That’s much more like it! Orlando City rebounded from last week’s disappointing result with a 1-0 win over the Chicago Fire that was far more dominant than the final score suggested. The Lions already had the upper hand in the first half, and the sending-off of Brian Gutierrez meant that the good guys were able to really pile on the pressure in the second half and get the win. Here are my five takeaways from this one.
Defense Bounces Back
It was excellent to see Orlando earn a clean sheet and get the win at home after shipping four goals to LAFC last weekend. More encouraging was the manner in which the clean sheet was kept. Chicago had two dangerous moments early on when Gutierrez forced Pedro Gallese into a save, and Kacper Przybylko curled a shot over the bar roughly 10 minutes later. Other than that though, Orlando didn’t really give up any further good scoring opportunities. Obviously Gutierrez being sent off changed the game and forced Chicago to sit back more than the Fire already were, but it was still good to see the defense re-assert itself after a shaky and mistake-ridden outing one week ago.
Pato Remains a Cut Above
Re-signing Alexandre Pato currently looks to be the best piece of business Orlando City made in the off-season. Week after week he looks like Orlando City’s best player and Saturday was no exception. He carried a supreme amount of danger, taking a team-high eight shots and putting two on goal, completing two dribbles, and notching an excellent assist on Ercan Kara’s goal. He only passed at a 73% rate, but that number is an improvement from last week and to my eye his passing rate tends to suffer because he tries several passes a game that most players wouldn’t even see. The Duck was once again constantly involved in what Orlando did offensively and he’s absolutely un-droppable at the moment.
Kara Opens His Account
Designated Player Ercan Kara notched his first goal in Orlando City purple and it was a good one. The free kick looked to be one from the training ground as Pato peeled off to the back post to receive the cross and head it back across the box for Kara to nod home. The big Austrian was also pretty involved in the game as a whole, and took five shots on the day. Frankly, he should have had more than one goal, but hopefully now that he’s got his first, the floodgates open up a little bit and he starts knocking them in with regularity. Either way, it was great to see him get off the mark.
Missed Opportunities Galore
Now we come to the elephant in the room. This game should not have ended 1-0. Orlando had three golden opportunities to get another goal and kill off the game and failed to take any of them. First, a Pato shot was saved by Gabriel Slonina, but at the expense of giving up a juicy rebound to Kara. Unfortunately, the striker got his header completely wrong and missed the net entirely. Then, Slonina got caught in no-man’s-land on a Pato cross, leaving Benji Michel with a free header at the back post and a mostly open goal at his mercy, only for Michel to put his header wide. The last chance saw Tesho Akindele make a great early cross for Pato, who settled the ball and smashed it off the bar as Slonina came off his line and made himself big. A win is a win, but this one should have been far more comfortable than it was and the game should have been over with 15 minutes still left to play.
Offense Continues to Gel
With that being said, opportunities continue to be created at a high rate. Orlando took a whopping 21 shots, putting six of those on target and hitting the woodwork on another. Outside of pure numbers though, the eye test says that the team is getting the ball into good areas. Mauricio Pereyra played a great ball over the top for Kara in the first half, with the Striker bringing the ball down well but he couldn’t keep his shot on target. Even before the Fire went down to 10 men, Orlando was controlling the game and creating danger around the box. The finishing will likely come, but the fact that OCSC’s offense continues to look better is nothing but encouraging. This team effectively added three new off-season pieces in Kara, Facundo Torres, and Pato, who only played 106 regular-season minutes last year — 80 of which came in the first game of the year against Atlanta. Chemistry takes time, especially when all three primarily speak a different language, but the Lions’ attack is looking more and more dangerous.
What did you notice from this one? Be sure to have your say down in the comments.