Orlando City will wrap up a three-game road trip with a visit to the Buckeye state tonight at 7:30. This will also mark Orlando’s second of three matches played over the span of nine days. Prior to a disappointing effort on the road against CF Montreal, Orlando City had boasted a strong road resume through the first third of the season, picking up important wins on the road against the Philadelphia Union and Minnesota United FC. Outside of their loss to Charlotte FC in the Round of 32 in the U.S. Open Cup, the Lions had been the picture of maddening consistency alternating wins and losses over the last six games.
So, what do the Lions need to do in order to secure all three points on the road? What follows are my three keys to an Orlando victory.
Eliminate Careless Mistakes
Repetition creates habits and an alarming one which is starting to creep into the gameplay of more matches is careless passing. Fans witnessed this firsthand in the last match against Charlotte FC, when a poor giveaway from defender Mikey Halliday resulted in dangerous turnover that the opposition capitalized on to take a 1-0 advantage in the match. These types of careless giveaways have become more prominent of late, with the end result usually being easy access towards goal for the attacking opposition or an Orlando City player forced to commit an intentional foul due to being caught out of position. Either way, these are not ideal scenarios, to say the least. The quality of passing needs to improve and the giveaways — especially in the defensive third — must be limited for Orlando City to prevail on Saturday night.
Limit Columbus’ Shot Opportunities
At its core, soccer is a simple game: more shots on net increase the chance you will score a goal and more goals scored increase your chance of winning the match. Wilfried Nancy’s squad has not been shy about embracing this philosophy, as over their last six matches they have absolutely peppered the opposing goal with shots from all over the field. Over those six matches (3-1-2) they are averaging 16 shots per match, with almost six (5.8) of those shots per game on target. It might be impossible for City fans to fathom a match where OCSC puts six to eight quality shots on target, but this seems to be a common theme for the Crew. Orlando has done well, even in defeats recently, to limit opponent shot attempts. Last time out, the Lions were able to hold Charlotte FC to six total shots, with four on frame. If the Lions are able to limit the Crew to a similar type of shooting night then their chance of victory on the road should increase tremendously.
Find the Back of the Net
Last year on the road in Columbus, Orlando’s Designated Players Facundo Torres and Ercan Kara linked up with several other teammates to produce one of the most gorgeous team goals in recent memory. I mean just watch the build-up sequence and goal below and tell me it does not make you salivate at what this team is capable of when it fires on all cylinders!
The problem thus far on the season is that these types of shots and link-ups have been the white whale for the club, while sending shot attempts into the seats are much more the norm. That is when attacking players are actually even pulling the trigger. It’s not like Orlando has forgotten how to shoot the ball at the net, but the quality of opportunities has been noticeably lacking. When shots are on frame, they are for the most part non-threatening. City fans were reminded two weeks ago against the LA Galaxy just how fun it can be to score more than one goal in a match and also the type of form that Orlando’s attacking players are truly capable of producing.
Those are the things I will be watching for and where I think the match will be ultimately either won or lost. Orlando and Columbus sit even on points (14) through 10 matches. The Crew currently find themselves in sixth place in the Eastern Conference thanks to a healthy goal differential. Meanwhile, the Lions cling to the final playoff spot in ninth. Saturday night has the potential to be a huge six-pointer with important implications as the season progresses.
What do you think will be the keys things to focus on in this match? Be sure to let us know in the comments below.