Last night Orlando City was on the road for the last match under interim head coach Bobby Murphy, and each half looked like it was taken from two separate matches. In the first half Columbus raced out to a 2 - 0 lead and it didn't seem like Orlando City had any answers. Then Bobby Murphy must have delivered the halftime speech of brief career as head coach, because the team came out determined not to return to Orlando empty handed.
- Second Half Possession - I mentioned each half seemed like it came from a different game. As inept and lethargic as the squad looked in the first half, they looked the polar opposite in the second half: energized, intense, and determined to avoid a loss. In the second half, Orlando City had a bit over 54% possession.
- Second Half Scoring - In the 65th minute Kevin Molino scored unassisted to get Orlando City on the board, and five minutes later Molino had an assist as Cyle Larin scored to draw the match level. Molino continues to show that he was indeed ready to transition from USL to MLS and the club was smart to keep him.
- "Super" Joe Bendik - The Orlando City keeper had seven saves on the night, and nearly saved his second PK of the season. In stoppage time at the end of the first half, Columbus was awarded a PK after the referee judged that Bendik took down Ola Kamara in the penalty area. Kamara's PK attempt went to keeper's left and that's the direction Bendik leaped, but the ball was perfectly placed to carom off the back edge of the goalpost and into the net. The ball was struck with just enough pace that even Joe's Superman leap wouldn't let him stretch out fast enough or far enough to stop the shot.
- More Engaged Play - I've griped about Cyle Larin in the past for not being engaged when the team gets back on defense. But several times last night I saw him racing deep into our defending third of the pitch when the team needed more numbers to help try to stop scoring attempts. It's possible that in his message to the team Coach Kreis made it clear that strikers playing only offense is not good enough to be on the squad, and that Cyle is taking this message to heart. I also saw a number of times where the defense broke down by overrunning plays instead of by simple ball watching. If a player makes a mistake because he tries and guesses wrong, that's acceptable as imperfection, which is what I saw last night. When a player simply watches the other team play and expects someone else to do something about it, that's unacceptable laziness, and that's something I've seen way too much out of our team this season.
- Kaka's Return - We can end the missing persons report on Kaka, but we can't cancel it altogether: now we need to get Brek Shea's picture put on the milk carton. The Captain returned to the pitch in the second half last night, and it seemed to spark the team awake. He was subbed out for Julio Baptista--personally I would have liked to see Baptista and Kaka on the pitch together--and it seemed the team came alive. Within minutes of his return the match was brought level. Even though he has not played in top form this season, I think his presence still commands such attention from the opponents that it opens more space for our more prolific scorers like Molino and Larin.
- First Half Possession - Remember how I said the match looked like each half came from separate games? Remember how Orlando City had the possession advantage in the second half? In the first half it was horrible: Columbus had a 55.3% possession advantage, which gave them an overall edge in possession for the match (53.5% for CLB, 46.5% for OCSC).
- First Half Scoring - Orlando City were shut out in the first half, and they didn't even have success in creating many opportunities for themselves during the opening 45 minutes. It seemed like every first or second touch by the club resulted in turning the ball over to Columbus. The only notable exception was a burst of offense in the seventh minute that saw Cyle Larin shoot on a tight angle that saw the ball bounce off the near side goalpost and out of bounds.
- Defensive Skill Level - There have been so many problems with effort this season that it's been masking the fact that our defenders just aren't good enough to keep up with the top strikers in the league. I'm not saying they are unskilled or that they don't sometimes make great plays, but they just don't have the combination of speed and agility required to consistently beat and stop the attacks of opposing strikers without committing fouls. Some of them are too slow to keep pace, and some of them get caught up chasing the ball instead of staying focused on the man they are marking and thus drift out of position and are constantly racing to try to recover. The first goal for Columbus last night resulted from a true "Keystone Kops" moment related to this defensive shortfall. The goal happened when Seb Hines inadvertently ran a pic play against Servando Carrasco, letting Tony Tchani have an uncontested one-on-one shot at goal against Bendik. Tchani's shot was low and skipped under Bendik's arm as he dove for it. But if Hines and Carrasco had not collided, it's likely that Servando could have at least harried or disrupted Tchani enough to keep him from being able to pick the angle and timing of his shot as he wanted. Fixing this defensive deficit of the team is one of the top priorities of Coach Kreis, in my opinion, and I'll be excited to see what new signee Jose Aja can add to the squad when he gets his chance to play.
- Another Draw - With 20 games in the books and 14 more left to play, Orlando City could set an MLS record for draws. They are sitting on 11 draws for the season, and need only 7 more to match the Chicago Fire's league record 18 draws, set in 2014. If they draw 8 of their final 14 matches, they will eclipse the records and get into the history books defying expectations... for mediocrity.
What were your thoughts on the match? Did the energetic play make you optimistic for the rest of the season under Kreis? Or did the draw make you dread that we're going to be seeing more of the same from this squad for the rest of the season regardless of the coaching change? Do you think there is any hope for some of the existing roster of defenders if Coach Kreis deployed them differently, or do you think he just needs to upgrade the entire back line? Let me know in the comments below.