Analysis: NYCFC (h). Classic game of two halves as Lions battle for a draw to move to 11 unbeaten
Orlando City battled to a hard fought point. Overall, it's a fairly decent point. Admittedly, a chance was missed to gain some ground on Toronto and Philly in particular, but none was lost. Results went in our favour, and I'm a glass half-full kinda guy. Crucially, we kept the gap to NYCFC at 4 points, and have a 3 point advantage over New England in 5th place. With a game in hand, against Columbus in 3rd. Orlando are in touching distance of clinching that, long-coveted, play-off berth. All whilst still being in a great position to seal a home play-off, as well as keeping us in the Supporters Shield conversation. With 6 games to go, and a favourable run-in, there is everything to play for.
Lightning start for Orlando City
This was your classic game of two halves. Or even a game of three thirds. Depending on your own point of view. After all, a lot of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our own point of view. Getting that pop culture reference in early. I'll give you a clue. He was her only hope. Sorry, I'm getting side tracked again...
There was a lightning start from Orlando City. They almost put one on the board in the opening minute. Shortly after a handball shout, Andres Perea fired into the side netting from a tight angle. There were chances aplenty, with Chris Mueller and Daryl Dike also going close either side of Ca$h's opener. An opener, that was thoroughly deserved. The Lions threatened to run away with the game, during a frenetic first 35 minutes. Orlando chalked up 6 shots during that time, and were moving the ball around remarkably well. They were on top.
I also want to just take a moment to appreciate that goal. The inter-play is sumptuous, and the run and cross from Ruan... Well, there's just no superlative adequate to describe it. It was poetry in motion, from a player oft-maligned for his end product, or lack thereof.
A colleague and I (Dan, The English Lion) are currently raising money for Crocus Fields
Crocus Fields is a respite care centre for children and young people with disabilities, that we both work in. The Covid-19 pandemic has bitten hard, and we need to raise money for sensory equipment. Any and all donations are hugely appreciated. Vamos Orlando!
Nani was in particularly imperious form during Orlando's best spell of the first half; whoscored.com had him rated as 7.8 during that first 35 minutes. His running, dribbling and movement were exceptional, at times. That being said, he turned the ball over a lot in this game. Of his 34 passes, only 58.8% of them, found their intended target. On the flip side, however, his movements were mercurial. He created so much space for his teammates, that they were just unable to take advantage of. If you look at his heatmap in figure 1, and his offensive play statistics in figure 2, you'll see what I'm getting at; 8 successful dribbles, 3 key passes and 6 drawn fouls. It was bordering on the sublime at times.
Figure 1 shows Nani's overall heatmap.
Figure 2 shows Nani's (and the rest of the team's) offensive statistics.
Drop off second half... Again
It seems to be happening rather a lot recently. Tired legs has to be coming into it at this point, especially when you consider our lengthy absentee list just now. Midfield is an area that is especially depleted with Sebas Mendez, Uri Rosell and Mauricio Pereyra all unavailable to Oscar Pareja at this moment in time. You could see a noticeable drop-off, in terms of intensity, during the second half. Which is a little bizarre, considering the extra rest days we've had. But it's been a long season. Orlando's long run to the MLS Is Back final, combined with the aforementioned absentees and the current fixture pile-up have presented the team with a unique set of challenges. Challenges they are facing remarkably well, I hasten to add. Oscar Pareja will be hoping he will have his full compliment available sooner rather than later. Having a fully fit and available squad will, surely, go some way to abating this current trend of second half malaise.
Brian Rowe must have silenced his doubters, surely
It's fair to say Brian Rowe has had his doubters. Panic seemed to ensue online, when El Pulpo was confirmed to be travelling to Peru. Unfounded and, frankly, preposterous panic. This is a guy who is a veteran of the league, and is a very capable 'keeper at this level. People often seem to forget he's an MLS Cup winner as well. Gallese is rightfully the number 1, but Rowe is no mug. He made 7 saves on the night. He is a solid all-rounder. He distributed the ball well, with a 75% pass completion rate on 24 attempts (14 of which were long-balls). These are solid numbers for an MLS goalkeeper only playing his second game of the season. He certainly earned his pay packet, earning our top player ranking for a second consecutive game week. Not that, that means much. The sentiment is there, however.
The saves he made to deny Valentín Castellanos on 64 minutes, and Ismail Tajouri-Shradi on 73 minutes (before the flag), were stupendous. The Castellanos effort is goal-bound. The tache had other ideas, however. Rowe's positioning allows him to adjust his body correctly, to get a solid hand on the ball. Tajouri-Shradi's effort was about to rip the net. Rowe, again, has other ideas. Spreading his body, he is able to deflect the shot away. Yes, it was right at him but it's still a top save. The ferocity with which the NYCFC man hits that shot could easily make a lesser 'keeper flinch. He gets his positioning spot-on, and doesn't allow for any space at the near post. The flag came up shortly after, but Rowe wasn't to know that, so it's a moot point.
After being thrown in for his first start of the season, in Atlanta, it was very much a case of straight from the frying pan and into the fire for Brian Rowe. I spoke, in my preview, about the amount of chances NYCFC create. There was always going to be potential for this to be a busy evening for the MLS veteran. And so it turned out to be, as Orlando were left hanging on at the end of the game. He'll doubtless be disappointed with the goal he did concede, but 7 saves on the evening tells its own story. The 64th minute stop to deny Castellano, was probably the pick of the bunch. The Lions missed a chance to close the gap to the Supporters Shield frontrunners, but it could've been much worse if not for the Chicago native.
Rowe -8- Made a few crucial saves in the second half to earn his team a point.
Ruan -7- Kyle Smith can consider himself unfortunate to miss out, but Ruan justified his selection with a mesmerising run for the goal.
Carlos -7- Needs to be signed up, as soon as possible.
Jansson -7- Another solid performance from the Swede.
Miller -6- Looked nervy at times, but also came up clutch with a couple of crucial tackles.
Urso -6- Looked a but leggy at times, but got about well.
Perea -7- Plays with a maturity that belies his years. Another one we need to lockdown
DeZart -6- 91% pass completion rate is nothing to be sniffed at. Doesn't look out of place.
Nani -8- Movement was excellent, but turnovers let him down at times
Mueller -7- Took the goal well, full of running.
Dike -7- Looked isolated in the second half, but still made his presence felt.
Bender -6- Too late to impact the game.
Loera -5- Didn't get into the game at all, but came on at an awkward time.
Robinho -5- Provided some good energy, but that's it.
DeJohn -6- Too late to impact the game.