What. A. Result. I don't think I've ever been so happy to see Orlando City secure a 0-0 draw. It was another game where Pedro Gallese was Orlando's best player, but I don't mind that so much here. When you consider the calibre of the opposition and the fact that this was Orlando's first ever foray into the Concacaf Champions League. We were always going to need El Pulpo to come up with a big performance.
Orlando can be really proud of the way they acquitted themselves in this game. They battled hard and will look forward to attacking the second leg with a bit more impetus. Tigres won't fancy coming to Central Florida with the tie level. They'll have to come out and attack Orlando, which should leave plenty of gaps for the likes of Facundo Torres and Ivan Angulo to exploit. The only blotch on the night, was Ramiro Enrique's injury in the first half.
With our boys having the backing of The Wall, who knows what could be possible?
El Pulpo came up BIG
It was another huge performance for the Peruvian stopper. For me, he's the best goalkeeper in MLS, and it's not even close. Just look at the clip in figure 1, the way he acrobatically gets down to that headed shot at goal is just incredible. He doesn't just get to it, he gets enough strength in his arm to cushion the ball wide and allow Michael Halliday to clear.
Figure 1 shows Gallese's save on Luis Quinones.
Gallese is already on clean sheet number 3 for the season, through 3 games. And I very much doubt he'll have a more hard earned shutout all season. Tigres had 22 shots on the Orlando City goal, and dominated possession for long periods (62-38% overall).
This was never going to be a game where Orlando City came, dominated and played on the front foot (although we certainly had our moments). Tigres UANL is a club that reached the Copa Libertadores final as recently as 2015, and beat LAFC in the final of this tournament in 2020. They were runners up to Bayern Munich in the FIFA Club World Cup final too. They're in the conversation to win CCL this season, make no mistake.
We were always going to need El Pulpo to play well here. And boy, did he do just that.
Another huge performance for Michael Halliday
*Friendly disclosure, spoilers for the season premiere of The Mandalorian ahead, second paragraph in*
At the start of the season, I felt it would be prudent to send the USMNT U-20 defender out on loan to gain some vital experience. Whilst I never doubted his ability, I wondered if this season, and all its trappings would come a little too soon.
It seems I was wrong.
And I'm OK with that. Just like I was OK with that weird pirate in last week's episode of The Mandalorian. OK, you got me... I love Vane already. Just like I love Mikey Halliday. He defended really well one-v-one against Luis Quinones and their rotating strikers.
*Spoiler free zone*
I actually loved his positioning, of all things. Just look at the game still in figure 2. It's such a minor thing, but a major thing at the same time. Andre-Pierre Gignac takes a really smart position on Rodrigo Schlegel's blind side and Halliday just tucks in a little and cuts out his space.
I'll admit, I'm more familiar with Gignac from his Marseille and Toulouse days. But anyone who's ever seen him play, knows what a threat he is in the air. Which is what makes Halliday's positioning in this instance, so intelligent. He has given himself enough time to get across Gignac if Schlegel is blind sided. Whereas if he steps off a few places, the Frenchman could easily make him pay with the right service. You also see similar positioning in figure 3, this time Nicolas Ibañez is the one on Halliday's scope.
Figure 2 is a game still from the first half.
Figure 3 is a game still from the second half.
Our defensive shape
It wasn't just Halliday who was positionally excellent during this game. It was the whole backline. Tigres created opportunities; they were always going to. But we restricted them really well. According to fotmob.com, the home side had 2 big chances. And with Gallese in such inspired form, Orlando were deserving of the scoreless draw.
Orlando did a great job of strangling the space in central areas (figure 4), which meant Tigres had to try and get down the sides, and try to open Orlando up that way with crosses into the box. Robin Jansson and Schlegel were up to the challenge though, with the Swede, winning 2 headers and completing 5 clearances, whilst his Argentine teammate won 4 headers and completed 9 clearances.
The support from the likes of Cesar Araujo and Wilder Cartagena (second half) was also crucial, as both players did their share of defensive work; Araujo had 5 recoveries and 4 clearances, whilst Cartagena had 1 block, 2 recoveries and won 2 tackles.
Figure 4 is a game still from the second half.
Pedro Gallese, again, showed us why he is the best goalkeeper in MLS. I don't think there's even any debate at this point. This was another huge performance for the Peruvian. He made 8 saves in total, including 5 from inside the penalty area. He also made 1 high claim and 7 recoveries. Brilliant stuff.
Gallese -9- Top notch.
Halliday -8- Another very good game.
Schlegel -7- Handled Gignac well. Literally.
Jansson -7- Solid performance.
Petrasso -7- Didn't put a foot wrong.
Pereyra -7- His experience was invaluable.
Araujo -8- One of my favourite players, does the ugly stuff well.
Torres -7- Had to do a lot of defensive work, but was clever in holding up play.
Ojeda -7- Unlucky not to score.
Angulo -7- Similar to Torres, used the ball well and did his share of defending.
Enrique -7- Was always going to be a bit isolated but his movement was good.
Cartagena -7- Played very well.
Gonzalez -7- Got into some good positions. Could have won it.
Þórhallsson -7- Helped to shore things up.
Felipe -6- Helped see the game out late.
Smith -6- Helped see the game out late.
“Pedro [Gallese] deserves a lot of praise on the way he played today, but the collective effort of the players, the courage, keeping us in the game. Keeping us, not just defending, but also with some possibilities that we had in the game where we could probably score against a good rival. The whole team was good. This was not an easy thing to do and we’re proud. We have a game in front of us in Orlando and we know the rival already and we hope that we can advance.”
All game stills and clips courtesy of Concacaf.
Cover image and top player image courtesy of Orlando City SC.
Media availability footage courtesy of Orlando City SC.