Analysis: Atlanta United (h). Daddy goes missing as Nani has the last laugh.
In the immortal words of Clock, 'oh, what a night'. I was, unfortunately, unable to experience it at night. Parenting duties called in the morning. As I was sat in my living room, watching the game with my 2-year-old son, I had a sense of trepidation. I had deliberately avoided the score. So imagine my dismay as Josef Martinez flashed one past the superb Mason Stajduhar. I couldn't cope with the stress anymore, the stress of not knowing what happened. I frantically searched for my phone, to check the score. I had decided I was unable to cope with not knowing anymore. Relief washed over me as I saw the Sky Sports final score notification that read; Orlando City 3-2 Atlanta United. What a result. The perfect antidote to last weekend's mishap in the Big Apple. By the way, I'm much more present as a father, than Orlando City's supposed 'daddy', who went missing for much of the evening. Taxi for Josef, please.
This was a game that Orlando City fully deserved to win. Orlando out-fought and out-thought their beleaguered opponents from start to finish. These are the games the Lions have to win, if they have serious play-off ambitions. These games against the smaller clubs are their proverbial bread and butter. The alimentation of our Lions, you might say. Routine wins provide sustenance for a prolonged assault at the conference summit. And whilst Orlando probably made more of a meal of it than they perhaps should've done, it was a comfortable win in everything but the scoreline. On another day the Lions could've had 6 or 7. And yes, I'm done with the food puns.
A special mention for Mason Stajduhar
It's been a long time coming, but Mason Stajduhar finally made his senior Orlando City debut. This young man has had to overcome a lot to get to this point. His well documented battle with cancer is truly an inspiring story. And he could've been forgiven for throwing in the towel, as far as the Orlando City goalkeeping position is concerned. The recent signing of Brandon Austin could've been seen as a kick in the teeth for the Salem, Mass. native. He was undeterred, however. And I'm glad of that, truly.
Whilst Atlanta didn't keep him overly busy, he was solid when called upon. Mason made 1 save and posted an excellent pass completion rate as 100% of his 18 attempts found a purple jersey (figure 1). He also looked confident and assured when barking commands out to his defenders. His XGa rating was a very respectable 0.66, which is reflective of his overall evening. He didn't have much to do, but what he did do, he did well. There was nothing he could do about either goal, which would be the only disappointment for him. They were just 2 great hits.
Figure 1 shows a selection of Stajduhar's statistics, whole 90.
A tall drink of Van Der Water
The term 'sex ball' gets thrown around a lot these days, but the cross VDW provided for Nani's winner... Well, put it this way, I think that particular cross was befitting of the term. When you make a substitution, you're hoping the player heading in can have some sort of impact on the game. The enigmatic Dutchman certainly did that, literally and figuratively. A headed goal and a game winning assist. Oscar Pareja couldn't have asked for more. In 16 minutes he scored 1, laid 1 on and posted an XG rating of 0.43. For comparison, Josef Martinez had an XG of 0.08 in 83 minutes. Nani, who was the best player on the field, had an XG of 0.49 in 89 minutes. VDW just livened up the attack with his intelligent movement and pace. He also has this inherent willingness to drive at defenders and take people on. The guy is class, it's that simple.
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Figure 2 shows a selection of Van Der Water's scoring statistics.
He's our Ruan and only
We're just an entirely different proposition, in an offensive sense, when the Brazilian right-back starts. His marauding runs down the right instantly set teams on the back foot. And whilst he probably doesn't get the goals and assists that he should, he still makes teams panic. This is something we saw repeatedly against Atlanta (figure 3). His engine and pace mean he is able to charge forward, and then make lung busting runs to recover on transition. Against Atlanta he used his possession well; Ruan hit 2 shots, played 2 key passes, drew 1 foul, played 5 crosses and had a pass success rate of 80.6% from 36 attempts.
The fan favourite, interestingly, had 10 of his 60 touches and 14 of his 36 passes (all wide right) from the 73rd minute onwards. What's significant about the 73rd minute, I hear you say? VDW came in. VDW was operating as more of an inverted winger (owing to him being left footed), which allowed more space for Ruan on the overlap. Atlanta were so pre-occupied with VDW, they afforded Ruan plenty of space. This could be a useful tactic moving forward.
Figure 3 shows Ruan's heatmap, full 90.
El Capitao has been nothing short of a revelation since his arrival in central Florida. His 8th goal of the season condemned Atlanta to an 11th game without a win, and rubber stamped our superiority over the Plastics. He had a phenomenal game, and was the best player on the field by some distance. He put up some impressive numbers; 4 shots, 2 on target, 1 goal, 4 key passes, 1 completed dribble and 2 drawn fouls. He posted an 80.6% pass completion rate, which is impressive, as I don't think he played a backwards pass all night. Not many, anyway.
I'm also really enjoying him as a false 9, he keeps opposition defenders guessing with his movement. He roams across that back-line (figure 4) and generally wreaks havoc. He took his goal well, which wasn't an easy chance by any stretch; mlssoccer.com had it rated as 36.54% XG. His movement is excellent for the goal, as he ghosts between the defenders. The cross from Van Der Water is perfect. The chance needed a cool head, and it got one. And no, I'm not just talking about Nani's do.
Figure 4 shows Nani's heatmap, whole 90.
Stajduhar -8- Very good performance. Nothing he could do with either goal, but was a steady pair of hands all evening. Solid distribution too.
Ruan -8- He adds another dimension to the attack, we're just a better team with him in it.
Jansson -7- Seemed to have exorcised the ghosts of last week.
Antonio Carlos -7- Reliable as ever, like New York never happened.
Smith -8- Atlanta got audited.
Rosell -6- Recycled possession well, seems to be getting up to speed on the ball. Lost his mannfor both goals, though. Defence needs work.
Perea -7- Hustled and bustled all evening, is establishing himself as one of our most important players.
Pereyra -7- Not at his brilliant best, as he hasn't been for much of the season, but his pass for the 2nd was sublime.
Nani -9- Best player on the park.
Mueller -6- Some good link up with Ruan, unfortunate not to score. Not consistent enough, though.
Michel -7- Spent much of the game on the wing, but was effective when he drifted into the 9. Unlucky not to get a goal.
Mas -7- Showed some neat touches.
DeZart -6- Came in late to help see things out.
Urso -6- Late sub in with DeZart.
Van Der Water -9- You want your subs to make an impact, I think he did that.
Akindele -8- Literally played for Canada less than 24 hours previously. Not all heroes wear capes.
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