Despite a physical and scrappy performance from both sides, Orlando City pulled out a 2-1 victory over Inter Miami on Saturday night at Exploria Stadium.
The win extended Orlando’s unbeaten streak to five games, which is the longest undefeated run so far in regular season play this year.
Orlando (5-2-4, 19 points) provisionally sits fourth in the Eastern Conference but on Saturday night the Lions not only rallied to defeat the MLS expansion side, but did so tweaking the lineup with key players out.
Perhaps a silver lining that’s been evident so far at the end of games this season has been Orlando sticking to its new foundation by adapting and implementing a unique style of play under first-year head coach Oscar Pareja.
Here are 3 Things from the Lions victory
Miami’s second-half surge
Inter Miami playing their third game in seven days didn’t play much of a factor Saturday night — and Oscar Pareja knew it wouldn’t.
Despite a dominating first half that saw the Lions win the possession battle with 68% while out-shooting their opponents 5-4, the second half was more in favor to Miami.
Inter’s head coach Diego Alonso shifted tactics at the half, which saw the South Florida side start the second part of the match on the front foot, out-shooting Orlando 8-2 and having 60% possession of the ball.
For Pareja, Orlando’s response to that was raising its intensity.
“We talked about Miami during the week, the topic about not playing for three days or one week but once we start playing the games the truth is that all of that is not relevant,” Pareja said in Spanish. “I believe that the intensity that we showed during the entire game was extremely important for both teams and I believe that Miami, and I say this with a lot of respect, they had a very good second half. They had a lot of energy and made it hard for us to win tonight.”
Orlando finished with four scoring chances. Miami had 11.
For Chris Mueller, who assisted in Mauricio Pereyra’s go-ahead goal in the 69th minute, the second half for Orlando could have been managed a lot better.
“I think we could see right away that they were shifting to a three-back with the two wingbacks pushing high and wide and they were getting a lot of crosses in the box,” said Mueller. “I actually don’t know if we necessarily managed it as well as we could have, but we were just trying to get in behind the ball and block those services from coming into the box because that was causing us some problems for a little period in the game.
It’s something we’re going to continue to work on and continue to work on getting better.”
Impressive outing for new starters
Saturday night saw two new additions to the starting lineup.
Rodrigo Schlegel was inserted at left centerback while Kyle Smith, who usually plays on the right, was deployed at left back.
“The fact that Kyle Smith and Rodrigo Schlegel had a game like this one tonight makes us stronger,” said Pareja in Spanish. “I want to say that we have a very strong team and all of the boys are capable of playing which the rotation is not a problem at all.”
According to Pareja, Schlegel filled in for Robin Jansson who — along with midfielder Uri Rosell — was not named to the game day roster because of load management and knocks the pair suffered this earlier this week. And with Joao Moutinho still out with a groin injury, Smith was called up to the left back position.
“When these things happen it just opens an opportunity for some players that are waiting,” said Pareja. “… And this is a good message from the coaches to them. Rodrigo and Kyle were ready and both of them today held a terrific result for us and congratulations to them.”
Tactical freedom for Mueller and Co.
Orlando City may be playing a more possessive-attacking style of soccer, but an interesting note from Saturday was winger Chris Mueller shifting back and forth from both sides of the field for the Lions.
“I think it’s just the freedom of play as we see the spaces,” said Mueller. “As long as our tactical shape is right, whether me and Nani switch sides. Sometimes he comes over and likes to grab the ball and dictate the pace of the game a little bit more, which he can do and that’s fine.”
For Mueller, finding that freedom on the field comes mostly on finding pockets of space, which allowed him to position himself perfectly to set up Pereyra’s game-winning goal.
“I read the game and go to the other side and I can play on the left as well, but I think the most important thing is making sure that we maintain that tactical shape that Oscar [Pareja] has implemented into the team,” added Mueller. “We keep following those details and just continue to play our game. Obviously it’s free-flowing. That’s what is making our attack mold so well right now.”
Defensive lapses: It was the third consecutive game Orlando City gave up a lead and the second consecutive game the Lions concede from a cross into the box.
Mueller in good form: Playing in his third year and following Saturday’s match, Chris Mueller has tallied six goals and four assists — both a team high — in 11 games for Orlando this year.
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