’s going to take some time."
And as the team heads into its third week under Kreis, the Lions can hope those things in training can finally start to translate to games — especially on defense.