In what was set to be a weekend trip to New England, Orlando City’s second match of the season was suddenly postponed due to inclement weather. The game may have been postponed, but even though it did not take place we still learned a few things about the Lions and their opponents, in particular about NYCFC and Philadelphia Union.
In Week 1 of the season, the Lions took on NYCFC in a home game that opened up the new stadium in Orlando. The result was a 1-0 victory for the men in purple, led by a re-geared defense and a goal from Cyle Larin. In Week 2, NYCFC was at home against D.C. United and thrashed its opponents, 4-0.
The fact that NYCFC beat D.C. by four goals should give us an even better indication of how solid the Lions’ defense was in the Week 1 match-up. David Villa and company can easily be regarded as one of the more dynamic offenses in the league, and that was evident this past weekend.
However, NYCFC was matched up against a new-look defense for Orlando City, led by new signing Jonathan Spector. Spector was impressive in his debut as he simply squashed any attempt that NYCFC made on goal.
Spector’s first game as a Lion was an English-styled, no-nonsense defensive effort. Any danger was simply cleared out; not only did Spector lead the team in clearances, but also led the league in the category in Week 1, logging 13 clearances, seven with his head. Spector’s positioning throughout the match was excellent.
Every bit as impressive as Spector was, goalkeeper Joe Bendik was just that much better. The other leader of the defense is the goalkeeper, and Week 1 proved why Bendik has earned the right to the No. 1 spot and, as of Monday, a contract extension.
So what we learned from Week 2 and the way NYCFC played was that the Orlando City defense is much improved. With the likes of Spector and Bendik leading the way, Orlando City has a chance to have an impressive season from a defensive standpoint. This will be very much welcomed when considering the 2016 season for the Lions, a season that saw 60 goals scored against them.
The Philadelphia Union have played in two games, drawing in both of them. The first was a 0-0 affair at Vancouver. The second was a 2-2 game against Toronto FC.
The Union have proved to be solid so far in their two games this season. The defense is led by Oguchi Onyewu, and they have a midfield led by Alejandro Bedoya. The other acquisition the Union have made is English striker Jay Simpson.
All three players have proven to be good for the Union as they are also hoping for a turnaround season after more losses than wins in the 2016. The next game on the schedule for Philadelphia is a trip to Orlando.
In the two weeks that the Union have played, we have seen that they like to press and counter with quick touches and strikes. What sticks out is that the Union struggled to make good on opportunities created in their away draw against Vancouver. Vancouver's BC Place, much like Orlando's new stadium, is loud and tough to play at.
So, what we learned from the Philadelphia Union in Weeks 1 and 2 is that — while being a solid team from top to bottom — they struggled in their away game. The opportunities for the Union will come against Orlando City this Saturday, but you should fully expect the likes of Bendik and Spector to step up.
However, the Union did score two goals from open play against Toronto FC. The two goals could spark the offense as they head south to Orlando. What should be expected from both teams is a major defensive effort.
The Union, on the road, are likely play more of a defensive game against Orlando. What you should expect from the Union is a counter-attacking strategy led by Bedoya and company.
From the Orlando side of things, the idea of earning a second clean sheet at home will be ever looming. The Lions have proven that they can score and manage a win without the likes of star man Kaká. This Saturday, OCSC will have to prove this all over again.