Orlando City seems to be on a bit of run right now — the match against the Portland Timbers excluded — and we have seen a stretch of action with fairly consistent play. A few small tweaks have been made to cover players suspended due to card accumulation, red cards, and injuries, but we have seen the diamond fielded with a pretty consistent XI.
What has been interesting to watch has been Giles Barnes in that No. 10 spot, a position in which we have been accustomed to seeing Kaká play. Head Coach Jason Kreis has shifted Kaká up to a forward position alongside Dom Dwyer for the last few matches, and the pairing has worked well, at least for Kaká in the sense that it appears to allow him to stay up top a bit more and save some energy and legs for when it is needed. So, how has Orlando City fared with its No. 10s compared to some notable MLS No. 10s?
Giles Barnes vs. New England
It was a massive match for the Lions. Do I really need to remind you of the score line Hint, it was a record for the team in MLS regular season play, including some firsts for a number of the squad. Remember that early red card? You would think this would set up beautifully for a No. 10 to take advantage of a team down a man. Take a look at the passing chart below:
I don’t know about you, but this map looks a little light to me. The team loves to play to the wings, shifting play from side to side, trying to draw out the opposing defense and find some lanes to take advantage of. Antonio Nocerino and Yoshimar Yotun ran this match from their positions on the right and left of the diamond. Even though Orlando won this match big, I can only think about what would happen if whoever was in the No. 10 spot was in control of the match.
Kaká as the 10
The last time Kaká started in the 10 spot, here is what his passing chart looked like:
You might be saying, “but Beardguy, we just went over Giles as the No. 10 vs. the Revs. What gives?” Well, the last time Kaká played in the 10 spot, it was the 4-0 loss to New England. It is obvious that he had more touches than Giles, but notice where those touches take place. It looks like he is mostly picking up the ball about midfield, but then working it outside to the wings, and then overlapping to help continue to push the ball down the wings. There really isn't much possession in the middle of the pitch in the final third, something that could be a contributing factor to the lack of goals for a large part of the season. So how do we compare to some notable MLS No. 10s?
Mauro Diaz of FC Dallas
Let’s look at a very recent match, this past match with FC Dallas. Mauro Diaz is one of those players that you need to contain when you play Dallas. His passing map from the match begins to tell the story as to why:
They did not score on Orlando, but look at the touches from box to box. Dallas did try to control the middle of the pitch, and had Orlando on its heels a number of times. They were able to cycle the ball and get players out of position a number of times, and feed to ball the Diaz to start some dangerous possession forward.
Diego Valeri of Portland Timbers
The Lions’ last loss was away at the Portland Timbers. If there is one name on the Timbers’ roster you should watch, it should be Diego Valeri. I will admit it: Valeri had his way with the Lions’ defense that match. Take a look at the map for Valeri for the match.
I could wax poetic about how this is what I expect from a No. 10, but I will refrain. What I will say is that this is what I expect from a No. 10. As I have said in previous articles, controlling the midfield will translate to wins (no, this is not a certainty, but statistically the statement holds true).
Victor Vázquez of Toronto FC
Now this is a slight curveball from my point of view. Looking at who is where for Toronto FC can get a little muddy based on the formation utilized, a 3-5-2. Michael Bradley is typically a CDM, but we have all watched him float up to a pseudo-No. 10 role depending on the flow of the match. Victor Vázquez fits a little better into what is called a No. 10 right now for Toronto, so let’s examine his passing chart from Toronto’s last match vs. the team we are chasing for the last playoff spot, the New York Red Bulls:
Due to the formation that Toronto uses, it pushes Vázquez left of center a bit, as you can see above, but the push to control and possess in the middle is still apparent. Again, and I will keep hammering this home as long as someone will listen, that possession in the middle of the pitch opens everything else up, and Toronto has been one of the best at that this season.
Future No. 10
This is where my crystal ball gets really cloudy.
What I can tell you is that I like seeing Kaká up top in the two-striker formation (playing slightly under the other forward). We have seen this season that he cannot go box to box multiple matches in a row. Giles has done a fair job in the spot, but it just feels like a stopgap because the Lions have no other obvious options.
I think this is a position that needs to be addressed in the off-season to really help to turn this team into a serious playoff contender for years to come. I don’t expect to see much change for the final two matches this season, but secretly would like to see one change.
Once the math is overwhelming, which it isn’t yet but could be very soon, why not give Yoshimar Yotun a shot at the No. 10 spot? Yes, this may be out of position for one of the newest Lions, but we have all seen what he has brought to the team. I have a sneaking suspicion that he would fit very well into the spot, and possibly make a statement to keep it if given the chance.