Analysis: Toronto FC (a). The Accountant Cashes In On The Road.
After their humbling defeat in Montréal last weekend, it was important for Orlando to improve their defensive performance in Toronto. They certainly did that in the first half, a compact Orlando City defensive line, covered adequately by the dynamism of Cesar Araujo and co., severely limited the TFC attack during a closely fought first 45. The second 45 was very similar, except the Lions found the killer instinct in the dying embers of the game. Substitutes Alexandre Pato and Kyle Smith combined to give Orlando a vital 1-0 win on the road.
The Lions had some promising moments in attack throughout the game. Oscar Pareja's team sought to stretch the play with the forward runs of Ruan and Joao Moutinho in the wide areas. They certainly got into some good positions, but often failed to make the final pass stick. And when they did make it stick, the Lions weren't clinical enough. Thankfully Alexandre Pato takes a decent corner.
Orlando's decision making, at times, needed to be a bit snappier. There were a number of times that Orlando got into good areas but delayed the pass, when firing it in first time was the more effective option.
All that being said, there was a huge improvement in Orlando's performance by comparison to the debacle in Montréal.
Orlando's defensive resolve
Rather understandably, last week's defeat in Montréal left some question marks against the Orlando City defence. Particularly in the absence of Antonio Carlos and Robin Jansson. And whilst the affable Swede was back among the troops this week, Orlando's defensive improvement has to be commended.
I'm well aware that Toronto have struggled for goals this season, but going anywhere on the road after a heavy defeat, particularly when you've had a tricky cup game in the meantime, and keeping a clean sheet is no mean feet. TFC were limited to 0 big chances, and had an overall XG of 0.55. That's not an easy thing to do, even against a team that is struggling.
Toronto were trying to get down the sides a fair bit, the space in behind Ruan and Moutinho was something that Bob Bradley spoke to in an interview with TSN at the interval. The Orlando full-backs dealt with this well, however. Particularly Joao Moutinho, who was probably the Lion's top performer. Moutinho read the game really well, making 8 recoveries and 4 interceptions (figure 1). Both he and Ruan got up and down both flanks well (figure 2) and were very alert in key transition moments.
The performances of Jansson and Schlegel in the heart of the defence were also particularly pleasing. They were shielded well by the energy of their midfield colleagues, but both defenders were at the top of their game. Jansson's long range passing from the back (5/7, figure 3) was particularly useful in bypassing the Toronto press.
Rodrigo Schlegel's cover play was also spot on. I was critical of the choice to pair him with young Thomas Williams in Montréal, and I stand by that. That being said, he's still a solid option. And he proved that here. Schlegel made 4 recoveries and 1 interception, whilst winning 2 last ditch tackles. He played very well.
Figure 1 shows some of Joao Moutinho's key defensive statistics.
Figure 2 shows Moutinho's and Ruan's heatmap.
Figure 3 shows some of Robin Jansson's attacking statistics.
The importance of Ercan Kara
I don't get the hate that seems to float around the big Austrian striker. I really cannot fathom it. His hold up play and vision during this game was very good. He won 3/3 aerial duels, his close control was good as was his hold up. What I like the most about Kara is his hold up play. It's particularly useful when facing a high press; the ball can be clipped into him and he will either bring someone else into play or win a free-kick or throw in.
As an MLS DP, he's a very useful addition and I cannot understand the hate some fans seem to be throwing his way.
For me, he was Orlando's most important player on the day. His crossing wasn't brilliant, but he was absolutely vital defensively. Something I didn't mention earlier, (had to save something for this section) was his importance in negating their press.
Moutinho's clipped passes out of defence were vitally important; 76% of his overall passes connected. He also did a great job of tucking in and suffocating the inside half space when Orlando were on the attack. This helped to congest the middle of the park and provide space for Facundo Torres overlapping on the left.
Moutinho also defended really well 1 v 1, winning 5/6 tackles. Top stuff.
Gallese -7- A few important saves, and was just generally assured.
Moutinho -8- Very good performance.
Jansson -7- Distribution was very useful.
Schlegel -7- Covered very well and read the game positively.
Ruan -7- Got up and down the pitch excellently.
Araujo -8- He's a destroyer. Imma call him Drax from now on.
Urso -7- Was everywhere.
Perea -6- Looked lost to be honest.
Pereyra -7- Linked attack and defence very well.
Torres -7- Looked lively throughout.
Kara -7- Held the ball up well.
Smith -8- Game winning header.
Pato -8- Peach of a ball for the goal.
Mulraney -7- Isolated the full-back a few times.
Mendez -7- Provided fresh legs in the middle.
Head Coach Oscar Pareja: “Congratulations to the players today in such an important match in a difficult place. With that personality and the collectiveness that we are pursuing in this project, we saw it today. Everybody participated in doing the job. I like the way they controlled the game the whole time against a young, good team. I think we imposed our freedoms and what we look for. We came here to win and the victory is ours and we are very pleased and happy.”
Cover image and top player image courtesy of Orlando City SC.
B-roll footage and post match media availability footage courtesy of Orlando City SC.