After a midweek draw in Portland, Orlando City returned home to face the New York Red Bulls. Despite holding the majority of possession and creating the most shots, the Lions were unable to capitalize and fell, 1-0. Given that James O’Connor played a weakened side in Portland so he could have a full-strength squad at home, this is a very disappointing result. Here’s what I took away from this game.
O’Connor’s Squad Selection Didn’t Work
Orlando City still sits below the red line with just 12 games remaining as it attempts to qualify for the MLS Cup playoffs for the first time. With two games in four days and a cross-country trip, O’Connor took a weakened side to Portland. Presumably, this was to have a full-strength squad at home against an Eastern Conference foe in New York. After claiming a point on the road, the plan looked in good shape. Had the team claimed all three points against the Red Bulls, it would’ve been a stroke of genius. However, the plan backfired because the Lions only claimed one point from the two games. Now it appears as though they squandered their chance at more as a stronger side in Portland may have been able to come away with a win.
Awful Defending By Orlando City
The best way for a New York Red Bulls player to get a chance on goal seemed to be to stand in the middle of the box because nobody from Orlando City seemed to care to mark them. Especially in the first half, the Red Bulls had some great chances because of free players in the Orlando City box. This could’ve cost the home side multiple goals but some nice saves by Brian Rowe kept the deficit at one.
They were especially bad at defending set pieces. An early corner kick and a 25th-minute free kick saw the Red Bulls find an unmarked man in the box for an open shot on goal. Fortunately for the Lions, neither of those went in. A better finishing team may have put this game away by halftime.
Orlando City Still Can’t Win a Ball in the Air
At 6-foot-4, you would think that Lamine Sané could win a ball in the air. In fact, nobody on Orlando City seems to be able to win the ball in the air. This may not be as detrimental on the attacking end, but it sure is on defense. Any ball sent into the box is almost guaranteed to touch the opposition first. This inability makes it much more difficult to clear balls and leaves the team vulnerable to conceding goals. While it didn’t result in a goal against New York, it definitely provided opportunities.
Turn Tesho, Turn
Tesho Akindele is a big striker and is very good at holding up play. Unfortunately, he does it a little too much. Most times that Akindele holds up play, it’s a good thing. It allows the Lions to get forward and into the attack. This is not so good when they are already on the counter. Against New York, there were times where a potential counter was halted by Akindele as he held the ball with his back to goal rather than playing it through for an oncoming teammate. He continues to do this in the box. With his back to goal, the striker insists on playing the ball back rather than turning and firing on goal. He had a second-half opportunity where turning would’ve provided a shot, but he instead played it back to Ruan who sent the ball into the Wall.
Make the Easy Play
We see it from Chris Mueller all the time but we saw it from multiple players against New York. Rather than turning and making the easy pass, they try to be too fancy and backheel the ball or some other unnecessary attempt. More often than not, this results in a turnover. There is rarely a circumstance in which you need to attempt a fancy play. Usually, you can simply play a sharp pass through to create an opportunity for a teammate. Mueller, Sané, and Nani have all been guilty of this and it’s been a problem for the team all season.
There are the biggest things I took away from the match. Let us know in the comments below if there was anything I missed or anything you noticed in the home loss.