Analysis: Columbus Crew (h). Orlando Clinch, But There Are Still Questions To Be Answered
Phew. That was unnecessarily stressful. Orlando City clinched their place in the Audi MLS Cup play-offs with a dramatic, albeit barely deserved, win over the Columbus Crew. I know I'm probably about to come off as negative as a millennial Star Wars prequels hater, but I still think this team has some serious question marks over it.
Don't get me wrong, I'm absolutely delighted that we have secured our place at the post season party. Thrilled. And I would have taken just this at the start of the season, let alone a trophy. The US Open Cup was amazing, and will be a history defining moment for this club.
That being said, I still have my doubts. I don't believe Oscar Pareja is the man to take this club to the next level. All season long, we have been tactically predictable. We seem absolutely married to this notion of a 4-2-3-1. Our home record has been poor. The team has notched 9 wins and 8 defeats. We do not have a deep enough squad, which is why rotation is such an issue. We rotate on the road, and invariably succumb to defeat. We went into the season with 3 senior central defenders.
The squad building was not done well. That's not to say we haven't made some solid acquisitions. I don't think we play to Ercan Kara's strengths at all, but he's shown what he can be capable of. Facundo Torres has been a revelation. I'm a huge fan of Cesar Araujo, Ivan Angulo and Wilder Cartagena. Whilst others, like Jake Mulraney have been duds. I just don't think enough was done. The team wasn't strengthened in the right areas. No depth at centre-back. None at left-back. Not much up front. It's been an issue.
Defensively we weren't very good. Rodrigo Schlegel is very erratic. Joao Moutinho, to his credit, did very well in his makeshift role. Kyle Smith was a lot more solid, but the shape and cohesion was indicative of the cobbled together nature of this back 4. We'll have Antonio Carlos back for the play-offs, but I would worry facing higher calibre opposition without the Brazilian. Columbus aren't consistent enough and offered little in an attacking sense, so we got away with it. We won't do so against the likes of NYCFC and Philadelphia Union.
Orlando didn't create much
We didn't create a whole lot. All throughout the game we lacked intensity and purpose. Energy and protagonism were conspicuous only in their absence; there just wasn't a lot of 'oomph'. Orlando's XG was only 1.19 (figure 1) from 8 shots on goal; a score which was significantly boosted by the penalty which had a score of 78.8% according to MLSsoccer.com.
There just didn't seem any energy in Orlando's attacking performance. It was all very pedestrian, all very passive. What was often happening was, we were playing everything in front of their defence. There were only 7 key passes in the entire game, from Orlando. That is to say, passes that split the defence or created an opening for a shot or cross. We had a first half XG of 0.09. There was only 1 big chance for the Lions in the game, and that was the penalty.
We are going to have to be so much better if we don't want to be one and done.
Figure 1 shows some of Orlando's key stats, whole 90.
Facundo Torres is a revelation
That man is just... Incredible. The confidence and composure he displayed, walking up for that spot kick. When all of us Columbus was trying to throw him off... It belied his young years. He took that penalty with all the experience and pinache of a player 10 years his senior.
The Uruguayan had a pass success rate of 93%, 46 touches of the ball, had 2 shots and created 1 chance (figure 2).
He's just such an incredible talent. I hope he's given more freedom next season. And what I mean by that is, I hope he isn't consigned to one position. Which was the case on Sunday. He's the sort of player who can win a game on his own, and should be given the freedom to impact the game in whatever way he sees fit. Otherwise we do him an injustice.
Figure 2 shows some of Torres' attacking statistics, whole 90.
Again, the guy was class. There's not too much more I can say.
Gallese -7- Made a key save in the first half, and there wasn't much he could do with the goal.
Smith -7- Looked much more solid than he has done in recent weeks.
Schlegel -6- Still so erratic. He doesn't need to charge out like he does for the goal.
Moutinho -7- Performed admirably in an unfamiliar role.
Ruan -7- We're still not seeing those runs from him, but he stuck to his guns defensively.
Araujo -7- Good to have him back fit.
Pereyra -8- Typically industrious, kept the ball well.
Torres -8- Was our best player. Again.
Urso -7- Got about the pitch well.
Angulo -7- Was lively all game.
Kara -6- Had nothing to work with.
Michel -6- Struggled to get into the game.
Cartagena -6- Helped to see the game out.
Halliday -6- Came in very late.
Akindele -6- Came in very late.
Perea -6- Came in very late.
Head Coach Oscar Pareja:
“We are very happy. We are very proud of the Club and the community that have put the city on the map of MLS as a protagonist and a community club that will fight for things. We feel great. Obviously, we have a big responsibility to continue, but it is a great day for us. We overcame. That is a characteristic of us, probably too much, but we are enjoying it. It was a very difficult game today with all the circumstances around it. The boys found a way to qualify [for playoffs] and it is a big thing for us. We are very proud.”
*Post match media availability currently unavailable.
Top player image and cover image courtesy of Orlando City SC.
Media availability footage courtesy of Orlando City SC.