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  • Writer's pictureDan Berridge

Analysis: St. Louis City (h). Fortunate Penalty Call Falls Orlando's Way As OC Take The Game 2-1.

We may have benefitted hugely from that very fortunate late penalty call, as well as when St. Louis hit the post late on, but nobody could argue that Oscar Pareja's team didn't deserve the victory. Because they did.


That's 3 straight victories, amidst a run of 5 wins in 6. It's a run that has propelled Orlando City to the forefront of the home play-off reckoning. The Lions now head into a favourable run, where we play many of the teams around us down the stretch. Whilst these might be tougher games on paper, they represent an opportunity to create gaps to our opponents.



Orlando have real momentum behind them right now. I also get the impression that the players still have a bit of a chip on their shoulder after the debacle down in Fort Lauderdale. They could beat anyone right now.


And they're channeling it in the right way; into their play, which is contributing heavily to results on the field.


This was a difficult game. St. Louis, despite still being a first year club, have been on an incredible run. A run that even the most brazen of St. Louis soccer fans wouldn't have predicted. They're sitting pretty in the Western conference (1st at the time of writing), and look to be in prime position to take the Western conference title, holding a 4 point advantage over MLS darlings LAFC.



Gritty determination


Orlando City wanted this win; they did all of the nitty gritty stuff well, which enabled them to build a platform to win the game. Oscar Pareja's team made 3 tackles (we had more of the ball) 4 blocks, 4 interceptions and 13 clearances. They were determined to win the physical battle. Orlando were then able to dominate every major metric and statistic in an attacking and possession based sense.


Orlando didn't create a huge amount in terms of guilt edged opportunities; they had an non-penalty XG of 0.43. But they moved the ball around with intent and purpose. They were also much more effective in terms of possession; Orlando played 440 passes at a success rate of 83% whilst St. Louis played 324 at a success rate of 79%.


St. Louis weren't at their best. Orlando never allowed them to be (more on that shortly). This is a team that has taken MLS by storm. Their average of exactly 2 goals per game is joint league leading. They average 5.2 shots per game, which is the 3rd best record in the league. Their overall XG of 33.9 is unspectacular, but they have massively outperformed their XG with 50 goals, which shows how ruthless they are. Nico Gioacchini and Eduard Löwen have generally been very clinical. But they were quiet on Saturday.


Orlando didn't allow St. Louis to play. They were organised and didn't give them any time to settle. Orlando played a high line, suffocating the central areas (figure 1), with Robin Jansson almost operating in the quarterback role. Their sensible use of possession meant they could maintain this high line, and keep their boot to the throat of St. Louis City. Just so I can get my obligatory Star Wars reference in, it was like a Darth Vader force choke. Suffocating.



Figure 1 shows Orlando's average positioning, whole 90.




We benefitted from VAR... For once


Personally, as a Nottingham Forest fan, who were horrifically failed by VAR at Old Trafford on Saturday (shock), and an Orlando City fan (need I say more)... I don't have a positive overall impression of VAR. I think it's an imperfect technology, that's operated by... How can I put this kindly? Idiots. That being said...


I thought the penalty call was VERY harsh. I don't see where else the defender can put his arm whilst sliding in like that. It's not in an unnatural position for me (figure 2).


I am happy to benefit from it, though.


For once.


Figure 2 is a screen shot of the penalty call - best quality image I have.


The Dagur Dan right-back experiment


I am a fan, so far. Whilst Kyle Smith and Michael Halliday have been far from poor, neither player has done enough to nail down the right-back slot as their own. Step forward Dagur Dan Þórhallsson. The Icelandic midfielder is very versatile and has a great engine. He got up and down the right flank very well and was as important in the attacking third as he was in the defensive third.


But look at the guys heatmap (figure 3). He was very much inverting into that right half space and helping to creat overloads in central areas. He was also great at hugging the right touchline when Facu drifted into central areas (figure 4), which gave Cesar Araujo and Robin Jansson, in particular, opportunity to spread the play (figure 5).


Figure 3 shows Dagur Dan's heatmap, whole 90.


Figure 4 is a game still from the first half.


Figure 5 shows Orlando's passing network, whole 90.



Top player


Facundo Torres



Ultimately, El Cuervo was the match winner for Orlando City. His 2 goals will steal the headlines, but his overall performance was top drawer. He was all over the place and was trying to make things happen at every opportunity.


Player ratings


Starting XI


Gallese -7- Didn't have a whole lot to do.


Þórhallsson -8- Very positive performance.

Schlegel -7- Didn't do a whole lot wrong.

Jansson -7- Distribution was key.

Santos -8- Excellent support going forward.


Araujo -7- A rock in the middle.

Cartagena -7- Disciplined performance.


Torres -9- Star man.

Pereyra -7- Got into some useful positions.

Angulo -7- Full of running.


McGuire -6- Quiet.


Substitutes


Halliday -6- Came in late.

Lynne -6- Came in late.

Ojeda -7- Provided energy.

Urso -7- Great to have him back.

Enrique -7- Livened things up in attack.


Reaction


Orlando City head coach Oscar Pareja


"First, very happy with the victory not just the three points, which are very important for us, but the way they gained those points. I thought it was a really good game. Our fans today were fantastic, they brought us that energy and I am grateful for them, and we felt that energy over the weekend. Keep bringing people to our place and we respond with soccer like that today. Again, thanks to them and enjoy the victory. We are going to get ready for Charlotte [FC] and a busy week and Cincinnati. The boys dream high and today we showed that we are a very good team.” 




*All statistics courtesy of fotmob.com, mlssoccer.com, flashscore.co.uk and whoscored.com.

Media availability footage and b-roll footage courtesy of Orlando City SC.

Cover image and top player image courtesy of Orlando City SC.

Game still courtesy of MLS and Apple TV.



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