A road win and a clean sheet victory! That sums up the thrilling Friday night match for Orlando City in the City of Brotherly Love. While the home side held the edge in the headline stats of possession and shots, the visitors did a good job of winning the deep stats that often indicate the team that is being more effective in controlling the flow of the match.
If I'm being brutally honest, the Lions also benefitted from a Union side that seemed to put more and more pressure on themselves and play with less and less disciplined attacks as the night wore on. This is not entirely unexpected in a team that has struggled to put goals on the scoreboard so far. As a fan, I'm always happy for my team to get a win, whatever the circumstances are that led to the win. And now for your regularly scheduled Good, Bad, and Ugly recap of last night's game.
- First Clean Sheet - The victory in Philadelphia was the first clean sheet victory of 2018. I was not confident of the team's defensive ability to get a clean sheet, and indeed Philly started the game with an extreme flurry of attacks. Over the course of 90 minutes, Philly fired 20 shots, with six of those being on target. Joe Bendik made six saves, and Orlando City's defense made 26 critical clearances to help reduce second-chance shots. The defense also stood up to a remarkable 14 corner kicks by Philadelphia, many of them delivered by Czech International Borek Dockal. Dockal had 20 assists in the Czech Premier league in a recent season, and I think Orlando City may have benefitted from his late transfer to Philly and the fact that he and his teammates have not completely gelled. I expect him to be a much more effective creator when the teams face each other later this season.
- Turnovers - Both Amro Tarek and Lamine Sane had seven Interceptions, counting for 14 of Orlando City's 29 Interceptions on the night. The two center backs were incredibly active in front of Joe Bendik's goal, creating nine of their combined 14 turnovers inside the final 30 yards of the defensive end, and six of those nine inside the penalty area. Additionally, Sane accounted for five clearances inside the final 12 yards in front of the goal.
- Deep Stat Dominance - Orlando City controlled the scoreboard, and that is reflected in how they controlled three of the most important deep stats for the match. Orlando City won the battle of Duels (63 - 50), Tackles (14 - 10), and Clearances (26 - 17). The team that wins two of these three stats usually wins, and a team that wins all three categories almost always wins. Controlling all of these stats by a statistically significant margin (an average of a 40% margin over Philadelphia across all three categories) gives a picture of a team that is dominating the match, and the two-goal margin of victory reflects that.
- Magnificent Mueller - Last week Dom Dwyer had the impressive run through a gauntlet of defenders on the way to score his second goal of the match. After having more than one defender try to poke the ball away and even falling down, Dwyer managed to still get a toe on the ball and put it into Portland's net. Last night it was Chris Mueller who made the impressive run through traffic on the way to score. Making an angled run from the right side down the midfield stripe, Mueller ran past no fewer than four defenders, including Jack Elliott and Matthew Real, who managed to momentarily dispossess Mueller, but then inadvertently knocked the ball right back to his feet. Credit is due to the rookie for the patience to allow the ball to come back to him and not panic. He continued his run, and when the two defenders blundered, he managed to send a sharp strike screaming along the ground past a sprawling Andre Blake and into the Union net.
- Yellow Cards - The second half of the match got very chippy, and all six yellow cards issued came out in the final 30 minutes. Unfortunately, Orlando City received four of those yellows. Joe Bendik was carded for wasting time and Yoshimar Yotun was booked for Dissent. These are two indications of players allowing their emotions to get the better of them, and to me that makes them more avoidable than cards given for trying too hard, such as the "unsporting behavior" card issued to Mohamed El-Munir and the "Simulation" card issued to Dom Dwyer. It's like the difference between excusable and inexcusable penalties in American football. A false start or an offside penalty at the snap is an error of preparation and paying attention and makes them especially inexcusable penalties, while a holding or illegal hands to the face penalty during the play is the result of giving beyond the maximum effort and thus are more excusable penalties.
- RJ Allen - Allen left the match in the first half after an apparent injury. Cristian Higuita came on in relief and had an excellent match in relief. As of Saturday, I have seen no official word on the type or extent of the injury to Allen, and the loud sports bar where I was watching last night made it impossible to hear if commentators had any information on the issue. Neither Jonathan Spector nor Scott Sutter made the trip to Philly as they were both dealing with injuries.
- Set Piece Giveaways - The one stat imbalance that jumps off the page from the match is when looking at the corner kicks. Orlando City had three corners, but Philadelphia had a staggering 14 corners on the night. It reflects the Union's struggle to score (three goals in five matches through last night's game) that none of those corners resulted in a goal for the home side.
What was the most impressive part of last night's performance by Orlando City in your opinion? Which player or players surprised you with superior play? Were there any Orlando City players that disappointed you with their level of play? Let me know in the comments below!