Orlando City continued its hot run of form on Wednesday. The Lions beat Sporting Kansas City 2-1 to extend the unbeaten streak to seven matches. Tesho Akindele and Benji Michel both scored within two minutes of each other to get Orlando out to a 2-0 lead. Johnny Russell got one back for Sporting, but the Lions held on to take all three points.
Here are my three takeaways from the match.
Orlando City made club history on Wednesday night. By beating Sporting Kansas City 2-1, the Lions earned their first ever win at Children’s Mercy Park. Orlando lost both of the previous meetings. The win also extended Orlando’s unbeaten streak to seven games (5-0-2). This is a new team record in the MLS era. Orlando’s 25 points in the team’s first 13 matches is also a club MLS record. Additionally, this kept an important streak going for the Lions. Orlando has led an MLS game by at least two goals 29 times, including Wednesday’s match. The Lions are a perfect 29-0-0 in those matches.
Capitalizing on Poor Defending
Let’s take nothing away from Orlando’s goals. Both goals in the first half were perfectly timed through balls, and calm, collected finishes. However, they both happened because of mistakes made by SKC. On the first goal, Ruan had way too much time on the ball. When someone finally pressured him, the fullback played a perfect through ball behind the host’s back line. Akindele stayed onside and found himself one-on-one with Tim Melia. But the reason he was so wide open was that Roberto Puncec and Matt Besler tried to play an offside trap, but both mistimed it.
It was a similar story on the second goal. Michel just ran straight. Granted, it was a fantastic ball from Nani, but Michel did not do anything special to break free. Besler was again caught trying to play an offside trap. Michel broke free and Melia was left picking the ball out of his net. Besler’s night ended after those goals, and he was substituted out at halftime, reportedly with a hamstring issue.
In the second half, it was Orlando’s turn to commit poor defending. Gerso sent in a perfect ball to the back post, and Russell converted it perfectly to cut the lead in half. However, it was poor defending that caused the goal. Kyle Smith sat back and tried to shield the ball out for a goal kick. This allowed Russell to jump over the fullback.
Tale of Two Halves
Orlando did well to start the match. The Lions looked like they were content with SKC having the ball and looked to beat Kansas City on the counter. The Lions finished the half with a slight majority of possession, but their chances came from counter attacks.
The second half was a different story. Sporting came out strong and scored early in the half. The Lions looked tired, the hosts were clearly the better team after halftime, and whatever Peter Vermes told his team at the break had a great effect.
The two teams combined for 24 shots — 16 for SKC and eight for the Lions. But they struggled to hit the target. There was a total of five shots on target — three for Orlando and two for Sporting. The first goalkeeper save didn’t come until the 80th minute. Pedro Gallese then made his first save in the 87th minute. Seeing as there were three goals in the match, this is an impressive conversion rate for both teams. Sporting saw a few more shots on target in the last 10 minutes and stoppage time, as SKC was pushing forward to get a tying goal.
Both defenses limited the number of chances the opposition had from central areas. Many of the shots were from outside the box. This stat says just as much about each team’s defensive work than it does about the attack.
Rotation Works for Orlando
Oscar Pareja certainly has trust in his team. He continued to make changes to his starting XI — this time making five changes from Orlando’s previous match. The most impressive part of this is that they are almost flawless alterations. No matter who is in the starting lineup, the Lions continue to play at a high level, which has been a vital part of this unbeaten run. Pareja did go to his bench often, as he used four of his allotted five subs. As has been a trend at the end of the match, the coach switched his formation towards the game’s end. It often hurts a team to make so many changes, but the Lions don’t seem to miss a beat.
That’s what stuck out to me. What did you see in Orlando’s 2-1 road win at Sporting Kansas City?