Analysis: San Jose Earthquakes (h). Lightning start sets Orlando on their way to emphatic victory.
Boy, Orlando City enjoy these lightning starts. And no, I'm not referring to the weather delay. Those delays plague me like the black death. They really do. The arch enemy of the British MLS fan. Alas, I am of course referring to the manner in which Orlando City started this game. Their scintillating start to this match was a joy to behold. The Lions were rampant as they surged into a 3-0 lead before lightning delay number 2. Luis Nani, Benji Michel and the returning Daryl Dike provided the goals as Orlando tour San Jose to shreds. Dike and Michel both completed their braces, to round off the scoring during the second half.
As if I need to point out the significance of this week, and this particular fixture. But I'd be remiss not to remark on how profound a way this performance was, to honour the 49 victims of the Pulse tragedy. Orlando turned on the style and, honestly, 5 or 6 goals in the first half wouldn't have flattered them. Orlando attacked with pace and vigour. Chris Mueller and Benji Michel looked like players re-born. Fort Lauderdale should be concerned. Whilst this San Jose Earthquakes side isn't much cop; of that there can be no doubt, Orlando's quality was clear.
Question marks have been raised about Orlando's ability to find the back of the net, so far this season. A slow start, in terms of the goal-scoring charts, was off-set by an iron clad defence. With 9 goals in their last 3 games, however, Orlando have moved to allay such fears. With 17 shots and an overall XG of 3.5 (figure 1), it's easy to summise that Orlando created a hatful of chances. Something clicked for Oscar Pareja's side. Their attacking play was courageous, daring and innovative. The link up play between Dike and Nani was central to the team's renewed proficiency in front of goal. The experienced Portuguese laid on 2 assists for the returning USMNT sensation. Chris Mueller was more like his usual, industrious, self whilst Benji Michel tormented the San Jose defenders with his pace.
Figure 1 shows both team's XG stats, whole 90.
The interplay between the forwards was also a key component in helping Orlando to create as many opportunities as they did. Their movement and passing had the visiting defence chasing shadows, and created significant space for the midfielders, and full-backs, to move into. If you look at the team passing matrix in figure 2, you'll see what I mean. Look at how much interplay happened between Dike, Michel, Mueller and Nani. And then cross reference that with the clip in figure 3. You'll notice how close Dike, Michel, Mueller and Nani are, and how much space that creates down both flanks, as well as centrally. Orlando exploited this space time and time again.
Figure 2 shows the team passing matrix, whole 90.
Figure 3 shows a clip of the 2nd and 3rd goals.
I don't believe it's overstating matters to say that this was one of Benji's greatest performances in an Orlando City jersey. With 5 shots, 2 goals, 3 dribbles, 2 drawn fouls (including the penalty) and 2 key passes, it's easy to understand what I'm getting at. His direct running and movement were a constant nightmare for San Jose's defence. He stretched their back-line ad nauseam with his direct play. Benji looked just as comfortable receiving the ball into feet, as he did chasing long passes down the flanks. His own passing was also remarkably effective; he posted a 94.4% pass completion rate from 18 passes.
He also takes both of his goals with remarkable aplomb. Neither are easy finishes; his first goal had an XG rating of 57.7%, whilst his second was only rated as 9.3%. With the first goal, he anticipates where Mueller is going to put the ball excellently. He has the awareness to dart into the space, open his foot up to get just enough pace and curvature on the ball. Great finish. His second is a little less instinctive and displays an admirable amount of maturity. He has a bit more time to select his shot, with Oswaldo Alanís and, San Jose 'keeper, James Marcinkowski in close attendance. He picks his spot, and cracks it home. It's not an easy chance, as any sort of hesitation, mistouch or mishit and the chance is gone.
The rising stock of Andres Perea
What player this kid is by the way. He's fast establishing himself as one of the best box-to-box players in all MLS. With an 84% pass completion rate, from 50 passes and 2 won tackles, it's easy to see why there is so much hype surrounding this up and coming star. The Tampa born USMNT international provided energy and enthusiasm in abundance. Nothing seems to faze him either. He was always in the faces of the San Jose midfield, and was always looking to spring attacks. He getting around and passing the ball all over the midfield (figure 4). Many, correctly, worried how the absence of Sebas Mendez would impact in us. They need not worry anymore; at this rate Sebas will have a job forcing his way back into the team.
Figure 4 shows Andres Perea's pass positioning matrix, whole 90.
Daryl Dike's quality was there for all to see on Tuesday evening. The $20m rated frontman was simply too much for this San Jose team to handle. With 4 shots, 3 on targeted and 2 goals, his 50% conversion rate is something this team has been crying out for. His movement was excellent throughout the game, something that is highlighted in the heatmap in figure 5. He ran down the left, the right, through the centre... He even dropped deep to link the play. He was just excellent. His whoscored.com rating of 9.08 says it all. The visitors just could not handle his strength and direct running. With Nani, Michel and Mueller all in imperious form it was always going to be a good night for the former Barnsley loanee. Dike underlined his importance to this team in a big way, and if he is to leave for Europe... Well, messrs Muzzi, Pareja and co. will have quite a task replacing him.
Figure 5 shows Daryl Dike's heatmap, whole 90.
Austin -6- Barely had a save to make, though he was spot on when called into action.
Smith -7- Another very good performance from the Accountant. Though, to be honest, he spent most of the game attacking.
Antonio Carlos -7- Barely had anything to do, launched attacks well.
Jansson -7- Excellent distribution.
Moutinho -7- Subbed out at the half to manage minutes, but he got up and down well.
Perea -8- Was absolutely outstanding, all evening.
Urso -8- Tormented San Jose, led so many attacks from deep.
Nani -8- Cool as you like for the spot-kick. Pass for Dike's first was on-point.
Mueller -8- Looked like the Chris Mueller of old. Excellent chipped pass for Michel's first.
Michel -9- Ran San Jose ragged.
Dike -9- He's back, ladies and gentlemen. C
Halliday -7- Showed his quality in the second 45. Big future ahead of him.
Rosell -6- Came in late, but was just great to see him back.
Pereyra -7- Cruel move to bring him in at 4-0. Poor San Jose.
Akindele -7- Led the line well.
Alvarado -7- Good movement, linked play well.
*All statistics courtesy of whoscored.com and mlssoccer.com