Analysis: Inter Miami. Orlando comes up clutch with opening win of the rivalry series
Updated: Jul 11
Anyone who knows anything about American sports, will unanimously agree on one thing. Miami sports fans are the worst. Be it the Hurricanes, the Heat, the Dolphins or Inter Fort Lauderdale. They love to gloat. This is something we have already seen from our new rivals in abundance. Both online and even in our community. The Siege (Fort Lauderdale supporters club) were seen openly mocking Orlando City at last year's All-Star game. The narrative online during the build-up to this game, has very much been one of an entitled arrogance. An arrogance that has yet to be earned, with the Flamingos now 0-0-3 in club history. So, as I was sat, wide eyed and bushy tailed at 3.30 am this morning, reflecting on this victory; I was able to do so with a wry smile on my face.
Make no mistake about it, though. This is an Inter side packed full of talent. Even with Pizarro and Carranza not in from the start the likes of Lewis Morgan and Mathias Pellegrini have bags of ability. This was a landmark win for Orlando City. Not just in terms of the (extremely) fledgling rivalry between these two clubs, but in terms of Oscar Pareja's tenure. Getting that first win is always a key milestone. And the manner in which the victory came, in terms of the comeback, will be particularly pleasing for the Orlando City manager. The Lions didn't lose their heads when they went a goal down, and were able to drag their way back into the encounter. So, without further ado lets delve into the good, the bad and the ugly of Orlando City's maiden win in MLS Is Back.
The Lions lined up in a 4-2-3-1 formation, similar to the line-up utilised in the 2020 season opener against RSL. And it was a formation that suited the game well, particularly considering Miami's use of the 5-4-1. Pareja will have been wary of being overrun in midfield. He will also have backed his teams ability to cover more miles than their opposite numbers. Orlando City have had the benefit of being in full team training a lot longer than many of their MLS counterparts. And it showed, particularly in the middle of the park. The central trio of Junior Urso, Uri Rosell and Mauricio Pereyra were able to cover a lot more ground than Victor Ulloa and Wil Trapp (figure 1). The 3 Lions combined for 161 touches, whilst Miami's duo only amassed 78. This is due in part to how far Orlando's midfielders were playing up the pitch.
It was abundantly clear, particularly in the first half, that Orlando wanted to play their football on the front foot. Whilst Urso and Rosell were able to drop deep and play the ball out from the back, Pereyra was able to maintain a much more advanced position. This allowed Orlando to play between the lines. Thus, it became increasingly difficult for Ulloa and Trapp to close down passing lanes, something Pereyra in particular was able to take advantage of. Nani and Chris Mueller also did a great job of tucking in from either flank, and allowing Ruan and Joao Moutinho to provide runs on the overlap and stretch the Miami defence.
Figure 1 shows a heat map which seems to indicate Miami's Ulloa and Trapp weren't able to cover as much ground and impact the game as much as Orlando's midfield 3 of Urso, Rosell and Pereyra.
What did we do well?
Whilst Miami's lines were fairly compact throughout the match, it also became apparent that they were struggling to close those passing lanes and deal with the likes of Nani and Pereyra finding pockets of space in dangerous areas. One such example immediately precedes the Chris Mueller chance (where he was denied by Robles 1 v 1). You'll see from my hilariously poorly drawn graphic that Pereyra was able to wriggle away from a couple of chances to create some space. The Miami back-line simply gets caught ball watching, and they don't close the lines. Pereyra then has 3 options for a reverse slide-rule pass. Or he can turn back and lay the ball off for Urso and Rosell who are pushing up, in plenty of space (right side of the frame).
Figure 2 provided courtesy of ESPN. Edited courtesy of Google Photos and my terrible drawing ability.
This reliance on playing between the lines was a constant theme for Orlando. Though, whilst the team clearly lacks width in those forward areas, this style of play can become something of a self-defeating prophecy for this team. Whilst the example used for the Mueller chance is the perfect example of Miami doing a poor job at remaining compact and compressing the space, they generally did a pretty good job of it throughout the 90 minutes. And without sufficient competitive match practice, Orlando struggled to break down their defensive lines whilst playing through the middle. That's when the lack of width tells. Thankfully, the Lions were able to correct the issue later in the game.
Miami's compact style, and Orlando's inherent lack of pace and natural width in the final third, naturally led to this game becoming bogged down in midfield at times. Where Miami struggled to isolate Orlando's passing lanes in the first half, they made a concerted effort to push their defensive lines further forward in the second 45. They were thus able to cut out the space in between Miami's middle and defensive thirds (figure 3). This often meant the likes of Pereyra had to drop deeper to get on the ball, which played into Miami's hands as it meant Orlando were playing most of their football in front of Miami's defensive line. That's any defenders' dream.
Figure 3 Miami were keen to remain compact, and crowd the midfield.
It wasn't until Nani and Meuller, in particular, began to stay a little wider that Orlando began to see the fruits of their labour. Nani rolled back the years by ghosting past Dylan Nealis (who had marshaled Nani pretty well until that point) and delivering a perfect low cross for Chris Mueller to turn in at the far post. The introduction of Benji Michel shortly after further highlighted how Orlando had identified the need to attack from wide positions. A point which was absolutely hammered home in the 97th minute as a Joao Moutinho cross from the left wing wasn't cleared and the ball fell to Nani, who then duly slotted home the winner.
Honestly, this was a tremendously difficult one to call. Any number of players could have gotten the nod, but i've gone for Jansson. I think he did a great job of really pushing up on Juan Agudelo n the first half, and he made some vitally important challenges throughout the match. Read the game well and provided real leadership in the heart of Orlando's defence. Top performance.
Gallese -6- Wasn't called into action a whole lot, but did have one or two nervy moments. Put them down to lack of match practice.
Ruan -6- Just Ruan doing Ruan things. Again, provided the team with his trademark attacking runs. Got caught ball watching for the goal though.
Moutinho -6- Real mixed bag for me. At times he read the play superbly and made a few timely interceptions. On the flip side he gave the ball away in a couple of dangerous areas.
Jansson -9- My man of the match. Read the game well, and put in a few thunderous tackles.
Carlos -6- Looked lost at times, and seem to struggled bringing the ball out from the back. Could have reacted quicker to the cross which lead to Miami's goal, though I will concede it was a difficult ball in.
Urso -6- Not his greatest performance, but got up and down the pitch reasonably well.
Rosell -7- Did a great job of keeping the play ticking over in midfield which allowed Orlando to play on the front foot.
Pereyra -7- Looked lively, especially in the first half. Found little pockets of space well. Excellent reverse pass for the Mueller chance.
Mueller -8- Typically enthusiastic and robust forward from the fan favourite. Followed Nani's run and cross well, and applied a decent finish.
Dwyer -5- Looked lost, clumsy challenge on Reyes which left the Miami man badly hurt.
Nani -7- Perhaps not his finest performance, but really turned it on at the end. Cool head for the goal.
Mendez -7- Injected some much needed energy into the midfield, as his comrades tired in the heat.
Akindele -7- Acquitted himself better than Dom, but should have done much better with Chris Mueller's cross late in the game.
Perea -7- Looked lively, and doesn't look out of place at his level.
Michel -7- The tiring Miami back-line seemed to struggle with his pace.
-All statistics provided courtesy of whoscored.com