Despite Orlando City not having the best performance on the road, the team was still able to match the physicality of the Chicago Fire and hold them off long enough to grab a point on the road. A scoreless match didn’t show much of what the Lions’ offense is capable of, but the defense was able to stand strong and weather the windy Chicago night.
Here are five takeaways from Orlando City’s first road test of the season.
Lions’ Pressing Caused Early Havoc
Orlando city wasted no time out of the gate applying pressure to the Fire’s back line with a high press. Lion forwards created chances for themselves early within the first 15 minutes when they were quick to press opposing defenders, causing them to scramble and create turnovers for Orlando. Pressing in Orlando’s own half generated counter-attack chances for the team as well. The Lions were unable to take complete advantage of those turnovers and Chicago settled in to take control of possession in the first half but it was a notable change of pace from game one that put Orlando on the front foot in the early minutes.
Schlegel Filled in Nicely
Any concerns about Orlando’s defensive line missing a beat with Robin Jansson being out due to his red card last match were eased as Rodrigo Schlegel stepped into the starting lineup with confidence. The Lions’ back line held up just fine in a “bend but don’t break” fashion. Although Chicago finished the match ahead in the shot department, with nine total and four on target, none of them really seemed to cause much concern, with Pedro Gallese making all four saves. The Orlando defense as a whole helped contribute to El Pulpo’s second straight shutout and Schlegel was a good part of it. There were many times the Argentine defender could be seen getting stuck in to take the ball away from a Fire forward and even putting his body on the line in some instances. Schlegel filled in admirably as he and the rest of the Lions’ defense spoiled Xherdan Shaqiri’s first home game with the Fire.
Chicago was not shy in terms of being physical with the Lions. From collisions with Schlegel and Gallese in the box, to taking down Facundo Torres when the new Lion was breaking down the line gaining speed. Chicago clearly held the lead in fouls for the first half, eight to Orlando’s three, and 21-14 in the match.
The trend of targeting Torres continued into the second half and Miguel Navarro earned himself a yellow card with a foul on the young Uruguayan. Cesar Araújo also had his share of crunching tackles and took a swinging elbow to the face from Jhon Durán that drew the Chicago forward a yellow card. The Fire went hard after the Lions’ playmakers, attempting to stop any momentum they hoped to create.
Not long after the second half got underway, Oscar Pareja had seen enough to sub off Benji Michel for Tesho Akindele. It was not the greatest showing for Michel, as his night finished with a 16.7% passing rate and he failed to contribute much offensively. Orlando’s lack of depth at the winger position was on full display and it was obvious when the head coach replaced Michel with Tesho Akindele.
The complexion of the offense seemed to change for Orlando once Kara came on for Alexandre Pato. The Austrian’s hustle contributed to keeping a play alive that Junior Urso eventually put in the net. The goal initially seemed to give the Lions the lead, but referee Ismir Pekmic deemed there was a handball from Kara that was obvious enough on his lengthy review of the play to erase the goal off the board.
Orlando City officially finished with zero shots on target.
Collective Defensive Effort
Orlando City kept its second consecutive clean sheet to start the season and for the second straight game the opposition didn’t generate many clear-cut scoring opportunities. The Lions played solid team defense from back to front, starting with the high press and funneling back to central midfielders Cesar Araujo and Urso forcing the Fire to go wide. Fullbacks Ruan and Joao Moutinho did well to not allow a lot of room for opposing attackers to get in good crosses at the end line, and center backs Antonio Carlos and Schlegel were solid in their positioning. Gallese made one good save of the four he had to make, a chance from just outside the box on a hard shot headed under the bar. The other three saves were routine, meaning the Lions were doing well in shielding him from danger.
Those are the five things that caught my attention from the Lions’ first road match-up of the season. Let me know if you agree and what else was interesting to you in the comments section below.