Is there a more pertinent sight than Antonio Carlos celebrating an Orlando City goal? He celebrates with all the fervour of an authentic supporter; you can just tell he bleeds purple. When Nani eventually either moves on, or hangs up his boots, he's the number 1 candidate for the captaincy in my eyes. The sight of him pumping his fists was wondrous to behold, especially when you consider what happened to him last time he found the net. Anyway, it's little wonder he celebrated as he did, as this was undoubtedly a huge point for Oscar Pareja's Lions.
As I alluded to in my preview, this Nashville side is the real deal. So, in the grand scheme of things, and considering our absentee list, a point was a bloody good result. Now, I'm not naive enough to misunderstand the context of our recent record, afterall 9 points from the last 18 available isn't exactly MLS Cup form. That being said, regardless of what's happened in recent weeks, this was a very good point. Nashville's home record has been exceptional so far, they've also been scoring goals for fun. An XG rating of 2.01 at home tells its own story. So, to limit them to 1 is no mean feat. There were more than a few positives to take from this game...
The return to form of Mauricio Pereyra
One of the things that really stood out to me, whilst reviewing the game footage, was the performance of our enigmatic Uruguayan playmaker. He was duly rewarded with a quality assist for Antonio Carlos' goal (figure 1). It was a fine delivery. He puts the ball into a great area, with just enough pace that Antonio Carlos really doesn't need to do too much. The pace was already on the ball, so he just needs to cushion it back across the 'keeper, and it's in.
I felt Pereyra was bright and industrious for much of the evening, and his statistics certainly reflect that; 1 shot, 1 assist, 6 key passes and a pass completion rate of 82.8% from 58 attempts. His performance felt much more like the Mauricio Pereyra of old.
His movement, particularly between the lines, was also excellent. He ventured all across the front line, as well as dropping deep to dictate play during key periods of transition (figure 2). Pereyra also displayed so many different dimensions to his play, finding little pockets of space to play through-balls, finding crosses from wide areas as well as switching the play with his long passes. He just looked confident; there was a certain je ne sais quoi about his performance, and it was lovely to see.
Figure 1 is a clip showing Mauricio Pereyra's cross for the goal.
Figure 2 shows Mauricio's heatmap, whole 90.
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I've been critical of Akindele in the past, primarily for his lack of movement and his supposed inability to provide Orlando with an out ball. In Nashville, however, he did everything that was asked of him. He made himself available for passes, he moved into space well, he occupied the defenders with his movement (figure 3). Whilst I'd stop short of saying he played incredibly well, I would say he did a good job. He did everything I'd expect a target forward to do, away from home. We were always going to go through periods where we were under the cosh a little bit more, and he was always available for that out ball, where he could hold the ball up and bring others into play.
His stats made for fairly decent reading too; he had 2 shots on goal, 2 completed dribbles and a had pass success rate of 92.6% from 27 attempts. He also did his share of defensive work, with 1 interception and 2 clearances. Tesho was also, perhaps, unfortunate not to win the game for Orlando, with a late header that cannoned back off the bar. Solid road performance from Tesho.
Figure 3 shows Tesho Akindele's heatmap, whole 90.
Orlando's defensive organisation
This was another of the things that impressed me the most about Orlando City's performance. I felt their defensive organisation and set-up was solid. Aside from a rush of blood to the head from Antonio Carlos for the goal, Orlando severely limited Nashville's goalscoring opportunities. Overall, the hosts only got 4 of their 14 shots on target, and the goal was arguably their best chance of the game. They only had 1 clear cut chance according to MLS soccer.com, and it's hard to pick fault with their assertion.
Orlando sat, fairly rigidly, in their preferred 4-2-3-1 formation. The defensive midfield due of Joey DeZart and Junior Urso provided ample protection for the back-line (figure 4). Their positioning helped to cut off Nashville's available passing lanes, which forced them to either go wide or hit a shot from distance.
This setup also gave Orlando a solid springboard from which to launch their attacks. I also felt that Orlando's full-backs did a particularly good job of stopping Nashville's crossed at source. The home side were only able to hit 20 crosses whilst Antonio Carlos and Kyle Smith won 6 aerial duels between them. It was meat and drink for our defenders. To paraphrase Obi-Wan Kenobi 'the strongest defence is a solid back 4'. OK, maybe I didn't paraphrase, just straight up changed the quote but you take my meaning.
Figure 4 shows an example of Orlando's defensive set-up.
The Uruguayan was someway back towards his best for this one, so hopefully he uses this game to kick on and turn his fortunes around. You have to think the return of the likes of Daryl Dike will help, especially as Silvester Van Der Water continues to find his feat. These players will open up space for Mauricio. His whoscored.com rating of 7.38 was reflective of his overall performance. He only just missed out on the overall man of the match award with Hany Mukhtar (7.90) and C.J. Sapong (7.63) narrowly ahead of him.
Stajduhar -7- Wasn't exactly overworked but what he had to do, he did well.
Smith -7- Solid defensive display from the accountant.
Jansson -7- Those long, raking balls out of the back are a joy.
Antonio Carlos -7- Solid as a rock, and great goal too.
Moutinho -7- Defended well and provided a sublime cross for Tesho's header off the bar.
DeZart -6- Dilly dallied on the ball at times, but provided solid defensive cover.
Urso -7- Very good positioning throughout.
Michel -6- Plenty of running, came close to a goal shortly after the leveller.
Pereyra -8- Looked more like his old self.
Van Der Water -7- Flashes of genuine attacking menace.
Akindele -7- Solid, workmanlike display.
Más -6- Came in late to see things through.
Ruan -6- Fresh legs.
Schlegel -6- Helped to keep things tight.
Mueller -6- Provided late hustle.
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