Defense Key to Orlando City Reaching Conference Final

Against the high-scoring Crew, the Lions will need another standout defensive effort.



Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Orlando City is set to open the Major League Soccer conference semifinals one week from today against the Columbus Crew. Earlier in the year, the two teams treated us to one of the most electric matches from the MLS regular season, as Orlando City overcame a two-goal deficit to win at the death.

This go-around, the match is win or go home, and Orlando City certainly cannot advance if it concedes as much to Columbus as it did during the last regular-season meeting.

Dating back to when the regular season resumed after the Leagues Cup, Orlando City has more or less established its defensive identity with a back line of Rafael Santos, Robin Jansson, Rodrigo Schlegel, and Dagur Dan Thorhallsson. This group has gelled over the final third of the season and is responsible for numerous results which helped to propel the squad up the table leading up to Decision Day. Their largest task now lies ahead of them — shutting down the most potent and fluid offense in MLS this year.

Over the two regular-season matchups, Orlando conceded five goals to the Crew. The only other team in the Eastern Conference to tally as many goals over the course of the regular season against OCSC was the New England Revolution, which also netted five goals this year against the Lions. Luckily for Orlando City, the Lions were able to secure four points out of six, even with gifting the team from the Buckeye State five goals.

While it is always a better idea to score more goals than your opponents, the playoffs are a different beast entirely, and Orlando City does not have a great track record of scoring multiple goals in its playoff matches of years past. In fact, Orlando has yet to score more than one goal in an MLS postseason match. Therefore, the best way for the Lions to advance to the conference final will be by leaning on their defensive unit. Jansson and Schlegel must specifically be steadfast in the back against the likes of Diego Rossi and Cucho Hernandez, and while Orlando has feasted lately by allowing its wingbacks to advance forward and contribute in the attack, Thorhallsson and Santos will need to be able to transition quickly in order to cover their bases.

Luckily for the boys in the back, they will also benefit from what can only be described as one of the best defensive midfield duos in MLS from this past year in Wilder Cartagena and Cesar Araujo, who can function as a giant Band-Aid over multiple wounds.

Which defensive-minded player do you think will be the key to shutting down the Crew attack? Let us know in the comments below and as always, vamos Orlando!


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