Orlando City traveled to great white north to match up with last year’s MLS Cup, Supporters’ Shield, and almost Concacaf winner Toronto FC. Both teams came in limping a bit. Toronto was without Sebastian Giovinco and Jozy Altidore, with the Lions missing Dom Dwyer and Yoshimar Yotun. The match played out fairly evenly, with the Lions once again falling behind first, but coming back, and then falling prey to a late goal — one that did not leave enough time to come back from.
So what did we learn from last night’s late loss to TFC?
Dom Dwyer was Sorely Missed
I think the collective reaction from Lion Nation was a gasp when we all learned that Dom did not make the trip to Canada. So far this season, the goal scoring hasn’t been all Dom, but it was obvious last night that just his presence on the pitch means a ton. If research is correct, the Lions are 0-3-1 without Dom on the pitch in 2018. This doesn’t mean that Dom is the sole reason the Lions score goals, but his presence is enough to free up other Lions in a dramatic way. That drama means shots, and shots mean goals.
El-Mo is a Beast on the Left
There may have been a few lapses during the match, including getting beat to allow the late cross that set up a goal, but you cannot deny that Mohamed El-Munir is a terror from his left wing back position. Yes, I said wing back, because how many times did he end up further up the pitch than everyone on the left, including Justin Meram? How many times did he dribble through three defenders, only to have the rest of the players on the pitch, both Orlando City and Toronto, watching? His link play was on point, although not necessarily returned in kind. As it stands right now, other than the next player to be mentioned in takeaways, El-Mo was heads above this evening.
Where Have You Been, Higuita?
It is almost as if aliens have come down and switched out the Cristian Higuita we have watched for the past few seasons for the calmer, infinitely more mature and well-rounded Higuita we have seen blossom this season. His vision is better, his temperament is angelic (relative measurement here, folks), and his footy acumen is becoming something concrete in the starting XI. Does he foul? Of course, so does everyone, but that is part of the job. The difference is knowing when and how to foul, and it certainly appears that Higuita is learning, and learning fast.
Right Side is Not Helping
This is by no means a bash Will Johnson takeaway. Both Scott Sutter and RJ Allen have dealt with injuries, and Johnson has filled in admirably — and by admirably I mean extremely well. However, I think if we sit down and truly compare notes on Will and Sutter, Sutter has proven to date to be the better right back. If the position that Will had to cover was just to defend, I am sure he would cover it just fine, but that is not what that position is asked to do. Orlando City’s defense has proven to be extremely dangerous when it can play wide, from both sides of the pitch. Last night, 52% of Orlando City’s possession was on the left side of the pitch.
Uri and Colmán Make Impact
I, for one, was excited to see Oriol Rosell in his first start; however, I was equally shocked to see Josué Colmán starting from the bench. Uri played as I expected, owning the defensive mid position alongside Higuita, but lacking a bit of chemistry with other players. The lack of chemistry led to a paltry 95.5% passing accuracy. Colmán, on the other hand, who came on in the 64th minute, made an impact immediately. Like Uri, it is obvious that the minutes aren’t there yet, but that didn’t stop him from trying to knock the chip off of his shoulder. Credited with the assist on the Higuita goal, I can only hope that more minutes come to the Lions’ number 10.
It was a tough result for Orlando. Toronto played as I think most people expected, dug in deep, waiting for their chances to run an effective counter attack, and for the most part Orlando City went shot for shot with the defending champs. MLS is a league of massive parity, and I believe we saw the need to get more than one dangerous and well-known option up top. Head Coach Jason Kreis is going to have tough decisions to make once Yoshimar Yotún is again available for the club. As far as right backs go, hopefully the guys see some good fortune soon as Johnson is doing his all to fill in, but Sutter and RJ, statistically speaking, are missed. I thought this was one of those matches where a 1-1 draw was absolutely correct; unfortunately, the heart attack was not in Orlando’s favor this time.
P.S. — Sane and Amro...wow.