That did not go how anyone in purple was hoping it would. Orlando City comprehensively lost to the New York Red Bulls by a score of 3-0, and while the visitors didn’t generate heaps of chances, their complete and utter superiority over the Lions meant that a larger scoreline might have more accurately reflected the performances of the two teams. Perhaps the lone positive about the performance is that there’s plenty of room for improvement. What follows are my five takeaways from an afternoon to forget at Exploria Stadium.
Slow and Sloppy Lions
From the opening kickoff, things didn’t look quite right. Just seven seconds into the game Junior Urso played a pass towards the sideline that was neither to Ruan or Alexandre Pato, with the ball going out of bounds as a result. That early moment proved to be a microcosm of Orlando City’s day. The Lions passed at an 81% clip on the day, but many of the successful connections took place between defenders across the back line or in areas where there was little to no danger. Time after time, soon after Orlando started advancing into dangerous areas, either a pass would be misplayed or someone would dwell on the ball too long and have it tackled away. The Lions were frequently second to 50/50 balls and were just much too slow and predictable with their play in the first half. Those 45 minutes dug a hole that OCSC never came close to climbing out of.
Lions Couldn’t Cope With Press
As bad as Orlando was, the Red Bulls are also due some credit. New York is a team known for its ability to press, and that tactic was on full display in this match. New York players constantly hassled their opponents in purple, and won the midfield battle by quite some distance on the day. As impressive as the pressing display was, it also shouldn’t have been a surprise to the Lions. That style of play is the Red Bulls’ identity, and so it’s odd that Orlando seemed so wholly bewildered and unequipped to deal with it across the board. That’s exactly how it played out though, and it became increasingly difficult to watch.
Offense Took Two Steps Back
One of the most frustrating things about this performance was how opposite it was of what Orlando’s shown in recent games. Against LAFC, the Chicago Fire, and the Columbus Crew, Orlando had some really excellent spells of attacking play and scored some great goals. The intricacy and fluidity of Ercan Kara’s strike in Ohio seemed to indicate that the new offensive pieces were beginning to jell and develop chemistry. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, none of that was on display against the Red Bulls. OCSC was so ineffective going forward that the Lions did not take a shot until the 60th minute and only attempted three on the day. It was a thoroughly inept attacking display, with Orlando rarely able to get the ball into the final third and unable to do anything with it on the rare occasions it did so. Evidence up to this point suggests that this performance will be an outlier, but even so it was an absolutely brutal one.
Substitutions Proved Ineffective
Oscar Pareja certainly didn’t sit on his laurels after watching the worst first half Orlando City has played in quite some time. Papi threw on Benji Michel for Pato and brought Thomas Williams on for Urso in an attempt to change the shape and get something going. It...did not work. Michel was his usual hard-working self and had a decent opportunity on the counter early in the second half but didn’t do much otherwise. Williams made a nightmarish error in possession at midfield in the 68th minute that would have led to a Red Bulls goal had Patryk Klimala timed his run better. Other than that, it was an anonymous performance from the Homegrown Player as well. Later substitute appearances from Silvester van der Water and Sebas Mendez were equally underwhelming and by the time Jack Lynn came on for his debut, the game was out of hand.
Lions Struggled in Exploria Stadium
It’s been a rather weird season at home for OCSC so far and that continued against the Red Bulls. There wasn’t much of a home-field advantage for the Lions as they were dominated in Exploria Stadium by the visitors and couldn’t take control of the match. The Red Bulls are proving to be road warriors this year, but the Lions didn’t look entirely at home in their, well, home. While the Lions are still undefeated on the road, they need the purple palace to return to its status as a fortress sooner rather than later.
That’s what I took away from a brutal afternoon at Exploria Stadium. Be sure to let us know your thoughts down in the comments.