The Lions went undefeated in the first ever Orlando City Invitational. On Wednesday, Orlando put up a touchdown in a 6-2 rout of the New England Revolution. Five different Lions found the back of the net with a Revs own goal thrown in for good measure in Orlando’s best game of the 2019 preseason. What did we learn from the match?
Sané Starting Quality
Lamine Sané showed that he could slot right into the starting XI on opening day. He looked like a man among boys out there. Plopped into a back four between an out-of-position Dillon Powers at right back and OCB signee Matheus Silva, he controlled the back line, was the leader on the team, and rightfully wore the armband. The center back was one of the best players on the field and may have earned himself a starting spot against New York City FC. There were a few times Teal Bunbury slipped in behind the back line, but he’s pretty good at that and Sané seemed to be trying to keep the line high whenever Silva wandered. He recovered well in those few instances the Revs got someone in behind.
James O’Connor has said that he will use different formations and systems this year. Wednesday was a prime example of that, as he changed from a 3-5-2 to a 4-3-3. Expect for this to be a common theme this season as the coaching staff adjusts the formation based on the opposition and players available. In addition to those formations, O’Connor will likely also go with a 3-4-3 this season. A few important caveats about the change is that the back line should remain reasonably consistent throughout the year (when healthy), and the best players need to be in positions that they will succeed. This was prevalent against New England, as Sané controlled the defense with Uri Rosell dropping back to support, and the attacking players surging forward.
O’Connor Looks to Have his First Team Set
The Lions’ lineup on Saturday and Wednesday were entirely different. One of the reasons is that O’Connor wanted to give guys a full 90 minutes. Looking at the lineups, it is clear that some of the players look to have starting spots. Brian Rowe, who is expected to be signed, is the only veteran goalkeeper and got the start on Saturday. Uri played well on Wednesday, but did he do enough to lift himself over Will Johnson or Sebas Mendéz? The team that played on Saturday is likely going to be the vast majority of the starters in the first game. Of course, Nani should start if his paperwork is completed in time and the defense might look a little different — Kamal Miller is not yet signed, and at least one of Sané or Carlos Ascues are expected to be in the starting XI. Still, the guys that played on Wednesday look to be reserves and will need to continue to work harder to earn a starting spot.
You Can’t Win with Kids…or Can You?
The old cliché is that you can’t win with kids. However, on Wednesday Orlando City did just that. Players like Santiago Patino, Benji Michel, Cam Lindley, and Josué Colmán all looked promising and showed glimpses of their potential. This was an extremely young and inexperienced team that O’Connor came out with. And the kids still managed to get a decisive victory. Even more impressive is the way the Lions earned the win — six goals among five different goal scorers.
SIMA Gold player Hamady Diop played well at left back. The 17-year-old slotted in and wasn’t overmatched by any means. He even muscled the opposition off the ball a few times. Lindley sprayed the ball all over the pitch to the open man with great accuracy. Colmán started a bit slowly and uncertainly but grew into the game and was the electrifying presence fans have been waiting to see. His potential ceiling is high and he showed glimpses of it Wednesday.
There is undoubtedly a lot of work still to be done, but winning 6-2 is a spectacular achievement, regardless of the team that New England had out there (which featured starters such as Bunbury, Diego Fagundez, and Cristian Penilla).
Relax. It’s Only Preseason
Orlando has played two excellent games this past week. Things are looking much better than they were a season ago, and James O’Connor seems to have his team on track. However, things were looking bright last year as well. Orlando City went 4-2-0 in the preseason and outscored the opposition, 19-11. In those matches were two 4-1 wins and a 5-2 victory. It is only preseason, and there is still a long way to go to where the Lions need to be. O’Connor stated after the game that his team is pretty close to where he wants it to be just a week and a half out from the start of the season. It looked the part the last two games, but can this team stand up to clubs that enter games with specific game plans once the intensity ratchets up?
That’s the way I saw the match last night. What stood out to you? Let us know in the comments section below.