Orlando City Head Coach James O’Connor once again employed the tactic of making widespread changes for a midweek trip out west before coming back home to put out a more familiar XI. The Irishman made 11 total changes to his lineup in the defeat to New York Red Bulls and here is how they performed.
You might think they’re kind, but in all honesty, nobody had a particularly bad individual game and nine out of 10 times the Lions come away with a point but alas an intense first half from the Red Bulls, coupled with some nearly-but-not-quite finishing from the Lions in the second, was ultimately the difference in a pretty even game that was tilting in Orlando’s favor by the end.
GK, Brian Rowe, 7 — Rowe made four saves in total, the same as his Red Bulls counterpart Luis Robles, but the conceded goal was the difference from a purple point of view. Former Lion Amro Tarek seemed determined to score, forcing two good saves from Rowe. He was fast off his line numerous times, including for the only goal of the game. He came close to keeping Brian White’s shot out as he spread himself, and even got a decent touch, but the ball still tumbled in.
D, João Moutinho, 6.5 — After sitting out the last seven games with injury, the left back finally made his return to the side. However, he didn’t appear to be 100% as he regularly clutched at his back. His average position was significantly deeper than Ruan’s and most of his match was spent in his own half. In a team that really relies on its fullbacks for width and service, his more advanced position with Orlando pushing forward in the second half was crucial to creating chances. His 62 passes were good enough for second on the team behind Sebas Méndez, with two deemed key passes, as he tried to make an impact on offense. He led the team in won aerial duels with five, something he hasn’t always been strong at, while also making two tackles, two interceptions, and two clearances.
D, Robin Jansson, 5.5 — Getting beat on an inch-perfect ball by Kaku to thread Brian White in on goal is nothing to be ashamed of, but it ruined an otherwise good night for the Swede, who managed to get in front but still saw the ball tease past him. I don’t think there are many defenders in the league that stop that from happening but unfortunately it goes on Jansson’s record as being the decisive moment of the game. His 90.7% passing accuracy on 54 passes, including a staggering 10 completed long balls, is the best of any starter, although he was pretty quiet defensively, registering three actions in total.
D, Lamine Sané, 8 (MotM) — Sané was the reason Jansson’s defensive stats were unusually quiet — he was everywhere last night. Zlatan likened himself to a Ferrari among Fiats this week. Well if that’s the case then that makes Sané a wheel clamp because he shut everything down. There was nothing he could do on the goal in terms of closing down as he had to honor the run of Tarek, covering for Ruan, who was halfway up the pitch trying to counter. He marshaled the back line impressively well, leading the team in interceptions, with four, and clearances, with eight (out of a team total 18), and completed an equally impressive seven long balls on what was an outstanding evening for him personally. Additionally, his 51st-minute pass through the middle to Tesho Akindele was a gem that led to Orlando’s first shot on target of the night.
D, Ruan, 5.5 — Ruan had an early scare as he nearly turned a cross into his own net, looking slightly frazzled by the constant Red Bulls pressure in the opening half. He used his pace to rescue a loose ball from Chris Mueller, drawing a yellow card on Royer in the process, and made two tackles on the night — his only two defensive actions. He was more active in attack, adding width on the right-hand side as Mueller continued to drift inside. However, a lowly 75.6% pass accuracy, ninth on the team, and no completed crosses on his three attempts continues his mixed form and limited output down this middle stretch of the season.
MF, Carlos Ascues, 6 — It was a very Jekyll and Hyde performance from Ascues last night. He was a dominating defensive midfielder for a large portion of the game, making two tackles and three interceptions. He also led the team in successful dribbles with four, yet it was his giveaway when trying to dribble out that led to the decisive goal. He was close to making amends in the second half, but his volley from Moutinho’s cross thundered onto the bar. He was good for the most part but he wasn’t the creator Orlando needed in the second half and, like Jansson, his biggest highlight reel moment was sadly the giveaway.
MF, Sebas Méndez, 6 — Méndez had quite the similar game to Ascues with Orlando’s midfield forced into a lot of defending, especially in the first half. As we’ve come to expect, the Ecuadorian was miles ahead in the passing stats with 81 completed (86.4%) — way ahead of Moutinho’s 62 in a game that Orlando saw an unusually high 62% possession (the team average this season is 48%). Despite this, he failed to create any chances. He led the team in tackles with four, made two interceptions, and had one clearance, but he also led the team in fouls, with three.
MF, Will Johnson, 6 — It’s pretty fitting of a largely average game that Orlando’s midfield collectively earns a middle of the road six for last night’s performance with Johnson also putting together a no-frills, hardworking shift in the middle of the park. The Canadian registered 79.6% accuracy on a fairly low 44 passes but had a busier defensive effort, making a joint-high four tackles along with three clearances and two blocks. Arguably his best defensive read was on a training ground Red Bulls free kick he wasn’t caught out by, rising confidently to head away. Offensively he looked to have Luis Robles beat and I expected to see the ball tucked the top corner but he sent Orlando’s best chance of the first half wide instead. Not the person I wanted arriving at the top of the box at that moment, that kind of finishing typified the Lions’ performance.
F, Nani, 6 — Most of Orlando’s threat unsurprisingly came through Nani with the Portuguese midfielder having three of City’s five first-half shots but alas none were on target. The closest was a stunning first time trivela, the signature move of his international teammate Ricardo Quaresma, but it curled just wide and rippled the outside netting. Those were the only shots he had, registering none in the second half before being forced off through injury. No key passes, no completed crosses from three attempts, and a below average 77.3% passing accuracy were less than what we expect from the Designated Player.
F, Tesho Akindele, 6.5 — Tesho successfully played a utility role as target man in the first half with the likes of Sané and Jansson punting numerous long balls towards him before the forward held up and tried to bring his teammates into the game. He was set on the break a couple of times but pace isn’t his strength. It wasn’t until the second half that the Lions began to turn the screw and Akindele found chances falling at his feet, hitting the woodwork on his best attempt. He set up four big chances but could only muster one shot on target himself from two attempts and lost possession a team-high eight times. One of the more gutsy center forward performances we’ve seen in Orlando but ultimately marred by a lack of decent finishing
F, Chris Mueller, 5.5 — A dogged but scrappy performance from the second year winger, he spent a lot of time drifting inside — arguably too much, as even though Ruan was pushing forward, the team was generally looking too narrow and was easily squeezed out of possession on Orlando’s right. One shot off target, two successful dribbles, 28 passes, 71.4% accuracy, and one reckless yellow caused things to look a bit out of sync for Cash last night.
MF, Sacha Kljestan (66’), 7 — Kljestan came on and frankly made the game his own. He was the perfect impact sub for this type of game, with New York retreating further into its own defensive third and allowing Kljestan to sit on top of the box and pull the strings. He was close to getting his second goal in as many games against the team he once captained but he instead hit the frame of the goal. Despite only playing a third of the game, he managed to rank second in key passes, with three, and led the team with 95% pass accuracy.
F, Robinho (67’), 5 — Robinho showed why Columbus was happy to trade him after just half a season with the Brazilian making a nuisance of himself on the left wing but lacking any quality product. None of his four crossing attempts found their target and he completed no dribbles. In a team that has seen a lot of points rescued by substitutes, he has a long way to go.
F, Santiago Patiño (71’), 5 — Orlando’s first round draft pick replaced the injured Nani and had the chance to set a new Orlando record of consecutive league games with rookie goals but made little impact on the game. With the Lions piling on the pressure, he struggled to find any space in the box and had multiple defenders on him any time he got close to the ball. Put in a tough position, he only completed three passes during his 20 minutes — the same number of times as he was dispossessed — and generated one shot that was off target.
Once again, the Lions fall prey to the same old rhetoric of creating but not finishing chances and losing by the narrowest of margins. Do you agree with my Sané Man of the Match selection or do you think someone else deserved it? Have your say by voting on the poll or letting us know in the comments!
Who was your Orlando City Man of the Match in the Lions’ 4-1 road loss to the New England Revolution?
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