I want to preface what’s to come: I have been more positive than a large portion of the fan base about Orlando City this season and I fully intended to remain as such in these takeaways, even if the result of the match was poor.
Well, then the match itself happened. In my humble opinion, this was the worst the Lions have played since the end of the 2018 disaster campaign. Unfortunately, there will be no positivity here today.
Real Grass in Gillette Stadium Doesn’t Help
As the game started and New England Revolution’s new superstar Gustavo Bou scored in just the third minute, I fully expected this to be the one bright side for Orlando City. The Revs are used to playing on turf at home, and really terrible turf at that. Of course, the Lions are used to the beautiful natural surface of Exploria Stadium. Theoretically, the fact that Gillette had grass laid over the turf last night (for an international friendly match being hosted there today) should have been an advantage for the men in purple.
Actually, the first 15 minutes of the match — minus Bou’s goal — seemed to back up that theory. During this time, the Revs were testing the weight of their passes on the unfamiliar surface and made a few errors because of it. Revolution captain Carles Gil went down awkwardly in the sixth minute after appearing to get his foot stuck in on the grass. The Lions can’t have nice things, however, so it quickly became apparent that Bruce Arena’s team was quite capable of making the necessary adjustments to ensure the grass was a non-factor throughout the rest of the game.
Gustavo Bou is Legit
Here’s something none of the clubs in Major League Soccer want to compete against: the next Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Josef Martinez, or Carlos Vela. The bad news is that in his short time with New England, Bou looks to be exactly that. We all saw the wonder volley from his debut match as a Rev. Matter of fact, he was set up on a 45th-minute corner last night to nearly replicate that great goal with another solid strike but the shot barely missed the target. Bou led the Revolution with nine shots, two on target, and often had all the space in the world to work in thanks to Orlando City’s awful defensive showing (more on that later). Had it not been for a fantastic Dillon Powers block in minute 31, Bou might have had himself a relatively easy brace in only his third match for the Revs.
Early Goals Still a Problem for the Lions
This is absolutely a known issue and something that’s been discussed many, many times this year. Not only did Orlando City concede three minutes into the match, the Lions again conceded a mere two minutes into the second half when it was still only a 1-0 game. The team leads the MLS with the most goals allowed in the first 30 minutes this season. From the performance last night, there were two big factors that I saw contributing to this problem. Obviously, the Lions aren’t there mentally when the first whistle blows and that could come down to coaching or on-field leadership, or both. Tactics had a part to play in this match as well. Both halves saw Orlando City coming out to be a counter-attacking team, though they were putting little to no pressure on the ball early.
Tesho Akindele Struggled
There’s no sane way to blame any individual player for the beating the Revs put on the Lions. Perhaps the most surprising performance of the night was that of Akindele. He’s been a more reliable striker, and frankly looked better, all season than Dom Dwyer and has never given off the impression that he lacked confidence. Never up until last night, that is. I’m in no way saying Akindele has been perfect or hasn’t had poor performances this year, just that he hasn’t been deflated when those bad games have occurred. In the 10th and 12th minutes he had excellent service and couldn’t dig the ball out of his feet, and later, at minute 55, Akindele had the ball in a decent position in the box with time to make a decision. He was flustered, undecided, and ultimately did nothing with the opportunities. He managed three shots, with two on goal, and thankfully got the tap-in goal in the 77th that I’m hoping will help Akindele find his confidence again.
Atrocious Defending Leads to Season-High Goals Allowed
If you watched this match, this needs no real explanation. Orlando City’s defense was abysmal versus New England, allowing the Revs 20 shots, of which they successfully converted 20%. Sebas Mendez managed to give up the first penalty kick against the Lions this season with a very clear and obvious handball in the box. Head Coach James O’Connor also had to make a change at the half, due to an injury to left back Joao Moutinho, bringing on rookie center back Kamal Miller in his spot.
I had to keep reminding myself that yes, that is Robin Jansson and I’m not having flashbacks to David Mateos. Jansson came across as being completely lost for a large majority of the match and was often caught flat-footed and ball watching. I’m honestly not sure how he managed two tackles, an interception, and six clearances. Ruan’s defending wasn’t much better, although he did lead the team with three tackles and made small contributions offensively. Lamine Sané was the only true line of defense on the pitch for the Lions. For about the first 30 minutes, I believed he would hands-down be the Man of the Match, especially after his 23rd minute goal-line tackle. Sané was mostly steady for the rest of the match, blocking two shots with two interceptions and four clearances.
So there you have it. Those are the five things I believe we can take away from the Lions’ 4-1 defeat at the hands of the Revolution. Let me know in the comments what you think the team can learn from the loss.