Saturday’s loss was certainly disappointing for many reasons. There was the end of the unbeaten streak, losing to a rival, and the fact that the Lions did not play as well as the club has in other matches. Fortunately, the Lions get a chance tomorrow night to start a new streak, defeat a rival, and get back to playing the beautiful brand of soccer Orlando City has shown this season. Here are three things that need to happen for the Lions to get back to winning.
From the start of the MLS is Back Tournament to the return of the regular season, one thing Orlando City seemed to do very well was play team defense. Every player contributed in takeaways, clearances, and interceptions. The players up top pressed to make it harder for other clubs to break out of their area, the midfield bossed other clubs by regaining possession, and the back line was often times like a wall. I’m not saying the club was perfect, but there was a cohesiveness to the defending that was refreshing and effective. As more players return, the Lions need to find that full pitch defensive mentality again.
Passing with a Purpose
Óscar Pareja wants his players to be the protagonists of the match, in order to take control of the outcome as much as possible. One method for doing so is for the players to pass with a purpose. This is the beautiful brand of soccer I mentioned above. Orlando City has usually managed over an 80% passing rate most of this season. That is good, but it doesn’t necessarily mean production on the pitch. However, when the Lions have clicked this season, not only is the passing rate high, but the club has advanced the ball into the offense both smoothly and efficiently. It didn’t matter if it was a quick counter-attack or a more deliberate building from the back. That smoothness and efficiency will be key to controlling the match.
The Lions have only scored three goals in the last four matches. That’s less than optimal to be sure. Earlier this season, Orlando City found ways to get multiple goals despite either starting Tesho Akindele — a good backup striker — or rookie Daryl Dike. Chris Mueller leads the team in goals, and he isn’t a striker. The Lions found offensive chances through the wingers and the midfielders, when the strikers weren’t doing it. Just because the Lions have more options up top, it doesn’t mean the rest of the squad should stop producing. Part of this is also the players up top and the attacking midfield helping to create space and chances for each other. The Lions have taken 17 shots in their last two matches and only five of those have been on goal. Scoring can happen in streaks, and if the Lions can manage more than one goal, it might open things up again.
While some of the above might depend on which players are available, it’s up to those who are in the lineup to put it into effect. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.