It's hard to pinpoint exactly what went wrong here. I mean, it's not. Horrible defending was the main thing. But why? The chaotic, disorganised nature of Orlando's defensive performance was out of character, to say the least. But why? Travel? Scheduling? Altitude? All of the above?
It was a raucous atmosphere at America First Field, with a bumper crowd of well over 20,000. Orlando City just wilted, and there's no other word for it.
We were just outplayed, from start to finish. We gave up some really cheap goals, and we never really looked like threatening their clean sheet, outside of a couple of Facundo Torres half chances.
It was just a bad day at the office. Like, a really bad one. We were complete bantha fodder. And, if we're being honest, we caused a lot of those problems ourselves. I don't think we need to press the panic button. I stand by what I tweeted during the week.
But this can't happen again.
Not getting to grips with their midfield
I said, before the game, we'd need to win the physical battle in midfield. We'd need to harry them, win the second balls and generally just not let them settle on the ball. We didn't do a good enough job in that regard. We didn't get close enough to Braian Ojeda and Pablo Ruiz. On loan Nottingham Forest midfielder Ojeda won more duels than any Orlando City player. He and Pablo Ruiz (3 assists), ran the show in the middle, and Orlando didn't do enough to halt their flow.
As such, RSL were able to dominate the ball in dangerous areas. The likes of Ojeda, Ruiz and Diego Luna were able to break lines and find Cristian Aranga et al, at will (figure 1). Jefferson Savarino, in particular, had a lot of joy in wide areas, which all stemmed from RSL's midfield. If Orlando had been able to get a better hold on the RSL midfield, it mightn't have been such a chastening defeat.
All that being said, I don't think the scheduling, combined with MLS' ludicrous roster restrictions, helped. I don't want to use that as an excuse, but it's a factor for sure. Here in England, we always say the Europa League schedule can be difficult to navigate for teams. Playing Sunday, Thursday, Sunday with a trip to Russia on the Thursday, often has an impact on performance for teams. In terms of distance, that's basically what our week was. And the Premier League's roster rules are nowhere near as inflexible as MLS'.
Figure 1 shows RSL's passing network.
Inability to defend crosses
Cesar Araujo. I have been full of praise for him lately, and it's been deserved. He's been excellent. But... I dunno, I'm not sure what happened to the Uruguayan enforcer up in Sandy, Utah. Maybe the altitude got to him. I don't know. He's caught napping on crosses, 3 times in the first half. Of those 3, 2 end up in the back of the net. It's the sort of sloppy play that costs points. It was always going to be an uphill task at 2-0 down. Both of those goals could have been avoided, had Araujo been alive to the danger. I'm never one to blame an individual for goals, but I don't see who else was culpable.
Look at the first one (figures 2 & 3). He's completely unaware of his surroundings, and allows Aranga to ghost in. He makes an awful attempt to head the ball, jumping softly from a standing position. By not being aware of Aranga's movement he allows him to get goal side. He needs to follow his run all the way, and in the end it's a simple finish. I think the fact that it had already happened, in the 9th minute made it all the more frustrating. There was a let off on that occasion.
Figure 2 is a game still from the first goal.
Figure 3 is a clip of the first goal.
The second goal is much of the same. Araujo just doesn't challenge for the ball well enough and it's an easy header. I know it probably seems like I'm picking on the guy, and I'm not wanting to start a witch hunt.... But, yeah...
Figure 4 is a game still from the second half.
Facu is the only one who really did anything of note; he was unlucky not to score in the first half. Even so, he cut an isolated figure for much of this match. Not one of his finer games, which is a sentiment in keeping with the rest of his teammates, to be honest.
Gallese -6- Hung out to dry, repeatedly.
Smith -5- Torrid evening.
Jansson -5- Looked leggy and frustrated.
Antonio Carlos -5- Have the rumours unsettled him?
Santos -5- Well off it.
Araujo -5- Not his day at all.
Cartagena -6- One of the few who looked lively and up for it.
Torres -6- Not his finest work.
Pereyra -5- Anonymous.
Angulo -5- Isolated.
McGuire -5- No service.
Þórhallsson -5- Very little he could do.
Enrique -5- Game was gone.
Kara -5- Same as McGuire.
Petrasso -6- Difficult situation to come into.
Ojeda -6- Again, the game was gone.
Orlando City head coach Oscar Pareja
"Obviously a difficult experience today against Real Salt Lake to have this moment when we are getting our confidence higher and coming from a good stretch of games. Today, we ran into a team that was very effective going forward when they had their chances. I thought we had our chances too, but we didn’t have the capacity to finish our opportunities. We are going to observe it and keep our mentality intact. We have no excuses. Salt Lake were much more effective and obviously, the score reflects that.”
Top player image and cover image courtesy of Orlando City SC.
Media availability and B-Roll footage courtesy of Orlando City SC.
Game stills courtesy of MLS/Apple TV.