Analysis: FC Cincinnati (a). Orlando grinds out a hugely important 3 points on the road.
Whilst not exactly comprehensive by any means, this was a hugely important 3 points for Orlando City. It's a win that gives them a huge shot in the arm, not only in terms of the race for a home play-off berth, but also in terms of the overall play-off picture. Orlando are finely poised heading into the final stretch.
A supremely well taken goal from Junior Urso sealed the win for Orlando, on a night where the margin of victory should (and could) have been more comfortable. As it happens, the 1 goal was enough, despite a late penalty scare that thankfully saw the officials rule in the Lion's favour. It was far from a vintage Lions performance, but the team did more than enough to win the game.
Orlando using their width
One particularly pleasing aspect of this performance was how well the Lions used their width, and how balanced their attack was down both flanks (figure 1). This helped to open pockets of space for the likes of Nani and Mauricio Pereyra to operate in, which is something we see an example of early in the game (figure 2). The run of Ruan drags Lucho Acosta into a wide area, which allows Chris Mueller more space to find the perfect pass. Creating those overloads in wide areas is something of a trademark for this team.
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With the acquisition of Emmanuel Mas, there is now a more even balance across the right and left. That's no slight on Joao Moutinho, he's arguably the better defender. However, Mas is easily the more adventurous, and probably the better player in terms of his ability to overlap and hit the byline. His average positioning was quite high throughout the game (figure 3), which means Cincinnati didn't have to only worry about Ruan. Which has often been the case at times this season.
Figure 1 is a graphic showing how balanced Orlando's attacks were, down the flank.
Figure 2 is a game still from an early attack down the flanks.
Figure 3 shows Orlando's average positioning matrix.
Attacking runs from midfield
This is something we see a prime example of with the first goal. Orlando advance towards the Cincinnati goal, and Urso makes an excellent run from deep, and applies a precise finish from a good position. He doesn't just aimlessly run into the area, he actually checks his run in anticipation of the pull-back (figure 4). This is what you want from your midfielders; it's something Frank Lampard excelled at. Urso knows the pull-back is coming, and takes up a good position. His run was as well timed as the recently announced re-opening of the US borders; excellently for my trip home in the New Year.
Truthfully, this midfield support was a recurring theme throughout the game, as Orlando set their stall out as the protagonists. They were constantly looking to play on the front foot, but also getting back well during moments of defensive transition; Orlando attempted 21 tackles, winning 11 and completed 8 interceptions.
There was an abundance of energy in the midfield, which isn't uncharacteristic of this Orlando team. It's very much a strength. Bodies flooded forward for every attack (figure 5) and I'm all in for it, just like I'm all in for the upcoming Book of Boba Fett series. For real, is it December yet?
Figure 4 is a game still from just before the goal.
Figure 5 is a game still from an attack late in the first half.
The importance of Mauricio Pereyra
It would be easy to overlook the Uruguayan's performance in this game. After all, he wasn't the headline grabber. His role in keeping possession for Orlando, however, cannot be overstated. As the likes of Mas and Ruan were dragging Cincinnati defenders into wide areas, Pereyra was integral in exploiting the space vacated in the middle. He completed 86.1% of his 43 passes, as well as playing 3 key passes and 3 crosses. He helped Orlando to keep the ball moving, completing passes in the final third, most notably to Chris Mueller and Nani (figure 6).
Figure 6 shows Orlando's passing network graphic, whole 90.
This was probably one of Ruan's better games this season, as his 7.34 rating on whoscored.com reflects. Ruan played 4 key passes, completed 78.4% of his 37 passes and played 5 crosses. The Brazilian was a constant threat down the right flank, and always an outlet available for a pass. His high positioning also forced Alvaro Barreal back at times, thus negating Cincinnati's attacking threat somewhat.
Gallese -7- Made an absolutely blinding save in the first half.
Ruan -8- Got forward well, and contributed effectively to the attack.
Antonio Carlos -7- Solid performance.
Jansson -7- Distributed the ball well.
Mas -7- Made a solid case for a starting position.
Urso -7- Excellent goal, very energetic performance.
Perea -7- Got around the pitch well, and used the ball effectively.
Nani -7- Used the ball well, but it was probably one of his quieter games.
Pereyra -7- Was so important in terms of keeping possession for Orlando in the final third.
Mueller -7- Made some good movements, and looked a little more confident.
Dike -7- Won the aerial duels well.
Schlegel -6- Came in late to see the game out, perhaps fortunate to not concede a late penalty.
Akindele -7- Unlucky with a long range effort that cannoned back off the bar, and actually went in. But, whatever.
Van Der Water -7- Provided fresh legs late on.
Rosell -6- Experienced head, came in to see the game out.
Michel -7- Unlucky not to score with a second half chance.
*All statistics courtesy of mlssoccer.com and whoscored.com.
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