Analysis: New York City FC. OC makes it 2 on the spin. All but signs the Pigeons' death warrant.
Updated: Jul 16
If you had said to me yesterday, barely 15 minutes into that game, that Orlando City would be 2-0 up I'd have looked at you as if you'd come in wearing a Fort Lauderdale jersey. It was an explosive start for Oscar Pareja's team. Two well taken goals from Chris Mueller put the Lions in control, before Jesús Medina pulled one back for Pigeon FC. A blight on the outstanding Pedro Gallese, who showed why he is regarded by some as one of the league's top keepers. He certainly underlined his potential in this game.
This Orlando City performance, particularly in the first half, was one full of confidence and zest. It was such an enthralling and enjoyable encounter. The Lions operated with a high press, with the 4-2-3-1 formation utilised so well against Inter Miami. As I wrote earlier this week, the use of a back four with attacking full-backs was particularly effective against NYCFC's wide men. Ruan and Mountinho were able to push up on Castellanos and Tajouri-Shradi. The danger was always going to be getting caught on the counter offensive, which happened on a couple of occasions in the first half.
Following on from this impressive victory, the Lions have now secured a place in the next round of the MLS Is Back tournament. The picture is not as rosy for the Pigeons. Ronny Deila's team are now 0-0-4 on the season, and are staring elimination in the face. NYCFC have struggled for goals, with their lone effort in this game being their first of the season. Orlando by contrast have scored 6 (5 in MLS Is Back), with Chris Mueller notching 3 of them.
A game of two halves
Orlando City certainly started the game the more aggressive of the two sides, threatening to carve New York open at will (figure 1).
Figure 1. depicts Orlando's first-half efforts at goal.
As well as the 2 goals for Chris Mueller, Orlando had further shots from Mueller (1 on frame, 1 blocked), Junior Urso (1 blocked), Luis Nani (1 off-target) and Joao Moutinho (1 blocked).
Orlando were pressing NYCFC high up the pitch, something that NYCFC were struggling to handle as they lost possession several times whilst trying to play out from the back (figure 2). This high press was useful in never really allowing NYCFC to settle on the ball. And it's something that clearly rattled them, as they seemed to be all over the place defensively during a frenetic first 45.
Figure 2. The red lines depict unsuccessful passes from NYCFC's back 5, as the Pigeons struggled to
handle Orlando's high press.
As Oscar Pareja's team hustled their opponents in their own half, NYCFC lost possession in a number of dangerous areas. Particularly down the flanks (see figure 2).
This allowed the likes of Ruan, Mueller, Nani and Moutinho to push up on Tinnerholm and Matarrita. This is something Philadelphia Union had some success with in their match-up with NYC.
Winning possession back in these areas allowed Orlando to stretch the play more, and get the ball out wide. And they did so to devastating effect. Against Fort Lauderdale, particularly in the first half, Orlando were very compact and didn't use the pace of Ruan to its full advantage. Not so, in this game. The Lions looked to turn the ball over to the flanks at every opportunity. It's a method that bore fruit as well, as the team completed 12 successful crosses, 2 of which lead to goals (albeit the first was from a wide set piece).
Figure 3. These images give excellent examples of the Lions overloading on either flank.
As the Lions looked to stretch the play, and get the ball out wide, they were increasingly effective on the overload. You would often see Mueller and Nani, double up on either flank with Ruan and Moutinho (see figure 3). This was a method that we saw for both goals in the win over Fort Lauderdale. This is a real strength for this team. This overload gives options for the likes of Pereyra, Urso and Rosell in the midfield. It makes the team less one dimensional. Which, to be completely honest, they were at times during the first half against Fort Lauderdale. This team is at its strongest when it's able to mix things up and attack the opposition on different fronts using their pace and power.
Bend It Like ... Moutinho
Now, we've spoken to Orlando's willingness to get the ball out wide. But we haven't really touched on the quality of the balls being thrown into the box from wide positions. Particularly from Joao Moutinho's set pieces. Something he showed particular proficiency in last night was his deliveries from dead ball situations.
The first goal, to be frank, is a thing of beauty. I'm a sucker for training ground routine set-pieces. This is clearly something that team has spent a lot of time working on. The team, whilst lining up for the set piece, overloaded the back post. Oscar Pareja had clearly outlined this as a weakness of NYCFC.
Figure 5. These images show how the teams' obvious work on the training ground, paid off in a big way.
The Pigeons are too slow to react to Moutinho's cross. A few of them get caught out, ball watching. And a split second later the ball is in the back of their net.
Note the runs of Mueller and Dwyer, in particular. Both have their eyes on the ball the whole way. They know exactly where it's going, and they attack the space well. Anticipation is a key facet of this goal. Mueller knows exactly where that ball is going to land, allowing him to anticipate the finish.
The Peruvian number 1 was in inspired form for Orlando City. Make no mistake, this is the best we have seen of the Peruvian. The 'keeper came up clutch with save after save, including a smart double save to keep Orlando's 2-1 lead in-tact during the second half (see below). It would be so easy to pick out Chris Mueller as man of the match, with his 2 goals. However, without Gallese we do not hold on to the commanding lead Chris gave us. Top drawer performance.
Gallese -9- Outstanding performance from the Peruvian. Made a number of excellent saves.
Ruan -8- Provided great width for the team, caused the New York defence no end of problems. Was defensively solid himself.
Moutinho -7- Much improved on his performance against Fort Lauderdale. Exquisite cross for the first goal.
Jansson -7- Was his usual dependable self. Rarely put a foot wrong.
Carlos -7- Looked much more comfortable during this game. Won a couple of key tackles on Castellanos.
Urso -7- Was always open for a pass, kept possession ticking over nicely. Seems to be forming a goo partnership with Rosell.
Rosell -7- Works well with Urso, and is fast becoming a key player for this team. His range of passing from deep lying areas provides Orlando with an excellent springboard to start attacks.
Nani -7- The veteran covered a lot of ground, and made himself a nuiance all night. Signs of a promising relationship developing with Pereyra. Leader on the field.
Pereyra -8- Probably his best game for the club. Tested Johnson with a low drive. Pivoted in and out of space really well, and looked comfortable on the ball. Clumsy foul in the second half on Castellanos could have been costly though.
Mueller -9- Excellent performance from the Wisconsin graduate. Two precise finishes for two excellent goals.
Dwyer -6- Another difficult night for the Englishman. Set up Mueller's goal well though.
Akindele -8- Must have done enough to earn a start. Looked lively, held the ball up well and got a goal.
Mendez -7- Typical industrious self, will only get better.
Michel -7- Looked lively, and got in behind a few times well.
Perea -6- Energetic performance, promisiing signs. Just didnt have too much time to effect the game.
All statistics and images courtesy of mlssoccer.com