Orlando City defeated Minnesota United 3-1 in the semifinals of the MLS is Back Tournament. For the first time since Adrian Heath was let go from Orlando City, the Lions have triumphed over their former gaffer. Orlando City advances to the final and is set to play the Portland Timbers next Tuesday. As exciting as that is, let’s take a look at what we learned in the match against the Loons.
Robin Jansson gave Orlando City supporters a scare when he took a knock against LAFC. Fortunately, the Beefy Swede was never in doubt for the match. It wasn’t as certain that Chris Mueller would start against Minnesota United, but despite having his arm in a sling during the second half of the LAFC match, the Money Badger got the start. He played over 65 minutes, and while he might not have been as sharp as usual, he put in a good shift. In fact he had a brilliant recovery and steal midway through the first half. Junior Urso also returned and came on for Sebas Mendez in the second half, assisting on the insurance goal. It is important that the Lions have all their players available heading into the final against the Portland Timbers.
Minnesota United made its way through the MLS is Back tournament taking advantage of set pieces. Against Orlando City, the Loons managed 13 corners, and several free kicks as well. With numbers like that, one might think that Minnesota would have scored multiple goals, given how good the team has been on set pieces. Unfortunately for the Loons, the Lions were up to the defensive task, and were able to keep the ball out of the net from dead ball situations. Pedro Gallese came up with some big saves as well. In the end, Orlando City stopped the opposition from taking advantage of their strengths as they have all tournament.
A Chippy Match
Referee Drew Fischer did not want to reach into his pocket for a card no matter what. Eleven fouls by Orlando City, seven fouls by Minnesota, and a whole lot of shoving in the second half amounted to zero yellow or red cards. Osvaldo Alonso was a little pushy during one of the above mentioned set pieces, and Nani took exception. Several minutes of pushing, shoving, and spirited wordplay amounted to no fouls or cards given. I’m not saying I want a ref to impose their will in a match, but it is pretty odd to not have any cards given, especially in a semifinal match.
Orlando City had every reason to be pumped up for this match — an appearance in the semifinals, all the ‘Adrian Heath returns’ story lines, and simply wanting to prove the club is for real. Despite that, the Lions came out very flat to start the match. Perhaps it was a hangover from the effort against LAFC, or the hour-and-11-minute weather delay that was the cause. The passing was not crisp, Minnesota was maintaining possession, and the Lions were on the back foot. Fortunately, starting around the 20th minute, Orlando City started playing their way into the match.
Big-Time Match, Big-Time Player
Sometimes a club isn’t quite clicking, and it’s up to an experienced, talented player to take the lead. For Orlando City, that player is the captain, Nani. As mentioned above, Orlando City came out flat, and the Lions needed to play themselves into the match. Nani decided he was done waiting and provided a brace before halftime. For the first goal, Robin Jansson delivered a pinpoint ball all the way down the pitch to Nani. His first touch was a beauty, and his second poked the ball in to give the Lions the lead. His second goal was quite simply a galazo from outside the box that Tyler Miller simply had no chance of stopping. Big-time players step up when needed, and Nani did just that.
That’s what I saw, now let me know your thoughts in the comments below.