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Orlando City vs. FC Cincinnati: Five Takeaways

What did we learn from Orlando City’s goalless draw against FC Cincinnati?

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

Orlando City stayed undefeated in the 2023 Major League Soccer season, as the Lions battled FC Cincinnati to a scoreless draw on Saturday night at Exploria Stadium. OCSC was far from perfect on the night, but was able to hang on for a result and can now turn its attention to a Tuesday date with Tigres in the Concacaf Champions League. What follows are my five big thoughts from the match.

Day of Debutants

Two players made their debut for Orlando City in this one, as Abdi Salim and Gaston Gonzalez played their first minutes for their new club, while Dagur Dan Thorhallsson made his first start for the team. Salim had some bad moments with his positioning, but did flash his recovery speed and made a few excellent tackles when up against difficult opposition. Thorhallsson and Gonzalez often found themselves combining down the left hand side of the field, but ultimately weren’t able to force a breakthrough during their time on the pitch. I’ll be very interested to see more of them all going forward, particularly Gonzalez and Thorhallsson, who each grew into the game as it wore on.

Squad Rotation Plays its Part

Oscar Pareja rang the changes with a huge match against Tigres in Monterrey looming on Tuesday. In addition to the three aforementioned players, Kyle Smith, and Wilder Cartagena got starts and Mauricio Pereyra and Facundo Torres only played the opening 45 and 60 minutes, respectively, while Robin Jansson and Rodrigo Schlegel only played a half each. With that being the case, Orlando City was largely content to concede possession to Cincinnati and try to find some joy on the counter attack. Aside from a promising counter in the first moment where Thorhallsson was released down the left and played in a cross that was sent out for a corner, it was a strategy that didn’t bear any fruit.

Gallese Central Again

Pedro Gallese has made more important saves for Orlando City than I can count, and so it was again Saturday night. El Pulpo did very well to stonewall a vicious drive from Brenner in the first half, and several minutes later he produced a strong diving save to deny Luciano Acosta from a free kick. He produced a similar save early on in the second half, diving to his left to parry away an Acosta shot from outside the box mere seconds after Brandon Vazquez hit the bar from five yards out. In another game in which OCSC struggled to make any noise on the offensive end, Gallese’s work in between the sticks was crucial to the Lions getting out of this one with a point.

Offensive Struggles Continue

After 180 minutes of the 2023 season, the Lions are still seeking their first goal from open play, and only have one shot on target from open play — a tame effort from Cesar Araujo in the 67th minute. Granted, OCSC has faced two very good teams in the New York Red Bulls and FCC, and four points from the two teams that finished fourth and fifth last year in the East, respectively, isn’t anything to turn one’s nose up at. Still, with the amount of offensive weapons at Pareja’s disposal, the difficulty that the Lions have had creating chances is disheartening. There are a number of new faces to integrate, and chemistry takes time to build, so hold off on getting the pitchforks and torches out just yet, but there’s no getting around that this was another difficult 90 minutes offensively.

Take What You Can Get

At the end of the day, the Lions emerged with a point from a game in which they were second best. The visitors absolutely had the better chances on the night, and were only kept out by a combination of Gallese’s excellence and their own wastefulness. While it wasn’t the kind of performance that made for a particularly enjoyable watch, Pareja will likely be fairly pleased with the result. Offensive issues aside, OCSC was able to get rest for a number of key players and still take a point from a very dangerous team. Three points obviously would have been better, but I’ll settle for getting out of this one healthy and with a point to boot.

Those are the big things I took away from Orlando City’s second game of the 2023 season. Did I miss anything? Be sure to have your say down in the comments.