Wednesday night’s loss against Toronto feels like a missed opportunity for Orlando City Soccer Club. The Lions created chances to score, but left Canada empty handed. But the club will have the chance to put the frustrating encounter in the past, as the Lions take on the Houston Dynamo tonight in Texas. Here are three things to watch for as Orlando looks to grab some points out of a two-game road trip.
It's all about the response. Focused on Houston #DefyExpectations— Tommy Redding (@Tommy_Redding29) May 4, 2017
Will Cyle Larin Rebound from Wednesday’s Missed Chances?
There is a lot of pressure on Cyle Larin to consistently perform as an MLS top striker. Part of the pressure comes from the team’s reliance on his goals this season. Jason Kreis has talked about the team’s effort to remove some of this pressure on Larin after the midweek loss:
“We need more guys out there that can, and are going to, score goals on a regular basis. We can't rely on Cyle to do it all for us.”
Still, Larin invites added scrutiny of his play with his European aspirations. Larin is expected to perform in every game, and criticism about Wednesday’s missed opportunities come with territory of the added attention from around the league and the global game.
Larin accepted blame for not finishing the game with two goals in post-match interviews, which is admirable. Apart from getting on the score sheet again, Larin did not pester defensive players when he didn’t have the ball in Toronto. Larin showed that he is capable of chasing down defenders in the road match against NYCFC, using his body to his advantage and holding up play to incorporate others into the attack. That was missing in his play against Colorado and Toronto.
Can Orlando Avoid Giving Up an Early Goal on the Road?
Orlando’s only two losses have come on the road. In both losses, the team gave up a goal inside the first 15 minutes of the game: Sebastian Giovinco scored in the ninth minute and Justin Meram found the net in the 13th for the Columbus Crew. Winning road games in MLS is hard enough, but conceding an early road goal is a momentum killer. The Lions responded well to going down early in Toronto by getting a goal before halftime. The second half was much better, but the Lions were forced to play catch-up on the road.
Tonight’s match will be tough defensive task for Orlando. The Dynamo have scored 13 goals in their five home games this season, and Cubo Torres is the league’s top scorer with seven goals so far. If the Lions can absorb the early pressure that home teams enjoy, Orlando stands a better chance of establishing a rhythm and getting something out of the match.
Who is Available to Start in Midfield?
Wednesday night, Orlando fielded a few reserve midfielders to cover for an injured Antonio Nocerino and an ill Will Johnson. OCSC managed to hold possession for the majority of the match, but the midfield missed the leadership Johnson and Nocerino provide. Most of Orlando’s possession came from the back four or the front three of Kaká, Cyle Larin, and Carlos Rivas. Servando Carrasco, Luis Gil, and Cristian Higuita all played well below the standard they are capable of. All three players were guilty of silly giveaways or holding onto the ball to long. The center of the park needed a calming influence of either Johnson or Nocerino to help the midfield manage the game.
Higuita and Carrasco have both had much better performances this year; Higuita was coming off of an almost perfect performance against Colorado last weekend. He helped the team win back possession and used his skill to escape pressure and keep the ball. Carrasco is usually a reliable passer who helps the Lions connect play through the middle. Neither player imposed himself on the Toronto midfield on Wednesday. Depending on who is available for the match, the Lions will need a better performance out of these three if the team hopes to get anything out of the game tonight.
The Lions have an opportunity to put Wednesday’s frustrating result behind them with the short turnaround between games. What will you be watching for tonight against Houston?