Orlando City fans witnessed a thrilling match on the last Saturday in March as the offense finally came alive and put four goals into the back of the net for the Lions. And that last goal was needed, as the defense allowed the Red Bulls to put three goals on the board. Dom Dwyer scored his second brace with Orlando City in the win in his first match since the end of the 2017 season. Josue Colman and Sacha Kljestan also got their name on the score sheet on the day. Kljestan recorded an assist on Will Johnson's goal to open the scoring for the Lions, and Colman tacked on the winning goal in the 86th minute, redirecting a screaming long-range shot from Scott Sutter into an empty part of the net. This is the kind of offense Orlando City fans were hoping to see with the re-tooled roster for the 2018 season. And this week's match promises to perhaps make that kind of performance possible once again.
- Keep Attacking the Goal - Portland has managed to earn only two points in four matches so far this season, having two losses and two draws. They are also among the worst MLS teams so far in goal differential, scoring only five total goals and giving up nine goals on the season. The Timbers are playing first five matches on the road this season. They have not played a match at home yet, and will not have their home opener until April 14. They have given up goals in ugly ways this season--either they get defenders woefully out of position with nobody marking the goal scorer, or they have been guilty of watching the ball instead of playing the man. They have also had trouble clearing the ball away from the goal after opponent shots, giving organized opponents the opportunity at second-chance and sometimes third-chance shots on goal.
- Keep the Formation Wide - Orlando City Stadium has one of the widest pitches in MLS. That makes it very conducive to wide formations like the 4-2-3-1, which is what coach Jason Kreis switched to at halftime of the Red Bulls match. In the second half, this allowed Orlando City to dominate possession in six of the nine five-minute intervals of the half. By contrast, the Red Bulls had controlled possession in five of the nine five-minute intervals during the first half when Orlando City was playing in the 4-4-2 diamond formation.
- Stay Alert on Defense - In my Good, Bad, and Ugly column after the Red Bulls match I talked about how Orlando City had not given up goals by going to sleep on any plays; they just got beat on several plays by well-crafted and disciplined attacks. Next week we must remain attentive in defense as well. Portland is desperate for a win to give their fans something they can cheer about before the home opener. We don't want to be the opponent that allows a struggling opponent their first road win of the season.
What do you think Orlando City will need to do in order to secure a second consecutive home win? Would you like to see Jason Kreis abandon the 4-4-2 diamond and keep playing the 4-2-3-1, or do you think our roster sets up better for an even different formation? Let me know in the comments below!