Yesterday I said that the road match at Philadelphia Union would be a big road test for Orlando City's MLS side, and this morning I'm sad to report that in my grade book the team received failing marks all around, from the sidelines to the goal box. There is no way to sugar coat it, so here we go with the breakdown of the match in the cold light of day.
- Adrian Winter - In our match preview yesterday I mentioned how Winter would be someone to watch because he is always around the ball and always is involved with the attack. That was true again last night, and Winter had the best two quality shots on goal for Orlando City all night, scoring on his first attempt, and nearly scoring again in the dying moments of injury time at the end of the match. The weather was cold, and the cooler temperatures seemed to agree with Winter, even as they seemed to disagree with everyone else on the squad.
- Kevin Molino - Molino had the assist on Winter's goal, and he was also active in the offense last night. He didn't have his best game, and other than the assist and his general level of attacking there's not a lot to specifically praise about his game. But if you remember last week when I was struggling to find bad things today, this week I'm struggling to find much good to talk about the match last night.
- Top Place Target - It might seem odd to say, but I think one of the best things for the team as a whole is learning what it feels like to be in the lead at the top of the table. Last week we were the hunters at the Citrus Bowl when the defending MLS Cup champions came to visit. This week we went on the road and we were the hunted as the top-place team on the table. If the lads were not expecting it, they quickly learned that when you take the pitch as the top team in the conference, it means your opponent is always gunning to take you down. You could see that in the energy and intensity with which Philadelphia started the match, and after their quick early score, it seemed to energize the home side while Orlando City felt like they were chasing the game the rest of the match.
- Philadelphia's Energy and Effort - I have to give praise where it is due, and Philadelphia really deserved it. From the opening whistle to the final kick of the match, the Union outplayed Orlando City last night. They clearly were the hungrier team and they played with far more energy, enthusiasm, and effort than our lads did. The result was deserved, and based on the way the two teams played, I can't feel like there was any injustice in coming away from the match with no points.
- Poor Defending - The problems for Orlando City came from the initial kickoff. When they kicked the ball back toward Joe Bendik's goal to take opening possession, it seemed to catch some of the Orlando City defenders unawares and the ball rolled much further back toward goal than it seemed anyone anticipated. Philly's players were attentive and reacted quickly, scurrying to the ball and taking possession quickly in the attacking end before the Orlando City defenders seemed to be able to figure out what was going on. Some standouts among the epic defensive screw-ups are worth noting.
- Rafael Ramos - Last week I praised Rafael for showing some improvement and maturity in his composure during the match. He remained poised this week, but he seemed completely distracted during the match and very inattentive. I'm going to blame it on the cold, as the young Latin lad is used to warmer conditions. But he was continually behind the play and out of position last night, and he really deserves an assist on the first Philadelphia goal of the match. Instead of cleanly clearing the ball from in front of Joe Bendik's net, he lazily tapped it across to where C. J. Sapong could direct the ball past our keeper into the Orlando City goal. That was by far the worst of Ramos's errors last night, but it certainly wasn't the only one. Normally Ramos is among the fastest and most energetic players on the pitch for Orlando City, but as I said I think the cold was affecting him because he just didn't seem to be where he was needed to play good defense all night.
- Aurelien Collin - Late in the match last night before Barnetta's winner went in the net, there was a point at which Aurelien Collin nearly scored an own goal as well. Normally he is very emphatic and energetic about clearing the ball away from the net, but late in the second half there was a time where he inexplicably sent the ball back toward keeper Joe Bendik with a whole cloud of Philadelphia attackers around that were ready to chase the ball back to the keeper and try to put it in the net.
- Inaccurate Passing - Normally Orlando City is one of the top passing teams in the league, but last night they barely connected on 75% of their passes. It seemed like half the night our players were chasing down errant passes from teammates, and the other half of the time they were chasing down Philadelphia players who had intercepted bad passes from other Orlando City teammates. It was a very discouraging and lackluster display on the pitch, and we looked completely out of sorts for the whole match.
- Horrible Game Management - I really like Adrian Heath--I really do. He is literally the type of guy you can sit down with over a beer and just absorb wisdom and knowledge of the game from him. When Coach Heath did his weekly Coach's show at Harry Buffalo last season, I used to love walking up to the table during commercial breaks and just getting little pearls of wisdom from him when I would have questions about tactics, formations, strategy, and philosophy related to the game. He always has time for fans, and he is always willing to explain his rationale for the reasons he chooses to do or not do something. I won't pretend I know enough about the game that I always understand why one choice might be better than another, but I always come away from conversations with Coach feeling like I understand the game a little better. And I will always love seeing him on the sidelines coaching our lads. But dadgummit--last night I think the cold must have got to him as much as it did the players. By the 70 minute mark Philadelphia had already made two substitutions, and it wasn't much longer before they made their third. Meanwhile, our lads continued staying out on the pitch just visibly getting colder and more tired and less responsive when Philadelphia would launch attacks or counter-attacks. By the time 80 minutes had elapsed, it didn't feel like there was any doubt "if" Philly would score again, it seemed more like a question of "when" it would happen. There really doesn't seem to be any justification (as an entitled fan, drinking my beer, watching the match on TV--just to give you full perspective) why we didn't start subbing out some players between the 65th and 75th minutes, and why Coach waited until stoppage time to bring anyone off the bench for the dying moments of the match.
- "Super"? Joe Bendik - In the last two weeks I have sung the praises of Joe Bendik. And for 89 minutes of last night's match, Joe did look like the same "Super Joe" we've come to appreciate in the early part of the season. But then at the end of the match he suffered a massive brain freeze. In the final minute of regulation time, Philadelphia's Tranquillo Barnetta was awarded a free kick just outside Orlando City's 18-yard box. It was the second such free kick of the match. The first one curled harmlessly over the net and to the left of the goal. But the second one not so. Barnetta kicked a near-perfect strike that started up and to the right, but then began bending down toward the upper corner of the net. Because of the range and the wall of Orlando City players, he had to be careful not to kick the ball too hard and force it deep into the middle rows of the supporters section. So the ball had pace, but not so much pace that a competent keeper could not react to it. The strike started up, and Bendik just casually watched it, convinced that it was going to continue its arc up, over, and wide of the net. But it came back down and in, striking the bottom half of the crossbar before bouncing on the ground and into the back of the net for a goal, while a stunned and flat-footed Bendik just watched it go in. Now I've seen Joe make some great saves--and he made a few good ones last night. And he has the hops to jump up and catch anything that is coming at the crossbar or even a bit above it. So the ball was in easy reach and there is no reason why he couldn't have at least got a hand on it to flip it up over the goal if he couldn't catch it cleanly and preserve the draw. But as I've pointed out with the rest of this match review, there's no one member of the team (coach or player) whose actions caused the loss--there was plenty of ineptitude on display last night to go around.
Now some may be critical of me for being so critical of the team in today's post, and I can accept that. But I was bitterly disappointed with the fact that Orlando City didn't seem to try to do anything (aside from putting Adrian Winter on the pitch) to give the club a chance to win the match last night. Philadelphia was clearly the better team on the night, and that's about all you can say about the match.
I suppose the best thing is that it's early in the season and this should be a good stinging reminder for the club about the kind of thing they cannot continue to do if they want to remain in the hunt for the playoffs.
What about you? What did you think were the good, bad, and ugly points from last night? Do you agree or disagree with any of my points? Are there factors you think I overlooked that contributed to the loss, or do you think the team played better than I have given them credit for in today's post? Let me know in the comments below!