Well, that hurt didn't it? LAFC brought Orlando City right back down to earth by inflicting the Lion's second home defeat of the season, in only their third outing. The statistics will tell you that Orlando City were the better team on the night; Orlando had 61% of the possession and played 520 passes vs LAFC's 329 at a pass completion rate of 83%. The fact of the matter is, though, they lost the game. And with good reason. LAFC punished the Lion's defensive lapses and deservedly left with all 3 points.
I've spoken, in recent weeks, about how much Orlando have improved defensively, but that seemed to completely fall apart every time LAFC ventured forward on Saturday. Ruan, in particular, had a nightmarish game. Orlando just presented, gifted even, LAFC with some glorious opportunities. The visitors had an XG of 2.78 from 4 shots on frame, which says it all really. Their overall XG of 2.94 from 11 shots, comparatively speaks to the quality of their chances.
It might seem something of an oxymoron to say this, but without their defensive lapses, Orlando probably win this game. They were engaging going forward, they looked lively; I particularly enjoyed the link up play between Alexandre Pato, Ercan Kara and Mauricio Pereyra. They just couldn't get the job done at the back.
Orlando's defensive frailties punished by clinical finishing from the visitors
Some of the goals Orlando conceded on Saturday were just... awful. The first goal had me pulling what's left of my hair out, doing my best angry Wookiee impression. It's just so, so sloppy. These are the sorts of mistakes that games are won and lost on. First of all, Ruan gets caught ball watching as Carlos Vela pings the ball into the space behind him (figure 1) and then, as the ball comes across Joao Moutinho (figure 2) needs to either come in and cover the space, or let Robin Jansson know that Brian Rodriguez is behind him. Rodriguez, to his credit, sees that space and attacks it well.
Figure 1 is a game still from just before the first goal.
Figure 2 is a game still from just before the first goal, a few seconds after figure 1.
And then there's the second one... The last time I felt this perplexed was during the first 10 minutes of Moon Knight, when I was trying to work out why Oscar Isaac had gone for the 'Dick Van Dyke' British accent. Anyway, I digress. As usual.
You don't play the ball across your own 6 yard box like that. It's soccer suicide. When the ball drops Ruan (figure 3) has a number of options; 1) try and shepherd the ball out, 2) head it in literally any other direction, 3) volley it out and 4) go down and pretend to be fouled. Literally all of these options are preferable to the one he chose. It's awful, awful play, indicative of a player bereft of form and confidence. But more on him later...
Figure 3 shows a game still from just before the second goal.
The third goal, whilst not as bad as the other 2, still has to be stopped. The defending was comically statuesque (figure 4). Rodrigo Schlegel needs to do better with his challenge, but at least he does something. It was like they were scared to make a challenge. Almost like they were frightened, fearful even. This was reflective of the team's overall defensive performance. They just didn't do enough to put LAFC under any real pressure when in possession, particularly in their own area. Games are won and lost in both penalty boxes. If you don't win the battles there, then what you do in between them is largely irrelevant.
Figure 4 is a clip showing the third goal.
I think, in all honesty, Pareja has to shoulder some of the blame for this defeat. As much as the players are at fault for their mistakes, you could see that LAFC were targeting both of the Orlando full-backs. Defensively, they are both weak links right now. Granted, both improved in Portland, but it was fairly obvious to me that LAFC were trying to isolate them, and exploit the half space between the full-backs and centre backs (figure 5). A decision needs to be made about both of them... Which is made more difficult by our lack of cover in those positions.
Figure 5 is a game still from the second half.
The fourth goal, in all honesty, is just a bit of a mess. Orlando over committed, which I get, because ultimately they were chasing the game, and they had to go for it. The visitors break following the corner and ultimately kill the game off. There's nothing much more to say on it.
It's time for the Accountant
I'm going to just leave this here. Ruan is struggling, it's time to take him out of the firing line. I love Ruan, but he's a liability right now. Kyle Smith is a solid, no nonsense defender. Maybe that's what we need right now?
The Brazilian scored his second goal in purple with a crisp finish on the volley. His movement, particularly between the lines, was excellent again and he showed his class with the goal. Pato completed 2 successful dribbles and remarkably won 7 of his 7 duels, further underlining the belief that he has what it takes physically to compete in this league.
Gallese -6- Hung out to dry for all of the goals.
Ruan -4- His defensive lapses proved costly.
Antonio Carlos -7- Subbed on 18 minutes. We missed him.
Jansson -6- Won a lot of his duels. Can't blame him too much for the goals.
Moutinho -6- Huge lapse for the first goal.
Araujo -6- First time he's been overrun.
Urso -6- Passed the ball well but was bullied by Latif Blessing et al.
Torres -7- Positive movement.
Pereyra -7- Linked up well with Kara and Pato.
Pato -7- Lovely goal, unlucky to see another chalked off.
Kara -7- Clever knock down for Pato's goal.
Schlegel -7- Needed to do better with the third goal, but was OK aside from that.
Smith -7- For me he needs to start next week.
Michel -6- Looked lively, but wasn't able to impact the game.
Akindele -6- Probably came in too late.
Van Der Water -6- As above.
Head Coach Oscar Pareja: “I feel sad because what we saw on the field today is what we have been working very hard for, trying to turn into a team who can have that volume of attacking and making people feel proud and excited about our initiatives. I think in the first half, it was one of those games that made us feel very optimistic. What happened is that we lost and we conceded four goals, three of them that are not accepted by ourselves at this level and that’s what created the difference in the game. But it would be bad as well to let this feeling be more than what we produced today as a team. I’m trying to recognize the game that the boys played today, especially in the first half and if they go in that direction, they’re going to win many games and I don’t have any doubt about that, but this is the result.”
*All statistics courtesy of fotmob.com.
Cover image and top player image, as well as b-roll footage courtesy of Orlando City SC.
Game stills courtesy of mlssoccer.com and FreeSports.