After a disappointing draw last week that nonetheless saw Orlando City clinch a playoff spot, the Lions are back in action and looking to get back to winning ways. To do so, they’ll need to go through Inter Miami CF, who the Lions have beaten twice and lost to once this season. Here are three things that I think need to happen for the good guys to take all three points from this game.
Less Sloppy in Possession
One of the biggest knocks on Orlando City during the last three games is that the team hasn’t looked as clean and creative in possession as it did during earlier parts of the season. Given that Mauricio Pererya, Sebas Mendez, and a resurgent Uri Rosell have been absent from the lineup since the 3-1 victory over the New York Red Bulls, that isn’t necessarily surprising. Pererya and Rosell in particular are crucial when it comes to OCSC’s ability to not only possess the ball, but do so with a purpose. Their ability to keep the ball and keep possession moving into attacking areas allows guys like Nani and Mueller to be at their best in the final third. Orlando has done the best it can in their absence but until they come back, those playing in their stead need to find another gear. Cleaning things up with the ball will go a long way towards OCSC establishing itself in this game.
Goals have been at a premium for the Lions in recent weeks. In the three games since that 3-1 win over NYRB, Orlando has not scored more than once in a match, with only one goal coming from open play. Those paltry numbers can also be linked to the absences of Pereyra and Rosell, as well as Benji Michel the past couple of matches, but as I said above, the Lions just need a little bit more juice offensively. Out of the nine shots the Lions took in last week’s draw, six were from inside the box (seven if you count Nani’s penalty, which I don’t). Only one of those was put on target, with three misses and the other two got blocked. Ruthlessness in front of goal has to get ratcheted back up some, especially since Orlando’s defense has been holding up its side of the bargain.
Continue Defensive Prowess
The last time Orlando conceded multiple goals in one game was all the way back in the first game of the restarted regular season, a 3-2 loss to Miami on Aug. 23. The Lions haven’t conceded multiple goals for a whopping 12 games. That sort of defensive stinginess is always going to bode well, and while it’s frustrating to concede a goal late in a game in the manner of last week’s match, things happen. The numbers across the entire season say that Orlando has been pretty great on the defensive side of the ball, only giving up more than one goal three times in 22 matches, including the knockout stages of the MLS is Back Tournament. That sort of defensive play has been a very underrated part of the Lions’ success this year. If the back line can put in another strong showing then it should bode well for the men in purple.
Do you think I missed any important things that will help Orlando come out on top tomorrow? If so, be sure to have your say in the comments.