A stopped clock is right twice a day, and that's about how I look at my correct prediction of a 1 - 1 draw with San Jose last night. Ten days ago, after the brutal 4 - 0 drubbing at Houston, I don't think I was alone in feeling like a draw would be a good result at the next midweek match after traveling all the way across the continent. But in the cold light of the morning after the match, it feels a little less than satisfying.
- Depth Returning to the Roster - Although he didn't see any minutes, I was pleased to see that Seb Hines was healthy enough to be put in the 18-man selection for the match by Coach Jason Kreis. He's been out for months from knee surgery, and I wasn't sure we would see him at all this season. But he and Rafael Ramos both played significant minutes in a recent OCB win as they work their way back into match fitness, and it's good to see that with the frenetic schedule of multi-match weeks upcoming, we'll have more able-bodied players available to help players get some rest.
- Lineup Lab Chemistry - Coach Kreis made some significant changes from the usual lineup for the match last night, and when the Starting XI were announced I had to wonder if the move was a touch of madness or of inspiration. PC was at left back in place of Donny Toia and Leo Pereira was also in the back line in the place of Jonathan Spector, who was not even in the 18-man lineup. Toia had struggled a bit against Sporting KC, so it was not a surprise to see him out, and Spector has done enough to earn a night off, but I was still a bit surprised to see someone so relatively inexperienced put in for him. If not for the U20 World Cup, we might have expected to see Tommy Redding in that role who is also very young, but has a lot of matches at the MLS level under his belt.
And those weren't the only changes. Of the Starting XI who took the pitch on Saturday, only five also started on Wednesday night: Cyle Larin, Will Johnson, Scott Sutter, Jose Aja, and Joe Bendik. The rest of Wednesday's Starting XI came from Saturday's reserves, and two players were given the day off entirely: the aforementioned Spector and Antonio Nocerino. Taking the place of those players in the 18-man lineup were Seb Hines and Tony Rocha, neither of whom saw action on the pitch.
- Bench Scoring - After playing San Jose to a scoreless draw in the first half, Jason Kreis made his first substitutions at the 63rd minute, bringing in Kaka for Giles Barnes and Carlos Rivas for Luis Gil. And in the 81st minute the two South Americans combined with PC to create magic. As Rivas drifted toward the penalty area in the middle of the pitch, Kaka dribbled the ball up to the top left corner of the area. The Captain poked the ball forward to PC, who was curling in from the left flank, and he sent a long crossing pass through traffic all the way to find Rivas in the middle of the pitch. By this time Rivas had started his run, and met the ball almost exactly at the penalty spot. And then Rivas did something unexpected. Instead of pouncing on the ball and trying to drive it as hard as he could toward goal, he tapped a beautiful side-foot shot toward the back right corner of the net, beating both goalkeeper David Bingham and defender Victor Bernardez on the play.
- Over the Bar is for American Football - Sometimes I wonder if these lads are color blind and have problems recognizing geometric solids. Just to review, in Association Football or Soccer, the ball is a sphere and generally white, and the object is to kick it between the upright posts and UNDER the crossbar of the goal mouth. Sometimes I think you believe you are playing American Football, where the ball looks like a brown pointy-ended egg and has laces on it. That's the one you are supposed to kick OVER the crossbar to earn three points. My tweet of the match award goes to MLS Armchair Analyst Matthew Doyle, who supplied this gem:
- Missed Chances - Several of our players narrowly missed some great chances last night, including Cyle Larin, PC, and Kaka. Larin missed putting away a header early in the match from a Will Johnson free kick. The ball went over the bar, but it looked to our viewing group like the ball slightly deflected off of a defender before Cyle could get his head on it. Closer review later showed the ball didn't touch the defender, and Cyle just got too much under it and not enough on the side of it to deflect it toward the goal and instead put it over.
Later in the first half, PC took a long-range strike from the field that beat all the defenders and the goalkeeper. The one thing he couldn't beat was the netminder's long white skinny friend, the top bar of the goal, which rejected the shot with authority and sent it back into the pitch.
And then in the first minute of second-half stoppage time, Kaka had a beautiful one-on-one chance against keeper David Bingham. Bingham went low and stuck out his foot for a nice kick save, when all the Captain had to do was flip the ball up and over the keeper and it would have rolled uncontested into the open net. Yes--I know it's easy for me to say that sitting at a computer, but Kaka is one of those players who makes the rare shots look easy many times, and that would have been a beauty to add to the highlight reel.
- Did I Miss the Zamboni? - I could have sworn the teams were at Avaya Stadium to play soccer, but the home team acted like they thought they were at the SAP Center for an NHL game instead. There were more pull-downs and trips and forearm shivers delivered by San Jose in that match than you sometimes see in whole evening of UFC undercards. The primary punching bag on the night appeared to be Matias Perez-Garcia, the diminutive midfielder that Orlando City traded from San Jose for Darwin Ceren shortly after Jason Kreis was named head coach last season. All those California people are pretty weird--I don't know, maybe that was just their way of telling MPG how much they missed him.
- One Lapse, One Goal Redux - Readers of my Orlando Pride posts will know that the lone goal the ladies gave up in their home win against North Carolina came on a bad giveaway and a defensive mental lapse. There was another such lapse on Wednesday night for the MLS side as nobody marked Chris Wondolowski at the left corner of the goal. It was a set piece play that came in to Tommy Thompson up near the top of the penalty area. Will Johnson on the right side of the six yard box was playing very close to the goal line, and he started backpedaling toward the formation as Thompson's pass came forward to find Wondolowski. But Johnson's move came too late, and it left Wondo onside and completely uncovered to simply extend a foot a poach a goal from point blank range. After considering all the minutes the team has played in the last few days I can't work up the energy to be too angry about the lapse, especially given all the chances Orlando City had to put more than one score on the board.
What were your thoughts on the match? Were you happy Orlando City came away with a point, or did you feel like they let two points slip away and they should have brought home a win? What did you think of the performance of the drastically changed lineup from Saturday's match, and do you think it shows the team now has greater depth? Let me know in the comments below!