The first ever goalless draw between these clubs, it has to be said, was largely a very entertaining affair. It was the archetypal 'great advert for the league' sort of game. Whilst, on the balance of play, Orlando definitely looked the more likely to secure all 3 points, Fort Lauderdale had their moments. Some, frankly, brazen stops from Pedro Gallese in either half, kept the visitors at zip. But for a shockingly poor penalty kick, and Tesho Akindele's toe, the Lions could've won the game before the half.
Despite the entertaining nature of the game, this has to be seen as 2 points dropped by Orlando City. A 4th draw in 5 games extends the current unbeaten run to 6 games in league play, though there have just been far too many draws. Orlando have to find that killer instinct. Both the Philadelphia Union and Nashville will now have an opportunity to move level on points with the Lions. Oscar Pareja's attention will now shift to the game against Columbus. With the below-par performance of Tesho Akindele in mind (more on that later), keeping hold of Daryl Dike past the end of the European transfer window on Tuesday is going to be crucial.
The performance of Benji Michel
Despite the frustrating nature of this result, there were a number of very pleasing individual performances within the team. It has to be said that the team played very well on the whole. Overall, Orlando had 55.4% of the play and posted a remarkably high pass completion rate of 91% from 463 passes. Orlando were able to pen Fort Lauderdale in, whilst Junior Urso and Joey DeZart played the quarterback role from the halfway line. A big part of their ability to do this was the movement of Benji Michel.
Michel's movement across the frontline, particularly into wide areas (figure 1) helped to stretch the Fort Lauderdale back 3. They continued to drop deep, clearly concerned about Benji's pace, which allowed Orlando to play a high defensive line (figure 2). The Orlando City defensive line spent a lot of time sat on the halfway line, providing an effective springboard for their attacks. The Herons often found it difficult to escape their own half, with 35% of the game being played in their defensive third. It was an effective set-up from Oscar Pareja's team, one that did everything but bring a winning goal. If Benji's movement wasn't as good as it was, I think Orlando struggle to pen the visitors in as much.
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As well as showcasing excellent movement, Benji also used the ball brilliantly. Benji had 2 shots, completed 1 dribble, drew 2 fouls, played 2 crosses and had a pass completion rate of 85.2% from 16 passes. And that touch for the penalty, was just sublime. So, special shout out for that. Anyway, the aforementioned statistics mightn't seem overly impressive on face value but if you dig a little deeper, they tell a story. Michel had 33 touches of the ball overall, many in dangerous areas as he roamed across the front. I'm going to refer you back to the heatmap in figure 1; he was all over the pitch dragging people out of position and stretching the line. This movement caused the visiting defence to sit with a low block. This inevitably led to long spells of possession for our Lions to probe the defence. The only thing missing was that killer instinct in front of goal.
Figure 1 shows Benji Michel's heatmap, whole 90.
Figure 2 shows the heatmap for João Moutinho, Ruan, Antonio Carlos and Robin Jansson, whole 90.
The performance of Joey DeZart
Joey DeZart has taken an unnecessary amount of flack from some corners of the Orlando City fanbase in recent weeks. Whilst I'll agree he hasn't exactly taken the team by storm, he's been dependable enough. Friday's game was by far his most impressive in an Orlando City shirt, however. He and Junior Urso did an excellent job of shielding the back 4 in transition, as well as playing the quarterback role and distributing the ball effectively whilst in possession.
DeZart had a startlingly high pass success rate of 95.8% from 48 attempts and 51 touches. Whilst he generally played it quite safe (all 48 of his passes were short), he played the ball effectively. Fort Lauderdale we're often clearing the ball straight into midfield, where DeZart and Urso would recycle possession well. You might ask what I mean by that term 'recycling possession. It's something Jorginho does remarkably well for Chelsea.
Whilst I'm not suggesting DeZart is anywhere near the European Championship winning midfielder's level, they do a similar job. Jorginho will often pick up on loose balls, and play safe passes to Chelsea's more creative players, which allows them to stay on the offensive. In their recent win over Arsenal, Jorginho played 69 passes for Chelsea; 65 of which were short passes into the full-backs and forwards in particular. This is exactly what DeZart was doing for Orlando City on Friday night. Picking up loose balls, and ensuring Orlando stayed in possession of the ball in midfield (figure 3). He did it rather well.
Figure 3 shows Joey DeZart's pass positioning matrix, whole 90.
I feel like he's an oft covered enigma on this site, and it's not always for the right reasons. He's proved himself invaluable at times, so far this season; particularly in recent weeks. However, Friday night was not his night. Overall, his performance was decidedly off colour. He had 17 touches, with 8 passes (5 successful), but his movement was very static. Whilst I think his involvement in the Robin Jansson cross-cum-shot, was unfortunate, his penalty left a lot to be desired. It was just a poor kick. Aim, run-up, technique, it was all poor (figure 4). Orlando City are now 1 in 4 on penalties this season. That's just not good enough.
Figure 4 is a game still depicting Tesho Akindele's penalty kick.
I think I'm just gonna rename this segment the 'Antonio Carlos top player' award. It was another imperious performance from the defender. He won 3 interceptions, 2 clearances and had a pass success rate of 88.5% from 61. Can you remember MLS Is Back? When we were all unsure about him? Nope, neither can I. He is to Orlando City, what Rise of Skywalker is to the Star Wars sequel trilogy; a shining example of excellence which we all need to appreciate a little more.
Gallese -7- Made a couple of worldie saves to keep Fort Lauderdale off the board, but quiet evening overall.
Ruan -7- Got up and down the line well, but had precious little end product.
Jansson -8- Had a very solid game. I'm sure Gonzalo is still in his back pocket.
Antonio Carlos -9- If there's a better central defender in MLS I've yet to see him play.
Moutinho -7- Was a solid attacking outlet down the left.
DeZart -8- His best game yet.
Urso -7- Elected to hold the ball too long in some good positions, otherwise helped to maintain possession well.
Michel -7- Movement was first class.
Mueller -8- Probably his best performance of the season, just needs to bet on himself a little more.
Van Der Water -7- Not sure I agree with the decision to take him out. Was a threat.
Akindele -5- Poor performance.
Dike -6- Looked rusty, but had his moments.
Nani -6- Was unable to impact the game.
Más -6- Provided some fresh legs late on.
Aguilera -6- Looked comfortable in possession.
Alvarado -6- Hardly had a kick.
Game still courtesy of ESPN.
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