Another home game for Orlando City, another chastening defeat. This is becoming an all too familiar tale for Orlando City right now. And I for one am bored of it. We have some of the best home support in the league and frankly, they deserve better.
Exploria Stadium should be a fortress. It has all the ingredients. An energetic crowd, the heat, the humidity. Yet our home record is absolutely abysmal. We're at the point where we'd all really rather play away from home every week. And that's not right.
One of the best venues in MLS deserves one of the best teams. It doesn't deserve a team that loses more than it wins at home. DC United have good players, and are more than capable of getting wins anywhere, but we made it too easy for them.
Papi got it wrong tactically
Sometimes, it's hard not to question our tactical set up. The wing back set up was perfect in Minnesota. Minnesota have been struggling at home, and using our wing backs to hit them on the break was a good strategy. Wing-backs was never going to be a good idea at home to DC. You know why? Simply put, it's because of Ruan.
There is a slightly more long winded answer, though. DC United play a sort of 4-4-2/4-4-1-1 where there is a heavy emphasis on playing the ball wide from central areas. DC will use the likes of Lewis O'Brien and Russell Canouse to get the ball wide to Ruan and Pedro Santos (figure 1). They then have the likes of Taxi Fountas and Christian Benteke looking for the ball in.
Their wing-backs basically play as wingers at times. Damnit, it's Ruan we know exactly what he does! So why are we putting him up against Gaston Gonzalez? Gonzalez has done well this season, but he's not a natural defender. We ought to have gone with a flat back 4 with Luca Petrasso at left-back. That would have nullified the space in behind. The space that Ruan profited from for the first goal (figure 2). The 4-2-3-1 would also have given us a bit more solidity in midfield.
It's almost like Pareja just assumed it would work again, without any due consideration for the opposition.
Figure 1 shows the first goal in the MLS highlights reel (timestamped).
Figure 3 shows DC United's passing network, whole 90.
We're not a good side defensively... Or offensively.
I was going to break down each goal from a defensive standpoint, but we have already covered the first and the other 2 speak for themselves. Cesar Araujo's embarrassing little body check on Donovan Pines is possibly one of the most timid attempts to stop a header I've ever seen. And the third one... You don't let a striker like Christian Benteke turn and shoot in the area like that.
All that being said, watching the goals go in made me curious about our overall defensive performance. Statistically speaking we are one of the most porous teams in the league. We have more holes than a Star Wars sequel movies' plot.
We rank 17th for goals conceded per match, 18th for xGC and 18th for clean sheets with 2. Two statistics that stuck out to me though, is that we rank 27th for interceptions per game (8), and we rank 23rd for tackles won per match (9.1). We aren't good at getting the ball back. And when we do, we're rarely dangerous. We rank 24th, 23rd and 24th respectively for xG, shots on target and big chances created.
In all but one of our MLS home games this season, we have allowed more big chances than we have created; the exception being Charlotte. This was the case again on Saturday (figure 3).
The numbers don't make for good reading, do they?
Figure 3 shows the key stats from the game.
Has anyone seen Facundo Torres?
The Uruguayan playmaker is our best player on his day. But that's just the trouble. He's yet to have his day so far in 2023. This was another anonymous performance from the Arsenal target. He had some nearly moments but never really looked like impacting the game in a tangible way. He was 2/7 on dribbles, 6/10 on crosses and had an xG of 0.13 and an xGA of 0.3.
He needs to start coming to the fore again, otherwise he can probably forget about the Premier League.
The only player that can really emerge from the game with any credit. He took his goal well and generally occupied the central defenders of DC United effectively. Unfortunately he left the field with an injury that we're all hoping isn't too serious. This kid is going to be Daryl Dike mark 2. Mark my words.
Gallese -6- He can't bail us out every week.
Gonzalez -5- Gave Ruan far too much space.
Schlegel -5- If only he defended as much as he complained to the referee...
Antonio Carlos -6- Decent recovery for the goal.
Jansson -5- Needs to do so much better for the Benteke goal.
Angulo -6- Got up and down well, but wasn't as impactful offensively as he has been.
Araujo -5- Probably one of his worst performances for us.
Pereyra -6- Can't do it all on his own.
Torres -5- Anonymous.
Ojeda -5- Offered very little.
McGuire -7- Took his goal well and led the line impressively before his untimely injury.
Enrique -6- Little impact.
Kara -6- Ineffectual.
Santos -6- Needed to come in earlier.
Þórhallsson -6- Struggled to impact the game.
Orlando City head coach Oscar Pareja
“It is a very disappointing night and not getting results at home. It's just getting the consistency here and not getting our points at home that creates that disappointment. Apart from that, the development of the game, I thought it was very hard in the game and it did not flow and [we] couldn't find that rhythm. That's probably what worried us most during the game. We knew that the game was going to be decided with a couple of things like that. Set plays, counters in a model that is rigid and hard and does not have a lot space. We couldn't find a way to hurt them. They did it in those key moments and there's no excuse. They took advantage of it and that is why they get the points tonight.”
Top player image and cover image courtesy of Orlando City SC.
Media availability footage courtesy of Orlando City SC.
B-roll footage courtesy of Orlando City SC.