Orlando City headed to Red Bull Arena in New Jersey to take on the Montreal Impact last night. Coming into the game the Impact had just one win in their last four matches, while the Lions looked to build momentum after defeating Atlanta United last Wednesday.
Daryl Dike Stellar Form Continues
The Lions struggled to get Dike involved into the match early on in the first half. At least for Dike, I’ve got to give him some credit for staying in the match, and all he needed was a chance. For Dike that chance came in the 39th minute when he received a stellar pass from Mauricio Pereyra and blasted it past Montreal Impact goalkeeper Clement Diop to score the game’s lone goal. Dike now has his seventh goal of the season and has now scored in three straight matches. Let’s hope Dike keeps this form going into the playoffs.
Mauricio Pereyra’s Presence Matters
Veteran midfielder Mauricio Pereyra returned from a hamstring injury and served as captain for the Lions last night. He was able to get an assist on a gorgeous through ball to Dike and looked good after missing a few weeks of action. Pereyra played 55 minutes in the match and had a huge influence on the game with his return. Even though he wasn’t 100% match fit, he was always looking forward to keep the ball moving and was able to break down the Montreal Impact’s back line to get the ball to Dike.
Rotation, Rotation, Rotation
Orlando City played this match without two of its star players, as Nani and Chris Mueller did not make the trip. It was not a problem for the Lions as they were able to keep pace in the standings after last night’s result. Head Coach Oscar Pareja has been doing his best to keep his players fresh as we get down the final stretch of the season, which is easier now that players are returning from injury. Pareja has been able to get the most of his players, and getting three points away from home without Nani and Mueller is huge.
In the second half, when the Montreal Impact were desperate to get back in the match. Pareja subbed in young players Joey DeZart, Matheus Aias, and Alexander Alvarado. The three were able to get minutes in a pressure situation and it shows that Pareja can trust his players.
Keeping It Clean
The Lions’ defense put up a solid performance to keep the clean sheet against Montreal. Kamal Miller, Robin Jansson, Antonio Carlos, and Kyle Smith played well to withstand the pressure in the second half from the Montreal Impact and Ruan added to that after replacing Miller. The Lions forced the Impact to shoot the ball from distance. The Impact, however, almost got an equalizer in stoppage time when Bojan shot a rocket from outside the box but Pedro Gallese made the save and sealed the win for the Lions. The work of the back line and defensive midfielders kept Gallese from having to make more than just that one highlight save.
A Different Kind of Second Half
Orlando City has entered halftime with the lead several times in recent weeks and has spent much of the second half pinned back in a much lower block defensively than Pareja would like. This leaves little opportunity to pass out of pressure and find open areas for transition opportunities to put the game away. Last night, the Lions showed a lot of energy after the break and pressed with urgency to set a stronger tone for the second 45 minutes, and it paid off. Although Montreal threw more numbers forward as the game wore on, the Impact never turned around the possession percentage or pinned Orlando back for long spells. The Lions were able to counter and had several good opportunities to score a second goal, but they just couldn’t beat Diop for an insurance goal, despite good opportunities for Tesho Akindele, Ruan, and Benji Michel.
That’s what I saw in Orlando City’s win. Let me know what you saw in the comments below.