Orlando City defeated the Montreal Impact 1-0 to advance out of the Round of 16. The Lions were able to not only win, but to actually be the better team on the night. It’s not that the club dominated the entire match, but it was enough to move on in the MLS is Back Tournament. Let’s look at what we learned.
No Dwyer, No Urso, No Problem
Orlando City was without Dom Dwyer and Júnior Urso for the match against the Montreal Impact, but it ultimately didn’t matter. Tesho Akindele started in place of Dwyer and Sebas Méndez started in place of Urso. Given that both Tesho and Sebas have seen plenty of minutes already in the tournament, it wasn’t much of a drop-off. I’m not saying that Dom hasn’t done some good stuff (like his assist to Mueller). Urso also seemed to find his footing prior to going out injured against Philadelphia. But Mendez was active all night, and thanks to Tesho Akindele’s goal, Orlando was able to advance without two of the bigger names on the roster.
Óscar Pareja’s vision is being realized by his players in the MLS is Back Tournament. This is a team that is winning the ball, maintaining possession, and pressuring the opposition. In fact, during the water break in the second half, Pareja reiterated his desire for the club to keep up the pressure and maintain a high line against Montreal. In the first half, Orlando City managed 64% possession and it showed. It dropped to 57% in the second half, but still indicated how much the Lions dominated the match. Even after Montreal switched formation, and the Lions were not as effective in breaking Montreal’s lines, the pressure led to Tesho’s goal. While Montreal also had a few chances, there was only one shot on goal for the Impact. Orlando City’s plan seems to be working.
The Méndez Factor
Sebas Méndez led the Orlando attack with four shots. He even had a goal that wrongly wasn’t a goal. In the 45th minute, Akindele was called offside by the bead of sweat on the end of a hair on his forearm. Normally this wouldn’t be a problem because if the linesman had kept the flag down until the play was finished — as they are supposed to do now — then a proper review could have taken place. Supposedly, VAR did look at the play and upheld the offside, which seems to be a bit suspect. Regardless, Orlando City should have scored the first goal of the match before the end of the half.
Fitness is Key
Orlando City’s fitness levels have been on display during this tournament. It isn’t only Nani’s six-pack, but the entire club has shown a great ability to deal with the heat and humidity of Central Florida. In the match against Montreal, Orlando City didn’t make a change until the 75th minute, despite being up 1-0. In fact, Darryl Dike, Kyle Smith, and Joey DeZart made their first appearances of the tournament. This speaks to the fact that the starters and subs in the preceding matches did well enough that Pareja didn’t have to go too deep into the bench.
While Orlando City was clearly the better team for the majority of the match, one wouldn’t know that from the scoreline. The Lions had many chances to win by more goals, but were unable to find the last bit of quality. Once again Nani provided chances for his teammates, though neither Mauricio Pereyra nor Chris Mueller were able to capitalize. As mentioned above, Sebas had a goal disallowed and in the second half, Darryl Dike missed some chances. The Lions only had two shots on target out of 10 total shots. While Orlando City is definitely improving, taking advantage of those chances can be the difference in advancing in the later rounds or not.
That’s what I saw in in the match. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.