Orlando City’s offense stepped up to the challenge as the absence of star striker Cyle Larin proved not be as detrimental as we thought it could’ve, at least for one match. Larin is the leading goal scorer (8) for the Lions and one of the best offensive threats in the entire league, so to think that the Lions — who have only two other players with more than one goal this year — may struggle without him was not a stretch by any means.
However, the Lions showed a strong commitment to the offensive side of the ball as they attacked their opponents, the Montreal Impact, over and over again. The Lions controlled almost 60% of the possession and out-shot the Impact by six shots, 17-11. The offense was in a groove and, for the most part, it was one that fans are not used to seeing.
The ball went wide many times with Kaká and company as they placed cross after cross into the box searching for someone to get on the end of the ball. Early in the game that someone was Matias Perez Garcia, as he finished a low Kaká cross and opened the game up, 1-0. The second goal came from a similar attack as Giles Barnes was the one attacking the left flank, centering the ball well and then after a deflected shot, Carlos Rivas put away the loose ball, improving the Lions’ score to 2-1 within the first 25 minutes of the game.
Attacks like this were apparent from the Lions throughout the full 90. Attacks would start wide and find a way to hit someone in the middle of the box; the offense implemented this game plan very well against the Impact. While it sounds like a basic offensive attack, the plan still has to be executed by the players on the field. This is the best execution of that plan all season long, as it is the only time during the regular season that Orlando City has managed three goals, and they did it without their best target man in Larin.
This is the attack-minded approach Orlando City and Head Coach Jason Kreis need to implement going forward. The team had three different goal scorers in the game. The more people that are getting opportunities, the more likely it is that a goal will occur. It is just like the old adage in soccer — the more you shoot, the more likely you are to score.
Shooting is the second key to this equation. With 17 shots, third-most for Orlando in a single game this season, the Lions made a statement by committing themselves to pushing the ball forward. Leading goal scorer or not, the mentality was to score goals and with that mentality they were at their best offensively this season.
One response you may have to the approach is kind of two-fold; the Lions were saved by a set-piece goal scored by a defender, which is unusual for the men in purple — so you may question if it was really all that impressive? The second is that we have seen the Lions push forward like this before and the results have not been all that great. In back-to-back games this season against Minnesota and D.C. United, the Lions put up 20 shots. The results were a 1-0 loss to Minnesota and a 2-0 win against D.C. United.
So that is 40 shots over the course of two games with only two goals to show for it, and one of them was scored by Larin. Maybe the team is more productive without Larin? Two goals in 40 shots equals a 5% conversion rate while three goals in 17 amounts to a 17.6% conversion rate.
But the reasons may surprise you as to why the team could be a little more productive without Cyle. It sounds like a wild thought, but think about it this way: Larin is a target forward and does not possess a lot of ability to create for himself. Instead, he is targeted time and time again by his teammates and it is on him to capitalize on the opportunities his team creates for him. Overall, Larin is pretty successful at doing this — again, he’s the leading goal scorer on the team.
With him out of the lineup currently, the team is not targeting one specific player for goals and therefore the game is more open for the offense. Without targeting Larin, the team is trying to set up multiple players for different opportunities and the results, at least for one game, were majorly positive.
Larin is an obvious force to be reckoned with, but the team results when it comes to scoring have not scared any opponents because the Lions do not appear to be threatening enough. When they mix it up as they did this past weekend against the Montreal Impact, a different story was painted. Orlando City showed that it can attack from different angles and make good on opportunities with a multitude of players. The idea is to keep this going both for now and for the future.
Once Larin returns, will it be a good idea to target him? Absolutely, but the other guys pushing up the field should be targeted every bit as much because, in his absence, they are proving they can step up to the plate — now the hope is that they continue to prove this over and over again.
Scoring by committee is the true wave of the future for Orlando City and the sooner this is realized, the sooner the Lions become a very threatening offense.