Two wins in as many home games. It’s the perfect start that many of us dreamed of. With the support of an exuberant crowd in the new Orlando City Stadium, which has proven to be a fortress, the Lions seem to have all that it takes to grasp a ticket for the MLS playoffs.
Despite the victories, Orlando City has had noticeable absentees which make the perfect start even a sweeter accomplishment. Many fans feel content and happy with the way the squad has performed, although I don't share the same sentiment. Both games vs. NYCFC and the Union I saw many defensive and ball movement difficulties. With Kaká to be fit in around three weeks or so, can Orlando City improve its game? Hell yes! Let's delve a little bit deeper into how the Brazilian star might change the game for the Lions.
Although our back line looks solid with Jonathan Spector and Jose Aja, I believe it could be better. It was most noticeable in the match vs, New York City, where we saw how goalkeeper Joe Bendik became the match MVP. Against Philadelphia, a team that demanded much less from Orlando defensively, the Lions still looked vulnerable defensively. Is it the back four? No. Although Antonio Nocerino does a great job as a defensive midfielder he can only do so much. An all-action midfielder like him is spread too thin in my opinion. Sure Servando Carrasco offers some help for the Italian, but it's Giles Barnes and Matias Perez Garcia who have to make a little bit more of a sacrifice.
Will Johnson and Donny Toia were left on 2-v-1 situations way too many times in both games. Can Kaká fit perfectly in that winger role? I think not. At 34, and after a strenuous career in Europe, it would be asking too much from the Brazilian expecting him to make those runs up and down the field.
Offense-wise is where the Lions have looked at their best. Cyle Larin has worked a lot on making wide runs, giving Carlos Rivas extra space to get in behind defenders. But still, when the team receives pressure in the development zone of the game, it seems to choke a little. Nocerino has always been an all-action player, but he has never been a player known for his passing or chance creation. Carrasco does little to help in the transition from defense to offense as well.
The one player who gives some pause to the game and tries to make a different play has been Perez Garcia — it is not only his technique but his vision that the Lions don't have in abundance. On the other side, Barnes offers a change of pace. His speed is looking like another valuable option for Orlando City when trying to crack down the opponent's defense.
With Larin showing exponential growth on his attacking movement, to me it's Rivas who has a lot more to give. I know I'm going to get a lot of opposition by saying this. True, he makes deadly runs behind the defense. True, he was one of the main reasons Orlando beat Philadelphia. Although he has grown a lot, he has more to offer to the squad. At only 22 years old, he should be more active in my opinion. He rarely helps to press the back line when the team doesn't have possession. And if he does, it's not with the energy that I would wish. In modern day football, you cannot allow any advantages. The first line of defense should be the strikers, and the Colombian lacks this sacrifice.
In my opinion, Kaká would be perfect in Rivas' spot on the field. What he lacks in speed or explosiveness, he makes up for with his chance creation and experience. If you add to that, he gives the club another weapon when it comes to scoring and sacrifice. I would leave Rivas as a super sub, playing him when the opponent's defense is exhausted. His speed is deadly. But with Kaká in form, I just don't see him as a starter.
How would you play your cards? Who would you sacrifice, or would you change formation?