Analysis: Atlanta United (h). Orlando City rue missed opportunities as Atlanta steals a point.
There have been confirmed reports of a burglary occurring at Exploria Stadium, late on Saturday evening. Several witnesses have reported seeing 11 bandits dressed all in white, fleeing the scene with a point that didn’t belong to them. No, this is not an Orange County police department report. But somebody should file one. Seriously, stop reading this. A crime has been committed. Report it. OK, maybe you should read this, and then report it. Whatever.
During a pulsating encounter, Orlando City dominated their close rivals for the second time in a week. Unlike at Mercedes Benz Stadium, however, Orlando City were not able to find the killer blow and snuff all light from this contest. Atlanta retained hope, heading into injury time.
Hope. Ugh. It’s usually our antidote. Our comfort. Out confidant. It’s been nice to replace that with expectation. Hope is the diet of our nearest rivals. It’s what they, currently, feast upon. It’s an ember that burns away in the corner of the dank, dark, lifeless prison that is Mercedes Benz Stadium. That being said, I was really rather hoping we’d dowse that particular flame. For a second time. To paraphrase former Supreme Leader Snoke 'I thought you would be the one to snuff it out, Orlando City'.
Alas. It wasn’t to be. Adam Jahn ghosted in, seemingly from nowhere, to head home a cross and steal a share of the points for the visitors. Pack it in, Adam, you silly bastard! That was my Hot Fuzz, inspired reaction to that goal. I digress.
Orlando seemed to be home and hosed as we entered stoppage time at the end of the second half. A goal from Benji Michel, shortly before half-time, looked like it had handed Oscar Pareja’s men a hard-earned win. A goal that would have lifted them to second place in the east. The boys in purple pressed exceptionally well all evening. They were inventive and progressive with the ball. They seemed to play with a swagger that personified the confidence permeating through the squad just now. Chris Mueller was outstanding, Mauricio Pereyra was a constant menace and Daryl Dike continued to bully Miles Robinson and Anton Walkes. The only way he could've bullied them more, is if he had taken their lunch money.
Orlando's effective use of the high press.
As I alluded to previously, Orlando’s use of the high press was incredibly effective in this game. The way Dike, Michel, Mueller and Pereyra pressed the Atlanta back-line often forced them to play the ball wide. From those wide areas in their defensive and middle thirds, the 5 shites. Sorry, I did it again. Freudian slip, I assure you. Anyway, Atlanta turned the ball over regularly, from those areas. They were unable to play through the middle. It was a remarkably simple tactic, but it worked.
The constant turnovers allowed Orlando to get the likes of Uri Rosell on the ball, in that quarterback role I referenced in the preview. He would then start attacks ad nauseum. If you study the heat map in figure 1, you'll get something of an idea of the areas Orlando pressed in, high up the field. And the passing network chart in figure 2, backs up just how often Atlanta were pushing the ball wide under pressure.
Figure 1 gives you an idea of the sort of areas Orlando's front 4 were pressing in.
Figure 2 is a passing network graphic which shows just how often Atlanta’s centre backs were forced to play the ball wide.
Orlando being exposed against crosses
Something which has become quite an unwelcome theme during phase one, is Orlando’s defensive fragility regarding crosses into the box. Jahn’s equaliser was the 5th such goal conceded since phase one got underway. That’s 5 in 5 games. It’s worrying. Whilst Orlando’s overall defensive improvement has been marked, there are still obvious deficiencies when the ball comes in from wide areas. There have only been 2 clean sheets all season (RSL and Montréal). This is something that is going to need to change, particularly if we come across better teams, in the next phase.
The equaliser (figure 3) is so frustrating. My gripes with this goal are threefold. Firstly, Ruan needs to get closer to Jake Mulraney, who is afforded time and space to pick out a cross. He needs to get closer. He doesn’t even necessarily have to charged down the cross, but he can force him backwards. The Brazilian is just too slow to react, and that’s honestly something I never thought I’d say about Ruan.
Secondly, Kamal Miller. It’s fair to say the promising Canadian defender has had something of a tumultuous return to the team. His first mistake here is that he allows Jahn to get goal side of him. That’s literally one of the first things you get taught as a defender. Do not allow your attacker to get goal side. As a result of that mistake he completely loses Jahn. The forward is already in the air by the time Miller sees him. He’s then in no position to react.
Figure 3 shows how Jahn is able to get goal side of Miller far too easily.
And finally, my third gripe. We never learned our lesson. Not from Atlanta last week, or from Nashville. Or even from Fort Lauderdale. But from 45 damn minutes previously. Cubo Torres (figure 4) was inexplicably able to meander into the penalty area completely untracked, right after halftime. The Mexican was able to get on the end of a cross and head wide, when it was easier to score. It was a huge let-off. A chance borne out of a complete lack of focus. But we didn’t learn. And Jahn made us pay for it.
Figure 4 shows a big let off for Orlando as Torres, unmarked, heads wide.
Ca$h Money Mueller was a constant threat all evening. The USMNT prospect had 2 shots, with 1 on frame, played 2 key passes, completed 3 dribbles and won 4 free-kicks. He was full of running all evening, he pressed well and drove forward every opportunity. He was also economical with his passing. The Illinois native registered a 93.1% pass completion rate from 29 attempts. My only criticism would concern one opening in the first half, where he elected to lay the ball off instead of shooting himself from the edge of the D. He tends to be a streaky player, but he’s undoubtedly adding consistency to his game. If he continues on his current trajectory, a call from Greg Berhalter can’t be a million miles away.
Gallese -7- Another assured performance from the Peruvian. Left exposed for the goal. Will be disappointed to lose his clean sheet in that manner.
Ruan -6- Seemed uncharacteristically conservative. Trademark runs seemed to be conspicuous only in their absence.
Carlos -7- Spurned a great scoring opportunity early doors, but was solid aside from that.
Jansson -7- Enabled Orlando to play out of the back, and through the middle with some intelligent distribution.
Miller -5- Felt he did OK until the goal. Costly error.
Rosell -7- Continues to keep this team ticking along.
Mendez -6- Got into some great areas, but needs to work on his finishing.
Mueller -8- My man of the match. Great energy and running. Was always positive, looking to make things happen.
Pereyra -8- Industrious performance, beginning to justify his DP tag.
Michel -7- Very lively, smart finish for the goal but seemed to run out of steam.
Dike -7- Doesn’t look out of place at all. Great hold up play and intelligent link-ups with his fellow forwards.
Perea -6- Looked positive, though he overshot a through pass to Tesho at a key time.
Nani -7- Came within a whisker of making it 2-0.
Akindele -5- Didn’t really get into the game.
Urso -6- Looked to make a positive impact, a few decent driving runs.
Smith -6- Solid and dependable. Only in for a short period.
All statistics courtesy of whoscored.com and mlssoccer.com.
Highlights and stills courtesy of mlssoccer.com and Fox Sports.