For those of you keeping count, Orlando City SC has now won six games on the trot. That run of form has seen the team rise to third place in the Eastern Conference, and, while the victories haven’t necessarily been against the toughest opposition around, you can only beat who’s put in front of you. That being said, up next is Atlanta United, perhaps the only team in the league that’s been hotter than the Lions in recent weeks.
It feels like it’s being said to death, but a victory against Atlanta would represent yet another step in the right direction. So, here are three things that I believe Orlando needs to do in order to get the win this week.
One of the things that impressed me most about OCSC’s performance against Real Salt Lake was the way the team reacted to conceding an early goal. After conceding in the 11th minute, Orlando had the larger share of possession for the remainder of the half and had three shots in the next 13 minutes, one of which forced a save from Nick Rimando. Exact statistics aside though, it was evident that the Lions didn’t let their heads drop and become discouraged. The players didn’t panic, kept their cool and looked like they had the belief that they’d be able to go on and win. And while the Lions weren’t able to break through until the 60th minute, I wasn’t worried about going into halftime down a goal as I probably would have been in the past. That kind of mental fortitude will be key if OCSC should find itself in a hole, which it very well could against an Atlanta team with plenty of firepower.
Stop Miguel Almiron
Going off what I just said about firepower, with six goals and five assists in Atlanta’s 10 games this year, Almiron has either scored or assisted on exactly half of the team’s goals. While pretty much all of the Atlanta attack is dangerous, much of what it does well goes through Almiron. While stopping him is a tall order, doing so would certainly go a long way towards securing all three points. In particular, Almiron almost always wants to get onto his left foot, so it’ll be the job of the defensive midfielders and back line to do their best to force him right, where’ he’s less comfortable. The problem is that he’s not only extremely quick, but crafty as well. Whoever draws the task of marking him will have their work cut out for them. Regardless, chances are good that if Almiron can be stopped or at least slowed down, Atlanta will be too.
Don’t Be Afraid to Shoot
This might sound a bit strange, but the Lions need to not be shy about having a crack at goal. The Atlanta defense is a good one, and any time a player in purple sees a good opening, they can’t hesitate about letting it fly. In past games, several players have tended towards trying to play the perfect final pass instead of simply taking a shot in a good position. While trying to pick that perfect final ball is all well and good, sometimes it pays to be selfish and try to score yourself, especially in games where chances are scarce.
Yoshimar Yotún has been excellent so far this season, but personally I would love to see him be a bit more selfish closer to the box. He’s got a good shot on him and although it’s nice to see him looking to set up his teammates first, sometimes shooting is simply the better option. This weekend the safeties need to be off and the shots need to fly, especially with Brad Guzan unavailable for selection after being sent off in Atlanta’s loss to Sporting Kansas City on Wednesday.
There you have it, my keys to another Sunday victory. What do y’all think, did I hit the nail on the head or have I missed some things? Let me know in the comments and don’t forget that the game is at 6 p.m. ET on Sunday. Vamos Orlando!