Analysis: D.C. United (h). Dike wins it late in dramatic fashion.
Orlando City, the Cardiac Cats, did it again. A winning goal, deep into stoppage time, 97 minutes deep in fact. The outpouring of emotion that immediately followed that goal was tantamount to anything Orlando City supporters have ever seen. It's been a frustrating run of results, but this was a performance that felt like the Orlando City of the first few weeks of the season. If I were to choose an adjective to describe this performance I'd use measured. There was an assurance and calmness about this display. Orlando managed their emotions well, and were effective in possession of the ball. It was a thoroughly deserved win, few could legitimately argue otherwise.
I have to admit, there was a feeling of 'here we go again' that accompanied Julian Gressel's early strike. Orlando were never going to roll over, however. Robin Jansson's well hit equaliser was nothing more than Orlando's performance deserved. They were the better team for long periods of this contest. Orlando dictated possession and allowed their quality to seep through. Make no mistake, this was a huge win for the Lions. It's a win that will give them a much needed shot in the arm, going into the game against Cincinnati in a couple of weeks.
Orlando's use of the ball
As I've already alluded to there is one word that accurately describes Orlando's overall play, measured. In terms of their possession play, this was one of Orlando's best performances in a while. Orlando had 64.8% of the overall play, with the Lions completing 86% of their 552 passes. The Lions played 261 more passes than their opponent, such was their overall dominance. D.C. employed a low-block, attempting to frustrate Orlando by cutting out vital passing lanes. This approach then allowed the visitors to press Orlando high up the field and congest the middle of the park (figure 1). This meant that Orlando's biggest challenge, was playing through that press. Something that has been difficult for them in recent history.
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The Lions managed their task superbly, however. Sebas Mendez was again key to that; he completed 95.6% of his 90 passes. Sebas was constantly dropping in between the two centre-backs and using his excellent range of passing to break through the press (figure 2). Sebas would typically either, pass the ball wide and create space in the middle, or he would thread the ball forwards, between the lines (figure 3). And once Orlando got through the press, they had huge amounts of space to work with. That's when they looked their most threatening on the night.
Figure 1 shows D.C. United's average positioning matrix, whole 90.
Figure 2 shows Sebas Mendez's heatmap, whole 90.
Figure 3 shows Orlando's passing network graphic, whole 90.
Big Dike energy
Whilst the Orlando City number 18 will undoubtedly garner the headlines with his late goal (and so he should), his all round play was phenomenal. Dike drew 4 fouls, hit 2 shots and completed 2 dribbles. He had only 2 unsuccessful touches from 26, and had a pass completion rate of 100% from 7 passes. That might sound an extraordinarily low number, mainly because it is, but this was a game where Dike was doubled up on multiple times. D.C. correctly identified Dike and Nani as huge threats, as such they did a great job of marshalling them out of the game. For the most part, that is. The key with Dike in particular was that he made his moments count. He incited panic everytime he got the ball (figure 4).
Figure 4 is a game still from just before Tesho Akindele's late chance.
Orlando's centre-backs back to their best
Orlando's defensive shape was excellent throughout the game, and their contribution to the attacking side of the game was back to what it was previously. Antonio Carlos and Robin Jansson both distributed the ball well; the Brazilian had a pass success rate of 96.2% of 55 passes and Jansson 87.3% of 55. Both men were just superb throughout the game.
Positionally speaking they were exceptionally well organised and defended well throughout the game, see the example in figure 5. Gressel crosses the ball and Antonio Carlos moves into the space well and snuffs out the cross. Mendez has dropped back in to protect the space well. And this was during a transitional moment, where there's naturally a certain degree of disorganisation. Orlando just looked unflappable from a defensive standpoint; Antonio Carlos and Jansson were central to that, literally.
Figure 5 is a game still depicting Orlando defending a cross from Gressel.
The glue that holds this team together. You know that old saying, 'you don't know what you have until you lose it'? I think it's a saying that could easily be applied to Sebas Mendez and Orlando City supporters. That's not to say we didn't know he was important to us, but I don't think any of us realised just how important. Orlando have improved exponentially since his return to the team. Oscar Pareja will be hoping he can stay fit from now until the end of the season.
Gallese -7- Probably should do better with the goal, but his distribution was on point. Helped Orlando escape the press.
Ruan -7- Looked dangerous going forward.
Jansson -8- Was in imperious form throughout the game.
Antonio Carlos -8- Played through the press superbly.
Moutinho -7- Solid until his untimely withdrawal.
Urso -7- Combative as always.
Mendez -9- Superb.
Nani -6- Very quiet.
Pereyra -7- Distributed the ball well.
Michel -7- Looked lively all evening.
Dike -7- So important to this team.
Mas -7- Came in at the half and did very well.
Tesho -7- Forced the 'keeper into a good save late on.
Perea -7- Provided some fresh legs and energy.
Van Der Water -7- Was willing to run and make things happen.
Mueller -8- You want your subs to make an impact, and he did just that with an excellent delivery for the goal.
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