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Orlando City’s Lack of Attacking Depth Showed in Loss to FC Cincinnati

Orlando City had a weakened side in its 1-0 loss to FC Cincinnati, exposing its lack of depth on offense.

MLS: Houston Dynamo FC at Orlando City SC Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

Orlando City dropped a 1-0 result to FC Cincinnati Friday night in Ohio with a weakened side. The Lions left midfielder Mauricio Pereyra left in Orlando for precautionary reasons, center back Robin Jansson was suspended, and left back Joao Moutinho was dropped from the lineup shortly before the game after reportedly feeling some pain during warmups. The absences provided a chance to see what the team is like without some key components.

The Lions didn’t look good without those three key players. Defensively, the back line appeared disorganized, resulting in several open looks for the opposition. It took some huge saves by goalkeeper Pedro Gallese to keep the visitors in the game. With Jansson suspended and Antonio Carlos making his first appearance back from injury, that’s not much of a concern. However, the lack of an attack is.

The only key attacking player out for Orlando City in this game was Pereyra. The club captain broke Kevin Molino’s club assist record of 30 earlier this year and has been key in the development of most goals. This game was a chance to see if any other attacking players could step up and take his place.

The three attacking midfielders in this game were Jake Mulraney, Andres Perea, and Facundo Torres. While Mulraney only joined the team recently, Torres has been in the starting lineup all year and Perea is in his third year with Orlando.

It was a fair assumption that Mulraney and Torres could help create chances for the Lions without Pereyra in the game. In last week’s 2-1 win over the Houston Dynamo, Mulraney and Torres combined with Pereyra to create a lovely opening goal for Ercan Kara. Both Mulraney and Torres were good in that game, with Torres recording four key passes.

However, it was a different story with Pereyra out of the lineup. The most important pass in that goal against Houston was a flick by Pereyra that freed Torres to set up Kara in front of goal. The attacking midfield against Houston set Kara up for five shots, four of which he put on target. As a result, Kara ended the game with a brace. On Friday night, Kara only had one shot.

When Pereyra is one the field, he provides more opportunities for Mulraney and Torres to make key passes to whoever is playing up top. With the team’s talisman out of the lineup, that was clearly missing as neither Torres, Perea, nor Mulraney were creating those opportunities. Pereyra being out of the lineup allowed Cincinnati to swarm Torres whenever he touched the ball without having to worry about being punished for it.

While the absence of Pereyra was evident against Cincinnati, the game also showed that the Lions only have one dependable striker. Leading up to the game Friday night, Kara had scored in three of the last four games and, as previously mentioned, was coming off a brace against Houston. But he’s not going to be at his best every game and, as happened Friday night, may not be provided with many opportunities every game. That’s where the team’s other forwards need to come in.

Orlando City brought Alexandre Pato back to the team this year after he was injured in the season opener last year against Atlanta United. At the beginning of the year, it appeared to be a good decision as Pato played well, scoring in the first game against CF Montreal. However, he’s struggled recently and had arguably his worst performance in his 27 minutes Friday night.

The other striker on the roster is Tesho Akindele and the strong Canadian isn’t as much of a scorer as Kara and Pato. Instead, Akindele makes his biggest impact coming in when the team has the lead for energy and to keep possession with his hold-up play. If Kara isn’t able to create chances or finish, the team needs production from Pato.

The Brazilian was largely absent Friday night, as he has been in recent games, but was involved in two key plays as the Lions looked to equalize. The first was a ball that he misplayed in the box with teammates making runs in front of goal. The other was a shot that he sent well high and wide of the target as full time neared.

It’s been known for a while that Orlando City only has one dependable striker at the moment. While Kara has played well, Pato and Akindele have both had problems scoring. Friday night was just another example that the team only has one striker that is likely to put the ball in the back of the net.

The loss in Cincinnati wasn’t a make-or-break moment for the season. The team is still well over the red line and Friday night only marked the halfway point in the season. But the game provided an opportunity to see how the team is without some key players. What we learned is that Orlando City only has one key playmaker and one dependable striker. That lack of depth could come into play as the season continues.