We’re all thinking it, so I’ll just go ahead and say it: this has not been an ideal start to the 2018 campaign. Between a season-opening draw marred in controversy, a loss at home to Adrian Heath, and now a shutout loss in Yankee Stadium, there’s no doubting that this was not the vision that anybody had for the start of the season.
A major theme in Orlando City’s struggles has been focused on the missing cogs, as many of Orlando City’s brightest players have been unavailable for selection in a time where the supporters are clamoring most to see them play. This has prevented Head Coach Jason Kreis from fleshing out his preferred lineup over the span of the Lions’ first three matches, and in turn, the product on the pitch hasn’t been up to anyone’s standards.
Saturday’s loss at Yankee Stadium against a David Villa-less New York City FC, while still an incredibly frustrating affair, provided some bright spots that serve as silver linings for the things to come. The return of Sachja Kljestan, while still leaving much desired, was an exciting addition to finally see come to life within the squad. The halftime injection of Lamine Sané, while unfortunate to see captain Jonathan Spector exit early, provided an excellent debut. And seeing RJ Allen get the start against his former side, all the while becoming the first player to compete on both sides of this expansion rivalry, was compelling.
But what I found myself thinking about most during the hours and days following Saturday’s match centered on the debut of Paraguayan newcomer Josué Colmán.
Colmán, subbed on in the 76th minute for Allen, was Kreis’ effort at providing an attacking spark in the final third; I only wish he had done so sooner. In his short, roughly 14-minute cameo, Colmán exhibited all of the attributes you could want from an attacking midfielder. He was quick, decisive, and active. His passing was crisp, coming in at a clean 85.7% according to whoscored.com. He completed two dribbles, won a tackle, and even managed to take a shot. He appeared to move well off the ball while communicating with his teammates, something that was especially impressive considering his age (19), his late substitution into the match, and his recent return from injury.
His most influential moment, and one that put his stamp on the match as the Lions’ best attempt at goal, came in the 85th minute, when Kljestan dribbled his way down the left flank. Colmán positioned himself at the top of the box as Kljestan slipped a ball through to Laryea in the box, who then turned and found Colmán waiting. With a single one-touch pass, Colmán found Will Johnson sneaking in on the opposite flank. The resulting cannon of a shot from Johnson easily rocketed by goalkeeper, Sean Johnson, but ricocheted off of the top right crossbar — the only thing that stood between Colmán and his first MLS assist.
Two Observations from this Attack
The first observation I had is a simple one: Colmán did not opt to take the selfish, yet potentially glorious, route of cracking a shot from the top of the box. Colmán doesn’t appear to be a self-serving attacker out for personal acclaim. He appears to be a generous and crafty distributor that can also be a threat to score. He’s likely won over his teammates in training already, but his decision-making in just 14 minutes of play in a baseball stadium in New York City has won me over.
The second struck me as I reviewed film: Colmán recognized where his teammates would need him to be even before Kljestan began his run down the flank. The moment that Kljestan made his move, Colmán placed himself in the open space at the top of the box and raised his hand in the air in case Laryea couldn’t find Kljestan on the give-and-go, which he couldn’t.
Colmán’s positional awareness and selflessness were on full display during this attack, and I can’t wait to see him pulling the strings alongside the likes of Kljestan, Dom Dwyer, and Justin Meram for an extended run once the squad is fully healthy.
So folks, as you can probably tell, I’m a big proponent of silver linings. Sure, the Lions are experiencing some growing pains at this stage, but wasn’t this to be expected? As I’ve said (along with the majority of the staff here at The Mane Land), the season is a marathon, not a sprint. We’ve just laced up the cross trainers and started warming up. The one that leads the pack at the beginning of a marathon isn’t always the winner, are they?
As always, I welcome your thoughts in the comments section below.