Despite all of the modern games' nuances and intricacies, soccer is a relatively simple game. If you attack and score goals, you're more likely to get a positive result. Funny that, isn't it?
The Lions made a blistering start to this game, racing into an early 2 goal lead. Whilst the Union were able to pull one back through former Orlando City man, Andres Perea, Oscar Pareja's team could be pleased with their overall performance.
They had a go; City created 2 big chances, had 5 shots and had an XG of 0.57. Their XGOT score of 2.01 was reflective of the quality of the chances Orlando created. Tincho Ojeda was given license to roam behind Ramiro Enrique. Every time they got the ball, they were looking forward; of their 437 passes, 216 were into the Union half.
This was all I wanted to see. And it led to Orlando being the first away team since September 2021 to win in Chester, PA.
With our off-season recruitment, we built a squad to play on the front foot. Not one to play within themselves, not one designed to sh*thouse its way to a 1-0 win every week. This team can score goals, and they should be given the freedom to do just that.
People are always going to talk about the amount of players Philadelphia had missing. But this game was never going to be about the Union. After the horror show against Charlotte, this game was always going to be about us. Can we play good football? Can we take the game to teams? Can we dominate games and show what we are about? Can Oscar Pareja facilitate an attacking display without shackling the talented attacking roster we have? Can he oversee an Orlando City team that actually entertains?
That answer to all of these questions, in so far as this game was concerned, ultimately, was yes.
Now, I think everyone knows my feelings on Oscar Pareja's tenancy. I made those clear last week. And a one win isn't going to signal, to me, that everything is OK again. I'm going to need more. But this was certainly a step in the right direction.
As the game wore on, into the second half, and the score remained 2-1, I'd be lying if I didn't say I feared we would revert to type. You know, sit back and defend what we have. I don't believe we are good enough at the back to do that.
We do, however, have plenty of quality going forward. And we actually tried to use it in this game, creating a plethora of opportunities late on, to seal the win. Dagur Dan Þórhallsson, Ivan Angulo and Martin Ojeda all missed chances to wrap the game up.
But Orlando were constantly looking for that killer 3rd goal, and it was so refreshing to see. Orlando played a total of 164 passes into the final third (figure 1), which was made easier by the excellent movement of the likes of Ojeda (figure 2). As soon as we picked up the ball, we were constantly looking forward, trying to find those runs in behind.
It was fun too watch. Look at the clip in figure 3, there are 47 passes (I ignored the Andres Perea touch) in this move. If you give good players license to move, passing options increase and you're likely to keep the ball better and look more of an attacking threat.
Figure 1 is Orlando's forward pass positioning matrix, whole 90.
Figure 2 is Martin Ojeda's heatmap, whole 90.
Figure 3 is a clip from the second half.
The importance of Felipe
There were so many good performances in this game, but one that could easily go under the radar was the performance of Felipe in his first Orlando City start. He formed the basis of a good looking double pivot at the base of the midfield, alongside Cesar Araujo.
I just felt he covered ground well and help to conduct our passing, which was excellent; though we only had a pass success rate of 76% (lower than Charlotte), we were attempting more high risk passes, so there's always going to be a caveat to pass completion rates when you play like that. He himself completed 38/49. Overall, he just looked assured in possession and did a lot of the dirty work; he won 2 tackles, made 6 interceptions and 5 recoveries. He covered a lot of ground (figure 4), breaking up Philly moves and allowing us to get on the front foot.
Figure 4 shows Felipe's heatmap.
It's not our goalkeeper this week! Thank the maker!
I tweeted before the game, that this was a chance for Ojeda to take centre stage in the absence of Facu Torres. And boy did he do that. Aside from his excellently taken goal, the young Argentine forward assisted Ivan Angulo for his goal and recorded some impressive overall stats; 8 shots, 2 chances created, 7 passes into the final third and an overall XG of 0.97.
Not only that, he passed the eye test all night long, constantly looking to create. His movement was first class and he looked to be playing with a lot of confidence.
Stajduhar -8- Made some important saves.
Smith -6- Got dunked on for the goal.
Schlegel -7- Similar to Smith, needed to do more for their goal.
Jansson -7- Solid
Petrasso -7- Thought he defended very well.
Felipe -8- Was class.
Araujo -8- Played very well alongside Felipe.
Ojeda -9- Excellent.
Pereyra -8- One of his better performances this year.
Angulo -9- Another that played very well. His runs were a nightmare for Philly.
Enrique -8- I thought his movement was excellent.
Antonio Carlos -7- So good to have him back.
Gonzalez -6- Provided fresh energy.
McGuire -7- Made a right nuisance of himself.
Þórhallsson -6- Had a chance to kill it.
Orlando City head coach Oscar Pareja
"I think it says a lot about the character of this group. It was not an easy moment after we lost at home against Charlotte in a game that we could have easily changed the story of that result, especially in the second half. But the game shows us that every game just shows a different story. Today we come up against a very hard opponent, especially at home as you guys remark. A team who has not lost at home for so many games. A team that I respect a lot and especially its coach, but today we came with character, and we needed to bounce back from not just that result, but we needed to play well. That remarks or highlights even more the performance of our team today.”
Cover image and top player image courtesy of Orlando City SC.
B-Roll footage courtesy of Orlando City SC.
Media availability footage courtesy of Orlando City SC.
Game clip credit to Apple TV+ and MLS.