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  • Writer's pictureDan Berridge

Analysis: Philadelphia Union (a). Third consecutive defeat throws Orlando's season into chaos.

I'm worried about Orlando City. I don't think my concerns are unfounded either, although I'm not naïve enough to not recognise that some may accuse me of melodrama. I am concerned. The Lion's current malaise is deeply disconcerting. In Philadelphia, the town I mainly associate with a certain brand of cheese, Orlando City were creamed. Orlando were just unable to relieve the pressure, during a first half where the Union laid siege to our goal. Orlando had 7 touches in the opposing penalty area during an arduous opening period. Only 1 of which resulted in a shot. It was so one-sided it was, frankly, embarrassing. There was brief reprieve in the second half, but it was largely much of the same.

Whilst PRO, and more specifically Alan Kelly (more on them later), did not help matters there can be no doubt that the correct team won this game. Orlando just could not find a way to break the Philadelphia Union lines in order to relieve themselves of pressure. On the rare occasions they were able to smuggle the ball away, it often came right back at them.

There was no let off at all. It was only going to be a matter of time before Philadelphia took advantage of one of the numerous opportunities they created. Kai Wagner's first-half opener left Oscar Pareja's team with a mountain to climb. Ruan briefly restored parity with his second goal in as many games. Orlando's joy was short lived, however, as a second half salvo from the extremely fortunate Kacper Przybyłko put paid to any hopes Orlando had of escaping with a point.

It just wasn't good enough, all round. There was an improvement after half-time, granted. There wasn't enough of one, though. And now Orlando head to New England needing a win to stay in the top 4 (possibly, likely). Lovely.

Inability to break lines and relieve pressure

I think it was plainly obvious that this was Orlando's main issue here. Their inability to circumvent Philadelphia's attacks, and play their way out of trouble was worrisome. Orlando's passing and possession play was below par; Orlando's pass success rate was an overall 80%, though it was a lowly 75% in the first-half. Orlando conceded possession 29 times, in key areas as well (figure 1). Orlando just didn't use the ball well enough. The passing statistics for this game could be somewhat misleading too; there were a number of 'successful' passes that were of poor quality. For example, there were a number of pass towards Ruan and Kyle Smith, where they had made overlapping runs, where they had to check their runs in order to receive the ball. It was just... Poor.

The reasoning behind Orlando's generally sloppy possession play is multi-faceted. First of all, I believe the set-up was all wrong. As much as I rate Kyle Smith as a defender, a by-product of having a right footed player at left wing-back is that you naturally make yourself narrower. Smith naturally tucked inside and contributed to making the field quite congested (figure 2). Philadelphia did a great job of cutting out passing lanes on the right flank and in central areas, which led to a lot of turnovers and also meant Orlando had to play down the left, where there was just no attacking threat.

One of the other principle reasons for Orlando's inability to maintain possession was just their overall poor play in possession. Orlando committed 18 turnovers throughout the game 4 of the top 5 players in possession of the ball were Philadelphia players, with only Mauricio Pereyra breaking the top 5 with 6.4% of the ball (figure 3).

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The other reason that jumped to my mind, was Orlando's lack of an out ball. Tesho Akindele is not a target man. It's that simple. I cannot fathom why Oscar Pareja continues to persevere with this foolishly idealistic notion. Tesho was responsible for 6 turnovers and committed 6 unsuccessful touches. Every time Orlando tried to relieve some pressure and get the ball to Tesho, it invariably came straight back at them. He isn't a target man. Period.

Figure 1 shows Orlando's possession loss matrix, whole 90.

Figure 2 shows Orlando's heatmap, whole 90.

Figure 3 shows the top 5 player possession statistics, whole 90.

Poor defensive decision making

This was another of those games where every goal was avoidable. Whatever Orlando's protestations might be about the first goal, and whether Kacper Przybyłko should've remained on the pitch (definitely not), or whether there was an offside, they still left Kai Wagner completely unmarked in the penalty area (figure 4). There was nobody tracking his run and it was a relatively simple finish for Wagner. It wasn't good enough.

Figure 4 is a game still from just before Philadelphia's opener.

The second goal is even worse from a defensive standpoint. Raul Aguilera, Kyle Smith and Rodrigo Schlegel all missed opportunities to put their foot through the ball. Przybyłko then makes a mockery of our defence by finding himself with heaps of space (figure 5). It's a relatively easy finish in the end. All of their goals were just far too easy. And that's before we even mention the 3rd...

Figure 5 is a clip showing Philadelphia Union's 2nd goal.

Just a footnote on the 3rd goal. Antonio Carlos. What were you thinking?

Figure 6 is a clip showing the Antonio Carlos red card.


Here's the thing, the red card is the correct decision. I've no issue at all with that call. Other decisions however... There were other questionable calls, but the Przybyłko call really takes the proverbial biscuit. It was an embarrassing decision. I've never been a proponent for VAR. I'm a traditionalist, I kinda don't mind bemoaning refereeing decisions. I also am a firm believer these calls even themselves out over the course of a season. My main issues with VAR are two-fold; 1, it takes too long and 2, it's imperfect. It's taken the officials a long-time to still make the incorrect decision. The incident wasn't included on the MLS highlights reel. Curious, isn't it? Actually, when I think about it, it's not curious at all. Kudos, if you get that reference.

Top player

Mauricio Pereya

Whilst this was far from vintage Mauricio, he was trying to make things happen throughout the game. Pereyra had 3 shots, 1 key pass, 73 touches and an 80% pass success rate. He wasn't at his brilliant best, but his rating of 7.39 was fair. He did OK in an otherwise poor team performance.

Player ratings

Starting XI

Gallese -6- Looked defeated at the end.

Smith -5- Not his best game.

Jansson -6- One of only a few players to use the ball well.

Schlegel -7- Probably our best defender on the day.

Antonio Carlos -5- Poor.

Ruan -6- Seemed more like his old self. Nice goal.

DeZart -6- Out early with an injury.

Urso -6- Slow in possession.

Pereyra -7- Tried to make things happen.

Michel -6- Plenty of positive running.

Akindele -4- Pedestrian.


Van Der Water -5- Precious little impact.

Moutinho -6- Should've started.

Dike -6- Starved of service.

Aguilera -6- Did OK in difficult circumstances.

*All statistics courtesy of

Game stills and footage courtesy of ESPN/MLS.

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