It might not have gone quite as we hoped, but Orlando City SC’s 1-1 draw on the road with Nashville SC was hardly a bad result. It might be disappointing after Saturday’s rousing win over Atlanta, but you can’t win them all. Here are my thoughts on Orlando’s first away game against Nashville.
During the first half especially Orlando placed a huge amount of emphasis on attacking down the right-hand side of the Nashville defense. Rightfully so too; with Daryl Dike often attracting the attention of both center backs when Orlando had the ball, it meant that Daniel Lovitz had to tuck in a bit tighter to fill the resulting space. That meant that Ruan found himself in space down the right hand side time and time again, and while the Lions weren’t able to take advantage, that’s where lots of the danger came from OCSC in this one.
Urso Impressive Again
Junior Urso was one of the best players on the field in Orlando’s victory over Atlanta on Saturday, and he turned in another great performance in this game. He was extremely energetic, and was constantly quick to press Nashville players when they picked up the ball in midfield. He also consistently tried to quickly transition the team from defense to attack and generally did a lot of the sort of work that doesn’t show up on the stat sheet. He was unlucky to be denied a goal in a second straight game by an excellent Joe Willis save, and his overall play well have warranted him getting on the score sheet. Having him back has added a great dimension to Orlando City’s midfield, and when he’s in form he’s frequently one of the Lions’ better players.
Tale of Two Halves
While Orlando City didn’t necessarily dominate the first half, it was certainly the team dictating most of play. The Lions defended well for the most part, were lightning quick when transitioning to the counter attack, and did a good job of stifling Nashville’s attempts to play through the middle of the field. Benji Michel’s howitzer of a goal was the icing on the top of an effective if not always entertaining first 45 minutes. The same can’t be said for the second half. Nashville made some adjustments in the locker room which paid off almost immediately with a goal just two minutes after the restart. From that point it was a much more even affair, with Nashville looking much more dangerous than in the first half and Orlando wilting slightly until switching to a 3-5-2 in the final 20-ish minutes. While the introduction of Chris Mueller helped to invigorate the team, the Lions were on much more even footing with their opponents during the latter half of play.
No Quick Response This Time
OCSC has made a bit of a habit of finding extremely quick responses to conceding goals this year. Unfortunately, the same couldn’t be said for last night’s draw. The streak had to run out some time, and that’s precisely what happened on the road. While that isn’t necessarily a knock against the team, it did mean that Oscar Pareja seemed to change his tactics. Papi withdrew Mauricio Pereyra, Oriol Rosell, and Benji Michel with perhaps the intent to try to preserve the point on the road and be content with four points from an available six during the team’s last two road games. That doesn’t mean the team wasn’t trying to get the three points — the shape change late produced some opportunities down the stretch. The encouraging thing is that even though Orlando wasn’t able to retake the lead, the Lions also didn’t collapse and go on to lose the game after conceding quickly in the second half, which is something fans had grown accustomed to seeing from previous OCSC teams. It’s yet another sign that this team is being instilled with the right kind of mental fortitude, and its good to see.
Final Third Product Lacking
At the end of the day, Orlando wasn’t clinical enough in front of goal. While Benji did score a rocket, he lingered too long before trying to shoot when he had an excellent opportunity to do so in the second half, and nothing came of the chance. Though it would be harsh to be too critical of Urso not scoring his headed chance when Willis made an excellent save, it was a wonderful chance that didn’t end up in the back of the net. The other issue was that for much of the night OCSC had trouble finding the right ball in the final third. The Lions didn’t have too much trouble getting the ball to within 25-30 yards of the Nashville goal but once it was there the team seemed to either run out of ideas or not quite be able to execute the necessary pass to pick the Nashville lock. Granted, the team was missing Nani and Joao Moutinho on the left, and not having Mueller to link with Ruan for a little over a half takes away some of the danger down the right hand side, but play in the final third still wasn’t quite good enough.
In the end it’s hard for me to be too disappointed about the result. It always stinks to drop points from winning positions but taking four points from two road games isn’t bad at all, especially considering how brutal traveling is with the new guidelines in place. What did you guys think of this one? As always, feel free to have your say in the comments.