Wins are wins and Orlando City will certainly take them however they come, but Saturday’s 1-0 victory for the Lions over the Vancouver Whitecaps is hardly a game we’ll be using to promote the best of what this team can accomplish.
Moments away from a scoreless draw that the visitors would have happily taken, Nani deflected Sacha Kljestan‘s shot on frame for his fourth goal of the season, helping the Lions secure back-to-back home victories for the first time in nearly a year, doing so in a fashion that’s become pretty typical for Orlando City in 2019: play better than the other team for the majority of the 90 minutes, come up short throughout the match, and yet still manage to find one goal that makes the difference.
The Starting XI
HERE IS TODAY’S STARTING XI!
— Orlando City SC (@OrlandoCitySC) April 20, 2019
The last time Orlando City played in a 4-3-3 against a Canadian team at home, the Lions were torn apart by the Montreal Impact, 3-1. This time, however, the circumstances were different enough for James O’Connor to switch things up again, coming off the loss to Real Salt Lake.
The Whitecaps were coming into the match off of a 1-0 victory over Los Angeles FC on Wednesday night, given just two full days of rest with a 3,000-mile plane trip in between matches. Not an ideal week for the ‘Caps, who were sure to come into this one bunkering down for most of the match, hoping for a moment or two in which the Lions would make a costly mistake they could capitalize on.
Luckily for Orlando, that moment never really came, though Vancouver did sit back and absorb pressure throughout the afternoon, letting Orlando get deep into their half of the field on a regular basis.
The 4-3-3 showed from the very beginning that Orlando was planning to attack early and throw everything at Vancouver, even without Kljestan starting, who was getting some rest, and three defensive midfielders in the lineup. Taking out the extra center back didn’t keep the fullbacks, Ruan and João Moutinho from going forward, as the high defensive line played throughout the match let them get forward and not find themselves caught too far away defensively.
This Week’s One Big Thing: Struggling in Transition
The Whitecaps didn’t create a whole lot of chances on Saturday, but they did find themselves pretty close to taking a 1-0 lead in the 72nd minute when Hwang In-Beom sent a shot flying over the crossbar from close range. While the ‘Caps didn’t score on this chance, the play itself is worth breaking down because there’s starting to become a noticeable trend with the Lions — their ability to defend and retain shape in transition.
You may remember another BTS from a couple weeks ago, when I broke down two goals scored by the Colorado Rapids back on April 6 and how the wingbacks getting caught away from the play caused the backline to stretch and open up play in the middle of the park, especially in a four-back formation.
The play starts on a João Moutinho turnover. The fullback can’t sufficiently recover to get back in position and Yordy Reyna has acres of open space to run down the wing. Robin Jansson gets pulled out to cover Reyna and the over-lapping fullback, and Lamine Sane can’t do enough to cover Freddy Montero, who gets the ball in even more open space and plays a little backheel to In-Beom.
Maybe Uri Rosell could have positioned himself better, or maybe Moutinho could have put more into his run back up the field. The fact of the matter is chances like this, in so much open territory, will be converted nine times out of 10. Vancouver just got unlucky to not score on that, and it would have flipped the final 20 minutes of the game on its’ head.
The problem of defending in transition has appeared in each of the last three games now.
See Damir Kreilach‘s goal for Real Salt Lake from last weekend:
The issue with this one isn’t so much on the backline — see how all four players are at least there when the ball gets played into the box — but rather that nobody is even in Kreilach’s zip code as he sprints 40 yards up the field. You can see in the clip above that for the entire length of the play, right up until Will Johnson nearly closes him down at the end, that nobody in a white shirt picks up his run into the box until it’s too late.
Sure, it didn’t help that Sam Johnson was able to pull in both Jansson and Shane O’Neill to free up space at the top of the penalty area, but the defensive midfielders just need to be a step or four quicker to pick up on that play.
Some Other Things of Note
I talk about Ruan a lot in this weekly column, but only because it seems like every week he does something else that makes him more valuable to this team. This week, it’s his role in Orlando’s game-winning goal.
He’s got a great eye for finding the right pass and in this case, he could have looked at Tesho Akindele and Nani making runs forward and gone with a 50/50 ball in front of goal, but instead he seeks out the cut back to Sacha Kljestan, making a diagonal run into the penalty area and hits him with plenty of free space.
And props to Kljestan too for making the smart run:
Oh, and that quick step to separate himself from Ali Adnan is the fire emoji personified:
Despite his three goals so far this season, Dom Dwyer hasn’t exactly been performing at his best and Orlando City will certainly be hoping that Saturday’s game will be the bottom of the valley that he rises back up from.
Dwyer only saw the ball seven times against Vancouver — that’s including one of his touches being a kick-off — and only one of those came in the penalty box.
Getting your Designated Player striker the ball helps.
Uri Rosell passed the ball 97 (!!) times in this one with 90 percent accuracy. He did a lot to help the Lions moving forward throughout the afternoon.
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