It feels nice to not be writing an angry rant this week. This was a thoroughly deserved victory for Orlando City who were excellent in the transition game. Mauricio Pereyra was in imperious form. Ruan was electric down the flank, as well as Benji Michel and Facundo Torres. There were a lot of positives to take from this game.
It was obvious that Charlotte, who most odds sites have as an outside bet for the play-offs, had come to Exploria Stadium with the intention of getting something from the game. This was something that actually played into Orlando's hands. Charlotte do have some excellent ball players in midfield, but the Lions pressed well.
The only blotch on the proverbial copy book was probably the penalty. In a shocking twist, a PRO referee got a big decision right. Some might see the penalty decision as a soft one; and I can certainly see why. However, it was a clumsy challenge from Rodrigo Schlegel. He loses sight of his runner and body checks him ever so slightly. It's enough to justify the penalty call for me.
The Uruguayan playmaker was integral to everything Orlando did in an attacking sense. He was so important to everything Orlando were doing on the ball. Pereyra's movement was fantastic, he played between the lines really well (figure 1). Charlotte were alive to his threat too, getting touch tight to him whenever they could. They resorted to the dark arts on more than one occasion (figure 2).
Charlotte were so concerned about Pereyra they would often get drawn out of position to try and counter his one touch passing. This is a dangerous tactic because it requires absolute concentration and awareness of his movements. And because his movement was so good, this was almost impossible for Charlotte. An example of this can be seen in figure 3. He drops into a pocket and supplies a sublime through ball for Ercan Kara.
Figure 1 shows Mauricio Pereyra's heatmap, whole 90.
Figure 2 shows a game still from the first half.
Figure 3 shows a game still from the first half.
Effective counter attacking
Orlando's counter attacking play was sublime at times. And it had to be, with Charlotte monopolising 58% of the possession. I think that was an intentional strategy though, as Charlotte like to push their full backs high (something I highlighted in the preview), there were a lot of gaps in those areas. Orlando will have had the mindset of pressing at the right times to recover the ball and hit them in transition.
Charlotte also held a strangely narrow defensive line at times, particularly on Orlando's left. It's almost like they were expecting Benji Michel to tuck inside and occupy the half space a lot more. We see it with the first goal (figure 4), as Benji pulls into a wide area and exploits the space.
Figure 4 is a clip showing Ruan's goal.
Orlando seemed to know that Charlotte were going to try and dictate play in the middle. As I highlighted in the preview Brandt Bronico was dropping into pockets of space in front of the back 4 (figure 5) and was attempting to orchestrate proceedings with his passing (93% pass completion on the night). Orlando were letting him do that to a certain extent, before recovering the ball in wide and forward areas (figure 6). It was an effective tactic, as Charlotte gained very little attacking headway relative to their possession; 439 passes, only 8 total shots for an XG of 0.32 from open play. They then had to go through the middle, which suited Orlando down to the ground with Cesar Araujo and Junior Urso protecting the back 4.
Figure 5 shows Brandt Bronico's heatmap, whole 90.
Figure 6 shows Charlotte's possession loss positioning matrix, whole 90.
It'll come as no surprise to most of you to see Ruan as this game's top player. The popular Brazilian notched a goal and an assist. His play for Torres' goal was unselfish, intelligent play. His fotmob.com rating of 8.7 tells its own tale. He completed 73% of his 43 passes, completed 3 interceptions and 3 recoveries. It was good to see him back to his best.
Gallese -6- Didn't have much to do.
Moutinho -7- Defended well, and got up and down the left well.
Jansson -7- Solid game overall, clever assist for Ruan.
Schlegel -7- Penalty incident aside it was a solid enough performance.
Ruan -9- Very good performance.
Urso -7- Provided energy in the middle of the park.
Araujo -7- Broke up the play well.
Torres -8- Some lovely interplay and a well taken goal to boot.
Pereyra -9- Unlucky not to get the top player accolade. I'm sure he's devastated.
Michel -7- Lively movement.
Kara -7- Led the line well, good outlet.
Perea -6- Provided fresh legs in midfield.
Van Der Water -6- Helped see the game out.
Pato -7- Couple of vital defensive actions late on.
Mendez -7- Helped to keep possession late.
Smith -6- Helped to shore things up at the back.
Head Coach Oscar Pareja:
“It’s good to get back to good results. The victory, the three points, the goals, and the first half are the things I would highlight today. Mauro [Pereyra] setting a record with assists, Robin [Jansson] as well with an important honor with 100 games. All of those things are positive and we enjoy the victory, but our responsibility as well as the coaches is to see that in the second half we did not dominate that much so we need to become a team that has consistency throughout the game. I’m very pleased today with the effort of the players coming off a difficult result and getting this one, it was great.”
Top player image and cover image courtesy of Orlando City SC.
B-roll and media availability footage courtesy of Orlando City SC.