Analysis: LA Galaxy (a). Papi Special, As Lions Take The Win In La La Land.
The best way to answer your critics after a bad home loss, is by winning your next game. It was a far from perfect performance by Orlando City, but even the most fervent LA Galaxy supporter would be hard pressed to argue that the Lions didn't deserve to take this win; a win given to them courtesy of Facundo Torres' first goal for the club.
There are lots of things that will need to be improved as the season goes on, but that's to be expected at this stage of the season. What will have been pleasing for Oscar Pareja, is the team's resolute defence as they kept a clean sheet for the 3rd time in 4 MLS outings. And to do so away from home, against a cross conference opponent who are as well stacked as the Galaxy, is even better.
Must do better in possession
Whilst this was undoubtedly a statement win, there are still things the Lions can do better. On face value their 82% pass completion rate isn't too bad, but when you consider the 92% posted by the Galaxy, and the fact that they played almost twice as many passes (507 to Orlando's 286) it becomes a more problematic issue.
The Lions were sometimes guilty of treating the ball like a hot potatoe; too eager to force passes that weren't really on. They ultimately ended up conceding possession at key moments and in dangerous positions (figure 1), which would then allow the Galaxy to maintain the play and build momentum.
Figure 1 shows Orlando City's possession loss matrix, whole 90.
Sometimes we just needed to be a little calmer in possession, oftentimes someone need to put their foot on the ball and take the sting out of the game. There were a number of examples concerning instances where Orlando rushed their play, and forced turnovers that led to chances for the Galaxy.
An excellent example of this can be seen in figure 2, which comes really early in the game. This is a pressure situation, but Cesar Araujo still has the time and space to turn and play a lower percentage pass. What ultimately happens is, Araujo rushes the play, the ball is recovered and the Galaxy have a chance to put the ball into a dangerous area.
Figure 2 is a clip showing an early chance for the Galaxy.
Offensive use of the ball in key transition moments
This is something Orlando did very well. And the goal is an excellent example of this. Ercan Kara wins the ball in a dangerous area and picks out Torres with an inch perfect cross.
Another solid example can be seen with the second half opportunity for Araujo (figure 3). Torres, Kara and Mauricio Pereyra in particular were great at finding the space between the Galaxy defence and midfield as well as finding space behind the backline. If Araujo scores here, it's probably game over. Pareja's overall game plan, seemingly, was to hit them in transition whilst remaining solid at the back. Whilst it was far from an immaculate execution of this plan, it was still fairly good. The Galaxy did create some chances, but overall Orlando were able to limit those, due in no small part to their defensive shape...
Figure 3 is a game still from just before Araujo's second half chance.
Orlando's defensive shape
Orlando's defensive set up is something I was very critical of during 2021. And the system is far from perfect now. That being said, there's still been a drastic improvement in my eyes. The back 4 held a good line throughout the game and were adequately protected by Araujo, Junior Urso, Sebas Mendez and even Torres.
Take a look at the game still in figure 4. The defensive line is perfect. You have Ruan, Antonio Carlos, Robin Jansson and Joao Moutinho holding the line. Junior Urso has dropped into the wing-back slot, which allows Ruan to cover the half-space. Torres can pressure the ball, and this then forces LA back. There is no obvious space for them to exploit. You can also see Araujo and Mendez covering that space in front of the back 4, which helps to negate any potential movement from Rayen Raveloson or Marco Delgado.
Figure 4 is a game still showcasing Orlando's solid defensive line.
Again, in figure 5, there is an excellent example from midway through the first half. They set up in a 4-1-4-1, Urso and Torres both take up wide positions to cover the flanks. Both full backs can then either tuck in and cover the half-space, or they can move out to both Galaxy wide men, depending on how the attack develops. Everyone seems to know their job, which is great to see. Ultimately the Galaxy end up passing the ball around the back here, and the pressure never really materialises.
Figure 5 is a game still showcasing Orlando's solid defensive line.
The Galaxy still had chances, but Orlando's defensive shape definitely helped to minimise their occurrence for sure.
We've already spoken about Orlando's defensive organisation; Antonio Carlos was central to that. The Brazilian completed 2 tackles, 14 clearances, 9 headed clearances, 1 interception and 3 recoveries. Antonio Carlos is a leader and somebody who continues to showcase his immense value to the club. His fotmob.com rating of 7.78 says it all.
Gallese -7- Made important saves and generally seemed assured.
Ruan -7- Held his position well and wasn't bullied like against Cincy.
Antonio Carlos -8- Solid as a rock.
Jansson -7- Probably his best game of the season.
Moutinho -7- Protected the flank well.
Mendez -7- Provided good defensive cover.
Urso -8- Worked very hard in midfield.
Araujo -7- Probably should have scored, but got himself about well.
Torres -8- Was very lively and took his goal well.
Pereyra -7- Linked the midfield and attack well.
Kara -7- Led the line well and made the goal.
Smith -7- The accountant was as dependable as ever for the last 20 minutes.
Akindele -7- Used his experience to help see the game out.
Michel -7- Provided fresh legs.
Schlegel -7- Helped shore things up at the back.
Head Coach Oscar Pareja
"We’re very proud of the players. The full squad had a terrific week of training trying to bounce back from the result that we had at home. Today we showed a lot of things that we liked, which is our character, our willingness and our bravery to be the team that can go away and get results and also be strong at home. We’re really pleased. I think we won a game against a very good rival in a difficult place, at a difficult hour, too, and our boys did a fantastic job.”
B-roll footage and post match media availability footage courtesy of Orlando City SC.
Game stills courtesy of FreeSports and MLS Soccer.
Cover image courtesy of Orlando City SC.