Well folks, the second match of the young MLS season is almost upon us. Obviously the first one didn’t go quite the way we were all hoping, but there’s good news. Orlando City has a chance to avenge the 4-0 pasting that occurred the last time it went to Chicago. If that’s going to get done though, these three things almost certainly need to happen.
It’s unclear who will get the start up top for the Chicago Fire, but if it’s the former Philadelphia Union man then Orlando needs to be on high alert. It seems like every time the Lions face Sapong he scores at least once. While in reality he’s only got four competitive goals against OCSC, he’s nonetheless a terror more often than not by winning aerial duels, free kicks, or making key passes.
If it’s Nemanja Nikolic leading the line then the team really needs to be careful. Nikolic was 2017’s Golden Boot winner as he put 24 balls in the back of the net, and while his numbers dropped off to 15 last year, he still led the Fire in goals. Either man can and will do considerable damage to the Lions if given the chance, (Sapong scored in the 4-1 preseason loss to the Union before moving to the Fire and Nikolic had a brace in the 4-0 thrashing at Toyota Park back in September). Przemyslaw Frankowski did well in his debut, but the main focus should be containing whoever is deployed up front.
Better Goalkeeping Play
While Brian Rowe redeemed himself in the second half of last week’s game with several key saves that kept Orlando kicking, it was an unsteady first half for him. While there wasn’t a whole lot he could have done about Alex Ring’s goal, it seemed that he was a bit slow to see and get down to the 26-yard strike by Ebenezer Ofori. However, it was a certainly well placed shot, it doesn’t get much better than going off the post and in.
All the same, his second half performance gave plenty of reasons for encouragement as he was able to settle down and make three saves. He could very well be called in to action often with the sort of firepower the Fire have at striker, and while the hope is that the home team don’t get a ton of shots off in the first place, chances are he’ll be needed at some point during the game. With goalkeeper as a position that was so often a looming question mark for the team last year, it would be wonderful for that to no longer be the case.
Focus, Focus, and Focus
By no means did Orlando have a bad game last week. The team didn’t always get the final ball right in the attacking third and definitely had some bad moments defensively, but, to me, the flaws came down to just a momentary lack of focus. The opening goal came as a result of Sebas Mendez and others switching off and not closing down on Ofori, which allowed him to get a clean shot at goal in a dangerous area.
Moments later with a chance to tie the game, Chris Mueller had a great first touch to set himself up in the box only to fire wide. Then it was the failure to track a simple run by Ring and allowing him to waltz into the penalty area and score before halftime. For large stretches of the game, Orlando played pretty well, but there were little moments where the team seemed to lose that laser focus that NYCFC made them pay. Eliminating those lapses in concentration is absolutely necessary against a team with attackers as talented as Chicago.
There you have it, my own personal keys to a win in tomorrow’s game. What do you think, did I do okay or are there some things you think I missed? Have at it in the comments. Vamos Orlando!