Analysis: FC Dallas (a). Defensive rearguard action earns valuable road point.
Updated: Sep 29, 2020
Well. Isn't this nice? What's nice, you say? An Orlando City team to be proud of. It would be quite easy to look at Sunday evening's results around the league, and feel a bit downhearted. Toronto and Philadelphia have both jumped us in the league, albeit Columbus lost to Toronto. We sit 4th, down from 2nd. You need to dig a little deeper though. This team started the week (essentially) last weekend with the win over Chicago. They then travelled to Kansas City (same-day travel) and came back with 3 points. That's a two and a half-hour flight. A few days later, and another 5-hour round trip, this time to Dallas. Physically, that amount of travel will have taken its toll. Yet they still managed to put in a solid display. They took a deserved point; on another day it could easily have been all 3... Oh, And the Guinness World Record for most American cities mentioned in one paragraph goes to...
Defensive solidity on the road
Oftentimes, when we talk about great defensive performances in soccer, it's the backline and goalkeeper that are spoken about the most. And so, it will be for this game. That being said, we ought not to overlook the defensive contributions of the team as a whole. This is a team that defends from the front. Mauricio Pereyra is an excellent example; the Uruguayan playmaker won 3 tackles on Sunday. Luis Nani won 2, and Mendez won 4. This tells us that it's not just the defenders who are willing to put their bodies on the line for Orlando City. Even Benji Michel put his body on the line, late on, blocking a Dallas attempt at goal from Michael Barrios. Barrios had previously been denied by a superb block from Rodrigo Schlegel.
This game was a huge defensive rearguard action that epitomised the strength and spirit of this team. Even when down to 10 men (more on that later) Orlando stood as tall as Gandalf did that one time 'you shall not pass FC Dallas!' I'm sure that's exactly how the quote goes. My Lord Of The Rings knowledge is a little hazy, sorry. It might not be that exact quote.
Figure 1 shows the defensive statistics for the team as a whole.
One of the most impressive aspects of Orlando's performance, in terms of their backline, was their defensive shape. Impressive, but not exactly surprising. Defensive shape is one of those remarkably simple things, in soccer, that Orlando City just seem to do really well these days. We've become accustomed to it, under Oscar Pareja. You'll note, from figure 2, that *Miller/Smith held their lines remarkably well alongside Jansson and Schlegel. Meanwhile, Smith/Ruan were able to get forward in support of the attack. Kamal Miller was also able to get into some offensive areas (particularly later in the game). At all times, when one full back gets forward, the other holds their position alongside the two central defenders. They form a back 3, with a reasonably high line. This means they are able to pin the opposition into their own half. Orlando were able to do this on a few occasions. It can leave you a little susceptible to a ball over the top, but when you're playing FC Dallas - who aren't blessed with an abundance of pace - it can work.
*I say Miller/Smith, as Smith started on the left before switching to the right after Miller subbed in for Ruan.
Figure 2 shows the heatmaps for Ruan, Jansson, Schlegel, Smith and Miller.
Clawing a point with 10 men
First of all, I want to speak to Sebas Mendez's red card for a second bookable offence. There have been some comments on social media; people saying it was an aggressive challenge, a stupid challenge. A *insert negative adjective here* challenge. It's none of those things. Is it a bookable offence? Probably. If you look at the still in figure 3, you'll see Mendez's eyes are on the ball at all times. It's a clear attempt to win the ball, he simply mistimes the challenge. Are we going to miss him for his one game suspension? Absolutely, he's a top player. But we have plenty of quality in reserve. Especially as Uri Rosell nears a return to full fitness. I don't think we should be lambasting Mendez for this incident. These things happen in football. As fans, we should never go after a player for trying to win the ball for our team.
I also want to speak to the spirit of this team. After that red card, it would have been so easy for heads to drop. Or even to play for a point. They were still trying to win the game! Urso and Nani both went close (Nani with the 98 mph drive). That says everything you need to know about this team.
Figure 3 shows a still taken just before the challenge that earned Mendez his second yellow card.
Pedro Gallese, in my opinion, continues to highlight why he is the best goalkeeper in the league right now. You'd be hard pressed to find any better. The hooked 'attempt' (not sure it wasn't a cross, to be honest) would have bamboozled many a 'keeper in this league. Not Gallese, though. The Peruvian number 1 had 4 saves on the night, all of which were much more difficult than he made them look. He will be a big miss, assuming he travels to Peru following his national team call-up. The club are currently awaiting guidance on whether they have to release him. If he does go, and I think he should be allowed, we have a more than capable stand-in at the ready. Yes, that is Brian Rowe to all you haters.
Gallese -8- Made a number of smart saves to keep the scores level.
Ruan -6- Went down injured on 22 minutes. Oscar Pareja will be hoping it's nothing serious.
Smith -7- Solid and dependable. As always.
Jansson -7- Made some crucial blocks at important times.
Schlegel -7- Looked solid, excellent block to deny Barrios an almost certain goal.
Mendez -6- Passed the ball around well. Sent off around the 70-minute mark, deserved second yellow but no malice in that tackle.
Urso -7- Got up and down the pitch well, as per. Almost knicked a goal late on.
Pereyra -7- Showed some real classy touches, and led from the front defensively.
Nani -7- Tracked back well, and provided some great deliveries from wide and central areas. Unlucky with a long range try late on.
Mueller -6- Not his best game, but was full of endeavour and running, as usual.
Akindele -6- Led the line reasonably well. Starved of any real, clear-cut, chances though.
Miller -7- Subbed in much earlier than expected. Did superbly well defensively, and showed a few neat touches offensively as well.
Michel -6- Blocked Barrios late on, and provided some energy to help see the game out.
Dike -6- Gave the Dallas defenders something new to think about.
Perea -6- Provided fresh legs in midfield, which were particularly useful after the sending off.
Game still courtesy of Fox Sports 1.