One point out of two games is not how Orlando City was hoping to start its season, but considering two of the team’s three Designated Players haven’t played yet because of injury or suspension, and the third only played 18 minutes off the bench on Saturday night, a 2-1 loss in Colorado isn’t a bad result.
Of course, it only looks bad after the Lions conceded a game-winning goal in the 90th minutes, not long after Chris Mueller leveled the score for his side off the bench with a nifty piece of heads-up soccer.
Let’s go beyond the scoreline to take a deeper look at this one…
Andres Perea plays an underrated role
Oscar Pareja went for a stable balance between attacking and defending in this one by deploying a 3-5-2 with Joao Moutinho and Kyle Smith playing as wing-backs on the outside to the three centerbacks. In the midfield, Junior Urso and Sebas Méndez covered space in the middle of the park in front of the backline, with Andrés Perea as the point-man of the trio.
In his first start for Orlando City, Perea was good, not great, and didn’t really stand out among the 22 players on the field for the most part, but that doesn’t mean he didn’t make a subtle impact for the Lions throughout the night.
At just 19 years old, it’s hard to look at a guy like Perea and expect him to be making the levels that Urso and Mendez play to, but he still held himself to a competitive level.
Perea’s passing chalkboard isn’t much to look at. On the surface, there’s a lot of short passing going on in the midfield, which doesn’t reveal much of what he was actually doing.
Orlando played pragmatically throughout the night, moving patiently on the ball. Perea isn’t necessarily a play-making No. 10, so where he was most effective was finding spaces to plug himself into and be an outlet to draw defenders and move the ball on quickly to keep the attack rolling.
Here’s a handful of moments from the match that illustrate what that means:
One of the impressive things for me to come out of that was his awareness, position, and even vision to make some of those passes. Specifically on Mueller’s goal, note where Perea starts out at the beginning of the clip and how he makes his way across the field to be in position to end up being the player that makes the line-breaking through-ball — that pass, by the way, was perfectly timed and weighted to hit Mueller on his run in behind the three defenders.
It’s tough to say how much time Perea will see on the field moving forward this season with Mauricio Pereyra, Mendez, and Urso all ahead of him in the midfield, but playing under a coach like Oscar Pareja, there’s reason to believe that we’ll continue to see the 19-year-old improve and play a role in some capacity for the Lions this season.
Still struggling for ideas
It’s fair to criticize how Orlando, as a team, is attacking so far. Without Nani and Dom Dwyer on the field, however, we see an incomplete picture of what the attack can look like. So with that, it didn’t help the Lions to have Mauricio Pereyra start this match on the bench and not come into the game until late in the second half when the team was already trailing.
The Lions dominated possession through the opening 25 minutes of so, creating a couple of good scoring chances. Still, as Colorado found their way into the game and settled in, all of that momentum fizzled out for the Lions. They didn’t get another shot off inside the penalty area in the final 20 minutes of the opening half, with just one touch inside the 18.
That didn’t get much better in the second half, with the team looking mostly disjointed in the attack, reacting to what Colorado was doing with possession and struggling to take back any control of the game. While the second half produced some better chances, it was hard to see Orlando scoring the goals needed to win the game — or even find a draw — especially with the team chasing the scoreline on tired legs in high altitude.
Nobody should be pinning this offense turning around on Nani’s season debut next week, but Orlando City will surely end up having to fight for points if he can’t provide a jolt of vision and potency in the final third at the very least.
Some other things to note…
- Antonio Carlos is listed at 6-foot, 3-inches, but Drew Moor made him look like some retired athlete-turned writer like me on his game-winning goal. Carlos got, maybe, a few inches off the ground going up for the corner kick. Sure, you can probably blame heavy legs for weighing him down, but that’s not good defending by any means in a critical moment.
- After the match, Oscar Pareja voiced displeasure at Moor still being in the game, saying he should have been sent off for a foul conceded earlier in the night. Pareja was referring to this play (shown below) in the first half. Does he have a point? For sure. You could argue that Moor, as almost the last defender, denied Tesho Akindele of a potential goal-scoring opportunity by taking him down from behind like that. At the end of the day, however, Moor was given a yellow and stayed on — that doesn’t change what happened in the 90th minute.
- That run, that pass, everything came together perfectly on Chris Mueller’s 82nd-minute goal (Orlando’s first of the season). I talked about Perea’s effort in the goal earlier in this post, so I’ll give Mueller a quick shout. Last week, there was some discussion about whether Mueller was capable of figuring out the tactical/mental side of his game, because there is undeniable talent and work rate there, but sometimes it doesn’t translate to effective team soccer. But this awareness and timing to make the run shows he’s got not only that goal-scorer instinct but knows when to make the critical runs in behind the backline.
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