Play-off Analysis: Nashville (a). One and done for Orlando.
Whomever it was that first postulated the idea of play-off football clearly wasn't off a nervous disposition. They were also the devil incarnate and a genius in simultaneous fashion. My anxiety was in a permanent state of arousal for the entirety of this match.
It was a solid enough start for the Lions, who by and large dictated the flow of the game during a promising opening 20 minutes. Daryl Dike's early header gave Orlando a precocious lead. Indeed, until Hany Mukhtar's goal on 21, Orlando had 53.8% of the play, completing 83% of their passes. Orlando held an excellent shape and guarded the ball effectively... Until they didn't. Junior Urso was caught napping, and then the ball was in the Orlando net off a Mukhtar shot and a devious deflection. It was all downhill from there.
After Mukhtar's goal the first half became something of a juxtaposition; the proverbial game of two halves. Or, rather half of two halves. After the equaliser, Nashville moved to 63.8% of the overall play; a statistic representative of their overall dominance from the 21st minute to the 46th. Orlando just needed to get in level, which they were, thankfully, able to do.
Not that it mattered in the overall context of the game, mind you. Whilst Orlando improved after the break they were unable to take advantage of their 'dominance' (and I use that term loosely), before allowing 2 completely erroneous goals. The Lions were one and done. And honestly, it's about what they deserved. Orlando City hasn't been consistent enough all season long. Just as they weren't in this game.
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Defensively speaking, the Lions crumbled when put under even a modicum of pressure. They were put under precious little duress after the break, but still contrived to throw this game away. Nashville scored from 2 of their 3 shots on target in the half. It's not like Orlando's goal was peppered. Take nothing away from Nashville, but you can't help but feel that Orlando gave the game away as much as Nashville earned it.
Still, the Lions just couldn't hold out. Mukhtar's solo effort for the 2nd was as much about the lacklustre defending as it was his individual brilliance. The Orlando defence just backs off and backs off, before they somehow managed to open up a chasm of space for him to dart in to (figure 1). Honestly, they may as well have laid out airport runway lights for him. It was so easy.
Figure 1 shows how easily Mukhtar just waltzed through.
Prior to that, for the first goal, the turnover in midfield was just shocking. I love Junior Urso, but boy does he switch off at times. He gets robbed in midfield, the defence is far too slow in closing Mukhtar down, and home side pulls level (figure 2).
Figure 2 makes me want to cry to be honest.
And the third... Well, it just seemed like everyone had given up at that point in all honesty. Jhonder Cádiz (figure 3), just rolls Antonio Carlos far too easily and then has an all too simple finish.
Figure 3 where's the Kleenex?
For all of Orlando's defensive improvements in 2020, it honestly feels like there's been a certain amount of regression in 2021. Oscar Pareja's team have conceded 51 goals across 35 games in Major League Soccer, and have recorded 9 clean sheets, albeit with 5 of them coming before the end of May. For the purposes of comparison, Orlando shipped 52 goals across 34 games in 2019 as they missed the post season under James O'Connor.
Orlando's XGa of 1.56 has them ranked 14/27 in MLS. Of all the play-off teams, Orlando ranked 3rd in terms of most errors leading to goals with 10.
Defensively speaking, Orlando have a lot of work to do this winter.
Lack of cutting edge in front of goal
Ah, now for the other end of the pitch. For all of Orlando's second half possession, of which they had 65.8%, they only forced 1 shot on target. That's right, 1. That's just not good enough. Whilst the XG statistics for the Lions compare with those of Nashville (figure 4), we just didn't do enough to cause Joe Willis any significant issues.
Figure 4 shows both team's XG ratings for the entire game.
And, let's be realistic here, chance creation has been a huge issue for this team in 2021. Orlando has an overall XG of 1.31, which is the worst of any of the play-off teams. On FotMob.com's list of big chances created by MLS players you have to go all the way down to 31st before you see the first Orlando City player. This team isn't creative enough. We ranked 11/27 for goals scored. Which, when you think about it, feels a little high.
In many ways, this defeat perfectly encapsulates Orlando City's 2021 performance. Too many defensive errors and not enough goals.
This game could possibly have been his last for the club; though I sincerely hope that theory turns out to be nothing but hyperbole. So often the candle on the water for Orlando City fans this season, he would be sorely missed. He had precious little to feed off in Tennessee, as has been the case for much of this season. That the former Barnsley loanee scored as many as he did, is testament to his tremendous ability.
Gallese -6- Hung out to dry for both goals.
Ruan -6- Got forward well, but was running down a blind alley with no support.
Mas -6- Was the only one who tried to stop Mukhtar for the second.
Antonio Carlos -5- Not his best effort.
Jansson -5- As above really.
Mendez -7- Aside from Dike, probably the only guy to emerge with any credit.
Urso -4- Very slow. One of his worst games.
Michel -5- Anonymous.
Mueller -4- Popular figure has been awful this season.
Pereyra -6- Helped recycle possession well.
Dike -7- Fed off of scraps.
Van Der Water -5- Why bring him on so late?
Nani -6- Unable to impact the game.
Pato -6- Unable to impact the game.
*All statistics courtesy of whoscored.com, fbref.com and MLSsoccer.com.
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