Last night at Camping World Stadium, Orlando City managed to do something a little bit rare this season--they won all three points! It's the team's third home win on the season, balanced against a multitude of draws. The win boosted Orlando City back above the line and into the playoff hunt again. The only match left on the weekend pits a pair of western conference teams against each other, so the 6th place position will hold until at least Saturday when New England plays, depending on the result of their match with Montreal.
Last night saw a return of "Grill the Competition" to our tailgate. One of our tailgate group is a big fan of the Canadian delicacy poutine, and he decided to make the gravy at home and go with a variant that involves corned beef that he discovered in New Orleans on a recent visit. So we dusted off the charcoal grill and we tossed in a bag of frozen french fries to cook. We also planned to have some Donut King donuts (since those Canadians are so crazy for donuts). Unfortunately, I remembered those donuts were still in my fridge when we pulled into the tailgate lot. Instead, those donuts will go with me today to the Pride tailgate party, since they work equally well for a Portland match.
- Cyle Larin - This week Cyle appears in two sections of the match review. The good is that he continues to display his natural ability around the goal, scoring in the fifth minute of play off of a pass from Kevin Molino on a play that was set up by Kaka.
- Sustained Attack - Throughout the match, Orlando City created more and generally better chances than Toronto. In the first half alone, Toronto's goalkeeper Clint Irwin was bailed out by his two "tall white skinny friends," as the great Ray Hudson would say. Both Larin and Kaka hit hard shots off of the side goalposts that would have beat the keeper if they had been a little better angled to deflect into the goal. Orlando City also led in many statistical categories: Possession (OCSC 60.1%, TOR 39.9%), Shots (OCSC 17, TOR 12), and Corners (OCSC 7, TOR 5).
- Cooling Breaks - The MLS introduced these last season, and there were two in the match last night. These may feel like delays to the most old-school purists among the spectators or TV viewers, but they are critical for the health and safety of the athletes on the pitch.
- Kevin Molino - Molino is really turning into a full-blown leader on the pitch, and he reminds me more and more of the USL version of Kevin Molino in terms of the way he can change a game. Last night he had two assists, first on the early goal by Larin, and the other on a second-half goal by Adrian Winter. He now is tied with Kaka in leading assists on the team, with five each.
- Adrian Winter - Winter always seems to work very hard in matches, and too often it seems like he doesn't get anything to show for it on the stat sheet. But last night he scored his third goal of the season in the second half. Winter chased down balls all over the pitch last night, tackling the ball away from opponents and saving it from rolling out of bounds on several occasions to get it to teammates or send it ahead into the attack.
- Tommy Redding - I really like this young man and how he plays defense. Redding is young and confident without being cocky or arrogant. His closing speed is faster than you would think and for a young player he generally avoids fouling the striker he is marking when he tackles the ball away.
- Julio Baptista - He scores and he sets up scores. Last home match he gave us a late lead with a brilliant score off of an energetic run into the box. This match he set up the winning PK by getting into the penalty area and forcing Toronto to foul him hard, bringing him down in the area.
- Cyle Larin - I told you Cyle was appearing twice in my review. I think Cyle fails to fulfill his full potential because he often seems to forget that there are two axes to the soccer pitch. He runs north and south as though he is some sort of Disney conveyance and there is a rail between one goal and the other that he cannot deviate from. To be the best player he can be, he should remember that the pitch at the Citrus Bowl is a full 74 yards wide, and there is nothing preventing him from patrolling every one of them. Often to avoid going offside, Larin will simply stop and watch the game when his teammates are in the defending end of the pitch. This causes a problem because when a counter-attack begins, the only place that Larin's teammates have to send the ball forward is right to the middle of the pitch where the entire opposing team can easily collapse on him. If he would occasionally drift to one side of the pitch or the other, it would at least make some opposing players have to chase him all the way across the field before they could try to steal the ball away, making our counter-attacks more effective and potent.
- Poor Defending - Orlando City seems to suffer emotional and attention lapses on defense at the beginning and the end of each half. Indeed, Orlando City has both scored and given up more goals in the final fifteen minutes and stoppage time than any other team in MLS. The two goals that Toronto scored came in the 47th and the 90th minutes. While Sebastian Giovinco did not score for the visitors, his presence was felt every time he touched the ball. He led many of the counter-attacks and build-ups that came deep into Orlando City territory, including both times when Toronto scored.
- Miscommunication - I see visibility of the individual players for Orlando City improving through the season, but they still don't all seem to be on the same page. Often times when a player like Kaka or Winter sees an opportunity for a pass to open space for a teammate, that teammate is not also seeing the same opportunity. I don't know how much time is spent on signaling to each other in practice, but I would suggest that the team adopt several universal hand gestures for "go long," "back to me," "flare outside," and "go to the middle." And at the same time, teach everyone on the team to look back to the man with the ball so they know where he is looking and where he plans to send the ball when he makes a pass. Maybe that's too basic, but at the very least they all need to sit down tell each other which way they prefer to run and what foot they favor for receiving the ball and taking shots, as well as which way they tend to run when trying to escape an opponent who is marking them.
- Clint Irwin's Injury - The only thing that really was ugly about the game was the injury to Toronto goalkeeper Clint Irwin, who appeared to slip on a late goal kick, much in the way that David Villa slipped on a PK attempt against us several weeks ago in Yankee Stadium. Unfortunately for Irwin, it sounds like he will need an MRI and a possible surgical procedure depending on what the scan reveals. Hopefully for him, the injury is not too severe and he can get back to playing soon.
What about you? What did you like about last night's match? Was there someone who stood out as having a great performance that I didn't mention, or perhaps was there someone who was guilty of particularly poor play that I didn't mention? Let me know in the comments below!