The two matches played between Orlando City and the New York Red Bulls this year have been high-scoring affairs, but only for one of the clubs. In the first regular-season meeting, the Red Bulls dominated in a 3-0 loss at home for the Lions. The second meeting was that glorious 5-1 shellacking Orlando City gave the Red Bulls in the semifinal of the U.S. Open Cup at Exploria Stadium.
The only thing to take from that is the Lions can either lose big or win big against the Red Bulls, which means this next meeting will almost certainly be a low-scoring, close match. Of course, this is also an away match, which actually bodes well for the Lions, as they have been miserable at home. Here are the things that Orlando City needs to do to secure three points at Red Bull Arena.
Do Not Rinse and Repeat
Some felt after the 5-1 win that Orlando City had solved its offensive problems — that having Benji Michel up top with Alexandre Pato dropping back a bit was the perfect solution. Spoiler: it wasn’t. It didn’t take long for it to fall apart as the Lions lost the next two matches with that exact same starting lineup. I know that Ercan Kara picked up a knock in training, which is why we didn’t see him on Saturday, but Michel is not the answer. He hasn’t been the answer all season, and that isn’t going to change.
Hopefully, Kara will be available for this match. Orlando City has had two normal weeks now that the July to forget is over. Rest was long overdue, and now the club has gotten some. That’s not to say Óscar Pareja shouldn’t do a bit of rotation. The difficulty is which players can he rotate for this match and have the team still be effective? There’s no one behind Mauricio Pereyra. There aren’t additional productive wingers, and Kyle Smith hasn’t been as good coming off the bench for the fullbacks this season.
That brings up the possibility of getting Michael Halliday a start to allow Ruan to rest, and to change up the attacking options. I doubt we will see that, but it would give the Red Bulls something to think about since I doubt they are scared of Ruan’s crossing ability. Having Halliday at fullback will also put an additional player in position to help out against the Red Bulls’ press, as the young Homegrown doesn’t move up the field as much, or typically as far, as Ruan.
Put Ball In Net
I know that is a simple way of putting it, but perhaps that will help get it into either the players’ heads or the reticent ball that seems to be in use whenever an Orlando City player is attempting to score. I feel a bit like Samuel L. Jackson in Snakes on a Plane when it comes to Orlando City’s shots on goal and finishing acumen. I am [censored] sick of these [censored] missed chances.
How does that get fixed? That is the question the club, the supporters, and The Mane Land staff have been asking all season. Orlando City can score against the New York Red Bulls. We have seen that first hand. So, I don’t care what Pareja has to do to fix it. If he has to hypnotize the team into thinking it is a U.S. Open Cup match, tell them to “be the ball,” or have a talk with the actual ball, telling it to go to its home, which is past the Red Bulls’ keeper, just do it. Whatever magic spell, inspirational speech, or pixie dust of confidence he used the last time these two clubs met, he needs to do it again.
I don’t mean the excellent song by Flogging Molly — though if it helps, play it in the locker room. I mean the swagger we saw in the MLS is Back Tournament. I want to see players dancing, singing, laughing, and having fun. I know that it’s tougher to do so when the results haven’t been there, but do you think the players feel any better about that than the supporters do? They do not.
Nani did a great job of being inspirational for this team. I think Pereyra is an excellent tactical general on the pitch, as well as an excellent teacher to the other players mid-match. However, I do not think he is the motivator that Nani was. As such, that role needs to be taken up by someone else. This is a role that Júnior Urso, or Antônio Carlos can fill. Both players are experienced, passionate, and can be the spark that Orlando City needs to get the swagger back. I’ve thought a lot about this lately, and it is the final element missing for this team. Well, other than a backup number 10, additional wingers, and backup fullbacks and center backs. But, other than those things — swagger.
Those are the things I’ll be looking for this weekend. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below. Vamos Orlando!