Against Atlanta United last Saturday, Orlando City SC was the more threatening of the two teams for large stretches of the game. In total, the Lions out-shot Atlanta 15-9, but only put four of those attempts on goal, compared to six from the visitors. If Orlando is to take all three points from tomorrow’s game against Inter Miami, the team needs to improve its finishing, plain and simple.
As evidenced by the double-digit number of shots and 10 key passes that OCSC recorded last Saturday, chance creation wasn’t exactly an issue in the 1-1 draw against the northern neighbors. Rather, it was more of an issue with what was happening with those chances. On three occasions Orlando players found themselves in excellent positions inside the box, only for the chance to go wanting for one reason or another.
In the 46th minute, Daryl Dike released Sebas Mendez in behind, only for the Ecuadorian to take too many touches and allow Franco Escobar to make a diving block on his poked shot. In the 50th minute, Benji Michel was very nearly in clean behind the defense, only for George Bello to recover an make a great last-ditch tackle to prevent him from getting a shot away. Then in the 67th minute, Benji simply took too long to make a decision after a great ball from Chris Mueller played him into the box. He took one touch too many, and by the time he did shoot he was only able to scuff a shot that went harmlessly out for a corner.
While credit has to go to the Atlanta defenders for making a number of heroic tackles and blocks at the last minute, the fact is that OCSC had three golden chances to score and was unable to put any of those chances on target. If even one of those chances is scored then it’s a much different game. Finishing ended up being the major difference between the draw and Orlando’s earlier 3-1 victory over the Five Stripes. While Orlando only put three of its 11 shots on target in that contest, all three shots ended up in the back of the net. All three goals also came from inside the box in that contest, and Orlando only took four shots inside the box on the night.
Last Saturday, on the other hand, 10 of the Lions’ 15 shots came from inside the box, but only two were put on target. Again, while plenty of those shots came while under pressure, the biggest problem is that the team simply wasn’t clinical enough in front of goal.
Things weren’t quite as dire against Nashville SC last Wednesday. The Lions took seven shots, put three on target, and scored one. Both shots taken in the box were put on target and saved by Joe Willis, with Junior Urso’s shot being robbed blind by the Nashville goalkeeper. The bigger problem on that particular night was that the Lions weren’t able to create a ton of clear-cut chances, but the large amount of good opportunities created against Atlanta means I’m not too worried about the low number of shots taken in Nashville against a team whose strength lies in its defense. Again, the larger issue for me is actually finishing off the chances that are created.
Luckily that’s a problem that is likely fixable. Part of the lack of sharpness in the final third may have been due to fatigue from the brutal stretch of games that OCSC was finishing out over the weekend. Saturday’s match was the club’s fifth game in 15 days, and at some point sharpness and a clinical edge are going to start to be affected by heavy legs. For most of the year the team has shown it has plenty of goals in it, and if chances continue to be created at a rate similar to what they were against Atlanta the second time around, I expect the net to bulge for the men in purple more than it did last weekend.