Analysis: Columbus Crew (a). Lions Get Lucky In Ohio
This performance left a bitter taste in the mouth for many Orlando City supporters, this one included. It was probably one of the most passive, insepid performances I have ever seen from an Orlando City team. And yes, before you say I'm aware we came away with a point. But even the most fervently positive fan, would have to admit this was not a point Orlando City's performance merited.
The team looked beaten as soon as they set foot in the field, and if not for two smart finishes from Ercan Kara and Duncan McGuire, they would have been. The body language of some of the players was disconcerting. Pedro Gallese cut a forlorn, frustrated figure. Antonio Carlos teetered on the brink of a major blow out for the entire match. Facundo Torres looked off the pace. There were lots of sagging shoulders. I saw a lot of things that worried me.
Orlando City looked a team on the brink. A team that had lost all faith in its leadership.
Columbus were all over us from the start. They looked by far the better side, which for a team level on points with us going into the game is also worrying.
I'm honestly getting tired of writing pieces like this. I'd love to sit here and talk about having won or a game because Facundo Torres had a bit of license to roam, or because the midfield double pivot worked really well.
But I don't feel I can critique the game plant. I don't know what the plan is. I can't tell you. Not even the players seemed to know, particularly in the first half.
During the post match, Oscar Pareja was asked, by Michael Citero of Maneland, whether the second half substitutions were planned. Pareja seemed to take the opportunity to defend the game plan:
“The idea was the same I'm not going to lie to you. I didn't change anything. In spite of the things that were not working, I didn't think that it was the moment to change the personnel or change the idea. I thought the idea we had was very clear. What we needed to do was execute it better and believe that we can do it much better and the players understood the message and executed and that's what I'm saying. Sometimes it is not if things are not working or the team is overloading, but we were not doing what we can do. That was exactly what happened in the second half. We did our job and the result is that we scored two goals and it could be another one too, so I'm proud of them. I'm proud because it's easy to go to the bottom in the game that you are losing 2-0 in the first half and this is a magnificent reaction. So we'll keep building on these guys that are terrific. I have such a respect for the group.”
“We felt that it was not a need to change players or not even the game plan because it was clear for us and we weren't convinced to change it. What we needed was to execute it well and keep believing in what we are and I saw that energy in the middle of the half in the locker room with the players pushing and the leadership of the guys there. It was incredible. The first goal from Ercan [Kara] brought us back to the game obviously and made us believe in the result and the point that we could want it.”
That's all well and good, but I think most fans would be more patient with the team if they could see what the plan is. But they can't. I can't.
Ercan Kara breathed life into things with his second half strike, before Duncan McGuire's late leveller. The performances of those 2 players and Pedro Gallese in goal were the only real positives for me.
It was a very frustrating watch.
Ercan Kara and Duncan McGuire
Ercan Kara receives a lot of unnecessary flack. He's a system striker, who I believe would be much better off as part of a front two. I will continue to beat that drum.
However, I felt he performed very well as the loan striker against the Crew. Whilst he only had 23 touches of the ball, his movement and willingness to occupy the defenders was very good. His heat map (figure 1) accurately portrays just how well he moved, particularly off the ball. The clips in figures 2 and 3 also show how good his movement and hold up play was. You can argue he should do better with the chance in figure 3, but the point still stands.
Figure 1 shows Kara's heatmap, whole 90.
Figure 2 shows a clip from the first half.
Figure 3 shows a clip from the second half.
Duncan McGuire showed many of the same characteristics when he came on. I've said before, that he reminds me a little bit of Daryl Dike. They're not the same player, but I can see some parallels. I asked Oscar Pareja about this after the game, and he agreed there were parallels, but that Duncan McGuire has adapted to MLS play much more quickly. It feels like he has to nail down the starting spot. Or could be play in a two with Kara? Either way, he took his goal well. We have a player on our hands there.
Pedro's body language read like he was really frustrated for most of the game. And it's not difficult to understand why. Orlando's 3 centre backs really struggled with the movement and direct running of Cucho Hernández in particular. Many times, particularly in the first half, El Pulpo was just hung out to dry. He made 5 saves and had an xGOT of 2.56. I don't think there was anything he could do about either of their goals, but I know we don't get a point without the rest of the saves he made.
As I've already said the big Austrian striker led the line very well and showed excellent composure to finish his chance when Facu Torres put him 1 v 1. It's time to put some respect on his name.
Gallese -7- Kept the score down.
Gonzalez -6- Actually had some bright moments going forward, but was torn up defensively.
Jansson -5- Given the round around.
Schlegel -5- Didn't look up to it at times.
Antonio Carlos -5- Couldn't handle Cucho at all.
Angulo -5- Just could not get into the game.
Araujo -5- Doesn't look like he knows what to do with the ball.
Cartagena -6- Always offered himself up for a pass.
Torres -5- Kara's goal aside he was completely anonymous.
Ojeda -5- Struggled to make any sort of impact.
Kara -8- Worked with what he had, which wasn't much.
Smith -6- I don't get why he came on.
Halliday -6- Same as above.
McGuire -8- Got the goal.
Enrique -6- Came in late.
Dagur Dan -7- Provided some energy.
Orlando City head coach Oscar Pareja
“It was a tough game, against a tough rival. We didn’t show our potential in the first half and they confused us. On one of the sides of the field, we couldn’t control it right away. We had moments in that first half where we could have probably scored a goal and taken that pressure off, but it was hard and even harder when they scored the first goal. I really liked the reaction of our players. I think they really showed their braveness and our character. The second half was great. The players took the game for their own and I saw our team play much more fútbol and having that volume going forward and we tied it up. I think it is a deserved game for us. Again, credit to these players for showing character and our willingness is intact.”
Cover image and top player image courtesy of Orlando City SC.
Media availability and B-Roll footage courtesy of Orlando City SC.