Can you feel that buzz resonating through O-town this week? Sure, the All-Star kit and ball were announced, and in a massive homage to the match being played in Orlando, they are purple, but that is not what I am talking about.
Today is match day! Wait, hold on, what do mean Bearded Guy, I thought the international break was still in full swing? If you completely went off the grid since our last match, I might be able to forgive you for not knowing that Orlando City is hosting the New England Revolution in the round of 16 of the U.S. Open Cup tonight at Exploria Stadium (I almost typed Orlando City Stadium and had to double check the spelling, haha).
Here are three keys to City walking away victorious and securing a spot in the quarterfinals.
It is easy to spout off some cliche similar to “score more goals than the Revs,” but it goes a bit deeper than that. Orlando’s offensive struggles are well documented, but seem to be getting better over this current season. Taking a look at the current statistics, the Revs have 17 goals this season versus Orlando’s 22 (also, please note that Orlando has a match in hand currently). New England is currently 11th in the Eastern Conference with a goal differential of -16 versus Orlando’s differential of +1. Although their current position tells one story, the Revolution’s recent shake-up in their front office and bringing in Bruce Arena as the head coach has started to turn the squad around. In their last four matches, the Revs have secured eight points, including a big win at LA Galaxy. Arena is 2-0-0 at the helm.
There is going to be a ton of pressure on the Orlando City forwards to bury chances against a defensive side that has conceded 33 goals to date, although the Revs seem to have tightened up over the past few matches. The Lions will also need to step up the need of finding cohesion in the middle of the pitch, and some creativity, to feed those hungry strikers, whoever James O’Connor decides to play there. With as many chances as this squad creates, it only takes one match to light that confidence on fire, and this should be that match.
No Early Goals
Of course, this is in reference to City’s nasty habit of allowing goals early in matches. Although the Cardiac Cats were fun to watch, the comebacks have been a bit lacking over the past few seasons with the lack of chances converted. The defense has been much more solid and consistent this season, building upon every match, and certainly appears to have multiple pieces that can fill the roles of the two center backs. And, with Joao Moutinho and Ruan on the left and right, respectively, the defense can turn into a potent offensive push very quickly.
Orlando has done well this season maintaining a somewhat high press, or at least keeping bodies forward to pressure the opposing team’s ability to get to midfield easily. As noted above, the wing play has been very strong for City this season, but the Revs have had success with quick counters and long balls over the top. City must have a solid plan, shape, and the tactical awareness to shift and cover for the backs as they join the offense on breaks. Shape and position in the defensive midfield and defensive third will also be critical as the Revs like to play through balls often. This match will also require zero individual errors, something that has plagued the squad, but is an area that is making positive progress week in and week out. If City can keep the errors to a minimum, and hold shape and tactics, the chances of a win increase dramatically for the Lions.
Exploria Stadium Must be Loud
It was great to see the club open up more sections for sale yesterday due to demand for tickets to the match. We, the fans, need to show up just as much as the boys in purple do and do our job of making the stadium a very unfriendly, and uneasy, place for New England to play. Home field advantage is a very real thing, and we need to make sure we let the boys know that we are there for them, on this stage, on this night, and every night after. The momentum is building, and this match feels like one that will be the catalyst for a summer run that does not see the club teetering on the event horizon of disaster like previous seasons. This feels like a match that will further solidify the direction this club is taking, and put it on display for those in attendance. Grab a ticket, the beers and dogs will be cheap, and let’s sing our hearts out for 90 minutes, passing our energy to the boys on the pitch.
As summer heats up, a deep, challenging run in the U.S. Open Cup is just what this squad needs, what this club needs, and what this fan base needs. The Lions have not had the best of luck over the summer months, but the winds of change are near. With the Revolution coming to town, having plenty of time to prepare, the Lions have a great chance to not only punch their ticket to the USOC quarterfinals, but also to give us all that much-needed mental and emotional boost as the international window comes to a close.
This match could stand as a big statement to the rest of the league that Orlando is not going to wilt in the summer sun this season. A big home win is just what the club needs before the upcoming return to MLS season play, and a rough stretch of matches on short rest.