Analysis: Santos Laguna (a). Orlando City Win Enthralling Encounter With Late Winner.
I'll admit, I was very skeptical about Leagues Cup at first. And as recently as a week ago, I still had my doubts. The confusing permutations don't help, but they've made some games in this tournament just... Wacky. Both teams, throughout the game, were going for the jugular. Not least, Orlando City, who could just as easily have been 3-0 up or 3-0 down.
As it happened, the (*ahem) 'home side' took the lead, as Raul Lopez waltzed through the Orlando City defence and placed a shot past Pedro Gallese, that, if we're being honest, he should have saved. Barely 2 minutes later, Rafael Santos teed up one of his trademark crosses for... Guess who? Duncan. McGuire. Orlando runs on Duncan, after all. The Nebraskan native could do nothing but send a thumping header into the back of the Liga MX side's net.
The second half was much of the same, in the sense that it was very back and forth. Orlando got off to a lightning start in the second period as Mauricio Pereyra thundered a goal of the tournament contender high into the Santos Laguna net. Harold Preciado pegged the Lions back with a controversial equaliser, before Wilder Cartagena stole the win late on to set up a mouth watering clash with Fort Lauderdale and Lionel Messi.
This was, easily, one of the most entertaining performances from Oscar Pareja's team, that I've seen all season. They attacked with vigour and intent. It'll be important for them to tighten things up in transition Wednesday. The players won't have faced anyone near Messi's level, and he thrives in transition.
But aside from that, this was a bloody good performance.
Orlando's attacking play
Their attacking play was just fantastic, particularly in the first half, where they could've easily been a few goals to the good. Duncan McGuire was, again, at the centre of things. He was uncharacteristically sloppy with his first couple of chances, but more than made up for it with his equaliser.
First off, the delivery from Rafael Santos is incredible. It's delivered into a good area with incredible velocity. His crossing is superb, and this particular delivery did all the work for McGuire. The undoubted MLS Rookie Of The Year only had to get solid contact and that ball was heading into the back of the net.
Orlando had an XG of 1.76, which I actually thought was a little low. Primarily due to the quality of the openings the team created. Orlando had almost twice as many dangerous attacks (entries into the final third) as their Liga MX counterparts; 36-20. Similarly, they had around a third more attacks (entries into the opposing half), outscoring Santos Laguna on that particular metric 61-40.
One of the primary reasons Orlando looked so good going forward, I believe, was their sheer willingness to commit numbers forward (figures 1 & 2). They were brave, and they backed themselves to score at key times. As a result, they looked as confident as I have seen them for a while. Facundo Torres was excellent. The Uruguayan was all over the frontline. Unfortunately none of the major websites seem to have a heatmap for him, but I imagine it's just a giant blob all over the Santos Laguna defensive third.
Torres drifted between the lines excellently, completing 86% of his passes and making 4 passes into the final third; 2 of which led to chance creation scenarios. Duncan McGuire led the line well, having 28 touches and being 2 for 2 in terms of his efforts at goal (the early miss, off of Jansson's pull-back, has been discounted due to the offside call).
Mauricio Pereyra also put in a big performance, which was duly rewarded with an absolute golazzo for his first goal of the season (figure 3).
The winner is great in so many ways too, not least in that Orlando were still committing numbers forward so late in the game (figure 4).
Figure 1 is a game still from the first half.
Figure 2 is a game still from the first half.
Figure 3 is a clip showing Pereyra's goal.
Figure 4 is a game still from the winning goal.
Orlando will need to tighten things up on Wednesday
As good as Orlando were in attack, there are things they are going to have to tighten up when they head to Fort Lauderdale to face Messi and co. Whilst Orlando generally looked after the ball well, completing 82% of their passes, they sometimes got caught out, at the end of attacks, having committed numbers forward.
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If you look at the clip in figure 5, you'll see two examples of Orlando City getting disposessed when on the attack. The first clip doesn't amount to much, but the second leads to a dangerous attack. Santos Laguna were able to create 5 big chances and carve out 16 shots on the Orlando goal. They're a good team, but they don't have any big stars.
Just something to chew on before we head to the dark side of Florida: Fort Loserdale.
Figure 5 shows two clips of Orlando losing the ball in transition.
I'm giving it to Cesar, not just for the game winning assist, but also for his defensive work. I just talked about us being a bit loose in transition at times, but there were a few breaks where he thought 'absolutely not', he made 5/9 ground duels and 8 recoveries whilst completing 91% of his 58 passes. He was immense.
Gallese -7- Nothing much he could do with the second goal but should save the first.
Smith -6- Yellow card meant he was walking a tight rope.
Antonio Carlos -7- Defensively solid.
Jansson -7- Distributed the ball well.
Rafael Santos -8- Excellent going forward.
Araujo -8- Broke up play well and provided a great assist for Cartagena.
Cartagena -7- Was very good in possession.
Torres -8- Drifted between the lines well.
Pereyra -8- Excellent goal.
Angulo -7- Had his moments.
McGuire -8- Led the line well.
Þórhallsson -7- Shored things up.
Ojeda -6- Had some bright moments.
Kara -7- Good hold up for the goal.
Enrique -6- Struggled to get in the game.
Orlando City head coach Oscar Pareja
"First congratulations to our players for such a great victory against a great team. I am very grateful to our fans, who came to support us and show us the connection that they have with this group. I think we made a great step towards our objectives and to keep moving forward in the Leagues Cup tournament and also show many other things that are going to help us during the rest of this season. It was a great game. I thought it was a very complete performance the whole game. Santos [Laguna] were a great opposition with great players. We are excited we advanced [to the Round of 32]. There isn’t too much time to delay, so now we prepare for the next one.”
Top player image and cover image courtesy of Orlando City SC.
Media availability and b-roll footage courtesy of Orlando City SC.
Game stills and footage courtesy of Leagues Cup/Apple TV.
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