Heading into the home of the one of the top teams in the conference is no easy task. But, despite their miscues on defense and being outplayed for much of the game, the Lions were able to secure a clean sheet and gain a point. An Orlando City draw would’ve looked good going into the game but, after the 70th minute sending off of Tosaint Ricketts, the Lions were looking for all three points to keep pace with D.C. United. Unfortunately, that winning goal never came and the Lions will look back at two points lost rather than a point gained. With that in mind, here are five takeaways from this midweek contest.
Back Line Struggles
It seems like it’s been said every week recently but it was a noticeable problem again in Toronto. The run from the midfield, particularly on the left, gave the Lions fits and caused quick reactions from goalkeeper Joe Bendik. Whether it was Tosaint Ricketts, Jonathan Osorio, or striker Jozy Altidore, Orlando City’s defenders once again had trouble holding their line, which nearly resulted in multiple goals that could have doomed the Lions early in the game.
Kreis Scraps 4-4-2 Before Halftime
When Jason Kreis was hired as Orlando City’s second-ever head coach, it was expected that he would bring with him his 4-4-2 style. However, Kreis has largely decided to keep the style that the Lions had become accustomed to under former Head Coach Adrian Heath. In Toronto, Kreis brought back his 4-4-2, starting Kaká and Servando Carrasco in the middle behind Cyle Larin and Carlos Rivas, with Brek Shea and Kevin Molino wide. But after Toronto had several attempts on goal, causing havoc in the Orlando City defense, Kreis made his first substitution at the 40-minute mark, replacing Rivas with Cristian Higuita. The move saw the Lions move back to their well-known 4-2-3-1 formation. Kreis attempted to try the 4-4-2 but the Lions’ defensive struggles forced a change.
Brek Shea Misses Opportunity
Since his arrival in Orlando prior to the 2015 MLS season, Brek Shea has been a fixture in the Lions starting lineup, either at left back or left midfield. But Jason Kreis made the decision to bench the U.S. international for the last three games. The game against Toronto gave Shea another opportunity, as Kreis played him on the left in the four-man midfield. Things didn’t go as planned for the long-haired midfielder. Shea was poor throughout the night, making little positive impact and, to make matters worse, picked up a yellow card in the first half that will see him suspended for Sunday’s game against Montreal. Shea might want to find a nice place on the bench because it’s unlikely he’ll see another start any time soon.
Speaking of Missed Opportunities…
If Orlando City has been known for anything in its first two MLS seasons, it has been missed opportunities. Early in their inaugural MLS season, the Lions were known for dominating games but falling short and dropping points. It’s what was largely to blame for failing to achieve their goal of qualifying for the playoffs in 2015. Of course, Orlando City was playing the second-place team in the Eastern Conference on the road and was dominated by the home side but that changed in the 70th minute. That’s when Tosaint Ricketts was issued his second yellow for a high kick on Jose Aja, resulting in his walking papers. This dismissal gave the Lions a golden opportunity to grab all three points and keep pace with D.C. United for that final playoff spot. But the Lions couldn’t convert, which now leaves them five points back.
Playoff Picture Looking Dimmer
Orlando City has been hovering around that eighth position for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference but that sixth spot is looking much further away now. Even after getting hammered by D.C. United in the nation’s capital over the weekend, Orlando City still sat in a decent position just three points back and hosting United on the final day of the season. But with D.C. handling the Columbus Crew 3-0, and the Lions dropping two points in Toronto, City has placed itself in a position where it will likely need to gain all nine points from the final three games to reach the postseason.
What would generally be considered a good point gained, seems to me to be two points lost and one step closer to an early off-season. But what did you see from this game? Is the situation as dire as it seems? And can Orlando City fix the defensive deficiencies? Let us know in the comments below.