The Tropic Thunder rivalry is even at one game apiece after Orlando City SC dropped a tough game on the road against Inter Miami CF last night. It wasn’t how anyone was hoping the Lions would resume regular-season play, but there were plenty of things to learn from the team’s second regular-season loss of the year.
Orlando Concedes First Again
Even during its run to the MLS is Back Tournament final, Orlando had a nagging tendency to concede the first goal in games. So it proved again in Fort Lauderdale, as the Lions conceded only 12 minutes into the game when Julian Carranza bagged his first of two goals on the night. While Orlando was able to respond soon after, it continued a worrying trend this year. Playing from behind is never a good thing, no matter how you slice it. Chasing a lead takes any team at least a little out of its preferred way of playing, especially since OCSC’s patient, possession-based style works best when the team doesn’t need to press for a goal and can instead let the match unfold organically.
Tactical Misfire in Midfield
Last night’s game marked the first time that Sebas Mendez, Uri Rosell, Junior Urso, and Mauricio Pereyra all started a match, as Oscar Pareja tried something a little different than the lineup fans often saw during the MLS is Back Tournament. To be fair to Pareja, with the Miami game kicking off an absolutely brutal run of five games in 15 days, Papi is going to have to rotate his team and play with his formations at some point. Unfortunately, the changes to the starting lineup, specifically in midfield...did not work. With Mendez, Rosell, Urso, and Pereyra all best deployed as central midfielders, it was a case of too many cooks in the kitchen and not enough variety in cooking styles among said cooks. Ruan in particular was hurt by the lineup change as he wasn’t really able to combine with Rosell down the right hand side, and as a result, one of Orlando’s biggest threats was mostly neutralized for the first 45 minutes.
Substitutes Provide a Spark
To Pareja’s credit, he realized he had made a mistake, and he fixed the error when he substituted Urso out in favor of Chris Mueller at halftime. While the Lions still didn’t look completely like the team we saw for much of the last month, Mueller instantly made OCSC more creative and threatening in the final third. It wasn’t a coincidence that he provided the assist for Orlando’s second goal while also being heavily involved in the buildup. The third-year man even had a good chance to score shortly after the start of the second half, but his touch was a little too heavy and his shot was blocked. Tesho Akindele and Benji Michel were also energetic once introduced, and Pareja seemed to get a lot right with his substitutions.
Muddled Play in Miami
On the whole however, Orlando City just didn’t look quite right for much of this game. Perhaps it was down to the wealth of central midfielders I mentioned earlier, maybe it was Miami doing a good job of negating what OCSC wanted to do, and maybe it was a mix of both. Either way, for large parts of the game the Lions struggled to break Miami’s press. Even though the team ended the game with 65% possession it really didn’t feel like it at times. OCSC found it difficult to get the ball into dangerous areas of the attacking third for pretty much the entire first half and lengthy periods of the second half as well. Things were tougher once Miami started to bunker after scoring its third goal, but even before that this did not look like the team fans grew accustomed to seeing take the field at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports.
Dike a Bright Spot
Rookie Daryl Dike got his first start of the year in last night’s game, and looked strong in several ways as he went the full 90 minutes. His physical strength and power were on full display while scoring his first goal for the club, and his first shot at Robles probably would have gone through a brick wall. However, he was also able to turn on Leandro Gonzalez Pirez twice, showcasing that he has some finesse to his game. Another thing that was impressive was his ability to bring others into the game. On Orlando’s second goal he boxed out Pirez and held the ball up well while sucking five Miami defenders to him. He then had the vision and presence of mind to drop the ball back for a now-open Mueller, who was left with plenty of time to pick out Nani at the far post. Plenty of people weren’t impressed by what they saw from Dike prior to this game, but let’s remember that before last night he’d only played 77 minutes across three games, with his longest appearance coming in 19 minutes against LAFC. He clearly is a talented player though, and hopefully he gets more chances on the basis of last night’s game and makes the most of them.
As with all things in life, the show must go on, and it’ll be a quick turnaround for the good guys as they face Nashville SC back at Exploria Stadium on Wednesday. What did you guys think of this one? As always I’m very interested to see any comments you have below, so be sure to have your say.