Three more points! So far the new Orlando City Stadium is being very kind to its MLS landlords--in three home matches on the season, the Lions have taken all nine possible points and the defense has allowed Joe Bendik to get two clean sheets. More of this, please!
The latest game saw Orlando City host the New York Red Bulls, a potent team led by the attack of Bradley Wright-Phillips, the creative midfield play of Sacha Kljestan, and the physical defending of former Orlando City defensive stalwart Aurelien Collin. And a first half corner kick yielded a goal from the forehead of Servando Carrasco that proved to be all the margin OCSC would need to get the victory.
- Three big points - It was another win for the team, which puts them one behind east leading Columbus with two matches in hand. Columbus has 10 points after playing six matches; Orlando City now has nine points after playing only four matches on the young season.
- Carrasco scores - My crystal ball in the match preview did not see Carrasco scoring his first goal as a member of OCSC this weekend, but I did predict that someone other than Cyle Larin would score in the match. I'm glad to see that the club now has a goal from someone other than Larin, but what was the cost of that score?
- Clean Sheet for Bendik - Normally I would gush over Bendik for the clean sheet, and he deserves praise for the work today. However, I think Jonathan Spector made the play of the day on defense. In the 12th minute after Bradley Wright-Phillips split two defenders at the top of the 18-yard box, Spector made an incredible sliding kick-save to drive the ball out over the touch line. Not only did he prevent a goal, but his kick save had enough of an angle to prevent the Red Bulls from getting a corner kick.
- My Prediction - I predicted that Orlando City would win by the score of 3 - 1. Obviously that didn't happen. I also predicted that Carlos Rivas would score the winning goal. And that didn't happen either. However, I'll take the consolation that we did win the game and that the team managed multiple attacks.
- Cyle Larin's Finishing - Cyle Larin is normally a brilliant finisher, but he doesn't always have a complete game. But on Sunday he had a much more complete game, and his finishing seemed to suffer. Probably the most frustrating moment of the match for a fan came in the 67th minute when Larin made a beautiful dummy move to fake Red Bulls defender Sal Zizzo completely out of his boots, and set up a great head-to-head battle between the striker and Red Bulls goalkeeper Luis Robles, aided by the fact that Aaron Long had to run around the sprawling form of Zizzo, who had face planted in the grass after Larin's filthy fake. But Larin was unable to dribble the ball at full pace, and as Long closed in behind he panicked a bit and telegraphed a shot just inside the near post. It was an angle that allowed Robles to use his momentum to dive and deflect the ball away from danger, setting up a corner kick that came to nothing instead of adding a second goal to the tally on the day. I don't want to be too harsh on Larin--he was very active off the ball and the team created a lot of chances. Robles came up with some big saves, but I think some slightly better quality strikes would have seen Orlando City win by a larger margin.
- Stats Bear Watching - The main stats that count are a victory on the scoreboard and three points on the table. But looking deeper into the match there are some stats that bear watching and are a little troubling to me. Passing accuracy is one stat that the Red Bulls won easily, beating Orlando City in the attacking half, the final third, and crosses, and holding an overall edge of 402 - 268. The Red Bulls also edged Orlando City in duels won by 69 - 66, and they held a significant edge in possession (although I sometimes think that stat is overrated). Furthermore, Orlando City committed more fouls (24 - 14) and led in yellow card bookings (3 - 1). But the news wasn't all bad on the stat sheet: Orlando City did lead in tackles by the count of 22 - 12, and they had far more clearances (32 - 21), while forcing Bendik to make only 3 saves to preserve the clean sheet.
- Yet Another Injury - It was a mixed bag as far as birthday presents go for Antonio Nocerino. The Italian got the start on his 32nd birthday and his team got the win. Unfortunately, he was forced to leave the match in the 17th minute, replaced by eventual goal scorer Servando Carrasco. Nocerino suffered a reported calf injury, and his status won't be known until later in the week. Fortunately, multiple reports say the injury is mild, and hopefully he won't have to miss many matches.
- It's All Fun And Games Until... - ...someone drinks too much. Several of us in my row missed a portion of the second half when someone who celebrated a little too much before Sunday's game lost their lunch and their beer in the stands. It took a good 10 - 15 minutes for someone from the stadium staff to come clean up the mess, which seems a bit of a long time, especially given that this is something the club had to be able to anticipate with a rowdy and passionate fan base like Orlando City seems to draw to the games.
What did you think of the match? Who did you think should earn Player of the Match honors? Are we as fans getting too greedy if we want to win by more than one goal, or are you happier about the improved defense than the margin of victory? If Nocerino has to miss any matches, whom would you like to see start in his place? Let me know in the comments below!