That was fun! In a rain-soaked and lightning-delayed return to full capacity at Exploria Stadium, Orlando City trounced the San Jose Earthquakes 5-0. It was a true show of force on national television from the Lions, but what can we learn from the win?
Another Electric Start, Without Collapse
After an opening blitz against Toronto on Saturday, the Lions roared to a dynamic start once again. Relentless pressing and aggressive play pinned San Jose back before Benji Michel earned a penalty that Nani converted in the seventh minute. Orlando continued to dominate, forcing the Quakes into mistakes and ripping through wide open space.
Despite the short rest, Orlando City was explosive and purposeful to start the game, effectively putting the game away before the weather delay. Perhaps more important than the fast start was Orlando’s ability to keep its foot on the gas. Against Toronto, the Lions faltered and nearly dropped points, but this time they never let up and drove a stake into the Earthquakes until the final whistle. This game could’ve been 8-0 considering the amount of chances Orlando had. Granted, when the Quakes implode, they really implode, but a complete performance by Orlando is still worth noting.
Dike is On a Different Level
The hype around Dike is beyond justified. In his first start of the season, Dike was a man amongst boys against the Earthquakes. His physical dominance is comical at times, but his technical and tactical abilities have become truly elite. He bagged a nice brace, but could’ve had four or five goals against a horrendous San Jose defense. Every time Orlando had the ball in dangerous spots, I expected Dike to score.
Tesho Akindele is great, but Dike is on a completely different level. Dike actually does a fair bit of pressing and hold-up play like Akindele, but he is also an MVP-level scoring threat. He scores or nearly scores from spots few players in this league have a chance to. I selfishly hope Dike can stay in Orlando for at least the rest of this season, but if he keeps playing like this, that Godfather offer is coming.
Benji Michel Made Plays
Squad rotation is so important in multi-game weeks like this one, and it’s an enormous advantage when key reserves can be impressive starters. Michel made just his third start of the campaign, but looked like an all-star, particularly in the first 30 minutes. He destroyed San Jose’s Judson en route to drawing the penalty, and kept making dangerous runs with and without the ball, including grabbing his first goal of the campaign due to a nice run and some poor defending.
Unlike Orlando’s other wingers, Michel adds a more direct, vertical presence. He has the physical tools and willingness to beat players off the dribble, or be a direct outlet over the top, and he had a fantastic showing early in this game. He wasn’t as sharp down the stretch, but he was active and terrorized San Jose’s defense, even grabbing a second goal at the death knell.
Nani Remains Excellent
The captain cannot be stopped right now. He converted the early penalty to reach five goals in seven appearances this season. More than that, Nani served as more of a playmaker than usual, finishing with two assists and three total key passes. This opening run of games is maybe the best form Nani’s been in since joining MLS apart from the MLS is Back Tournament. If he keeps this up, or even close to this up, he’ll push for a spot in the MLS Best XI. He also got a needed breather late in this game courtesy of Alexander Alvarado coming on. With that added rotation, there’s a much better chance Nani can maintain this form throughout the year.
No Possession, No Problem
San Jose had 57% of the possession and completed 450 passes compared to Orlando’s 331, but the Lions still won 5-0. Under Head Coach Oscar Pareja, the Lions typically like to break teams down with the ball, but they’ve shown they can be a lethal transition team as well. The Earthquakes had plenty of the ball, but did next to nothing with it. Orlando, on the other hand, was direct and explosive, quickly exploiting the holes in San Jose’s defense. Pareja’s tactical flexibility has been exceptional. He knew the Quakes were going to be a mess in transition and had the team play into that.
That’s what I took away from Orlando’s big win at home, but what are your thoughts? Leave your takeaways in the comments below. Let’s do this again Friday.