Orlando City vs. New England - Review
It only took 31 matches, but Orlando City looked like they might be onto something in tinkering with the lineup. As a fairly new fan of the sport, I tend to take a rather binary view of players on a roster--either they are effective or ineffective, and I don't always think of how a player might be used in a different position on the pitch to better effect. Fortunately, I don't actually have the power to make personnel decisions. Otherwise, we all would have missed out on seeing what happens when you move a wily veteran from the fulcrum of the offense up to the pointy end.
I owe Kaka an apology for not being more creative in my thinking. I stand by my previous statements that at the 10 position his passes are disrupted too much and the ball gets stolen too much. But that's because our offense has been so anemic that every other team in the league game plans against Orlando City to collapse down on Kaka when his teammates send him the ball in the middle and to smother Cyle Larin when he gets the ball up top. Up until the summer transfer window, when you take away those two players you effectively hamstring the entire Orlando City attack. And even after the transfer window, as long as the club insisted on playing Kaka in the middle you could still disrupt attacks before they started by studying Kaka's tendencies and getting between him and the attempted receiver of his passes.
The more I reflect on this, the more I blame the other players for this. I think that three years into MLS, Kaka's teammates still believe they have to send the ball through the 10 position to make anything happenwhen he plays there. I don't think the Brazilian's ego gets bruised when he doesn't touch the ball on a play, and I think he cares more about helping the team win than any individual glory at this point in his career. I don't know if the player suggested the move to the coach, or if the coaches suggested the move to the team, but pushing Kaka up to the top of the formation takes a lot of defensive pressure away from him and gives him more freedom to be both a creator and finisher. Let's see more of this, please!
The midweek match was historic in more ways than one:
- Antonio Nocerino and Yoshimar Yotun each scored their first goals for Orlando City.
- Richie Laryea registered the first assist of his MLS career on the late Yotun goal.
- The late goal from Dom Dwyer marked his first goal for Orlando City at the home stadium.
- The five goal margin of victory was the biggest since the team joined MLS.
- The six-goal performance was the highest scoring total since the team joined MLS.
I tweeted a truncated good, bad, and ugly recap the other night. As I said then the only ugly thing I could find was having an Oprah wannabe wearing the ref's uniform in the middle. But instead of giving away prizes to the studio audience, the ref was handing out cards to everyone who had a pulse on the pitch. The VAR called for the review on the play that earned Xavier Kouassi's red card. Talk about a hard month--that was Kouassi's second sending off in fourteen days. The first time was in the 7 - 0 loss at Atlanta on September 13.
Orlando City vs. Dallas - Preview and Predictions
Today Orlando City will host Dallas FC in a must-win match for the home side to keep their slim playoff hopes alive. Going into the match Orlando City sits in 9th place with a maximum possible 47 points on the season. Four of the six Eastern Conference spots are already clinched, with everyone else except DC United still fighting for the final two spots. In reality, Orlando City cannot make the playoffs without help, as the Red Bulls and Columbus are both above the line (Columbus is currently on 47 points and NYRB is on 43). If Columbus can manage one point in the final three matches and the Red Bulls can get five points in four matches, then it doesn't matter how well Orlando City finishes the season.
FC Dallas has been on a similar trajectory to Orlando City, though not as dramatic a swing in fortunes. At one time Dallas sat atop the Western Conference table, but they have been in a tailspin of futility lately and have fallen to sixth place. However, Orlando City seems to be stumbling and fumbling its way out of its funk over the past few matches--albeit likely too late to make the playoffs this season--registering two wins in the last 6 games. Meanwhile, FC Dallas has won only a single match in the last six and is on a streak of five straight road losses.
Players to Watch
For the visitors, Maximiliano Urruti leads the team with 12 goals and five assists. He is followed by Roland Lamah with nine goals and three assists, while Tesho Akindele has added four goals. But perhaps the most important player for Orlando to slow down on Saturday will be Michael Barrios. He has only scored two goals, but he has registered a staggering 14 assists on the season, making him far and away the most important playmaker on the team. Mauro Diaz has only one goal, but is second in assists on the team with six, and Urruti's five assists are good for third on the team.
Orlando City's top scorers continue to be the trio of Cyle Larin (12 goals and three assists), Kaka (six goals and five assists), and Carlos Rivas (five goals and five assists). Kaka and Rivas share the assist lead in the team, while they are followed closely by Scott Sutter (one goal and four assists) and Dom Dwyer (three goals and four assists).
I think we may see the duo of Larin and Dwyer or Larin and Rivas at the pointy end of the formation today, and I'm not sure how many minutes Kaka will see after his two-goal performance in the midweek match. I'm hoping that the team's success on Wednesday will instill them with some enthusiasm and confidence, and that we will see another strong outing from the team. We saw a similar turn-around by the Orlando Pride over the last two months after a breakout match, and that form has pushed the ladies into the playoffs. Maybe the same will happen for City and help them at least keep their hopes for the post season alive another week. I'm going to be an optimist and call for that to happen. As such, I'll predict a 3 - 1 win for Orlando City.
What do you think of today's match? Do you believe Orlando City can build off of their midweek performance, or do you think the club simply pulled a rabbit out of a hat for one perfect night and will descend back to mediocrity today? Let me know in the comments below!