Orlando City hosted Real Salt Lake to open the 2020 MLS season in Exploria Stadium. The Lions managed to earn a draw to start the Oscar Pareja era, though they were unable to get that final bit of quality to get all three points. Despite that, the players showed progress over previous seasons, and an understanding of Pareja’s new system. What can we take away from the match?
In my Orlando City’s Three Biggest Questions for the Home Opener article I wondered whether Oscar Pareja would start both Ruan and João Moutinho, and if he did, would he allow both of them to press up the field in the attack. Obviously, they both got the start, though the answer to the second was a little more nuanced. Ruan was sent forward more often, prompting the back line to shift to a three man set. However, it was evident that Moutinho was given the green light to do so on occasion as well. Especially early in the match, both fullbacks were in the attack providing crosses to give Orlando City chances.
The Possession Story
Possession with a purpose. It is Pareja’s mantra, and Orlando City did a good job of that very thing in the new coach’s first match. Even though the Lions only won the time of possession 51% to 49%, they maintained 42% of that possession in the middle third of the pitch, and 33% in Real Salt Lake’s final third. The Lions were able to do that thanks to their ability to recover, intercept, and take away the ball when RSL tried to move into the attack. While the Lions did a better job of it in the first half, they were still able to manage to see the match out even once RSL did go on the attack late in the match.
On The ManeLand PawedCast, I said my key match-up was how well Orlando City controlled the midfield. Mauricio Pereyra, Junior Urso, and Sebas Méndez may have been the Lions’ best midfield outing ever. Méndez, who was seemingly everywhere, easily had his best match in purple. Pereyra was a magician who RSL felt the need to try and wrap up like a mummy. Despite that, he continually managed to make the opposition foul him to keep him from breaking free and creating more chances. Finally, Urso had two shots and helped link up the play through the middle.
Chances, Chances Everywhere
Orlando City had nine shots, two on goal, and 12 corners. Unfortunately, despite the amount of chances, the Lions were unable to find the final bit of quality to get a goal. With Dom Dwyer and Nani out for the match, Orlando City needed someone else to step up and get a goal. Chris Mueller had good chances, and so did Urso, but no one was able to finish. Let me be clear, Orlando City did everything else needed to win the match, other than put the ball into the net.
One Point, Plenty of Goodness
For the sixth year in a row, Orlando City remained undefeated in its home opener. While it is disappointing that the home team wasn’t able to secure all three points, any point is better than none. There were plenty of positives to be taken from the match, and Pareja was happy with how his club managed the game, other than the lack of goals. Additionally, despite all the disappointments of previous seasons, supporters showed up for their club. I think that the Lions showed enough quality to warrant their continued support.
That’s what I saw in the match. Let me know what I missed in the comments below.