It took a little while for the Lions to wake up, but when they did, they did so in pretty spectacular fashion. It has been a while since the Lions put up the numbers they did yesterday, but it was very much needed. Not only did the club secure three crucial points at home, but it put a massive dent in the recovery effort of the goal differential statistic, something that could help, or hurt, as the season wanes. At the end of the day though, what did we learn from the Lions’ win against newcomers FC Cincinnati?
The Midfield Stepped Up
The midfield trio of Will Johnson, Sebas Mendez, and Cristian Higuita was the perfect call. I will admit, because I am adult enough to do so, that I questioned it when the starting XI was originally released, but the players proved me wrong. FCC had little to no possession in the midfield, and it was because of the hustle of those three gentlemen. They were key to the end result of this match, both offensively and defensively, and need to be recognized. I do not think there are many fans who would question Sebas starting, but hopefully the match put to bed some of the Higuita and Johnson chatter.
Ruan is a Beast
Week in and week out, Ruan just shows all of us why he is the starting right wing back. No matter the formation, no matter the other players on the pitch, Ruan is playing a right wing back, and there is no discussion to make me feel otherwise. Also, he is fast, and he certainly showed it to the Cincy defense. The numbers may not tell the full story, although the assist certainly does. He was a terror on the wing yesterday, and he needs to maintain that reign of terror. There were a few occasions were he was so fast, it appeared as though he had to wait for backup in the box.
Nani is the Real Deal
All you need to do is watch the pitch. There is no overreaction, there is no temper tantrum, there is nothing. What you will see is calm and tempered discussion, education, and mentoring. I am not sure there is a better captain for this club right now. His experience is unquestionable, and he could be “that guy” on the pitch, but he is far from it. He is helping to bring this group of players together, and it is starting to show. The talent is undeniable, and so is the charismatic leadership on the pitch, and it certainly comes from the love of the crest.
Difficulties Closing Down
My one criticism is this: Close down on the damn guy with the ball. The one thing that Orlando City did not do well was close down the player with the ball once the momentum had shifted. It is one thing to mark a player, and a completely different story to give that same player three yards when his forward momentum has stopped. Case in point was the Darren Mattocks goal, in which two players marked him, but neither closed the gap, giving him time to do what he did and slot a ball into the back of the net. Too often, even before the score was out of hand, the Lions should have been much more direct and forceful in the face of the ball carrier.
Dwyer Needs to be Angry
Sitting where I do, I was able to watch the available substitutes warm up in pretty close proximity, from four rows away. One thing that everyone in our section noticed was that when Dom Dwyer came over to start warming up, he was all smiles and waving to the fans. Then, when it came time to actually begin to warm up, the real Dom came out, and he was angry. You could see the frustration of not starting, the frustration of not being on the pitch, and it grew more and more evident as his warm-up progressed. If this is what it takes, then the club needs to find ways to keep Dom angry. If Dom needs to be a super sub for a few matches to keep him hungry, then so be it. Some may say that competition on the pitch is good, but I say that forcing Dom to watch his teammates score goals will go a long way towards awakening the inner demon that “scores when he wants.”
A win at home, on a weekend when it was unbelievably needed as so many Eastern Conference teams above the Lions lost points, is a wonderful thing. Welcoming the new kids on the block while almost erasing the negative goal differential is an even more wonderful thing. The best thing was watching a squad come together after once again going down a goal and come back in grandiose fashion.
What were your big takeaways from the match? Let us know in the comments below.