Analysis: Philadelphia Union (h). Orlando City snaps winless streak with a huge 3 points.
It would just so happen, that one of the few games I've missed live, turns out to be one of the most exciting, pulsating wins of the season. Make no mistake, this is a huge 3 points for the team in purple. It's a statement win, and is the perfect anecdote heading into another 'do or die' encounter with NYCFC on Sunday. There were match winning displays from a number of players, which is exactly what you need in a top of the table clash, such as this one. Pedro Gallese, Andres Perea, Benji Michel, Kyle Smith... They all put up big performances, making a number of hugely important contributions. The Lions roared that's all I can really say.
This was a must win game for Orlando City. The New England Revolution's hefty win in Fort Lauderdale meant a bit of a gap to the top of the east was forming. It was essential to try and keep in touch with them. Ordinarily finishing top of the east isn't that huge of a deal, unless you're looking at the Supporters Shield; I just don't see anyone out muscling Seattle there. But this year, with the US Open Cup not happening... You just don't know what wackadoodle plan MLS is going to come up with in terms of handing out the Open Cup's CONCACAF Champions League spot. They'll probably just give it to Atlanta, but you never know. It's probably best to ensure we finish as high up in the Shield and conference standings as possible.
The movement of Benji Michel, Chris Mueller and Nani
I was a little concerned, before the line-ups were announced, about Orlando City's movement up front. We know that Oscar Pareja has a lot of faith in Tesho Akindele. As do I, to be honest. But this wasn't a game where we could afford for the ball to keep coming back at us. We needed to be able to get on the front foot. And the Lion's were able to do that, as Pareja made the bold move of using a fluid front 3. Nani took his position as a false 9, whilst Michel and Mueller also provided excellent movement in the wide areas. This allowed them to push up on Mbaizo and Wagner, and really establish a foothold in the Philadelphia half.
Michel's movement was particularly impressive, he was never static. He was always making the defenders guess, which is something we see for the opener. His movement creates the space, and Mauricio Pereyra is able to find him with precision accuracy. A neat finish from the homegrown puts Orlando on the board. The team then visibly grows in confidence. All of this comes from effective movement in the forward line. When you combine this sort of movement, with Pereyra's distribution, the forwards are going to see more of the ball which leads to results. Michel had 49 touches of the ball, Mueller 29 and Nani 63. They were all over the place (see heatmaps in figures 1, 2 and 3. Their movement was fantastic all evening.
Figure 1 shows Benji Michel's heatmap, whole 90.
Figure 2 shows Chris Mueller's heatmap whole 90.
Figure 3 shows Nani's heatmap, whole 90.
Big performance from Pedro Gallese
It's good to have El Pulpo back isn't it? This wasn't his busiest night by any stretch of the imagination, but came up clutch at the vital time. Late saves to deny Kacper Przybyłko and Drew Sullivan were celebrated like goals at Exploria Stadium. They were match winning saves, from one of the best goalkeepers in the league. His distribution was also excellent, with an 80% pass success rate from 33 kicks. His concentration was nothing short of outstanding. It's very easy to switch off during periods of inactivity, only the best 'keepers can maintain their concentration. That final save against Sullivan was sublime. Speaking of outstanding saves, shout out to Kyle Smith. That last second block was incredible, and indicative of his desire and willingness to die for this jersey.
A word on Joao Moutinho
We all know that the Portuguese left-back has had his injury troubles of late. He'll be hoping to put those behind him. I felt he was particularly impressive in this game. He's not 100% match fit as yet, you can tell. That being said he just provides a different angle to this team. Whilst Kyle Smith has filled in admirably, just having that left footed full-back, who can get up and down the flank is such a benefit. It just gives Orlando so much more, particularly offensively but also in terms of game management and keeping the ball.
When you have a right footed left-back, opponents know to show them inside, and to push up the defensive midfielders and centre backs. It makes it difficult to play out from the back. With a left-footer you have the option of using the out ball down the line, which is much harder to play with your right foot, for obvious reasons. Moutinho had 92 touches of the ball, and a passing accuracy rate of 73.5% from 68 attempts. He got up and down the line so well (see pass positioning matrix in figure 4).
We just look a more accomplished side with Moutinho in it.
Figure 4 shows Joao Moutinho's pass positioning matrix, whole 90.
Andres Perea probably churned up one of his best ever performances for Orlando City, in this game. His dynamism and energy were just the filip that was needed to counter the Union. His distribution was excellent; the young USMNT midfielder completed 87.2% of his 47 passes. Furthermore he completed 3 tackles, 2 clearance, 1 interception and 1 defensive block, as he showcased the steely resilience we've come to expect from the Tampa born player. He also scored a richly deserved second career goal with a superbly timed run into the box. Fantastic performance.
Gallese -8- Not the busiest evening he's ever had, but he came up trumps when it mattered
Smith -7- Solid performance overall, heroic save at the end.
Schlegel -7- Another solid performance from the Argentine.
Jansson -7- Commanding presence at the back.
Moutinho -7- Provided balance to the back 4.
Perea -8- Probably one of his best games for the Lions. Took his goal well too.
Rosell -6- Doesn't seem quite match fit.
Michel -7- Great movement and finish for the goal.
Pereyra -7- Seemed more like his usual self.
Mueller -7- Full of running. Will definitely be missed.
Nani -8- Took to the false 9 role really well. Great cross for the winner.
Alvarado -6- Standard ten minute run out at the end.
Van Der Water -7- Provided some much needed energy.
DeZart -7- Helped to see the game out.
Antonio Carlos -7- Experience invaluable in shoring up the back-line.
Akindele -6- Fresh legs right at the end.
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*All statistics courtesy of whoscored.com