One of the main talking points this season for Orlando City has been its turnover on the defensive front. From worst in MLS in 2016 to now one of the best, it is truly a remarkable job.
Last night, Orlando City played well but was unable to come away with any points in a hostile, away environment. There could be many excuses made for why the team failed to win but in the end it was a lack of finishing and Sebastian Giovinco proved to be too much.
The Lions do not have much time to linger on the loss, however, as they face Erick “Cubo” Torres and the Houston Dynamo on Saturday. Cubo is currently the league leader in goals scored and the Orlando City defense will need to pick up its game if it is going to stop him.
Last week, Houston played Toronto at BMO field and Toronto held Torres and the Dynamo scoreless. To stop Cubo, the Reds kept him out of the box and forced him to shoot from long range. Of his six shots, only one was inside the 18-yard box.
When Orlando City goes into Houston, the game plan needs to be the same. Of Cubo’s seven goals scored this season, all but two have come either near the penalty spot or just to the left of it. The outliers of the group both came on free kicks, including on this beauty below.
So, for the Orlando City defenders it is clear: push Torres out to his right side of the field and away from the middle of the box. The back four will most likely stay the same as last night, or the only change may be Jose Aja in for Tommy Redding. Any combination has proved successful so far this season, and the main worry will be in the midfield.
Since switching into the diamond midfield, Orlando City has found it easier to defend. The key, though, is who will be in the holding midfielder role. Antonio Nocerino is the clear number one choice, and his absence was surely felt in the loss to Toronto. Whether it is the Italian or Servando Carrasco, they need to keep Torres in check and force his shots from long range. Only four of Torres’ long range shots have hit the target, two of them being free kick goals.
It is a big task for the Lions to keep Torres from getting inside the box, but the 2017 Orlando City defense has already built a reputation of strength and this is just another step in the road to the playoffs.