Week 3, MLS.
Second home match of the season for OCSC
Third straight road match to open 2019 for MTL.
OCSC record 0-0-2, 2 points
MTL record 1-1-0, 3 points.
OCSC scored first in chilly Chicago and then, in a fashion that Lions fans know all too well, they surrendered a goal at the death. Literally seconds from the end of 2nd-half stoppage time, CJ Sapong salvaged a draw for the home side on a header that absolutely, positively never should have happened. Seconds earlier, while nursing a one-goal lead, Dom Dwyer and Chris Mueller displayed a lack of tactical thinking by pressing deep into the Chicago defensive end to try to add a second goal.
I call this a lack of tactical thinking because Dom is a player with a known history. He always presses the edge and he always flirts with the offside call. He was called offside making his run, and it gave Chicago a chance to send a free kick booming deep into the Orlando attacking half. The winger saw Sapong open inside the penalty area and looped a lovely crossing shot in, which the striker deflected off of his head and squeezed between a diving Brian Rowe and the near post. Many have blamed the defense in that moment, and it’s fair that Shane O’Neill acted more like an observer of the match than a participant at the moment. But I think many of the trials and tribulations of our defense are created by dumb plays that happen elsewhere on the pitch. I would say that equally or more at fault than O’Neill and Rowe in allowing that goal you have to put some blame on the normally reliable Chris Mueller.
Chris Mueller is young, but he needs to learn to keep his head when he has the ball at his feet. Not 30 seconds earlier, Dom Dwyer had been steering the ball toward the corner flag on the right hand side of the pitch until Bastian Schweinsteiger managed to tackle the ball away and off the Orlando City striker for a goal kick. That was the correct strategy by Dwyer, and Mueller could have done the same. Mueller had an opportunity to do maintain possession toward the corner flag down the left side of the pitch with under 30 seconds left in the match.
Instead, he picked his head up and saw Dom across the field and in a fit of youthful exuberance and tasting a chance to get some glory he passed the ball across, but the offside flag came up. And of course we all know what happened next. Another thirty or forty seconds of sustained possession in that moment clinches the game and the whistle blows with Orlando City stealing all three points on the road. I have faith that the coaching staff and the veteran players on the team will help Mueller learn that lesson. I hope that when he next gets a chance to show he’s learned it he passes the test with flying colors.
OCSC and MTL: Team Comparisons
The Impact and the Lions finished the 2018 season with both teams missing the playoffs. However, the agony had to be worse for Montreal fans, as they finished in 7th place on 46 points, only one place and four points out of the playoffs. Meanwhile, Orlando City finished 11th on 28 points. Both sides had four draws last season, but Montreal managed 14 wins while Orlando City managed only eight on the year.
This season Montreal has one win, and Orlando City has not yet tasted defeat in 2019. If Orlando City want to have everyone outside their locker room consider them a threat to make the playoffs this season, they have to start by winning matches at home. In 2018 the Lions only won six of 17 home matches, and a home winning rate of .353 is not going to be sufficient for making the post-season in any league.
In terms of players to watch, Orlando City’s midfield and attack seems poised to break out almost any game and start lighting up the scoreboard. I know that as an Orlando City fan hope can be a dangerous thing. Still, I’m seeing flashes of brilliance and repeated promises of the dominoes falling into place for the squad. I hope the frequent flyer miles that the Impact have been racking up will keep them just fatigued enough that Orlando City can exploit their defense and put on a strong showing in front of the home fans. One thing that is good to see in the table below is how many different names show up leading or tied for the lead in various categories.
This year I feel like I’m watching the soccer equivalent of Scott Frost’s 2016 UCF Knights football team. That was the year you could start to see passes completed to six, seven, or eight players a game and see four or five different players rushing for effective yardage week in and week out. You started feeling like there was no longer one single player that the opposing defense had to try to swarm and stop in order to beat the Knights. If our attacking players can continue to build on the start they’ve had, Orlando City can become the kind of soccer team that can be a threat to score from every position except the goalkeeper, and that could make it very tough for teams to try to defend what Coach O’Connor and his team want to try to do.
For the Impact, there’s one name that fans in Orlando worry about: Ignacio Piatti. Historically, he is the engine around and through which the Montreal attack is built. But so far in 2019 he does not sit atop the leaderboard in any of our “players to watch” categories. Still, he bears special mention—because anyone who overlooks Piatti does so at their peril.
Impact de Montreal - Season to Date
|Goals Scored||3||Goals Allowed||3|
|Shots||17||Shots on Target||4|
Impact de Montreal Players to Watch
|Scoring Leader:||Saphir Taider||2|
|Assist Leader:||Saphir Taider|
|Shot Leader:||Saphir Taider||7|
|Passing Leader:||Micheal Azira||96.2%|
|WSC* Rating:||Saphir Taider||7.66|
*WhoScored.com player rating
Orlando City Stats - Season to Date
|Goals Scored||3||Goals Allowed||3|
|Shots||15||Shots on Target||6|
Orlando City Players to Watch
|Scoring Leader:||Chris Mueller|
|Shot Leader:||Kyle Smith|
|Passing Leader:||Sebastian Mendez||91.4%|
|WSC* Rating:||Will Johnson||7.06|
*WhoScored.com player rating
Starting XI Prediction
The team is playing with energy, and I feel like Coach O’Connor is tweaking pieces now moreso than going to the drawing board every week. I was shocked to see Dom Dwyer play 70 minutes last Saturday after Tesho Akindele was hurt, but he was obviously ready for that kind of workload, with the possible exception of losing some focus near the end of the match that contributed to some of the errors that gave away the equalizing goal at the death. This weekend will be cool by Florida standards, so I think Dwyer can start and give the team a good 70+ minutes.
I’m not sure Ruan is ready to start just yet, but I believe he will come on and see significant time in the second half.
Orlando City continued to show flashes of promise in Chicago. Nani showed his quality in his first start, Dwyer scored one goal but missed at least two more golden opportunities to strike the ball, and Ruan got into the game and immediately had an impact, earning a free kick in a dangerous area that also saw a Chicago player ejected.
Orlando City also showed us too much of the same nonsense we saw last year. They failed to have a killer instinct inside the box. They switched off defensively in stoppage time. They had mental lapses and played poor tactical football for the circumstances and situation of the game, which cost them their first road win of the season. And most concerning of all, the injury bug started biting. Tesho Akindele left the match early, and subsequent reports have said it is an unspecified "lower body injury" and we'll likely not know how serious that is until a few days into training this week.
Montreal has already won on the road this season. I know they would love to make it two road wins in a row. I think Orlando City will get a result, but I'm not so confident they will pull out a victory. So I will say it's a 1 - 1 draw with the Montreal goal being scored from an Orlando City mental lapse in an otherwise pretty good defensive game.
What are you expecting to see? Do you think Orlando City can defend our fortress and get 3 points at home? Let me know in the comments below.