Analysis: Inter Miami CF. Orlando labour to a valuable victory.
Pictures were doing the rounds on social media, prior to the game, of Fort Lauderdale's paltry (and not at all socially distanced) away following. If anything, their away support perfectly encapsulated their team's performance on the field. Lacking in heart and substance. Orlando City were full of running in the first half, whilst the visitors were full of... Actually, I'm not sure. Fort Lauderdale showed very little ambition, particularly during a turgid performance from Diego Alonso's team during the first 45.
The same cannot be said of the second half, however. Fort Lauderdale were much the better side, technically, during the second half. Orlando had taken the lead, following a Mauricio Pereyra free-kick which was kindly sent into his own net by Andrés Reyes. Diego Alonso's team decided to show up in the second 45. They deservedly levelled when Brek Shea powered home a 64th minute cross from Rudolfo Pizarro. Orlando had seemingly taken their foot off the gas. Despite this Fort Lauderdale seemed to lack confidence and belief, despite having the better of the play. Whilst they were undoubtedly the better team technically, during the second half, I never got the feeling they genuinely believed they could win the game.
The Lions, however, showed dogged determination to edge back in front. Chris Mueller's delicate, cushioned, pass found Pereyra in acres of space. The former FC Krasnodar playmaker then drilled a low shot past Luis Robles in the Fort Lauderdale goal. The goal would ultimately prove to be the killer blow for the visitors.
It's refreshing to see an Orlando team, with this kind of mentality. Not knowing when to give in, which allowed them to steal a win that they scarcely deserved on the balance of play. Fort Lauderdale fans might harp on about signing Gonzalo Higuaín, but they again showed a lack of substance. Particularly in the face of adversity. They're undoubtedly a team that possesses a tremendous amount of quality, but this team simply doesn't have any heart. As the Green Goblin once said, 'we are, who we choose to be'. Fort Lauderdale seem to want to be a Galacticos outfit. They want to win now, but they don't seem to be willing to lay down the ground work. Beckham FC might be able to attract some of the world's biggest names, but if they don't have the heart to bunker down and battle for three points, then that wretched hive of scum and villainy will be doomed to carry the mantle of MLS also-rans. And, honestly? It's a title that is befitting of the way they approached this game.
You might think I'm being a little harsh, but honestly? I don't care. I'm just saying what I saw.
All that being said (as stated previously), on the balance of play, Orlando City barely deserved the win. There was a real drop off in quality, after halftime. But not in desire; look at figure 1. Orlando attempted more tackles, won more aerial duels AND committed more fouls. Not always a good thing, but in this instance, it was indicative of Orlando City's greater desire to win. They might not have played as well as they did in the first half, but they sure as hell put the hard graft in. And they were rewarded for that with 3 valuable points, that keep them in touch with the eastern conference pace setters.
Figure 1 shows how Orlando attempted more tackles all over the park. They also won more aerial duels, and committed more fouls.
This game had the look and feel of a real rivalry
MLS has, fairly in my view, often been accused of trying to manufacture rivalries for marketing purposes. This rivalry is one such match. But that doesn't necessarily mean a genuine animosity is not present. I think that much became clear on Saturday night. Even before the game the visiting fans were causing a ruckus, and that was before the unseemly scenes involving Fort Lauderdale fans and the Orlando City mascot after the game.
That genuine feeling of intense dislike, seemed to spill out onto the field. As I mentioned previously, Orlando out-fouled (is that a thing?) their opponents. There was a total of 34 fouls in this game. There were 6 yellow cards, and a rescinded red. Tempers ascended to boiling point on a number of occasions. Rodrigo Schlegel seemed to be involved in many of them, but more on that later.
This rivalry is very much in its infancy, but if tempers continue to flare as much as they did on Saturday evening then this rivalry could well become one of MLS' best.
Set piece joy for City
Set pieces have been the bane of Orlando City's existence over the last few weeks or so. Conceding goals directly from set plays, has been a huge issue lately. On Saturday evening, however, it was Orlando's turn to benefit from them. Luis Nani twice went close to opening the scoring from direct free kicks. His first effort cannoned back off the cross bar, and the second had Luis Robles scrambling. The Portuguese looked menacing whenever he stood over a dead ball.
The breakthrough didn't come off of a Nani set piece though. Nope. It was a delivery from Pereyra that gifted Orlando City the opening goal. It was an excellent delivery. He puts the ball into such a dangerous area. When you whip a ball in with pace, into that sort of area, it's very difficult for the keeper to judge the flight of the ball. As such, the 'keeper will often stay routed to his line. As Robles does here (see figure 2). Any sort of touch from an Orlando or Fort Lauderdale player, has the potential to cause problems. Which is exactly what we see, when Reyes unwittingly diverts the ball into the net. Things you love to see, eh?
Figure 2 depicts Pereyra's exquisite delivery for the opener.
Nervous performance from El Pulpo
I think it's probably fair to say El Pulpo didn't have his best night. The Peruvian 'keeper was uncharacteristically out of sorts for much of this game. Since his arrival at the club, Pedro Gallese has been a revelation. He's made key stops in big moments. He's won us points, and will undoubtedly continue to do so. That being said, he was shaky for much of the evening in this one.
Gallese made two saves on the night, including a very nervy looking save to deny Lewis Morgan. Robbie Robinson appeared to leave his foot in whilst challenging for the ball as El Pulpo fumbled, much to the anger of the Orlando City 'keeper. The Peruvian was almost caught out by an effort from distance, which he actually did well to repel amidst all of the smoke, shortly after the 2nd goal. There were a few occasions where Gallese appeared to flap at Fort Lauderdale crosses. He generally looked nervous for much of the evening. Almost like he wasn't sure of himself.
I don't think it's an area of concern at all, however. He still made some smart decisions, and genuinely couldn't do anything about the goal. Just an off night.
Another goal conceded from a cross into the area
One thing that will be of concern, however, is this; Orlando conceded again from a set piece. Albeit, not directly. Pedro Gallese actually does well to punch away the initial corner kick. However, Pizarro is presented with far too much time and space to pick out a cross when the ball breaks to him on the right-hand side.
No-one picks up Brek Shea, and the former Lion basically has a free header (figure 3). 1-1. This. Has. To. Improve.
Figure 3 shows how Brek Shea, basically, has the freedom of the penalty area to divert his header past Gallese.
A rare reprieve from PRO
Wow. What a mess. Ultimately the correct decision was reached, but if there's an incident that tells you both why we should have VAR in football, and why we shouldn't.... Well. This is it.
First of all, Rodrigo Schlegel is a lucky, lucky boy. Those of you who have been watching the All or Nothing, Tottenham Hotspur documentary on Prime Video will have seen José Mourinho speak about the importance of being a *insert literally any expletive* in big games. And I actually think the actions of Rodrigo Schlegel embodied that sentiment throughout the match. But there is a line. The foul he commits on Robinson for the 'penalty' is clumsy and incredibly reckless. In ordinary circumstances it's a stone wall penalty and a red card, every day of the week.
The video assistant referee, in checking for the possible penalty kick, spots a potential offside. It's unclear how much of the build-up play was seen when reviewing the penalty, but it's given. Initially. Schlegel is (correctly) given his marching orders. Tempers flared, and things looked to be escalating out of control. Not content with the drama, PRO decides to fan the flames by rescinding both the penalty and the red card due to an offside in the build-up. Again, it was absolutely the correct decision. But the situation could have gotten real hairy.
The lack of communication from the officials doesn't help. It creates confusion and frustration. Something that didn't need to be exacerbated in already tempestuous affair.
Whilst this wasn't Mueller's finest night in purple, he was still Orlando's greatest threat. Like many of his teammates, Mueller was far more effective in the first half than he was in the second. He was still able to play a vital role in Mauricio Pereyra's winner, however. Cash casually slipped a clever a through pass to the Uruguayan, who had time and space to crack a low drive into the bottom corner.
Overall, Mueller had 1 shot on target, completed 1 successful dribble, won 2 free-kicks and claimed 1 assist. He registered an impressive 90.1% pass completion rate from 22 passes. He also attempted 5 crosses. In the first half, in particular, he was full of running. Often tucking inside, to allow Ruan time and space to get forward. His movements were excellent, as he seemed to be enjoying something of a free-role. He would pop up in dangerous areas, all across the final third. Dropped off a little in the second half, but was still able to affect the game in a big way.
Gallese -6- Nervy performance from the Peruvian stopper. Didn't look his usual dependable self.
Ruan -7- Got up and down the pitch well, and always looked threatening in the final third.
Carlos -6- Won a few good challenges in the air, not as in sync with Schlegel as he is with Jansson.
Schlegel -5- Erratic performance. Seems to have the Mourinho 'b*stard' mentality, which is great but his lack of discipline very nearly cost us dear.
Smith -6- Looked uncomfortable at left-back, but did an OK job. Perhaps, could close down a few crosses quicker. But that's me being hyper critical.
Urso -6- Full of running, much better in the first half than he was in the second.
Mendez -6- Showed some really, classy, touches. Still guilty of a few turnovers, however.
Mueller -7- Probably Orlando's best player. Clever ball for the winner.
Pereyra -7- Got about well, and his took his goal with aplomb.
Nani -6- Not his best night. Unlucky not to get on the score sheet with 2 free-kicks.
Dike -6- Battled well, but was largely feeding off of scraps.
Akindele -5- Helped to see out a valuable win.
Perea -6- Great last-ditch challenge to prevent a goal. Gave the team a defensive energy boost.
DeJohn -5- Came in and did a job at centre back, in the dying embers of the game.
Michel -5- Hustled well, not in for long.
DeZart -5- Brought in to press, and waste a little time. Did just that.
Game stills courtesy of mlssoccer.com