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  • Writer's pictureDan Berridge

Analysis: New York Red Bulls (h). 5 Star Orlando City Advance To The Lamar Hunt US Open Cup Final.

It's never dull being an Orlando City supporter is it? This was, undoubtedly, Orlando's most complete, most memorable performance of the Oscar Pareja era. It was a performance that has taken them to the precipice of their maiden piece of silverware in the MLS era. Whilst Sacramento Republic should not be underestimated, facing a USL side at home, in a major final... There's never going to be a greater chance to win something.

Orlando were much more aggressive in terms of their attacking play. Mauricio Pereyra, Facundo Torres and Alexandre Pato were finding pockets of space ad nauseam, whilst Ruan was much more like himself in an attacking sense. The Brazilian full-back was caught out massively for Lewis Morgan's opener, but was undoubtedly a threat all evening.

Orlando's defensive performance still left something to be desired at times, although overall they were very solid. Patryk Klimala was a threat for much of the evening, coming close to opening the scoring, twice being denied by the woodwork. But who cares about that right now? Really? Not me. I've not been so entertained since Obi Wan Kenobi returned to my life... OK, maybe that wasn't long ago, but you get my point.

It looked to be another case of 'here we go again', when Morgan fired the visitors ahead in first-half stoppage time. Fortunately, for Orlando City, Cesar Araujo was on hand to fire home a loose ball barely a minute later. This goal proved to be the catalyst for Orlando's second half dominance.

The second half was just... Incredible. A goal from Mauricio Pereyra put the Lions in front, before a second from Cesar Araujo made the game more comfortable. Facundo Torres and Benji Michel added 2 further goals to really gloss up the score line.

It was no less than Orlando deserved, though. They were on the front foot for the entire game. It was probably there best performance so far under Oscar Pareja.

So, what happened? Let's look into it...

Orlando took the game to their opponents

It might seem something of an oxymoron to say after a 5-1 win, but Orlando attacked really well. They were inventive, they moved the ball quickly and they looked like they wanted to put the Red Bulls to the sword. Orlando's attack was multi-faceted, which isn't always the case. Joao Moutinho seemed to have license to roam forward, which gave Orlando balance as Ruan did exactly the same on the opposite flank.

It was Orlando's passing that really allowed them to work the ball into wide positions. The distribution of Cesar Araujo and Junior Urso in the double pivot, allowed the team to build from the back and play triangles between the centre-backs and full-backs to negate the Red Bull's press (figures 1 and 2). Antonio Carlos and Robin Jansson also both did a great job of distributing long balls to beat their press; the Brazilian was 8/9 on long balls, and the Swede 5/9.

This build-up play from the back, allowed Orlando to stay on the front foot for pretty much the entire game in the second half. The passing network graphic in figure 1, actually gives you a decent snapshot of Orlando's overall performance in an attacking sense. Both full-backs were essentially wing-backs, they got forward, widened the pitch and the likes of Pato, Pereyra and Torres really profited from the space in the middle. This was particularly true when the Red Bulls pushed up high, as they chased the game. There were gaps everywhere. And Orlando took advantage of them. See what happens when you attack?

Figure 1 shows Orlando's pass positioning matrix, whole 90.

Figure 2 is a game still from the second half.

Mauricio Pereyra is so important to this team...

Mauricio Pereyra is so damn important to this team. I've written a lot, especially recently, about our over reliance on him. Teams have known that if they shut him down, they shut Orlando City down.

Not so on Wednesday evening.

Pereyra has drawn, what I see as, unfair criticism during the Lion's recent malaise. In recent games, his passing and ability to break lines has been ineffective. I believe this has had as much to do with the (lack of) movement from his teammates, as does El Capitan. Again, not so on Wednesday.

The movement of his teammates was excellent and the experienced Uruguayan cashed in. As well as his goal, Pereyra completed 82% of his passes, he created 1 chance and 4 long balls. The intelligence of his movement for the goal is also extremely underrated. He starts the move by picking up the ball from Ruan just inside the Red Bulls half and spreading the play to Torres (figure 3). Follow his movement as he sees the space. He just knows where Moutinho is going to put the ball. I love this goal for him. Hopefully that will silence the naysayers for a little while at least.

Figure 3 is a clip showing Mauricio Pereyra's goal.

...As is Antonio Carlos...

We just look a better side with him in the team. We look a lot more solid at the back, we look like we can build out from the back more comfortably. We just look a better side with him in it.

I thought Antonio Carlos was excellent, and his stats certainly back that up; 87% pass completion, 3 headed clearances, 3 clearances, 3 interceptions, 3 recoveries and 3/3 ground duels won. There was an assuredness to his play, an assuredness that seemed to permeate through the entire team. I don't think it's any coincidence that he starts and we suddenly look a whole lot better.

Top player

Cesar Araujo

I don't think there can be any doubts here. His 2 maiden professional goals will grab all the headlines, but his overall play was impeccable. As I've already alluded to, he was particularly important to the team's ability to play out from the back. His overall distribution was excellent; he completed 87% of his passes and was 3/5 on long balls. He did some great defensive work as well, making 3 recoveries and winning 3/5 aerial duels. His rating of 8.7 meant he was their player of the match. I feel like they got that one right.

Player ratings

Starting XI

Gallese -6- Great save in the firsy half, but had a quiet game after that.

Ruan -7- More like his old self.

Jansson -7- Very solid game.

Antonio Carlos -8- So good to have him back.

Moutinho -8- Had a great game on the left.

Araujo -9- Imperious.

Urso -7- Kept things ticking along well.

Torres -8- Movement was excellent all night.

Pereyra -9- Played really well.

Pato -6- Movement was good but not his night on the ball.

Michel -7- I've been critical, but he took the goal well.


Schlegel -6- Came in late to help see the game out.

Smith -7- Kept things solid at the back.

Gioacchini -6- Good to see him make his first appearance.

Akindele -6- Provided fresh legs late on.

Andres Perea -7- Looked OK.


Head Coach Oscar Pareja:

“The importance of the game goes beyond taking the Club to another final, which is super for our fans and what we’re achieving means for the city. We’re working hard, the boys are doing a lot in trying to be more polished on the finishing, creating more sequences and volume [in the attack]. Today is a great reward for them. We’ll keep our heads in the right place, try to be more consistent and score those goals that will give us points. Tonight we want to enjoy this great moment for our fans and for our Club, taking the Club to a second final, and hopefully we can give them this trophy.”

*All statistics courtesy of

Top player image and cover image courtesy of Orlando City SC.

Game still courtesy of US Soccer and ESPN+.

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