Orlando City failed at home in spectacular fashion Wednesday night against a CF Montreal team that sat at .500 even though it had gone 2-1-2 in its previous five matches. The 4-2 loss was troubling, but it’s not panic time just yet. Teams go through ups and downs over the course of a 34-game season and Orlando came out of a seven-game unbeaten run prior to these last couple of subpar performances.
Let’s take a look at Wednesday’s match to see what we can glean.
Two Lions were sent off, which means not only did the club have to play shorthanded on Wednesday, but Orlando City will also do so this Sunday in Philadelphia. Nani and Andres Perea hit the showers early for different reasons against Montreal and that’s not great for Sunday either. Nani’s marching orders came on a pair of first-half yellow cards. The first of those was due to a set piece miscue. A soft and seemingly unexpected pass forced him to try to reach a ball before Montreal could pounce and break with the Lions’ defense forward for the free kick. The second was his own doing, as he got caught in possession, gave away the ball, and then compounded the problem by fouling from behind on a Montreal transition.
Perea’s foul was an intentional attempt to prevent a 1-v-1 scoring chance but the young midfielder was banking on getting a yellow with teammate Antonio Carlos racing down the middle of the pitch in an effort to get back. Referee Rubiel Vazquez was of the opinion that Carlos was not in a position to potentially get involved in the play and therefore Perea denied a clear goal-scoring opportunity, so the red was shown. Carlos has pretty good wheels, so I’m not sure I agree with Vazquez’s assessment, but it’s a judgment call.
Neither of these would likely be overturned on appeal, so Orlando City should just swallow them and move on.
Both red cards for Orlando and a couple of the Montreal goals were created by something the Lions did all night — give the ball away. The Lions were fine in their own end but struggled to connect passes in the attacking half. The team was simply too sloppy. Passes were often telegraphed or sent at improper angles or were poorly weighted. Sometimes two players simply weren’t on the same page, such as when Mauricio Pereyra picked out a vertical pass, only to see Daryl Dike make a diagonal run. All of these things led to Montreal collecting the ball and quickly creating trouble in transition. The Lions took turns starting the counter attack for Montreal — Emmanuel Mas, Pereyra, Perea, Junior Urso, Nani, Dike, etc. Montreal’s quickness in transitioning from defense to offense was a problem for Orlando all night but if the Lions had been less careless with the ball, it could have been avoided entirely.
Adding Injury to Insult
Usually the saying is the other way around, but in this case Wednesday night’s match added injuries to the insults that Montreal’s goals heaped on the Lions. In addition to losing Nani to two yellows in the first half, Orlando lost two wingers in a 10-minute span. Silvester van der Water felt something amiss and asked to come off. His replacement, Chris Mueller, was only on for four minutes plus stoppage time but then had to come out of the game at halftime for tweaking an ankle. Losing two hard-working players who can create certainly hindered Orlando’s chances in the match and now we’ll have to wait to see if either or both are unavailable for Sunday. Additionally, Pedro Gallese seemed to have a groin issue after having to change directions quickly to try to prevent a corner kick. The team was down to just Sebas Mendez, Alexandre Pato, and Mason Stajduhar on the injury report and now the list might start growing again.
We didn’t get an opportunity to ask Pareja after the game about Joao Moutinho, who wasn’t in the match day lineup. It’s possible that was just to manage Moutinho’s minutes, but it’ll bear watching on Sunday.
Fool’s (Purple &) Gold
Oscar Pareja liked the fight that his team showed in tying the match while down a man after going behind by two goals. Many Orlando City fans likely felt the team was back in the game and had a chance to get a result after Robin Jansson and Ruan scored to tie the match at 2-2. But it was false hope for Orlando. Montreal had been kicking the ball around the pitch prior to Ruan’s goal and didn’t seem terribly interested in attacking or taking on players in space. The visitors were content to play the ball to open teammates while they didn’t need any goals to get the win. Once Orlando tied the score, Montreal went back into attack mode, won several set pieces, took on defenders, scored, and took back control of the game.
Agent of Chaos
One of my favorite sayings this season has been that Ruan is an agent of chaos. Whatever he does on the pitch, the Brazilian Bullet is always involved in some way — for good or bad. The right back was so far inside on Montreal’s first goal that he couldn’t recover and prevent Romell Quioto from picking out his spot with the entry ball. Ruan was also part of the set piece gaffe that led to Nani’s first yellow card. In addition, the speedster went down too easily in the box on one occasion, trying to draw a penalty — he often tries harder to win a foul than he does to beat his man. On that play, he should have played a cross to a teammate who looked to be in a good position to score if he’d received a pass. He can feel free to fall down after the pass and have just as good a chance to win the foul in that situation.
But, on the other hand, Ruan did stray inside to score the second Orlando goal. He also made some good runs down the right and on one of them his cross hit traffic in front and fell for Dike, who inexplicably missed the empty net from about eight yards out with the goalkeeper lying on the ground. Ruan sometimes ignores opportunities to get to the end line, opting to circle back and make a negative pass or to cut inside and pick out a teammate, only to then come to a stop and not be available when that teammate is closed down. He’s exceedingly dangerous when he gets to the end line. Even if he’s not the best crosser, sending in a hard, low pass into traffic in the box from there accomplishes the same thing that Ruan does — it creates chaos.
- Slow Mo — Pereyra may be playing through a knock right now — whether he is or how severe it is, we’re not sure — but even when at 100%, it appears he may no longer possess the speed he needs to be as effective in MLS as we’d all like. He’s a fabulous passer and, when given time and space, can turn a game with one kick of the ball, but he often is caught and dispossessed or gets pressured into a mistake by a faster opposing midfielder closing him down, and being a step slow is the reason why he gets most of his yellow cards.
- Please Stand Up — Mueller was on the pitch for four minutes of regular time and five minutes of stoppage time and he fell down at least three times. But Cash wasn’t the only one. Mas and others had trouble maintaining their feet in the match. Montreal didn’t seem to have the same issue, so I’m ruling out the pitch conditions. I don’t know if it was the wrong boots, concentration, or something else, but the slipping definitely impacted some promising plays.
- Orlan_o City — Suddenly, there’s no D in Orlando. The four goals shipped Wednesday make nine in the past three matches, which is an unprecedented number in the Pareja era. The Lions scored two of those nine on themselves, which they at least were able to avoid on Wednesday. But the team has also conceded off of set pieces and/or restarts four times in the last two matches and that trend must stop.
- Another Streak Ends — The Lions were an impressive 7-0-0 in 2021 when scoring more than one goal in a match. A win was almost guaranteed whenever Orlando put more than one ball in the net. That came to a screeching halt in the 4-2 loss to Montreal. That statistic helps illustrate how good the defense usually is since Pareja took over.
That’s what I saw from the Lions’ second straight loss. I thought the attitude was better than last Friday at Atlanta, but the execution was certainly poor, and once Nani was sent off, the outcome seemed inevitable despite Orlando’s brief rally. Here’s hoping the lads can gather themselves and get a result on Sunday but being shorthanded might contribute to extending this current skid to three matches.
What stood out to you against Montreal?