Yesterday on a gorgeous evening the newly-christened Camping World Stadium was the site of a tense and exciting match between MLS sides Orlando City SC and the New York Red Bulls. The match featured the first time Orlando City fans had a chance to see Aurelien Collin play in a New York Red Bulls kit, and it also ended with eight yellow cards and a straight red being issued by referee Ted Unkel.
The match played out to a 1 - 1 draw, which felt unsatisfying for many reasons. Orlando City seemed to have better chances to score additional goals, but on the aggregate it felt (from my vantage point in the stands) as though the Red Bulls played a better match overall, so I am sure the fan bases, players, and coaching staffs of both teams felt dissatisfied with the result. For now, we'll take a closer look at what went well and what did not.
- One Touch Shooting - I'm encouraged that Orlando City is getting better at aggressively leaping on chances to shoot when they present themselves. A big complaint I had about many of our young players last season was a tendency to try to wait for the "perfect" shot when they got the ball near the goal, inevitably leading to being swarmed by defenders and losing any chance to shoot. Last night's goal by Kevin Molino showed no hesitation, and Cyle Larin had three shots last night on the first touch. Orlando City also outshot the Red Bull 12 - 5, and more importantly had more shots on goal (4 - 2).
- Hustle - There were several times that Orlando City players saved balls that were passed too long by teammates, and other times that our lads jumped on misplayed balls by the Red Bulls. Most often I noticed Rafael Ramos, Kevin Molino, and Darwin Ceren making these plays. In addition, during the second half Rafael Ramos made a great save on the goal line after a diving Joe Bendik deflected a shot back to the feet of another Red Bulls player, and the young Portuguese saved what would have been a go-ahead goal for the visitors. This was the best chance the Red Bulls had in the second half, and it was well played by the young defender. The hustle by our players allowed Orlando City to have a slight edge in possession (50.4% to 49.6%) and they were marginally better in passing accuracy (73% to 72%). Most notably, it gave us a dominant advantage in corner kicks (7 - 0).
- Rivalry - There is a real sense that Orlando City and the Red Bulls are developing a nice rivalry. Both teams clearly feel like a victory over the other club means something special to them, and that makes for exciting viewing for the fans. That added element of the tension between clubs helps us feel a stronger bond with our team and a more visceral passion against the opponents.
- Luis Robles - Often I point out how well our keeper, Joe Bendik, plays in matches. But last night I think it's worth noting the excellent play of Red Bulls keeper Luis Robles. He made three saves, two of which were within a second of each other as he deflected a powerful shot from Kaka that originated just beyond the penalty spot, and then smothered a low blast from Cyle Larin who was trying to sneak the ball under and past the keeper. While it was frustrating to watch as a fan of Orlando City, I couldn't help but tip my hat to the keeper for his great play.
- Lack of Flow - Most of the bad this match can be laid at the feet of both teams, and is probably offset by some good things that each squad did. But neither team seemed to be able to build up any flow last night because they were always being disrupted by the other team. Some of this comes from the tension and passion of the rivalry I mentioned earlier, because the game was really chippy. There were lots of hard fouls and takedowns and emotional outbursts by players on both sides against opponents and officials throughout the match.
- Undisciplined Play - In a rivalry game, there are two possible impacts of the rivalry on the players. The first is that players can be more focused; the second is that players can get carried away with their emotions. Unfortunately the latter was on display last night. Referee Ted Unkel went to his pocket nine times during the match last night, handing out eight yellow cards, and at least seven of them were cards that sprang from players getting too emotional and losing their cool. In fact, two of the four yellows on Orlando City were for downright dissent, including the ones on Rafael Ramos and the normally level-headed Kaka. It's clear that the Red Bulls were out to push the buttons of our younger players last night, and there were many times they succeeded in making our lads boil over in ways I have not seen them do much this season. In fact, I've praised Ramos in previous matches for playing a more disciplined game, but last night the old Ramos was back and allowed his frustration to get the better of him on several occasions.
- Uncomfortable Nocerino - Many fans were excited when the club signed Antonio Nocerino just prior to the season this year, but we've not seen the kind of impact from him that we've been hoping to see. Quite frankly, I think he looks a bit uncomfortable out on the pitch, as though he's trying to figure out how he can best contribute to the club and this is leading him to misfire on a lot of plays. I have seen him be out of position more than most players, putting poor touch on passes (too far or too short), and looking like he's still struggling to be match fit based on being outpaced by many opponents in MLS. I hope that this is just an adjustment period and we will see better play out of him going forward. Otherwise I'm not sure he should be getting as many minutes as he is.
- Lagging Shea - Normally Brek Shea flies up and down the pitch like a gazelle with those long legs and that flying mane of blonde hair. But last night it seemed that he didn't have as much impact as we usually see. There were several times that I thought I saw him hobbling as he started runs, so I'm not sure if he's fighting some soreness or a minor strain or injury that's keeping him from feeling like he can push as hard as he usually does.
- Sloppy Shooting - I mentioned earlier that one of the good things I noticed was the first touch shot, but now I'm going to be a little critical of my team, because they were guilty of being a little sloppy with their shots last night. I praised the team for outshooting the Red Bulls, but out of Orlando City's 12 shots, only 4 were on target, meaning that 8 had no chance even before the intervention of any Red Bulls defenders.
- Too Many Turnovers - This is getting to be a theme in my match recaps, but the numbers don't lie. Last night the Red Bulls had significant margins in both Duels Won (69 to 45) and Tackles Won (23 to 9). I think our players need to work on limiting the reckless turnovers. This is part of what contributed to the lack of flow for Orlando City that I mentioned before. One of the things that I think hurts us is a little is being over eager, and I continue to say that the team tries for too many low-percentage long-range passes to try to get quick strikes on the opposing goal instead of displaying more patience and building up to a better quality shot.
- Cards, Cards, Everywhere - Ted Unkel has a reputation for throwing out a lot of yellow cards, and that was reflected last night. He issued four yellows to each team, and frankly I think he could have issued a lot more. What bothers me most about referees like this is that after you start showing so many yellows you almost have to start being more subjective on when to card and when not to card, and that leads to a lot of inconsistent calls.
- Substitution Shortage - I talked about frustration with the draw in the opening of my post, and I think the biggest frustration I felt is over the lack of using subs in the match yesterday. I felt like there were so many reasons we should have used more subs in the match last night, among them the proliferation of yellow cards and the spark that our subs have provided in the matches where they have been well used. Now before I fall into the trap of many fans who think that sitting in the stands or writing a blog gives them enough knowledge to know how to play or coach a match, I will admit that I don't have the chance to see the players in practice during the week, and I can't assess how they feel or look with each other compared to the players selected for the starting lineup. I will admit that my hope was that somewhere between the 65th and 80th minutes we would see Adrian Winter and Julio Baptista get into the match, and I thought that it would have been easy to sub out Antonio Nocerino and Brek Shea based on the way they looked on the pitch during the match. As a fan I don't think I'm alone in feeling that those would have been good subs, but I have no idea if Julio and Adrian were feeling 100% fit, or how well the two practiced during the week. I will say I appreciated a comment that Coach Heath made on SoccerCast a couple of weeks ago with Tom and Dan, where he said that he wished the fans that were critical of his decisions would tell him what to do before the match. So I'll simply offer this suggestion: Coach, if you ever run the same Starting XI again that you did last night, then sub in both Baptista and Winter before the 70th minute. So there you go.
What about you? What did you think the team did well in the match, or how did you see them stinking up the joint? Let me know in the comments below!