Analysis: D.C. United (a). Familiar Tale, As Orlando Suffer Late Capitulation In D.C.
An accomplished performance from Orlando City in the first half seemed like it was going to be enough to get the job done, and spoil Wayne Rooney's homecoming at D.C. United. Then, we did what we seem to do all too often. We dropped, and we dropped... Until eventually we dropped the result entirely.
I really had hoped that the Red Bulls game was going to exorcise those ghosts. A lack of clinical finishing and a seemingly inexplicable desire to sit back and defend a 1 goal lead, have ultimately led to Orlando City picking up yet another MLS defeat.
The Lions out shot the home side 10-1 in the first half, and had pass completion statistics of 91.2% overall and 83% in the attacking half. All whilst having 51.4% of the possession. Orlando were completely in control, and just couldn't add to the goal scored by Junior Urso. In the second half, there were only 5 shots whilst Orlando had only 36.3% of the overall play. The drop off was noticeable. They wanted to play it safe, but got it all wrong. It was the MLS equivalent to The Force Awakens. I can see why they're playing it safe, but also I can't.
The Lions just sat deeper, and deeper before the inevitable happened. It's now 1 win in 7 league games for Oscar Pareja's team.
Dominant first half
As I've already alluded to, it was a pretty dominant first half display from the team. Orlando played with ingenuity and were brave in possession of the ball. They were also very efficient in terms of their ability to dictate the play (figure 1). Movement off the ball, particularly in the final third from the Alexandre Pato, Facundo Torres, Junior Urso and Benji Michel was generally very good (figure 2). There was a fluidity about their play, and it felt almost inevitable that a second goal would come.
It never did.
Orlando were a little wasteful in front of goal; Junior Urso's excellent chipped finish aside. Pato had a decent opportunity in the 27th minute, whilst Benji Michel had one of the misses of the season just a few minutes later. I'm still not entirely sure how he's managed to turn that opportunity wide, but here we are. They needed to put the game to bed.
Figure 1 shows some of Orlando's first half possession statistics.
Figure 2 shows the overall heatmap for Pato, Torres, Urso and Michel.
Going for that Papi special
It just beggars belief for me. It's a strategy that clearly doesn't work for this team. In the post match, I asked Oscar if it was a tactical decision to sit of, or whether it was more of a case of D.C. wrestling control of the match. He said "I think it's a bit of both... They pushed, they had more numbers up front... Then in that circumstance, we need to have control like we do in the first half... We couldn't do it."
When asked a similar question, Junior Urso said:
"I don't know what's happened, but this season, in the second half we are just defenders. It's about everybody. It's not the idea of Oscar... It's difficult to explain. We think we have a really good team. Sometimes we prove that like we did Wednesday (vs Red Bulls). Sometimes we forget who we are and just defend".
Urso seemed to be implying that it was less a managerial decision, and more of a mindset situation with the players. Whilst Pareja admits he felt he didn't coach the team correctly through the second half.
But you have to ask, if it's not a tactical decision to retreat then why does it keep happening? We saw, on Wednesday night, what can happen if you don't let up. Orlando had to be more clinical in the first half, and they had to be more aggressive in the second. They weren't either of those things at the right times in this game. And that's why they lost.
The question is, what are they going to do about it? This can't keep happening.
I'm giving it to Junior Urso, both for his goal and his overall play. Urso's fine lob is surely a contender for goal of the season. The Brazilian midfielder was 34/38 in accurate passing, had 58 touches and put 3 of his 4 efforts at goal on frame. He drew 3 fouls and also did his fair share of defensive work, making 4 recoveries 1 clearance and 1 block.
Gallese -6- Made a few key saves, but should probably do better with the winner.
Ruan -6- Did OK overall, but lost a key duel just before the equaliser.
Antonio Carlos -6- Distributed the ball well from the back.
Jansson -6- Long ball game on point.
Moutinho -7- Had another solid game at left-back.
Pereyra -7- Orlando's ability to move up the pitch seemed to disappear with him. Taken off as a precautionary measure.
Araujo -7- Did his best to break up play.
Pato -7- Was lively, but his finishing needs to be better.
Torres -7- Movement was good.
Urso -8- Orlando's best player on the night.
Michel -6- Shocking first half miss will haunt him.
Schlegel -6- Came in late, not able to stop the cut back for the first.
Perea -6- Not his fault, but he just doesn't give you what Pereyra does.
Smith -6- Not able to see the game out.
Gioacchini -6- Stopped attacking long before he came on, so it was always going to be difficult.
Head Coach Oscar Pareja:
“We are very disappointed and have a lot of pain with tonight’s result. After that great first half and part of the second half too, we just ended up giving up a result that was very important for us. I think I did not coach them well, especially in the second half I did not help them and I take that responsibility. I feel like I could have done a much better job in helping them, but the boys put a lot of effort there and had a tremendous half after our emotional and fantastic game on Wednesday. We just couldn’t continue in the second half with the same pace and we ended up giving up this result that for us is losing three points that we had in our pockets.”
Top player image and cover image courtesy of Orlando City SC.