Analysis: New England Revolution (h). Thrilling Win Seals 2nd Place For Orlando.
Orlando City can now put their feet up and relax for a bit on decision day.
I mean, they won't. They'll want to go to Toronto and win; keep this momentum going into the play-offs. That being said it'll be nice to just be able to enjoy decision day, and not have to stress too much. Orlando City have sealed second place in both the Eastern Conference and Supporters Shield and thus, a place in next season's CONCACAF Champions *Cup.
With all the division amongst the fanbase, amidst a sluggish start to the season, no one could have envisaged how well the season would finish. Orlando City are in incredible form right now, and are rightly front and centre in all the MLS Cup chatter.
Orlando just need to remain focused; after all "your focus determines your reality" (Qui-Gon Jinn). And you know Oscar Pareja and his staff won't allow any complacency to seep into the camp. They'll want to finish the regular season with a win in Toronto.
Although Orlando didn't create a whole host of 'big chances'; only 1 big chance was created according to Fotmob.com, Orlando still looked very threatening in attack. The quality of their shooting was of a very high standard. Facundo Torres' goal is a prime example; to mere mortals there's no way that's a 'big chance'. He's got no business cracking that into the corner as he did. It's a stupendous finish. Torres had an XG of 0.20, which says everything about that 'chance'; MLSSoccer.com rated the opportunity at 15.85% on their expected goals scale. It's an insane finish.
Torres is absolutely unplayable at the minute. Everytime he gets the ball, I'm on the edge of my seat, waiting for something to happen. If recent reports are to be believed, he is currently on Ajax's shopping list. It's not hard to see why he would appeal to the Dutch giants; the Uruguayan has 14 goals and 3 assists in league play. With the correct coaching, I could easily see him playing for a club as big as Ajax.
Torres is just integral to everything that's good about an Orlando City offense that's scored 19 times in 10 outings since the restart. His movement is very intelligent. He never stands still, and is constantly looking for space. Just look at his heatmap (figure 1). He drags people out of position and creates space for his teammates. If he earns his move to Europe, he'll leave a gaping hole in our attack.
The form of Ivan Angulo and Dagur Dan Þórhallsson on the other side has also helped Orlando to extend their attacking repertoire. Þórhallsson was, essentially, a right-wing back (figure 2), with Angulo inverting. They gave Thomas Chancalay and Matt Polster a torrid time down Orlando's right flank, with many of Orlando's shots and key passes coming from that side (figures 3 & 4).
Figure 1 shows Torres' heatmap, whole 90.
Figure 2 shows Orlando's passing network, whole 90.
Figure 3 shows Orlando's shot positioning matrix, whole 90.
Figure 4 shows Orlando's key pass positioning matrix, whole 90.
Orlando's possession play
Orlando were great in terms of looking after the ball, completing 90% of their 459 passes. They had the look of a team that is at the peak of its powers in terms of its confidence. They knocked the ball around well; every player was showing for the ball, every player looked calm in possession. It was great to see, and is consistent with the way this team is playing right now. Look at the clip in figure 5. Look how each player seems eminently comfortable with the ball, allowing Orlando to build attacks from their own defensive line.
They just look a confident team. A team capable of beating anyone at this point in time. My only concern is the international break. When a team is playing as well as Orlando is right now, the last thing they'll want is a break. It's 2 weeks until Toronto, but there's nothing riding on that. So, really it's going to be 3 weeks (ish) before Orlando play a game with any jeopardy.
Figure 5 shows a clip from the first half.
The erstwhile Portimonense loanee marginally outshone Facundo Torres in my eyes, but in truth any of the attackers could have scooped my not at all covered 'Top Player' award for this game. His goal aside, the Colombian's direct running off the ball had the New England defence on their toes all game. Genuinely one of my favourite Orlando players and he's hitting his best form at just the right time.
Gallese -6- Rare poor game. We'll allow it.
Þórhallsson -8- One of his best games.
Schlegel -7- Didn't have a massive amount to do.
Jansson -7- Played the ball out well.
Santos -8- A real danger.
Araujo -7- Disruptive.
Cartagena -7- Recycled possession well.
Torres -9- Top drawer.
Pereyra -8- Was everywhere.
Angulo -9- Top drawerer.
McGuire -8- Orlando runs on Duncan.
Ojeda -7- Lively.
Urso -6- Experience helped.
Enrique -6- Put a shift in.
Felipe -6- Came in too late.
González -6- Came in too late.
Orlando City head coach Oscar Pareja
"First on behalf of our players, coaching staff and directors and I am very sure from the whole Club, thank you guys so much for following this season. Thank you for being around the team and linking us with the fans and the community. This season, even in the moments where there was a maybe a storm, you guys were very objective and that pushed us too. Thank you for being so professional and I think this belongs to all of us. We are very proud of belonging to this City, belonging to this community and taking this team to second place and Concacaf [Champions Cup] again. We have a long journey still to go. The players know and the game today was a reflection of what we are. A very difficult game against New England, that first half was difficult, but we responded very well and scored goals. Second half, if we had better finishing then we would probably increase our goals and be more efficient and lethal. I thought we played probably with too much responsibility to get the job done and get the game done which tied us a little bit in conceding that second goal. I am proud of them. I am proud because they know they can relax themselves a little more. There are still a lot of things to do, but today we beat New England which is not an easy task. This journey in the last three weeks has been a lot of games and the boys responded well. Again, thanks to you and congratulations to the players.”
Top player image and cover image courtesy of Orlando City SC.
Media availability footage courtesy of Orlando City SC.
Game footage courtesy of Apple TV/MLS.