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  • Writer's pictureDan Berridge

Analysis: FC Cincinnati (a). Orlando City Showcase Why They're The Best Road Team In MLS.

Orlando City reminded everyone when why they're the best road team in MLS. After this hugely significant win in Ohio, no team in either MLS conference has won more games away from their home stadium than Orlando City.

As a matter of fact, if the Supporters Shield were contested purely on away from, Orlando would be 4 points clear at the summit. That's how good their road form is. They've also created a 4 point gap to 5th placed Philadelphia Union in the east (all at the time of writing).

This was a huge win. Arguably the biggest of the season. As much as Orlando are the best road team in MLS, FC Cincinnati are the best home team. TQL Stadium has been an absolute fortress; they've amassed 37 of their league leading 57 points at home. Their home form is a big part of why they have a 10 point lead in the Supporters Shield race...

The only blotch on Orlando City's copybook, would have been Wilder Cartagena's red card. It was a red card, let's be clear on that. I hate agreeing with PRO, but to coin another Star Wars quote entirely unnecessarily, "sometimes we have to do what's right, regardless of our feelings". Cartagena was probably frustrated with the Aaron Boupendza incident (which I actually think the referee got right).

Defensive shape

I thought Orlando were excellent without the ball. FC Cincinnati, being the home team, and with the form they're in, were always going to have periods of possession. Overall, they had 57% of the play and played 130 more passes than Orlando City.

Orlando were happy to concede that possession to the home team, picking their moments to press and recover the ball. If you look at the graphic in figure 1, you'll see how disciplined the Orlando defence were in terms of their positioning. Dagur Dan Þórhallsson (23) and Rafael Santos (3) didn't get forward huge amounts for risk of being exposed on the break. Whilst Robin Jansson (6) and Rodrigo Schlegel (15) marshalled the centre well. Cesar Araujo (5) and Wilder Cartagena (16) sat in front of the back 4, and provided assistance to both full-backs when the ball did go wide. They congested the space very well, making it hard for FC Cincinnati to gain any sort of foothold in the game.

It wasn't just the defence either. The team defended from the front (figure 2). With Ramiro Enrique, Mauricio Pereyra and Ivan Angulo all attempting at least one tackle. It wasn't always easy for FC Cincinnati to play out from the back, and when they did they found a rigid defensive wall in front of them, which led to the Supporters Shield winners elect, losing possession all across the frontline (figure 3). Orlando restricted Cincy very well, as the home team only mustered an XG of 1.04 and just 2 big chances on the night.

Figure 1 shows Orlando's average positioning, whole 90.

Figure 2 shows Orlando's tackle attempt positioning matrix, whole 90 (<).

Figure 3 shows FC Cincinnati's possession loss matrix, whole 90 (>).

Orlando were clinical

Whilst Orlando restricted Cincinnati well, they weren't exactly flush with goal scoring opportunities themselves; having 10 shots on goal and 1 big chance, for an overall XG of 1.10. The difference? Orlando took theirs. And whilst Cincy were credited with having 2 'big chances' neither were as clearcut as the one Ramiro Enrique carved out for Facu Torres on the stroke of half-time.

And that strike ultimately won the game for Orlando City. Generally speaking, football is a game of fine margins. Particularly when you head towards the business end of the season. This was both the time and the place for a 'Papi special'.

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One of the chief criticisms I had of Oscar Pareja, early in the season, was that this seemed to be the go-to game plan. Get 1-0 up, and then defend what we have. That should never, ever be a principal strategy. But is it necessary at times? Absolutely.

Orlando were never going to dominate possession in Cincinnati. To go gung-ho, would have been foolhardy at best. And once they got ahead, it was important to protect what they had. As Cincinnati began to get on top after halftime, it was pleasing to see Orlando turn to the dark arts. Little niggles here and there, little tugs of the shirt... They got under the skin of their opponents, and it worked.


Top player

Facundo Torres

It was far from a pretty game. In a footballing sense, no one particularly excelled. But, at this stage of the season, games are won and lost by big players in big moments. Once Enrique cut that ball back to Facu, with the form he's in, there was only one place it was going to end up. His awareness to hang back, rather than try and get across the front post, meant he had the easiest of chances. That's 11 goals on the season for the Uruguayan, and I'd wager there's more to come.

Player ratings

Starting XI

Gallese -6- Could have bought a hammock.

Þórhallsson -7- Solid game on both sides of the ball.

Schlegel -7- Positioning was excellent all evening.

Jansson -7- Solid display.

Santos -7- Didn't get forward as much, but it was clearly part of the plan. Defended well.

Araujo -7- Broke up play excellently.

Cartagena -8- Unfortunate, but probably correct, red card call. Was excellent aside from that.

Torres -8- Match winner.

Pereyra -7- Linked the play well. Disciplined.

Angulo -7- Worked hard off the ball.

McGuire -7- Led the line well until the injury.


Enrique -7- Full of running and crucial assist.

Ojeda -7- Helped see the game out.

Urso -7- Fresh legs late on.

Smith -7- Helped shore things out.

Halliday -7- Looked solid.


Orlando City head coach Oscar Pareja

"First, I would like to congratulate the players that did wonderful work today for the Club and the fans. We played against a rival that has not lost one game at home, so a very difficult place to play. First half was at a very good level and I thought we created most of the chances and we controlled the game. We were thinking that this is the consistency that we are fighting for and playing for. The second half, Cincinnati is a very good team and started putting more numbers up front. We started to defend a little lower than we wanted, but today we played very well with the ball and we played even better without it, which is something you have to know how to do. That is why I am very proud of this group and will be looking forward to the next rival and just keep moving on.” 

*All statistics courtesy of, and

Top player image and cover image courtesy of Orlando City SC.

Media availability footage and b-roll footage courtesy of Orlando City SC.

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