That was one of the worst Orlando City performances that I have seen in some time. We were bad in Cincinnati, but at least there we kept the faintest modicum of self-respect by only conceding one goal. Orlando City were an absolute shambles at the back on Monday evening.
Congratulations to D.C. United, who definitely deserved the win on the night. They looked like they wanted it more. They also seem like they have a hell of a player on their hands in Taxi Fountas.
This game was always going to be a potential banana skin, but my god did we make it easy for the visitors. We might as well have had a runway approach lighting system installed on the pitch, pointed exactly at the Orlando City goal. Or a friendly British doorman shouting 'tally ho chaps, come on in, everything is on the house'. Orlando City's defence was about as solid as the British Empire's was at Bunker Hill. You can have that one seeing as it was the 4th July and you're probably feeling sad after the game. Don't say I never do anything for you.
Orlando's defensive woes
I'm usually a fan of a back 3, but not one that's cobbled together and you don't have the players to do it, or because you're so short on numbers because of poor recruitment strategies that you have to make something up and hope for the best. This was both.
I've been crying out for ages, for Orlando to be a bit more flexible tactically. I wish they hadn't bothered. They started the game with a back 3 of Kyle Smith, Robin Jansson and Rodrigo Schlegel (lef to to right). They were pulled apart like cotton candy for the first 2 goals, inside 8 minutes. I'm not sure how much they've worked on this set up in training. It seemed like they never had.
For the first goal, Mendez needlessly loses possession and D.C. advance down the right. The positioning of the back 3 is horrendous, and the lack of cover from midfield is even worse (figure 1). Kyle Smith goes completely missing and Robin Jansson doesn't do enough to eradicate the cut back. Absolutely no one is tracking Taxi Fountas. It's an easy finish for the Greek forward.
The second is even worse. The backline are at 6s and 7s when the ball is played over the top (figure 2). Michael Estrada breezes past Kyle Smith way too easily, Jansson again does nothing to cut out the cross and Schlegel commits the cardinal sin of allowing Fountas to get goal side (figure 3). It's such amateurish defending.
Orlando were just the architects of their own downfall all night. Even the third goal, a sweetly struck hattrick free-kick for Fountas, is completely avoidable. Schlegel commits a stupid foul, when the play was dead. Christopher Durkin was going nowhere (figure 4). Credit where it's due after that, it's a well taken goal, but one Pedro Gallese should probably save.
The fourth goal... Again just, dreadful. Everyone steps up to play the offside trap, but Kyle Smith doesn't get the memo. His namesake, the Nottingham born Kirmani, then makes him pay with a neat finish. I'm normally happy to see Nottingham born players do well, but he can do one in this instance. I'm not mad at all, I promise.
As for number 5. You never play the ball across your own area like that, you just don't do it. Figure 5 shows the scene when Cesar Araujo plays that pass. Why wouldn't he just launch one forward? Yet another shocking goal to concede.
Figure 1 is a game still from the first half.
Figure 2 is a game still from the first half.
Figure 3 is a game still from the first half.
Figure 4 is a game still from the second half.
Figure 4 is a game still from the second half.
So, are there any positives?
For me there are relatively few. This was a performance symptomatic of a team that's lost sight of its ideology in my opinion. If you look at this recent poor run, in MLS, can anyone truthfully say this team has played with any intensity and vigour? What are Orlando City right now? Are we an attacking team? A transitional team? A sound defensive unit? We're not any of these things right now. We look a team lacking in identity. I was going to write a whole subsection on our woeful passing, but I'm too mad after writing about all 5 of those goals, I'm worried I'll break my phone. Yeah, we improved against Nashville and are into the semis of the Cup. But the sad reality is, we've lost 5 of 9 at Exploria Stadium (league play). We've 1 win in 7. We don't look capable of winning anything. I'm worried about Fort Lauderdale at the weekend. Genuinely.
Does Oscar Pareja's seat start to warm up a little now? I think so. And I'm not saying one way or the other what should or shouldn't happen, but there have to be question marks after Monday's game. A low crowd of just over 16,000 were present on the night. Fans are voting with their feet. Orlando's home record is shocking. And this isn't a new phenomenon, we lost 7 at home last year. If there's one thing in soccer that's going to put a head coach under pressure, it's poor home form.
Several players seem to have regressed this season. Andres Perea, Alexandre Pato, Benji Michel, Tesho Akindele... I could go on. The recruitment strategy has been shocking. We've gone into the season with only one recognized left-back; and one who has a poor injury record and is far from being the best in the league. Ruan looks a pale imitation of the player he was 2 years ago on the other side.
There's no adequate cover in the centre of defence. Without Antonio Carlos we're a mess. And basically, Mauricio Pereyra has to be wrapped in cotton wool as he's the only one holding it all together. And guess what happened? He got injured. Ercan Kara has done well up front, but again has precious little competition. Facundo Torres is the only other bright spot for me. But what happens if he gets injured? Gaston Gonzalez won't be seen until 2023, and from what I've seen of him, Jake Mulraney is someway short of being good enough for MLS.
For me, he's the only one who emerges from this game with any credit. Things only started to happen when he entered. Torres looked sprightly drifting in off that right flank. He took his goal well and whipped in a great cross for Ercan Kara to head home. Torres completed 24 of his 25 passes, and only had an XG of 0.05 which speaks to how well he finished his goal. He showed great close control to get the ball under his spell and lasered the ball into the bottom corner. Wizard. Had to get a Star Wars reference in there somewhere, you know me. Do I feel better because of it? Not really.
Gallese -6- Had the look of a man who is sick of this.
Ruan -5- Final ball was awful.
Mulraney -5- Ineffective.
Smith -5- Looked lost.
Jansson -5- Positionally dreadful.
Schlegel -5- Looked out of his depth.
Mendez -5- Not hard to see why he hasn't been playing.
Urso -6- Looked gassed.
Pereyra -6- Can't do it on his own.
Kara -7- Did everything he could.
Pato -6- Looks a shadow of himself.
Torres -8- Only bright spot.
Araujo -5- I like him, but he made it worse.
Michel -5- Offered nothing.
Akindele -5- Looks off the pace.
Lynn -6- Came in too late.
Head Coach Oscar Pareja:
“A difficult result, especially because we came from a nice experience in qualifying [on Wednesday in the U.S. Open Cup]. In the first half, we looked disconnected and I accept that responsibility. Obviously I didn’t like those 45 minutes, but the boys did a great job putting in resolve at the end and trying to bounce back. The second half looked much better and like us, but the first half was the price today.”
No media availability footage is available for this game. For post match reaction head to the English Lion's Twitter feed.
*All statistics courtesy of fotmob.com
Top player image and cover image courtesy of Orlando City SC.
Game stills courtesy of MLS and FreeSports.