Analysis: Nashville SC (h). PRO strike again, as Orlando City are robbed of victory
Updated: Nov 15, 2021
Football's a funny old game, isn't it? Well, to be honest it wasn't all that funny at Exploria Stadium on Sunday, but you take my point. Sure, there are particulars and tactical nuances behind why Orlando City weren't able to wrap up the victory long before injury time. And we will get to those. But my gosh, if I've seen a more egregious refereeing call in my lifetime as an Orlando City fan I cannot recall it.
At best, this call is tantamount to gross incompetence. At worst it's almost criminal. If MLS is serious about becoming a globally competitive and elite league, it needs to lend serious consideration to serious reform within PRO. Steph Yang of The Athletic wrote a particularly damning piece on the issues underlining PRO referees in the NWSL. That sorry set of circumstances permeates from the organisation as a whole and into the MLS. It's not just an NWSL problem. It's very much an MLS problem too, despite the funding differences between the 2 leagues.
How much time in a season do MLS coaches, players and supporters spend complaining about referees? This isn't something that is specific to the game in the US. Far from it. The difference is, in most other countries, they attempt to address issues pertaining to refereeing standards. MLS doesn't. With PRO referees, in their current state, the immense progress MLS has made in terms of growth and respectability is seriously undermined. Regardless of these injustices, I'd be hard pressed to say that this wasn't a fair result. On the balance of play, Nashville probably deserved a point. Both teams had 14 shots on goal, although Nashville had 5 more on frame (7 to 2). Possession leaned slightly in favour of Orlando, 55%-45%, whilst passing accuracy was also very similar at 87%-84%. It was a fairly even game, where both teams cancelled each other out, by and large.
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Orlando's defensive shape
Orlando's shape was impressive overall. They were well organised and did a very good job of shutting down passing lanes in midfield (figure 1), particularly high up the field which led to Orlando causing turnovers in key attacking areas (figure 2). You'll notice from the graphic in figure 1, that Dike, Mueller, Nani and Pereyra take up positions to pounce on any loose passes. It's something Orlando haven't always done well on a consistent basis, so it was great to see them execute it well against a play-off team. It was almost perfect, but not quite. But more on that later. This is the positive sub-section. I just saw the 'Book of Boba Fett' trailer, so I'm feeling good.
The press is much more difficult to negotiate, for opposing teams, when players go in numbers. This is something Orlando did well. permeated throughout the entire team and not just the forward areas. Orlando did a great job of stifling the space with tackles (7), interceptions (12) and blocks (6). Although Nashville were able to get 14 shots away, 50% were outside the area (figure 3). They were largely starved of clear cut opportunities.
It's actually something I think both teams did rather well, which I think is one of the main reasons the 2 sides were level heading into time added on. OK, now I'm annoyed again...
Figure 1 is a game still from the first half.
Figure 2 shows Nashville's shot positioning matrix, whole 90.
Figure 3 shows Nashville's dispossession matrix, whole 90.
I don't think there's anything professional about that organisation. This call is just moronic. Some might label my protestations as bias, but I'd say the same if this were a call against Nashville. Truly, I would.
Aside from the clear and obvious fact that it wasn't a clear and obvious error, it's just not a foul. Dike's eyes are on the ball the entire time (figure 4). He makes a play and Johnston, as any defender would, he made a play on the ball. It's a coming together. Nothing more. If that's a foul we may as well make it a non-contact sport.
Figure 4 is game still from just before the disallowed goal.
Defending for the goal
The defending for Nashville's goal left a lot to be desired. Hany Mukhtar had way too much space to operate in. Orlando didn't do a good job in terms of tracking the runners from midfield. The defenders then backed off of Mukhtar far too much. The goal is something of an oddity as Orlando did very well in terms of closing out the space in the midfield and forward areas. Too many players went to the ball and negated the space behind them (figure 5). When the ball finds its way to Mukhtar, Antonio Carlos needs to get closer much quicker. I'm not taking anything away from the finish, though. It's a very well taken goal from a player who has been on fire all season.
Figure 5 is a game still from just before the equaliser.
Emmanuel Mas had another solid game in the Orlando City backline. Mas not only provides excellent defensive cover on the flank but also provides effective offensive support. His statistics back that notion up, as the Argentine full-back played 2 key passes, completed 2 dribbles and hit 1 shot. The former Boca Juniors man also completed. 86.6% of his 67 passes. On the defensive side of the ball he made 1 tackle, 1 block and completed 6 interceptions. His whoscored.com rating of 7.56 led the team.
Gallese -6- Made a few stops, but they were largely straight forward.
Ruan -6- Was a good offensive outlet.
Jansson -7- Distributed the ball well.
Antonio Carlos -6- Could've done better with the goal.
Mas -8- Had a very good game.
Mendez -7- Made 96.8% of his 62 passes. Baller.
Urso -7- Got up and down the field well.
Nani -7- Lively performance.
Mueller -6- Hustled well, but that's about it.
Pereyra -7- Played between the lines well.
Dike -7- Took his goal well.
Pato -7- A few class touches. Stupendous free-kick.
Michel -5- Hardly got into the game.
Smith -6- Came in on 90.
Van Der Water -6- Came in on 90.
Perea -6- I hope he sues PRO.
*All statistics courtesy of whoscored.com.
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