The first match with the new-look squad is in the books and, considering the circumstances, it didn’t go too badly. One of the areas that the Lions enjoyed a great deal of success against D.C. United was in wide areas. Whether it was one of the fullbacks, Yoshimar Yotún, or Justin Meram, most of what Orlando City did well came as a result of getting the ball down the flanks and going to work. With that in mind, it would be a sound strategy to try to replicate last week’s successes in the upcoming match.
Of particular note during the season opener was how much joy the Lions’ fullbacks had when it came to getting forward in the second half. While it’s impossible to deny that the first half could have been better from just about everyone on the field, the second half was completely different. This was most true for Mohamed El-Munir (nicknamed El-Mo for the rest of this article) and Scott Sutter. El-Mo in particular seemed to be able to get forward almost at will, and it seemed like every time I saw him on the ball in the final 45 minutes he was threatening the left side of the attacking third.
Yotún also popped up on the left often, drifting out wide from his role as the number 10 behind the two strikers. In fact, the left side of the field looked dangerous all night for OCSC, and in the first half that looked like the most likely route to a goal for the team. Add Meram drifting wide to the right flank and working in tandem with a marauding Sutter, and the attack looked fearsome, but still lacking an important piece.
For as fearsome as the Lions looked out wide, they struggled to make that advantage telling until the very end of the game. Too often a cross would be played in and there would only be Chris Mueller in the box. And while he did have a good chance to put a header on target, Mueller is only 5-foot-9 and perhaps wasn’t best served by cross after cross being played in. While he still had a good game, eventual substitute Stéfano Pinho might have had more luck getting on the end of those kinds of balls. Personally, I think that slotting Pinho in at striker and repeating last week’s tactic of getting the ball out wide could yield quite a lot of fruit.
In short, concentrating attacking efforts against Minnesota United to the wide areas could prove to be a successful strategy. While Tyrone Mears and Jérôme Thiesson are perfectly serviceable fullbacks, I like the chances of Meram, especially when it comes to a battle out wide. Factor in the additional threats of Sutter, El-Mo, and Yotún, and I think attacking the Loons out wide should lead to the first victory of the year for OCSC.