That was a fun one! Orlando City got a big performance when it needed one, putting a 4-0 beatdown on Toronto FC at Exploria Stadium to knock the Reds out of playoff contention. It was a great way to bounce back from a disappointing midweek performance and it will hopefully give the Lions a spark as Decision Day draws nearer. What follows are my five main takeaways from a rousing win on Saturday night.
Early Pressure Pays Off
Orlando City started this game well. The Lions had three shots in the first nine minutes, with Wilder Cartagena flashing a shot wide from outside the box and Ivan Angulo having a volleyed attempt blocked off target after an excellent chested pass from Ercan Kara. Orlando’s next shot found the back of the net as Antonio Carlos flicked a pass from Angulo to Facundo Torres, who cut inside on his left foot and fired a shot past Quentin Westberg. So many times in recent months this team has had great spells of pressure and possession but hasn’t been able to make it tell on the scoreboard, so it was good to see that change against Toronto, especially so early in the game.
Cracker from Kara
Kara looked lively as this game started. His chested pass to Angulo in the opening minutes was a thing of pure genius, and was more than worthy of a spectacular assist on what would have been a blistering volley had it not been deflected over the net. The big Austrian got his reward in the 22nd minute. Rodrigo Schlegel did exceedingly well to break up an intricate Toronto move, and that was the Lions’ cue to break at pace. Mauricio Pereyra played a perfectly weighted pass down the left channel for Kara, and OCSC’s no. 9 took a touch and blasted a shot past Westberg with his weak foot. It was an excellent goal and a reminder of what the Austrian is capable of when teammates find some of the great runs he makes in the channels.
Stifling First-Half Pressure
Orlando’s pressure on the ball when it was in Toronto’s end of the field during the first half was simply spectacular. The Lions didn’t press as much once the ball was over the midfield line, but when they lost the ball in Toronto’s half, the men in purple were quick to chase the ball, close players down, and generally make life difficult for their opponents. It didn’t allow the visitors to get comfortable and disrupted their rhythm as they tried to bring the ball upfield, keeping them unsettled and off balance. It was the sort of pressure and intensity that we haven’t seen all that much this year, and it was made even more impressive by the fact that it was coming against players with the quality levels of Lorenzo Insigne and Federico Bernardeschi.
The Dagger Comes Early
With as good as the first half was, feelings of trepidation ahead of the second half were understandable. Orlando has had difficulty holding onto leads this season, and Toronto has an extremely potent offense, so while the two-goal lead was reassuring, it didn’t feel safe quite yet. That feeling didn’t last very long though. Joao Moutinho put in a cross from the left hand side and Lukas McNaughton deflected the ball into his own net while trying to make the clearance. That extra insurance goal really allowed Orlando to settle into a comfortable and controlling role in the match, sitting back and trying to pick TFC off on the counter as the Reds pressed forward in a game that was a must-win to keep their playoff hopes alive.
Tesho Time Ahead of Schedule
Typically, an 84th-minute goal would be considered pretty late. That’s not the case for Tesho Akindele, whose earliest goal this season prior to tonight came in the 89th minute against Charlotte FC to win the game on the road. Saturday night saw the Canadian score his earliest goal of the season when he found the back of the net six minutes from time to well and truly put the game on ice. It was a well-taken goal from the substitute as he ran onto an excellent pass from Angulo, shaped his body and fired, into the side netting inside the far post. It was about the only way to improve on a great performance, and a good way to finish off the night.
That’s how I saw things during a dominant performance from Orlando City at home. What did you guys think of this one? Be sure to have your say down in the comments.