Orlando City returned home, after way too many miles on the road, sitting on six straight losses in MLS play, with an interim head coach, and a fan base hungry to see some glimmer of hope of staying about the red line.
It was a mere 10 days ago that Orlando City was across the border in Canada to face Montreal, suffering a 3-0 defeat. One day later, the club announced a parting of ways with Jason Kreis. There was a bright spot, as interim coach Bobby Murphy helped to lead the squad to a penalty shootout win after a 1-1 draw in the U.S. Open Cup on the road, against D.C. United this past Wednesday. The Lions came home and fell 2-0, so what can we learn from the club’s seventh straight loss?
Changes Do Not Happen Overnight
It has been nine days since the helm of the club has been handed over the Bobby Murphy. He came out in a somewhat surprising 3-4-3 formation in D.C., and brought the same formation out against Montreal. For anyone that expected the removal of Jason Kreis to be the switch that flips this team back on, you got your answer last night. The formation changed, the starting XI was somewhat changed, but the result on the pitch was the same. There are some inherent issues with the Lions that must be addressed, and they will not be fixed overnight, in the next training session, or the next week.
Players Looked Tired
Almost every starter for Orlando City looked tired from the sound of the first whistle. This past few weeks have been fairly grueling for the club, both physically and emotionally. Considering the weather and long delay during the U.S. Open Cup match on Wednesday, it should not be that surprising to see some players gassed. The players were also asked to play a new formation, with new responsibilities, and you could tell.
Fast forward to last night, and you could feel and see the physical and mental exhaustion from the club. Five of last night’s starters played 120 minutes on Wednesday on the road. Sacha Kljestan and Justin Meram, just looked a step behind. After they made runs, either in attack or defense, you could see they needed a few seconds extra to recover.
Dom Needs Help
Dom Dwyer is one of the darlings of Orlando City, but this season may be showing that leaving him up top by himself is not the best way to utilize his strengths. MLS defenders may have figured out that the best way to defend Dom is to be physical. This physicality appears to get to him mentally over the period of the match. The attack may be better suited to have Dom paired with another hold-up style striker, or a possession-based attacking midfielder that has the speed to push the attack up the middle with Dom. The key to this is speed.
Playing Wide Isn’t Working
Orlando is still working the philosophy of stretching the opponent by utilizing the wings, sweeping the ball and possession from side to side in the back and deep defensive midfield until pathways open and attacks can be pushed forward. The problem with this, as was evident last night, is that as play is pushed up the wings, players are not pushing properly with it. As Murphy said after the match, “With the change in shape, part of it lends itself to some natural width but if the width isn’t provided in the right way, it actually makes you narrower, if that makes any sense at all.”
Dom is typically the only player crashing the box, with multiple players overlapping wildly on the edges, holding too deep in the attacking third, or just not moving at all. Too many times were players trying to occupy the same space.
Lack of Something
There is certainly something lacking right now with the Lions. Maybe it is the current state of chaos. Communication on the pitch looks non-existent. Infighting between teammates is open for everyone in the stadium to see. Players are constantly out of position with no help coming from the formation players that should be switching. Frustration is growing, and I am not referring to fan frustration. The match last night seemed to get to a few players, both physically and mentally, like Meram and Dwyer, and a few physical moments occurred. Where was the captain last night, getting everyone settled, telling players to calm down, and reminding everyone of just what their role is?
There are plenty more takeaways, but I want to hear from you on some of the things you noticed from last night’s match. I realize we are all very opinionated and emotional right now, so vent in the comments, but do me a small favor and try to keep it civil. I’ve had to remind myself of that daily.