Orlando played its third game in eight days and, to put it gently, it showed early as the Lions found themselves staring at a two-goal deficit at halftime. The match ultimately developed into a tale of two halves, as the Cardiac Cats once again made an appearance and Orlando City clawed its way back into the match, scoring a late equalizer to salvage a point on the road.
Here are my five takeaways from one heck of a rollercoaster of a match.
Shots on Goal…What are Those?
Orlando City played another half without registering a shot on goal. This has quickly become a major issue for Orlando City in far too many matches of late and something that has to get figured out soon if the club is going to remain competitive. In the first half, the Lions only registered four shots with none on target. Orlando City’s players are far too talented to let this trend continue and the attacking players must do better to generate quality offensive opportunities.
Lapse in Defensive Judgement Cost City Early
Orlando City rolled out a back line of Robin Jansson, Antonio Carlos and Rodrigo Schlegel to start the match. After an initial few moments of offensive pressure, the Lions found themselves falling back into a lengthy period of defending on their back heels while allowing Columbus to dominate possession. It sure felt like the first goal for the home team could come at any minute for the longest period of time, but surprisingly the defense held out all the way until the 39th minute, when Darlington Nagbe was able to break the seal by slotting home a ball that was crossed to him at the back post. There was nothing special about Nagbe’s run however because as it turns out it is quite easy to score when you go unmarked by the defense. Cucho Hernandez took all of the defenders with him with his run and that left two wide-open Crew players for Alexandru Matan to find with his pass.
Early Swing in Momentum
Coming out of halftime, the Lions made no adjustment to personnel or to shape on the field, but they did come out hungry and aggressive, actively searching for a goal. They found success in the 49th minute with buildup from two of Orlando’s three Designated Players. Facundo Torres and Ercan Kara linked up which allowed Kara to blast a shot from the top of the box past Patrick Schulte. The goal seemingly lifted the team’s spirits and led to several other quality chances over the next several minutes of game play.
Aggressive Coaching Tactics Pay Off
In the past few weeks the coaching staff has taken heat (somewhat unwarranted) for various issues that pundits and supporters alike have had with gameday tactics and and in-game adjustments. After the goal by Kara, Head Coach Oscar Pareja got aggressive with his substitutes. Initially it appeared that Pareja had switched the formation as well when he made his substitutes from three central defenders to the more accustomed four in the back look that fans have come to expect, putting on two fullbacks. This, however, was not the case, as Kyle Smith actually came on as the third center back, replacing Schlegel, and Michael Halliday played the wingback role on the right side of the field, with Gaston Gonzalez staying put in his wingback position on the left. For the most part, I felt that the tactics and formation worked on the evening and it was nice to see the coaching staff dictating the course of the match with their decision making.
Cardiac Cats Strike Again
Pareja sent on a slew of attackers, including Duncan McGuire, Ramiro Enrique, and Dagur Dan Thorhallsson between the 75th and 85th minutes. Orlando was doing all it could to muster an equalizer. Scoring in normal time, however, is so boring and way too generic for Orlando City. Instead, Torres drew a free kick from outside the 18-yard box in the 92nd minute and lofted the ball over the wall, looking for a header back across. It was slightly underhit but two Crew players got in each other’s way as the ball fell in front of McGuire. The rookie fired it on frame for his fourth goal of the season and just like that, the Cardiac Cats had struck once more.
Those were the highlights that stood out to me and I still don’t think my heart rate has come down after that rollercoaster of a match. Points on the road in Major League Soccer should never be something to scoff at. Orlando will now look forward and hopefully build upon the second-half momentum that it generated to tackle a midweek match back home against New York City FC.
Let us know what your biggest takeaways from the match were in the comments below.