Orlando City is going to have a positively packed month of May, with the Lions playing six matches, four of which will be on short rest. Before we get too far ahead of ourselves though, OCSC will kick its May slate off tomorrow with a road match against CF Montreal. Orlando still has an undefeated record on the road, and will look to keep it that way against the team that knocked it out of the playoffs last year. So, what do the Lions need to do in order to get the win? What follows are my three keys to an Orlando win.
Be Smart With the Ball
CF Montreal has won two MLS games in a row, beating the New York Red Bulls and Sporting Kansas City by identical 2-0 scores. In both games, Montreal had less of the ball but pressed hard and smartly when the opportunities presented themselves, and took advantage of the chances brought about by that pressing. Against the Red Bulls, Montreal only had 41% of the ball but took seven shots and put six of them on goal. The following week against SKC saw the Canadians only have a paltry 38% possession but generate 10 shots with four on goal from that possession. Granted, the Red Bulls and SKC are the worst teams in the Eastern and Western conferences, respectively, but Montreal is not a team that needs a lot of the ball to be dangerous. The Lions will need to be careful and smart about where and when they choose to build out of the back, or they might find themselves getting picked off by the host’s press.
Keep Things Moving on Offense
We’ve established that Montreal is perfectly comfortable playing without the ball, in fact the club only averages 48% possession, which is 18th most in Major League Soccer. Orlando City, meanwhile, sits in eighth place with 53%, so it’s fair to assume the Lions will have a lot of the ball during this game, with Montreal content to sit back, absorb pressure, and try to score on the break. That means OCSC is going to have to break down a compact, defending opponent, which is something at which the Lions don’t usually excel. Breaking down a team like that means that the ball needs to be moved quickly and accurately, whether it’s going east-west, north-south or diagonally. Orlando can’t do what we’ve seen all too often this year and take multiple touches or move the ball slowly and meticulously, or it’s going to be difficult to find the breakthrough.
Score the First Goal
The Lions can’t afford to concede the first goal of the game. This ties in with the above point about Montreal being happy to play without the ball. The worst case scenario sees the hosts score first and then be able to bunker and force the Lions to commit further numbers forward and risk getting picked off on the counter. That’s essentially what we saw happen against Nashville SC earlier in the year. Orlando had played pretty well before Nashville got the opener, but the visitors got on the board first and it allowed a team that likes to sit back and counter to do what it does best. In last week’s win against the LA Galaxy, the Lions carried tons of threat on the counterattack after going up 1-0 in the first half, and a repeat of scoring the first goal would be the ideal situation for Orlando City. Plus, Orlando has yet to score a set piece goal this season and Montreal has only given up one, so if OCSC is laboring to break down a Montreal team that’s protecting a lead, the Lions are unlikely to find salvation through a set piece.
That’s what I think needs to happen for Orlando to be successful this weekend. Be smart with the ball, keep it moving quickly on the offensive end, and avoid giving up the first goal at all costs, and it wouldn’t surprise me if OCSC stays undefeated on the road. What do you think will be important in this game? Be sure to have your say down in the comments.