• Dan Berridge

Analysis: Sporting Kansas City (a). Orlando battles to draw in Kansas City.

Updated: Apr 26

Orlando City displayed plenty of fighting spirit as they battled their way to a 1-1 at Children's Mercy Park. There was certainly no lack of endeavour, but there was a disconcerting, uncharacteristic lack of defensive quality on show. Their defensive frailties ultimately made victory difficult. Nevertheless, this was an excellent point, on the road, against a top quality team. Make no mistake about it, Peter Vermes' side will be involved in the MLS Cup play-off conversation, come the end of the season.


With all that being said, let's get stuck into the nitty gritty of this entertaining, albeit frustrating, draw.

Poor defensive distribution


It's been well documented, the improvement Orlando City have made defensively over the last year or so. Part of that has been down to their organisation and their ability to play out from the back. This was a quality that was, sadly, lacking on Friday evening. Orlando decided on a decidedly more conservative approach, often playing around at the back. Which I actually think was a sensible way to approach this game.


Overall, Orlando did a less than stellar job of playing out from the back. That being said, their passing statistics make for interesting reading on the whole. Bear with me here. Antonio Carlos had an 86.1% pass completion rate from 79 attempts. Schlegel had a 91.8% success rate from 61. So, naturally, you could be forgiven for thinking I'm, to coin a well used British phrase, talking out of my posterior. OK, we say a*se. Get over it. These might seem like solid numbers but you have to put them into context. For example, 51 of Antonio Carlos' 79 passes were short passes to his fellow defenders, and to Sebas in the 8. So, you're naturally going to have a higher pass success rate. Such statistics are great, but they don't always give you the whole story. So, let me.


You'll see from the statistics in figures 1 and 2, that a high volume of the back-lines' passes took place in their own defensive third, and that a number of turnovers occurred as a result. Please note that figure 1 only includes passes that went sideways or backwards. Figure 2 shows the number (and location) of forward passes out of the back that resulted in turnovers. There were 10 total turnovers in Orlando's defensive half of the field. That's far too many, particularly against the quality of a team like SKC. One of these turnovers lead to the opening goal. I don't want too be too critical, but if they're going to adopt a more trepidatious approach in certain games... Then we have to get better playing out from the back. Our lapse distribution almost cost us dearly.

Figure 1 shows the passing matrix (backwards and sideways only) for Orlando's back-line, including Gallese.

Figure 2 shows the turnover event matrix for the entire game.


The Tesho conundrum


Tesho, Tesho, Tesho... I've been a fan of the experienced Canadian, and still am in a lot of ways, but it's getting harder to justify his inclusion in the starting XI. His movements in the game against Atlanta were static at best. Lazy at worst. Now, I'm not suggesting that Tesho Akindele is lazy. Not one bit. That's one label you could never accurately apply to the former FC Dallas man. But his movement off the ball is an issue, at least it has been so far this season. He just doesn't cover enough ground, and his hold up play left a lot to be desired on Friday. To be honest, I find it bizarre that he was left in the game as long as he was. He recorded modest statistics; 1 shot, 0 key passes, 0 dribbles and 2 unsuccessful touches from only 19 overall touches (figure 3). He offered little to the attack, and was rarely a reliable out-ball for his teammates.


There will be some dissenters that dismiss this as Tesho bashing. And that's really not what I'm setting out to do. Benji Michel posted similar statistics, and this is another instance where context is key, but he looked a lot more threatening. He also doesn't get a fair crack of the whip, in my opinion. Tesho Akindele, by contrast, seems to be a constant in Orlando City starting line-ups. Tesho started 8 of his 17 regular season appearances(3 goals, 0 assists) in 2020, and has started both so far this season. And in 2020 he was only ousted by Daryl Dike. Tesho's minutes are not proportional to his production levels on the field. And haven't been for a while


Tesho cut a forlorn figure at times, and looked like a player really lacking in confidence. These are just my own personal observations, but he never looked comfortable. He's not the player he was 2 seasons ago, when he scored a career high 10 MLS goals. He looks a shadow of his former self, and with the likes of Benji Michel and Matheus Aiás seemingly playing second fiddle to Tesho... It just makes you wonder why? I just can't fathom it.

Figure 3 shows the overall offensive play statistics for the team. Tesho does not stand up well.


Great VAR calls


I am not an advocate of VAR at all. In many ways I think it's the anti-soccer. It's a thief of joy, as Michael Scott might say. But I have to give credit where credit's due. They got every goal call right. Don't believe me? Look at the tape. I don't want to dwell on this too much. Or at all, really. I just wanted to say kudos VAR people. So. Yeah. Nice one.

Top player


Nani

As good a point as this was, it certainly wasn't Orlando City's finest ever performance. No one played particularly badly; whilst nobody stole the show either. El Capitao had some high quality moments though, including the, frankly, disgusting finish for the goal. Pure filth from the former Manchester United man. With 3 shots, 2 key passes, 2 dribbles and 4 drawn fouls, Nani was a fairly persistent threat without ever hitting top gear. Nani posted a respectable 76.7% pass success rate from 43 attempts. His crossing was off (2 accurate crosses from 6 attempts). He was OK, not brilliant. Which seems like something of an oxymoron when describing the Lion's top player for this game. There were just no real, standout performances. That goal was pure filth, though. So that seals it for Nani.

Player ratings


Starting XI


Gallese -6- Costly error for the goal and uncharacteristically poor distribution.


Ruan -7- Got up and down the pitch well, and provided some good defensive work.

Schlegel -7- Seemed to be the only one who didn't struggle playing the ball out of the back at times.

Antonio Carlos -6- Got caught out playing the ball from the back a few times. Was an on-going issue for this team.

Smith -6- Not one of his better games. Conceded a free-kick which was nearly very costly.


Mendez -7- One of Orlando's better players on the night.

Urso -6- Quiet evening for the popular Brazilian.


Nani -7- That goal should be listed on an adult website.

Michel -6- Fairly ineffectual.

Andres Perea -7- Good energy, unfortunate that he had just strayed offside for his 'goal'.


Akindele -5- Pretty poor performance. Hard to justify his inclusion next week.


Substitutes


Mueller -6- Seemed to liven the offence up a bit.

Alvarado -6- Full of running, looks to have some quality.

Aiás -6- Hard to judge, didn't get much of a kick.

DeZart -6- Brought in late to provide fresh legs and get us over the line. Did just that.

*All statistics courtesy of whoscored.com