Multi-goal losses have been the story for Orlando City against the Seattle Sounders in the Lions’ MLS history. A 4-0 thrashing in 2015 was followed up by Orlando letting an early lead slip away late last season. Now the two clubs meet for a midweek match with quick turnarounds against conference foes on the horizon at the weekend coming off disappointing results. With both teams looking for a turnaround and both with their eye inevitably on the weekend, there could be opportunities for both sides.
Winning on the road in MLS — let alone on the other side of the continent — is incredibly difficult. For Orlando, a point is a positive step in the right direction in the table and against an opponent they’ve struggled with. But how can they get there?
Watch the High Line
Last year’s showdown with the Sounders was dismal for Orlando, which was beaten soundly by the combination of Jordan Morris and Clint Dempsey. The match was even at 1-1 a half hour into the game until Morris took over. Dempsey may have had the hat trick, but it was the rookie forward that made it happen.
Morris is the perfect forward to burn higher defensive lines, waiting just on the last shoulder of the defender before timing his run and breaking into any open space that the defense will give him. He did all of the work on both of Seattle’s final goals and could have had more if not for some heroics from Joe Bendik. With Nicolas Lodeiro, Harry Shipp, and even Cristian Roldan capable of making the passes to break through defensive lines, it spelled trouble for OCSC in 2016 and it will spell trouble again in 2017.
The positive for Orlando is that Morris isn’t having the same impact he did last year — he only has two goals and no assists in 14 appearances — but the Lions have struggled with quicker forwards all season long. Gerso Fernandes, Alberth Elis, and Romell Quioto have all bested the City defense, so perhaps Jason Kreis should take a page from the improvised playbook against the Chicago Fire that neutralized speedster David Accam. Keep the midfield and defensive lines tight and don’t give the Sounders space to get in behind.
Jose Aja may have had a forgettable night against Montreal, but the Lions might need him tonight. Seattle’s best creators, Lodeiro and Joevin Jones, have combined for 10 assists so far this season and almost all of them have come from wide areas. If the Lions are going to be in for a long night defending, they’ll need someone to cut out the crosses and set pieces that Seattle has lived on this year. Will Bruin is a big target striker capable of punishing Orlando through the air and a slew of Sounders have found themselves on the end of a Lodeiro corner kick to hit the back of the net.
Part of Orlando’s defensive success has been neutralizing its opponents from wide areas with Aja, Jonathan Spector, and even Leo Pereira managing to win a large portion of their aerial duels. Even Chicago — which tried to barrage the City box with crosses after the Lions had gone down to nine men — couldn’t quite make the connection. Orlando has yet to allow a goal directly from a corner kick and set piece defending has been greatly improved over recent years. It will be interesting to see if the Lions can keep that up against Lodeiro and company.
Keep the Offense Flowing
The City offense was a different animal against Montreal without Cyle Larin. Carlos Rivas, Giles Barnes, Matias Perez Garcia, and Kaká combined for the highest goal output the club has seen so far in 2017. The difference? Not relying on Larin to be on the end of balls into the box.
Barnes and Kaká had great interplay on the left flank with the Brazilian getting to the end line and sending dangerous balls into the Impact area several times throughout the match. It seemed as though every player joined into the attack; Will Johnson created seven chances by himself as the advanced central midfielder and Kaká and MPG created two more each. Rare goals from the Argentinian and Rivas may have been canceled out by poor defensive lapses, but the bright spots were still there from the Lions in the final third. Building on that could prove fruitful against a Seattle defense that has allowed an unfortunate 24 goals in 16 matches.
Getting a result on a trip across the country is a difficult task no matter the opposition. If Orlando wants to make some club history, it will take a complete performance.