It was another thrilling start to the season for Orlando City SC, as the home side scored in stoppage time to secure points. In 2015 it was Kaka with a made PK to draw City level with NYCFC in the first-ever MLS match for both teams. In 2016 it was a pair of stoppage time goals in the 94th and 95th minutes that helped OCSC salvage a draw with RSL at the old Citrus Bowl. And in 2018 it was MLS newcomer Stefano Pinho, a second-half sub, putting the finishing touch on an opportunity created by Justin Meram and served up by Jonathan Spector.
- Energy and Effort - For the better part of three years we've watched most of the players on the roster look toward Kaka and wait for him to create something magical. After the off-season acquisitions, it seems like we now have a roster of players who are not looking for a legend to bail them out, but are looking for their own chances to help their teammates succeed. There are three key metrics I like to follow in every match: duels won, tackles won, and clearances. The result of the match reflects that those stats were split on the night. Orlando City and DC both won 66 duels on the night, while OCSC led in tackles 19 to 14, and DC United won the clearances 31 to 14.
- Mohamed El-Munir - The right defensive back was active on the night, recording six tackles, six recoveries, two interceptions, and a defensive block in the 79th minute that helped keep Orlando City in the match. El-Munir chased down Darren Mattocks for seventy yards and executed a sliding block from behind, poking the ball away by going between the attacker's feet.
- Justin Meram - The MLS veteran gave The Wall and the rest of the Orlando City faithful plenty to cheer about. He had three shots on the night and was all over the pitch. Meram completed 36 passes on the night, all in the attacking half of the pitch. Those included four key passes and the 93rd-minute pass that set up Jonathan Spector's assist on Stefano Pinho's goal.
- Joe "Freaking" Bendik - Bendik was a beast. When the incompetent PRO Referee crew went to VAR for the first time in the 18th minute they awarded DC United a Penalty Kick. "Super" Joe was equal to the task and leaped left at full stretch, deflecting the shot enough that the went off the crossbar above the goal and would not go in. On the heels of that play, Orlando City gave up two corner kicks to DC United in quick succession, but the defense kept DC United from scoring on the play. Bendik ended with four saves on the night.
- Sustained Attack - Orlando City went on the attack early and fought all the way to the end of second-half stoppage time. Even a man down from the 41st minute, Orlando City controlled the ball for most of the match. The home side led in completed passes 462 to 367, led in passing percentage 82% to 76%, and held possession of the ball 59.1% to 40.9%.
- Red Card to PC - The NFL has instituted a targeting penalty when there is helmet-to-helmet contact on a tackle, and it is supposed to be blind to intent. If we take it as read that striking an opponent in the head is a red card offense in MLS regardless of intent, then I can accept the judgment against PC. But if that was a red card, then Darren Mattocks should have been ejected as well for a vicious blow delivered to the face of Yoshimar Yotun that bloodied the Orlando City player's nose, whether it was intentional or not.
- Inconsistent Officiating - PRO Referee is not competent enough to make calls consistently, and until PRO Referee can prove they are competent enough to call a consistent match, they are unqualified to adjudicate a schoolyard soccer match.
- VAR - Video Assistant Referee was an unmitigated failure in this match. In the 18th minute, a faulty call for VAR led to the incorrect awarding of a PK to DC United for an inadvertent handball inside the penalty area. Will Johnson's hand was down at his side and held next to his body when a crossing shot deflected off his knee and then brushed his hand. In the moment, neither the assistant referee nor the head referee thought it merited a whistle. When the ball went out of play about ten seconds later, the gutless crybabies from DC United whined at the referee like Robin Arryn begging his half-mad mother Lysa to "make the bad man fly" while still clinging to the pleats of her dress. And the streetcorner Ref obediently cowed to his Pennsylvania Avenue pimps like a whipped dog, going to the video screen and returning with the errant judgment of an awarded PK.
Scorecard - My Own Predictions
Last week I made a number of predictions about the match. It's time to pay the piper and give myself a grade for those predictions.
|Formation||4-4-2 (diamond)||4-4-2 (diamond)||This was not much of a stretch to predict, since it is Jason Kreis's preferred formation. I can't take any credit for getting this one correct.|
|Strikers||Mueller and Pinho||Mueller and Meram||Pinho replaced Mueller from the bench and scored the late equalizer. I'll give myself partial credit.|
|Midfield||Meram, Yotun, Johnson, and Higuita||Yotun, PC, Johnson,and Lindley||I was pretty far off here, getting only one of the four players correct in position, and only half of the midfield group overall. I'm not going to take any credit for this prediction.|
|Defenders||El-Munir, Sane, Spector, and Sutter||El-Munir, Tarek, Spector, and Sutter||I got three of four players on the defense and in the correct position. I'll give myself partial credit.|
|Players to Watch||Mueller, Pinho, and Meram||---||I'm going to give myself full credit for this one. Meram was clearly the most creative player on the night. Mueller's energy kept DC defenders chasing him all night, and Pinho scored the equalizer when he came off the bench in the second half.|
|Score Line||3 - 1||1 - 1||I can't claim any credit. Once PC was shown red, it was always going to be a stretch for Orlando City to score multiple goals in the match.|
Overall, I correctly predicted only five of the 11 starters, but 10 of 11 were in the 18. The only one I missed on completely was Cristian Higuita. Cam Lindley looked good starting on the defensive tip of the diamond into the 66th minute, until he was replaced by Richie Laryea. I'll give myself a C- grade for the opening night, and I'll try to do better going forward.
What were your thoughts on the match? Were you heartened by Orlando's energy and activity on the ball? Or did it feel like this is the same thing we've seen from this team in the past few seasons? Let me know in the comments below!