Lions Dominate On Opening Day But Are Unable To Capitalise As RSL Escape With A Point
Updated: Jun 1
Much like the lead up to Christmas day, we've all been excitedly waiting for the start of Orlando City's 2020 MLS Season. It was also gone, as quick as a flash. Again. Much like Christmas. The similarities don't end there. Admit it, there's always that one present which is a little underwhelming. And believe me, I know how it feels to be underwhelmed. I'm a Star Wars fan. The Last Jedi still hurts. Now before you write this off as a negative post, I'm gonna go right ahead and stop you there. There were a lot of positives to be able to draw from in this game, in the first half in particular. The Lions were full of energy, they pressed well and at the right times. The only thing that was missing was that finishing touch, or that extra bit of quality on the final ball.
In all truthfulness, RSL will have been happy to get out of there with a point. Ruan in particular got in to some great positions, and looked to genuinely frighten the RSL defenders when he did so. Chris Mueller was lively, and full of running. Mueller went close in both halves, cutting inside and flashing a shot just wide in the first half before shooting narrowly over the bar following a defensive mix up from the visitors and an excellent ball over the top. Mauricio Pereyra looked confident and assured, and we saw glimpses of his keen eye for a pass. He delivered an inch perfect chipped ball into the box, which landed on the toe of Chris Mueller. Only for the third year forward out of Wisconsin to be denied by the on rushing MacMath in the Salt Lake goal.
Arguably the biggest surprise of the day came with Junior Urso being given the captain's armband on his club debut. Whilst the Brazilian undoubtedly has all of the desirable characteristics of a captain, I had imagined someone like Robin Jansson or Tesho Akindele assuming the role. The Bear quickly showed us all why Oscar Pareja had entrusted the task to the former Corinthians midfielder. Urso was energetic, making up valuable ground in both boxes, as you can see from the heat map below (provided courtesy of SofaScore.com). He was a commanding presence in the middle, who recorded a respectable but not astounding 74% pass completion. He will certainly regret the chance that fell to him in the dying embers of the game. Urso cut inside on to his left foot before drilling the ball over the bar from a seemingly great goalscoring position. But it was his first competitive game for a new team, in a new league and country. We can certainly afford to cut him some slack. He got into some great positions in the first half, nearly profiting from a trade mark Ruan run and cross. I think he will score goals for us this season, based on what I have seen so far.
Junior Urso got into some great areas, and certainly covered a lot of ground for the Lions.
Defensively speaking Orlando weren't overly tested by the visitors. Indeed their greatest threat seemed to come when everyone's favourite pantomime villain Justin Meram entered the fray. The Iraqi international got into some good positions for his new club. Most notably when he was halted by a perfectly timed sliding challenge from Ruan, who recovered the ball following his own defensive mishap.
All that being said I was particularly impressed with the debuts of Antonio Carlos and Pedro Gallese. Gallese in particular didn't have a whole lot to do, but when called upon he was more than up to the task. Games like that are often difficult for keepers, to keep your concentration so long when you haven't much to do is no easy feat. It wasn't until the 43rd minute that the Peruvian was forced to make a save of note, with RSL's Aaron Herrera stinging his gloves with a low shot from just outside the area. Antonio Carlos seemed equally assured. The Brazilian central defender won 4 of 6 aerial duels and completed 4 clearances.
All in all, whilst the game certainly won't be one of the more memorable opening day scrimmages, it certainly had me feeling confident. The team looked well drilled, organised and dangerous in offense. And when have we been able to say that about this team? Not too often. Whilst it's still early days, the signs are encouraging. And just let it be known, I've never said that after an opening day draw in my 20+ years as a football fan. And to completely twist my favourite over worked Star Wars quote. I've got a good feeling about this.