Analysis: New York Red Bulls (h). Can We Play Away Every Week?
Can we play away every week? I'm beginning to wonder if Exploria Stadium is cursed. Did somebody come and perform some sort of ancient ritual to ensure that Orlando don't have a good home record in 2022? And, if so, was that person a Red Bulls fan? Someone certainly seems to have inflicted us with some sort of Harry Potter style curse on our house. Maybe when Lord Voldemort tried to ensure the prophecy never came to light, it was at Exploria Stadium and not Godric's Hollow? And instead of unintentionally making Harry a horcrux ,he made sure Orlando would be a bit rubbish at home for the rest of the season? Was that a long winded, confusing and unnecessary pop culture reference? Of course it was. Would you expect anything else on this site? No. Cut me some slack, I'm very mad right now...
Let's get one thing straight, this was a poor performance from Orlando City. And that's me being kind. It was shambolic. Yes, we got PRO'd again, but that was just a large dollop of salt in an already very open wound. Orlando looked a team bereft of ideas and ingenuity. There was a disconcerting lack of desire and energy.
Regular readers will know I'm an analytics guy. I feel I need to take a different tact with this game, however. This piece is more of a rant than anything else. There were no particular tactical nuances underlining this defeat. It was just... Shit.
The Red Bulls were magnanimous in victory. Probably because they didn't really have to do much for it, and just felt sorry for their hosts. The general malaise that permeated through this largely very turgid performance was perhaps most excellently summarised by Ercan Kara's second half one v one. The offside flag spared the Austrian's blushes, but he seemed like he didn't know what to do with the ball. Like it was a foreign object, completely alien to him.
It wasn't just him, it was the entire team. I'm not scapegoating Kara. I'm actually a fan of his. The miss just served as a rather apt representation of the overall team performance.
I've been sitting on something for a while; I'm worried about Orlando City. Maybe worried is a little strong. I have concerns. Before anybody just assumes I'm being unnecessarily hysterical after one defeat. I'm not. Or maybe I am?
Oscar Pareja has turned us into a play-off team, but therein lies the problem. We are just that. A play-off team. Is this team, at this moment in time, currently capable of challenging for major honours? No, it isn't. The starting XI, probably is, but our depth is severely lacking. That's poor planning. Why is it, that we are heading into the season with only 3 senior centre backs? As impressive as young Thomas Williams is, this isn't fair on him. He's 17. And he's already being asked to shoulder the responsibility of first team football.
Anyway. I'm not about to call for Oscar Pareja's head. That's not what this is about. But there are some rather disconcerting signs. Our home form continues to be an issue; 17 wins in 37 MLS games under Pareja since 2020 (according to fbref.com). Again, not an awful record. It's just OK. But there's the issue; that's not what Orlando City fans and the Wilf family want, is it? OK was enough in 2020. Not so in 2022.
Consistency is already a major problem for this team. Our recent 2-game winning run was only our 2nd streak in 33 games, dating back to last July. We have already lost 3 home games. Orlando have 17 wins in their last 38 MLS games (home and away). That record is OK, but it's just that. OK. Again, that word. It's all just OK.
We cannot just turn up and expect to roll over good teams like the Red Bulls. We're not good enough for that. Orlando have to fight, for every second of every game. There was none of that on Sunday. I'm not going to deep dive into the stats. As I've already outlined, there were no particular tactical details that underpinned the utter rubbish we all witnessed on Sunday. But look at figures 1 and 2. We were the HOME team.
I sat in the Zoom meeting room for the post-game press conference, stewing over the game and wondering what Papi made of it all. He's never shirked responsibility. That's just not the nature of the man. In typically Papi fashion, Pareja, was candid in the extreme. We weren't good enough. And he knew it.
Orlando City have to improve. Is Pareja the man to oversee that improvement? I still believe so, but I don't think we are a million miles away from there being questions asked. Not if we want to become major contenders. We are a long way off of that, that's for sure.
Figure 1 shows the overall statistics for both teams.
Figure 2 is me trying to depress you.
As for PRO... Ah, I can't do it. I'm sorry. Their incompetence is infuriating. All I'm going to say is this; if there is a singular entity holding MLS back, it's them.
What's the point?
Who even came on? Jack Lynn. Congratulations to him on his MLS debut, but similarly in relation to Williams, it's not for him to rescue this team.
Orlando City head coach Oscar Pareja
"Obviously disappointed with the result because when we compete, we always try to get a result but even more than that. In terms of our performance, we’re fully responsible. It was far from our normal so we’re sorry to the fans that came. We wanted to have joy, but we couldn’t do it. I thought New York outplayed us today and I have to accept that they were much better than us.”
Just to warn you, the highlights are below. If you really hate yourself today, watch them. I don't recommend it though.
*All statistics courtesy of fotmob.com
Cover image courtesy of Orlando City SC.