The Lions came home for the third match of the MLS season to face the Montreal Impact. The match went south pretty quickly, with Montreal scoring two goals within 90 seconds of each other in the 14th and 15th minutes. The intensity rose from there, and so did the attitudes on the pitch, all the way to the final whistle, including seeing the referee, in his second ever MLS match, produce a red to Montreal. With the Lions suffering their first loss of the season, what can we take away from the match.
Defense Needs Much More Work
With James O’Connor bringing the squad out in a 4-3-3, the defense was asked to deal with the likes of Maxi Urutti and Ignacio Piatti. It didn’t go well, with sloppy passes, slow close-outs, and poor decisions. As a team, you cannot continue to give away goals like that. You cannot give the ball away to a high pressing team in your own half. If you are going to give the ball away, give it away with long balls to the wingbacks as they make runs, or try to put the ball over the top to a streaking striker. Playing from the back was not a good choice in this game. The back line of Ruan, Shane O’Neill, Carlos Ascues, and Danilo Acosta just looked broken all evening.
Too Many Missed Chances
Dom Dwyer ended the match with six shot attempts, two of which were on target. He sailed the ball over the goal on what should have been a sitter. Chris Mueller attempted one total shot, an almost-beautifully placed ball that just missed the upper 90 by inches and had Evan Bush completely beat. Mueller also had at least two crosses that found themselves falling into very dangerous areas of the Montreal box, but no Lions were in a position to capitalize. The Lions need to be a little calmer around the box, stop trying to be overly fancy, and take more shots like the one Mueller took (only get it on frame).
Too Many Turnovers in the Orlando Half
The average passing percentage for the Lions’ back line was 76%. The midfield players were not that much better with the exception of Nani (83%) and Higuita (91%). The 4-3-3 played by Montreal troubled the defensive mids and backs all match long, pressing high and being successful in creating turnovers, which should not have happened. Too often passes were lazy, slow, mistimed, and sent to a spot nowhere near the intended target. Only time will tell if this is a minutes together issue or if this is indicative of something far worse.
The Lions Played Slow
Outside of a few players, the Lions looked slow. I cannot decide if it is fitness, conditioning, nerves, lack of time together, or some other reason, but many of the Lions just looked slow. Players were getting caught ball watching, not making runs, not moving to open spaces, making heavy first touches, you name it. Heavy legs before the end of March is not a good sign of things to come. Ruan has speed and showed it, but I think being down by two early and having a difficult time maintaining possession, it was always in his mind, as well as others, to be a little more defensive minded, always leaning back a bit.
Matches Like This are Needed
While the fans never need to see a match like this, it can be a good thing for the team itself. Matches like this will help to build and promote the togetherness that is needed — the mentality that has been missing for a while with this squad. The players were absolutely there for each other when things got heated. You didn’t see the Lions jawing at each other, but you certainly saw them defending their teammates in those heated moments. These are those cliche matches that people say helps to build character, and I would rather suffer through them now than in four months.
Thank Brian Rowe for making sure this match did not end with a much bigger goal differential. It certainly did not end as any of us would have liked, but it could have been much, much worse. What did you take away from the match? Let us know in the comments below.