Well that is one hell of a way to end three matches in eight days! Orlando City took to the road to face off against bitter rivals from the south and walked away with three points in a resounding and gutsy 3-1 victory.
Here are my five takeaways from one of the Lions’ most complete performances on the season thus far.
Aggressive from the Jump
For the second match in a row, Orlando came out of the gate with aggression and purpose. While the first goal didn’t come right away, warning shots were sent multiple times in the first 15 minutes, as two crosses found the head of Designated Player Ercan Kara. He missed the target on the first one by inches, hitting the left post and was offside on the second, although Drake Callender made a good reaction save on it anyway. Regardless of the results of the first two attempts, the big Austrian made his presence known early and the attacking components for Orlando all seemed connected in their aggressive runs towards the Miami net.
Long Throw-in Strikes Again
Orlando City fans have not witnessed a successful long throw yet this season, but against a wall of hot pink, midfielder Cesar Araujo took his usual position on the sideline and rifled a pass towards the endline into a scrum. The slow motion replay truly shows the superb effort put in by Kara, who had defenders draped behind, in front, and literally on top of him before he redirected his third header of the match into the back of the net. Simply describing the goal does not do it justice, so have a look below.
If you happened to listen to the live broadcast, the announcers certainly felt that it was subpar defending and not a superior effort by Kara that resulted in the opening goal of the match. This writer could not disagree more.
Letting the Opponent Hang Around is Bad
Orlando failed to find a second goal before halftime, and the opposition tied the game after constant pressure. Again. Orlando was able to stave off continuous pressure that started after Miami’s tactical change 33 minutes into the match for the remainder of the first half. However, after the break, in the 57th minute, a poor giveaway from Rafael Santos ended up with DeAndre Yedlin, who sent it to Josef Martinez at the top of the 18-yard box. He sprayed the ball to the right to fellow striker Leo Campana, who took a quick touch to his left and struck a golazo that Pedro Gallese could do little to get a glove on. While luckily the goal did not matter at the end of the match, the giveaway was careless and should have been avoided, and if Orlando is able to continue to take early leads, the Lions have to do better at defending a one goal lead.
Injury Bug Bites Again
Orlando fans held their breath as winger Gaston Gonzalez went down near the sideline in the 63rd minute. While it is far too early to speculate on the severity of the injury, replay showed that the winger pulled up while running and grasped at his right hamstring. The timing could not be worse for Gonzalez, who had been playing himself into the best form thus far. Major League Soccer clubs are notoriously tight lipped when it comes to injury reports, so I don’t expect to hear much besides the dreaded “lower body injury” moving forward, but hopefully, for the sake of depth and the Orlando City attack, Gonzalez does not find himself stuck on the sidelines for an extended period of time.
Substitutes Make All the Difference
In the 64th minute, Designated Player Martin Ojeda came on for Gonzalez and four minutes of game time later was celebrating after slotting home a shot past Callender from a beautiful through ball from Kara.
It was Ojeda’s third goal of the season and gave the Lions hope that they might survive the night and bring three points back to the City Beautiful. In the 76th minute, Duncan McGuire came on for Kara and helped put the nail in the coffin 10 minutes later as he held up play inside the penalty area by shielding off a Miami defender. McGuire smartly realizes that he had no angle for a shot and laid it off for Santos, who had moments earlier sent a shot just wide to the right of the net. Making a quick correction on his second attempt from almost the exact same spot on the field, Santos sent a screaming ground level shot into the back of the net for Orlando’s third goal of the game.
These were the most important things that stood out to me from a fun game in South Florida. Orlando returns to the City Beautiful with all three points and another victory over the team from down south. The boys finally get a few days to recover from a grueling month and have to feel good about the efforts that they are starting to string together on the field.
What things stood out to you from an OCSC victory? Let us know in the comments below.