Analysis: Atlanta United (h). Orlando City dunks on Atlanta's season in 4-1 hammering.
Orlando City headed into this do-or-die clash with some serious question marks hanging over their heads. This team's viability as a genuine MLS Cup contender had been called into question, following a 4-game winless streak. It's only natural that their lofty position in the standings be called into question after such a sequence. Though, let me preface that by saying I do not count the opinions of Messrs. Holden and Lalas in that. Their anti-Orlando bias is, frankly, embarrassing. Both had modest careers, at best. So, I'll take their opinions with a massive dollop of salt.
Ricardo Moreira tweeted about this being a real statement win from the boys in purple. This was absolutely, just that. After a tumultuous opening half an hour, where neither side really got to grips with the game, Daryl Dike decided he'd had enough. Daryl Dike is a frightening prospect for any defender. He makes Chuck Norris seem more like Elijah Wood. He's an absolute beast. I'm sure there is a more eloquent superlative I could use, but I think I'd be doing him an injustice. Dike got the Lions on the board, and from then on there was only one winner.
Orlando didn't just win this game comfortably, they destroyed Atlanta United. And this wasn't just Atlanta being bad, this was Oscar Pareja's team back at their destructive, ruthless best. Had Orlando scored 6 or 7, even the most anti-Orlando onlooker wouldn't have begrudged them such a crushing margin of victory. Oh, hey Alexi.
Tesho Akindele in the 10
There were more than a few eyebrows raised when Tesho lined up in the no. 10 role against Atlanta. Oscar Pareja had said it was something they'd worked on in training. The link between Dike and the midfield has been conspicuous only by its absence over recent weeks. There has been a Mauricio Pereyra shaped hole in this team. Tesho Akindele is a player with a remarkably high football IQ, and has always been good at finding little pockets of space in the offensive third of the field. His movement has always been very good, as he does have the ability to see the bigger picture. His runs often draw out defenders, and he's usually fairly calm in possession. Which tends to lend itself to good decision making.
His statistics during this game don't necessarily jump off the page, for a 10. He played 2 key passes, and attempted 13 passes overall with a pass completion rate of 76.9%. Fairly unspectacular, but by no means poor. I don't wish to focus on those statistics, however. I want to highlight his decision making and movement, which was fantastic throughout the game. If you study the game stills in figures 1 and 2, you'll see exactly what I mean.
Figure 1 is an excellent example of great movement and decision making. He picks the ball up in a pocket of space, just inside their half, and carries the ball forward to the point we see in this still. Dike makes a great arching run behind Anton Walkes. It would be easy for Tesho to release the ball too early, and either force Dike wide or risk an interception. Instead, he holds onto the ball and then slips Dike in. The ball still forces Dike a little wide, but he's much closer to the goal and in a great position. Unfortunately, the young striker is only able to drag the ball wide, but Tesho makes this chance possible with his decision making and movement.
Figure 1 shows Tesho Akindele just before he slots the ball through to Daryl Dike on 22 minutes, with the game goalless. It was Orlando's first real sight of goal.
Tesho's goal is another great example of his intelligent movement. A long free-kick from El Pulpo is cleverly flicked on by Tesho and into the path of Dike, who bulldozes his way past Laurence Wyke and reaches the byline. Tesho, very wisely, checks his run. It can be so tempting to run straight towards the goal for a tap in. And many forward players are guilty of doing just that. Tesho sees the space being vacated by the Atlanta defenders and drops right into it. He has the goal at his mercy from 12 yards out. He also realises that Brad Guzan is covering his near post. He essentially has an open goal to aim at. If he doesn't drop back into that space, and carries on towards the goal line, the move likely comes to nothing. Very clever play, from a clever player.
Figure 2 shows Tesho Akindele take up a great position to really hammer home his team's superiority.
An unsettled first 30 minutes
It wasn't all plain sailing for Orlando in this one; the first 30 minutes of the game were particularly challenging. Orlando struggled to gain any real foothold in the game until Daryl Dike struck on 29 minutes. Up until that point the Plastics had enjoyed the lions share (pun not intended, FCKATL) of the play with 56.4% of the ball. Atlanta out-passed the Lions 188-145 during that time, with Orlando struggling to find any rhythm. Orlando came more into the game from that point, out shooting Atlanta 5-4 and bettering their possession stat (in the 18 minutes of play until half-time) to 48.7% from 43.6% in the first half an hour. Their passing was much more accurate with 49 of their 53 attempts finding a purple jersey. They seemed to grow in confidence, significantly. Chris Mueller's sublime free-kick gave the Lions real breathing space, in terms of the scoreline. Which allowed for a much more dominant display in the second half.
Oscar Pareja's team were happy to let their beleaguered opponents have more of the ball in the second half, as they favoured a conservative approach. Letting Atlanta over expand themselves and pouncing on their mistakes. They won 10 tackles and 3 dispossessions. Hitting them on the break on multiple occasions, which lead to 8 efforts on goal in the second 45, 2 of which found the back of the net. It was excellent game management, from a team who have struggled with just that of late.
Dike in beast mode as Orlando City take control
We'll go into more detail in the next subsection, as Dike was top player this week. Surprised? You really shouldn't be. He was all over the Atlanta back-line like a gingleson's pelt (Google it). His hold-up play is very impressive, as is his ability to run at players. Defenders panic when he is running at them, as we saw with the disallowed goal from Tesho in the first half. He had the Atlanta defence on skates. We're going to have some player on our hands when he matures.
I think I'm going to have to name this section the Daryl Dike appreciation post. For the third week in a row, the young striker has emerged as the top player in this particular subsection. He will undoubtedly make team of the week, but which is the more coveted? Really? Ok, yeah. Good point. Moving on.
Dike had their whole backline on skates all evening. When he checks his pockets this morning he will find; keys, wallet, phone... And Fernando Meza. The rookie out of Virginia had 2 shots, 1 goal, 1 assist, 1 key pass and drew 2 fouls. He also recorded a 92.3% pass completion rate from 13 passes and 23 touches. He didn't have much to feed off, for the first 30 minutes. Which makes his game opening strike (above), all the more impressive. He took Ruan's pass in his stride, before pirouetting and firing the shot into the net with the outside of his foot. He was full of running all evening, and bullied the two central defenders. It's now 6 goals on the season for Dike, and you have to think more are on the way.
Gallese -6- Didn't have a massive amount to do, but will be disappointed with the goal.
Ruan -7- Caused Atlanta some real issues down the right. Got forward at every opportunity to impressive effect.
Carlos -7- Absolute man mountain at the back.
Jansson -7- See above.
Miller -7- Seemed to struggle with Damn, initially. Grew into the game, though.
Urso -8- Full of running and played some very intelligent passes.
DeZart -7- Kept things ticking over well in midfield.
Mueller -8- Stunning free-kick to double the lead with his 9th of the season. The MVP committee may want a rethink.
Akindele -8- Had a great game in the 10, intelligent movement and ball use throughout the game.
Nani -7- Somewhat overshadowed by his teammates, but had a decent game regardless.
Dike -9- His best performance of the season, so far. A goal and an assist for the talented youngster.
Mendez -7- Hit the free-kick that led to the 4th. Provided some much needed energy in the middle.
Aiás -7- Looked lively when he came in. A tad fortunate with the goal, but he won't care and nor do we.
Michel -7- Got into some dangerous areas, and ran their defenders ragged.
Perea -7- Similar impact to Mendez with his energy. Perhaps unfortunate to not score himself.
Alvarado -6- Showed some bright touches.
Game stills courtesy of FS1.