Orlando City SC had its worst defensive performance of the season last weekend against the Houston Dynamo. Pushed by their wingers, the Texans, who possess the second-best offense in MLS so far, with 19 goals, punished the Lions’ fullbacks to score four goals, as Donny Toia observed after the match.
“It was rough,” he said, in a video the club sent to the media. “We were doing decently on keeping the ball and moving it around, but we lost it in the wrong spots. They have fast guys up top and that’s exactly what we knew they were going to do, hit long balls like that to the speedy guys and get behind.”
Back at home against Sporting Kansas City this weekend, Orlando will face the fourth least effective offense in the League, which will not have striker Dom Dwyer, who scored five of the team’s 11 goals so far. But things won’t be easy for the Lions’ back line.
Even with Dwyer’s absence, SKC possesses a couple of dangerous wingers in Designated Player Gerso Fernandes and Colombian Jimmy Medranda, who successfully converted from the left back position to become a threat at the right wing.
In 2017, Gerso and Medranda have combined for two goals and one assist, but the numbers are not what makes them dangerous. The biggest threat is realizing that their speed can make them as scary as the Dynamo’s forwards, especially considering they will be fed by talented midfielder Benny Feilhaber. This is what they can in a few seconds against an exposed team:
Playing at home, where it has won all of its five matches so far, after back-to-back road losses, Orlando City will probably have an offensive approach against Kansas City, which is expected to rely on its solid defense. The Lions, though, cannot fall into the visitors’ trap and allow them space to hurt their defense on counter attacks.
Having Jonathan Spector back in central defense will help the Lions keep their back line organized. Scott Sutter and Donny Toia, though, need to be really smart on deciding when to go forward or stay back in order not to give Gerso and Medranda the space they need to counter attack.
“Every game is different and every team poses different challenges”, said midfielder Will Jonhson in the club video. “We have to be tighter defensively, that’s obvious, and make sure we limit their chances”.
Sporting Kansas City will be a good test to see if Orlando has actually learned the lessons of a rough night in Houston.