As Orlando City continues to prepare for its first ever MLS playoff appearance, what must the Lions do to knock out New York City FC? Qualifying for the postseason is great and no easy feat. However, if Oscar Pareja’s men get knocked out against the first opponents they come up against in a postseason affair, questions will most likely be asked of the team and its mettle. These could come despite the adversaries being a very good side. The Lions can try to overcome NYCFC by playing with the confidence and winning mentality that Pareja has started to instill. Along with that mental aspect comes a tactical necessity as well — a balance between a defensive and attacking side has to be struck.
Mental Mettle May Tip the Scales
To start on paper, Orlando City and NYCFC are extremely evenly matched. The Lions finished just two points above their opponents, conceding the same amount of goals and scoring just three more in the regular season campaign. New York lost eight matches while Orlando only lost four.
Nevertheless, the Lions did draw eight times, while Ronny Deila’s men drew just three games in the regular season. When one takes the time to compare the surface level statistics, it’s genuinely crazy how similar the sides are.
Due to the evenness, a rock solid mentality could be pivotal and what helps one of the sides prevail. On that note, if one team is the favorite going into the match because of its mentality, one could easily argue that it is Orlando City because of the match being at Exploria Stadium. However, I’d be inclined to argue that this is practically the most even draw that could have been made.
The match being played at Exploria Stadium should help the Floridian side tremendously, but New York’s experience in the playoffs could absolutely benefit the Pigeons. There is a very strong possibility that the game will come down to who is able to maintain composure, so the Lions must do their best in that regard. Fortunately, in the past five matches between the two teams, four have ended in draws while one saw the Lions grab three points. From that angle, Orlando may have the psychological advantage and it could be wise to build much needed bravery off of that in order to top the well-balanced scale.
Don’t be Scared to Attack, but be Mindful of the Opponent
In soccer, balance is everything and that is especially the case in massive fixtures such as the forthcoming one on Saturday.
If Pareja deploys a system that is too gung ho on the attacking front, NYCFC will take advantage of that with its own impressive array of attacking players. And on the complete contrary, if the Lions sit back too deep and opt for an approach that is too pragmatic, the opponents will be allowed to control the tempo of the game and create more chances.
Having mental mettle is a task that is down to the players, whereas striking the balance between free-flowing soccer and defensive astuteness is more likely to come down to the manager. So both the players and manager have to be at their very best. Coming into the biggest match in Orlando City history, it is non-negotiable.
The Lions have a remarkably solid back line that provides a sturdy foundation with which to build an impressive attack. If such an equilibrium is achieved, then I believe Orlando City will have a great shot at winning this historical game.
The need for confidence and tactical awareness in the upcoming bout shows that the fixture could potentially be a chess match of sorts. Let’s hope Pareja and the Lions can pull off the checkmate and find the right balance to unlock the door to the latter stages of the postseason.