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  • Writer's pictureDan Berridge

Analysis: CF Montréal (a). Tactical masterstroke from Pareja as the Lions clinch.

C'est magnifique. That's the only way I can think to adequately describe this momentous victory for Orlando City. Orlando headed to Québec knowing a point would do, but the Lions thankfully claimed all 3, due in no small part to a tactical masterclass from Oscar Pareja. The Colombian has come under fire of late with some questionable substitutions and tactical decisions. And rightly so, in my opinion. There was nothing questionable about his decision making in Canada, however. The former Tijuana coach made all the right moves, which we shall dissect shortly.

This was a real statement win for Orlando, against a team that's had their number in recent times. It was a very well organised display. One which almost typified the perfect away performance. Orlando's game management was superb, they took care of the ball well and they were clinical in front of goal. Goals in the second half from Sebas Mendez; his first in MLS, and Daryl Dike put the seal on a splendid victory. A road game against Nashville awaits, but you can bet Orlando will head to Tennessee full of confidence after that win.

Tactical masterstroke

Prior to the interval I had some concerns about the amount of time and space Montréal, and in particular Zachary Brault-Guillard, were getting down the flanks. Defensively our shape was too narrow. Emmanuel Mas would often tuck in far too much (figure 1), and the same could be said for Ruan on the other side. This was an on-going theme throughout a rather frenetic opening period.

I don't think this issue can necessarily be attributed to poor positioning on an individual level. I think it was predominantly a team shape issue. If you look at the still in figure 1, Sebas Mendez is central and isn't really picking anyone up (he hasn't spotted the runner behind him), whereas Mas has tucked in to cover the run of Joaquin Torres. Mendez, ideally needs to cover that space on the flank and attempt to snuff out the cross. The only caveat to that, is such a movement would open up space in the middle. Which is what makes the Andres Perea for Silvester Van Der Water change so tactically acute. There's now an extra body in midfield to snuff out that space.

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The shape was interesting in the second half, because whilst it was still essentially a 4-2-3-1, it shifted quite quickly into a 4-3-2-1 in moments of defensive transition (figure 2). Perea and Benji Michel could easily tuck into the inside right and left channels to negate the threat being posed by Montréal's wide players.

The space being allowed to them in the first half led to Brault-Guillard and David Choinière being able to drift wide and cut inside (figure 3). Which caused us problems. However, the shift after the interval strangled the space in the middle, which meant both players were limited to space on the flanks. Not that they had much of it mind you. Both Emmanuel Mas and Ruan were able to shift their positioning wider, knowing they had adequate cover in the centre. This meant that whilst both Brault-Guillard and Choinière had plenty of touches in wide areas (figure 5), they weren't able to do much with it; 19 crosses, 6 blocked, 13 unsuccessful.

Figure 1 is a game still from the first half.

Figure 2 is a game still from the second half.

Figure 3 shows the first half touch map for both Montréal wide men.

Figure 4 shows the second half touch map for both Montréal wide men.

Figure 5 shows the heatmap for Mas and Ruan, whole 90.

Orlando's use of the ball in midfield

Whilst CF Montréal had the lions share of the play, with 55.9% of the overall possession Orlando managed this well. Particularly through Sebas Mendez who was once again the engine room of the entire team; Mendez completed 95.9% of his 49 passing attempts.

Mendez, Mauricio Pereyra and Junior Urso all put up solid successful passing numbers (figure 6). This meant that Orlando were able to recycle possession well. This was particularly important considering that the likes of Antonio Carlos and Robin Jansson were playing more long passes to break out of Montréal's press, thus the concession risk was higher. I think contributed massively to Orlando's pass success rate of 77%; which is a little misleading. Antonio Carlos and Robin Jansson both had pass success rates below 90%; 55.6% for AC and 83.3% for Jansson. Both were playing higher risk passes and long balls (9 for AC, and 8 for Jansson). This meant their concession risk was higher. Both players were attempting to negate Montréal's press, but in doing so the risk of the ball being intercepted in the middle and offensive thirds was higher.

This is what made Orlando's midfield possession play so impressive. Whenever the ball was intercepted or recovered, Orlando were able to regain possession by winning tackles and those second balls (6 interceptions and 13 won tackles). The onus then was on the midfield to be able to hold the ball well. And so they did. This, in turn, helped to alleviate some of the pressure they were under, particularly late on.

Figure 6 shows the number of successful passes made by each player.

PRO referees

Kudos PRO. You actually did something right for once. I've seen more than a handful of protestations from disgruntled Montréal supporters online. Both goals were offside, although the second was a little close for comfort. I'm not going to share a clip of the Camacho foul. Chiefly because it's sickening and incredibly dangerous. It's a red card every day of the week. I'm sorry Montréal fans but, get over it. I can't believe I'm agreeing with PRO. *Vomits*.

Top player

Sebas Mendez

What. A. Goal. Mendez's maiden MLS goal was certainly one to cherish, one that will arguably go down in Orlando City folklore. It wasn't just the goal that helped the Ecuadorian stand out above the rest. It was his tenacity, his passing, his positioning. He's Orlando City's most important player by some considerable distance. His rating of 7.57 is a little unfair if you ask me. Dike will grab the headlines, but this win isn't possible without Mendez.

Player ratings

Starting XI

Gallese -6- Could've bought his cap and slippers out in the second half.

Ruan -7- Got forward well, and defended his one v ones effectively.

Antonio Carlos -7- Solid defensive display.

Jansson -7- Unlucky not to open the scoring.

Mas -7- Used his big game experience well.

Mendez -9- Superb.

Urso -7- Recycled the ball well.

Van Der Water -6- Struggled to get into the game.

Pereyra -7- Played well between the lines.

Michel -7- Energetic performance.

Dike -8- Led the line excellently.


Perea -7- Provided a crucial extra body in midfield.

Smith -7- Came in late.

Akindele -7- Came in late.

Schlegel -7- Came in late.

Rosell -7- Came in very late.

*All statistics courtesy of

Game stills courtesy of Fox 35 Plus.

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