Orlando City was able to stay on track for its first ever MLS playoff berth by stopping a New York Red Bulls team that had outscored its last two opponents by an 8-2 margin. It was another good performance under Oscar Pareja and a win the gaffer said the team should be proud of after the match.
Pareja was without Dom Dwyer, Joao Moutinho, Ruan, Uri Rosell, and Tesho Akindele due to injury. He was also missing Sebas Mendez due to a red card suspension and Matheus Aias has yet to be cleared to join the team for training. But the team just kept marching on.
Let’s take a look at the key takeaways from Orlando’s 3-1 win.
Bodies Keep Dropping; Results Continue
In addition to those missing players I listed above, Mauricio Pereyra and Junior Urso went down with injuries during last night’s match. But it doesn’t seem to matter. Whoever Pareja plugs in just keeps getting the job done. There were one or two moments when players expected Andres Perea to make the kind of movement that Mendez or Rosell would have made and the youngster didn’t make that move. But Perea also avoided making the kind of critical errors that Mendez has made this season with turnovers in his own end.
Now Pedro Gallese and Mendez will leave for international duty. Orlando must stop losing guys and even get a few back if it is going to keep the streak going.
Fullbacks Fill In Nicely
Like Mendez in the midfield, Kyle Smith and Kamal Miller filled in admirably at the fullback slots for Ruan and Moutinho, respectively. It’s true that Miller was responsible for a giveaway that led to New York’s only goal, but he also made several good plays in space and was mostly very good on the night. If Miller can gain some consistency and avoid some of the types of errors he’s made this year, he could become an important player.
Smith played one of his best matches since joining the team — seven tackles, two interceptions, a clearance — and was rewarded with his first MLS assist. He also made an incredible breakup of a 2-v-1 in transition late in the match at a time when the Red Bulls could have tied the game. His play earned praise from The Wall, which started a chant in his honor. It was nice to see and hear.
Chris Mueller had an atypical first half, with heavy touches, some questionable decisions, and even failing to score when all alone against the goalkeeper. It was very un-Cash-like. But you can’t keep the Money Badger down forever. He made one of his best passes of the year to spring Urso on a breakaway, helping the Bear to double the Orlando City lead at the time. That pass was a reminder of all the good things Mueller has done this year and served notice that even on a night when he’s not at his best, Cash can still pay off.
Maestro was Orchestratin’
Mauricio Pereyra was my Man of the Match at halftime. He was moving around in the midfield, pulling the Red Bulls out of shape, and dropping dimes all over the pitch. He got the “hockey assist” on the opening goal by playing the unexpected pass, skipping a teammate in midfield to find Smith on the far side in the run-up to Daryl Dike’s goal. He sent Mueller in alone on what should have been the second Orlando goal, but Cash couldn’t beat David Jensen. He also was in on a 2-v-1 with Mueller and would have had a breakaway of his own if Cash had seen him. He was seeing the field so well and thinking far enough in advance that even Nani was caught off guard by a couple of his passes, though he put his thumb up to show his appreciation. However, you could see Magic Mo grabbing his hamstring before the half ended and he was subbed off after a brilliant opening 45 minutes.
Breaking the Drought
I wouldn’t say he’s completely out of it yet, despite the goal, but it was good to see Dike put the ball in the net again. The rookie not only hadn’t scored since Aug. 26, but he’d only managed only nine shots during his slump and only one of those was actually on target. Last night he scored on his only shot attempt, so he’s still not freeing himself up for enough shots — he had nine shots (four on goal) in his first two games after the MLS is Back Tournament — but he was occupying and worrying two good center backs last night in Tim Parker and Aaron Long. Hopefully the big fella will take some confidence from a good performance against New York and get hot again.
That’s the way I saw last night’s match. What stood out to you? Let me know in the comments section below.