Orlando City returns to the mostly friendly confines of Exploria Stadium this Saturday. I say mostly, as it is also the temporary home of the Lions’ opponent, Toronto FC. Orlando City plays Toronto FC in two of the next three matches, and three of the next eight. It’s important for the Lions to get off to a good start against the Exploria Squatters in this first match. Let’s take a look at what needs to happen.
Beat the Press
During most of Óscar Pareja’s tenure Orlando City has been a very effective passing team, and has been able to do a fine job when breaking another club’s press. That was not the case against D.C. United last Sunday. The Lions bunkered down and effectively were able to see out the match, which is important, but ideally the club should be able to do better. Toronto FC is another team that likes to press, and the Lions will need to get back to form on breaking that press.
Orlando City likes to play up the wings with its fullbacks taking part in the offense. Typically, Ruan and João Moutinho roam up and down their respective sides in their own particular manner — with Ruan getting in behind the defense with his speed and Moutinho providing Nani with a partner he has come to trust. When Moutinho was out, Kyle Smith came on to fill in. This season he has upped his game when it comes to helping provide some offense. When Ruan went out, Smith switched to his normal side and did the same. If Ruan isn’t able to start the match we will see the same combo we saw against D.C. As we learned on The Mane Land PawedCast, Toronto could be vulnerable down the wings. Whichever pair of fullbacks is in, the club needs to take advantage of that weakness.
Of course, fullbacks also need to defend. Toronto also has a fullback that likes to get into the attack. It’s a player that the Orlando City faithful know pretty well. Richie Laryea played midfield for the Lions, but he has been transformed into a fullback that can help on the attack at Toronto. Orlando City will need to defend against that, even as they try the same tactic.
Maintain the Defense
Normally, I would tell you that the Lions need to find some goals. Some combination of Tesho Akindele, Nani, Chris Mueller, or anyone else really, needs to score some goals. That might be true, but Orlando City has one of the stoutest defenses in MLS, and that has the club undefeated so far in 2021. With Pedro Gallese in goal and a trio of the best center backs in MLS, the Lions are in a great position defensively. The club has only allowed two goals so far, and if the Lions can keep that up, it’s a great way to get results. It’s pretty hard to lose if you don’t give up a goal.
That’s what I’ll be looking for this weekend. Let me know what you think in the comments below.