Analysis: Nashville (h). Orlando March On To The Semi-Finals.
They say karma keeps receipts. I don't know about you all, but I feel Orlando City have been vindicated. The wrongs of the Nashville/Allen Chapman game from the tail end of last season have been well and truly righted. Orlando City have advanced to the semi-final of the US Open Cup and now stand on the precipice of glory.
After the FC Cincinnati defeat, you could be forgiven for feeling pretty dismal about this Orlando City team. And a lot of the criticisms that came out of that game are certainly justified. That remains the case. That was an intrepid performance against Cincy, one lacking in any real quality or ingenuity. This performance, against Nashville, whilst being much more positive, was still far from perfect.
That being said, from a mentality point of view, there's a lot for Oscar Pareja to be pleased with.
The Lions never allowed themselves to feel too down on the fact that Nashville looked to have stolen a scarcely deserved victory through Hany Mukhtar's second half strike. The team kept going, right until the bitter end, and were duly rewarded by Rodrigo Schlegel's late leveller.
The performance of Facundo Torres
I think this was one of Facu's better games for Orlando City. He seems to be growing in confidence with each passing game, a fact that was underlined by a stonking penalty in the shoot-out. Torres just ripped through that thing with his laces. It was chef's kiss.
Torres was full of running all evening; he looked inventive and was always trying to get things going. He floated well between the lines, and used the ball intelligently (figure 1). He also led the game in chance created with 5, which is vitally important for a team that's struggled to create anything of note just lately.
What Torres did particularly well in this game, was move the ball well with the old give and go. He was excellent popping the ball of and then immediately turning and darting into space, which kept the Nashville defence on its toes. We see an excellent example of this in the 48th minute (figures 2 & 3). He plays a superb one, two before eventually working a chance for Junior Urso, who was unable to convert. I think you'll continue to see the young Uruguayan go from strength to strength here.
Figure 1 shows some of Facu's key stats.
Figure 2 is a game still from the first half.
Figure 3 is a game still from the first half.
Orlando are incredibly wasteful
A valid criticism of this team remains their inability to put teams to bed. Their creativity has been non-existent at times this season, and on the occasions they do create lots of chances they don't take them. Against Nashville, the team were incredibly wasteful. Of the 23 total shots that Orlando took, only 5 were on frame (figure 4). That's 21.7% of their shots on target. That's not enough. Elliott Panicco only made 4 saves, whereas Pedro Gallese made 5 in the 120. Nashville had 6 shots on target from 9 total efforts. Hany Mukhtar had 4 of Nashville's efforts on target (figure 5). If not for El Pulpo, the result could've been very different.
As with Gallese, if it weren't for a timely intervention from a central defender, I'd be writing a very different piece right now. The team's performance was an improvement on FC Cincinnati, but that's a low bar. Whilst there is plenty for Pareja to be pleased with in terms of the attitude, mentality and even the shape of the team, there's still something missing on the technical side. A bit of spark and some clinical finishing.
Figure 4 shows both team's shooting statistics (Orlando, left).
Figure 5 shows Hany Mukhtar's shooting statistics.
I was going to give it to Pedro Gallese for his heroics during the shoot-out. But how many memorable moments has this man given us? Yes, he should've done a lot better for Mukhtar's goal; he needed to get goal side and snuff out that cross. But overall he was very solid; the Argentine won 3 clearances, 3 aerial duels, 4 ground duels and 6 recoveries. He also gave us another memorable knock-out soccer moment. We don't even have a chance to advance without his goal.
Gallese -8- Hero of the shoot-out.
Ruan -7- Got up and down the pitch well, and handled his 1 v 1s.
Jansson -7- Great kick in the shoot-out and distributed the ball well.
Schlegel -8- Godrigo.
Smith -7- Mr. Dependable as ever.
Urso -7- Not his best game, but not his worst either.
Araujo -7- Fast becoming a key player for this team.
Torres -8- Grows in confidence every week.
Pereyra -7- God we need him to stay healthy.
Akindele -7- Didn't get into the game too much, but worked hard and played a neat pass to create a chance for Kara.
Kara -7- Led the line well and created a couple of opportunities.
Antonio Carlos -7- Very happy to have him back.
Perea -7- Not a great penalty, but he passed the ball well.
Mendez -7- Helped Orlando to maintain possession in ET.
Michel -7- Provided some fresh energy.
Pato -7- Why does he not play more?
Head Coach Oscar Pareja:
“I’m very happy, obviously, with the victory and going to the semifinal with this group of players against a very good rival, with the possibility of advancing. It’s a very good step for us. Regarding the game, I didn’t think we played well the first half, at least 35 minutes where Nashville was much better than us. [They] created options. I think the game was generous with us keeping it at zero. But after the goal, I thought we reacted and I want to recognize that reaction from the players. I think they had the personality and patience to go through it. The guys who came on in the game also helped us tremendously today. Gave us energy, gave us some creativity too. Then at the end I thought we were very fair winners. The game was, as I said, first half for them and after that we leveled the game and then we started creating options and being ourselves. But it was a tremendous game and a very difficult one.”
*All statistics courtesy of fotmob.com
Top player image and cover image courtesy of Orlando City SC.
B-roll and media availability footage courtesy of Orlando City SC.