The Lions played in their first game of the Orlando City Invitational on Saturday. Tesho Akindele managed a goal and assist, and Chris Mueller proved the game-winner. The Lions beat New York City FC, 2-1. Here are my five takeaway from the match.
Throughout the year, there have been many different ways to describe Orlando City. Some are good, many are poor. However, one constant is the unwavering fan support, and that was on full blast last night. Fans filled the lower deck of the east stands, a large portion of the upper deck and a good chunk of The Wall. There was singing and cheering, as supporters watched and did what they could to help the Lions earn their first win of the Orlando City Invitational. If the crowd is this good for a preseason game, the season opener will not disappoint.
Ruan’s Got Speed
One of the many new players that Orlando City signed this off-season has already made an impact. Ruan played in the right wingback position and regularly got up and down the wing. He was comfortable on the ball and knew where to be, but the biggest observation from the Brazilian is his pace. It looks like Orlando City has its starting wing back.
Johnson and Kljestan Leaders
Throughout the game, Will Johnson and Sacha Kljestan were the most prevalent leaders on Orlando. Every play the pair was instructing players. This is not all that surprising, as they were both leaders last year as well. Kljestan will likely take the captain’s armband this season, and Johnson will fill in when Kljestan is out.
Speaking of Kljestan, this might have been his best performance as a Lion to date. Yes, it is only a preseason game. However, he finally looked like the player that he was when he was with New York. He controlled the ball in the middle of the field are rarely turned it over. He made smart plays, not forcing the ball into tight areas, and was a vital part of Orlando’s attack. His smart header across the face of goal led to Orlando’s opener and he had a number of perfect through balls. This is the Kljestan that Orlando needs.
Sebas Is the Real Deal
The partnership of Kljestan and Méndez will be intriguing moving forward. Méndez was another player that excelled. He was continually asking for the ball at his feet and, like Kljestan, rarely turned it over. He showed solid ball skills and a high soccer IQ. He went eagerly into challenges and created the New York City turnover that led to Mueller’s goal. While this team still needs a lot more help, the midfield is shaping up nicely.
Those are the things that stood out to me in last night’s victory. If you were at the match, what did you notice? Let us know in the comments section below.