The Fire have a golden opportunity to break a long winless stretch away from home against an expansion team struggling mightily of late. Martin Tomszak is back to take another look at Orlando City.
What Are They All About? Orlando City SC
And just like that, the play off dream has been reignited! Well, unless you take into account Chicago’s away form and realize that six of their remaining nine matches will be played outside of the confines of Toyota Park. The Fire are flying high after defeating the New York Red Bulls 3-2 on Wednesday night but find themselves staring at a season defining three match road trip where anything less than six or seven points will spell disaster for their slim post season hopes. The trip begins against Orlando on Saturday. The two sides have faced each other once in league play and once in the Open Cup this season with Orlando taking all three points in their first trip to Toyota Park as an MLS side, but they were knocked out of the Cup by Chicago in their following visit. Which of the performances will be emulated on Saturday?
Orlando Form Guide (Last 5 Matches): L-L-D-L-W
Previous match: A 5-0 loss away to Toronto.
Formation in the last match: 4-2-3-1, Hall; Boden, Mateos, Collin, Ramos; Higuita, Carrasco; Neal, Kaka, Winter; Larin
Strengths: Since this is our third preview of this Orlando side, the strengths of the team should be fairly evident and do not need extensive repeating. Kaka is still key in everything Orlando does on and off the pitch, Cyle Larin is continuing a break out year that should see him win ROTY, Adrian Heath is a fiery figure that can get the best out of his players and his fans, and the OCSC front office seems committed to bringing in new talent.
The 4-2-3-1 formation utilized by Orlando has received in depth analysis here in the past and what needs to be refreshed is that it is a system which Adrian Heath has engrained into the squad. Implementing it in the USL days perfected his understanding of its effectiveness and it has been adapted for MLS where other clubs have begun to set up similar tactics. What makes it especially dangerous for opponents is the addition of Kaka into the lineup.
Heath doesn’t get enough credit for understanding what a truly dynamic midfield could offer the expansion side. Obviously Kaka will draw two or three defenders at a time, and rather than using the “2” as a reinforcement of the center back pairing in case Kaka loses the ball and opponents break on the counter, Heath gives them an added headache by throwing attack minded midfielders in that position. Whatever combination of Darwin Ceren, Cristian Higuita, and Servando Carrasco is utilized they are not afraid to help in attack and keep the other team on its toes. You cannot fault Orlando for a lack of attacking threat at any point in the season and it has certainly put them in the running for that final playoff spot.
Chicago’s Away Form: Sometimes one team’s weakness is another team’s strength. The Fire simply cannot get it done on the road. They have yet to win a road match this season and Yallop’s consistency in saying that Chicago does not prepare any differently for matches on the road means that three points in Orlando will be quite the task. Unless Chicago somehow switches it up, Orlando can remain confident in starting out with at least a point in this one.
While we refer you to previous articles outlining squad strengths, the true focus of this preview should revolve around the weaknesses exhibited by an expansion side that is quickly becoming a train wreck. Being on a four match winless streak in the most critical point of the season means that whatever strengths a team has clearly don’t matter if they are not being brought to the forefront.
Weaknesses: The last four matches have been absolutely awful for Orlando. Not only have they not won, but they have given up thirteen goals in those matches, have only scored one, registered just five shots on target and have picked up three red cards in the process. They are really not in a good place and Chicago will be presented with a golden opportunity heading to the Citrus Bowl on Saturday. Let’s take a look at where things have gone wrong.
We have previously touched on the defensive faults of having attack minded full backs, but since then Orlando has also had growing concerns with their center backs. Sean St. Ledger and Aurelien Collin seemed to have had a decent understanding but St. Ledger now finds himself playing for the Rapids and Collin has reverted to his mistake prone ways as he and new arrival David Matteos attempt to find some cohesion. This coupled with the fact that Orlando has trotted out a different back four in each of their last four matches, and doesn’t seem to like finishing matches with 10 men (a league leading nine red cards have been issued to Orlando), means that the thirteen goals conceded in this recent run will probably continue going forward.
Man marking, not ball watching, picking up late runs into the box, starting pressure in the midfield, not giving up fouls in dangerous areas, anticipating crosses, and not giving up entirely despite being down a few goals are all things that Orlando needs to re-learn. They were an exciting expansion team to watch early on, but as the final stretch of the season approaches they are looking more and more like the Orlando of last season, a team that played in the USL. It’s not just the winless streak that should worry Orlando but their performances in those matches. Toronto had an absolute field day against them without breaking a sweat, twice. Despite being on a five match losing streak of their own at that point, Seattle looked like Real Madrid when playing OCSC and that was without Papa, Alonso, Dempsey, Gonzalez, and Pineda. Even lowly Philadelphia almost snatched a win against them.
It doesn’t even make sense to analyze the goals in those matches because they literally came from everywhere. Yes, the center backs aren’t gelling, but then the midfield needs to step up defensively rather than shrugging their shoulders and pointing fingers. The same can be said of the fullbacks, perhaps Heath himself needs to be more flexible with the aforementioned lineup, player selection or even the tactics. He cannot afford to go blow for blow with the big guns in the league just yet, especially after they have figured this Orlando team out. Whether it’s fatigue, being jaded from expansion jitters wearing off, not knowing how to manage a full MLS season, whatever the case may be Orlando needs to figure it out fast. If Chicago plays the way they did against New York, all three points are there for the taking.
Injuries and Suspensions: Along with the long term injuries to Kevin Molino, Tony Cascio, Brek Shea, and Harrison Heath, defenders Rafael Ramos and Adrian Winter are both suspended for this match up. Not an ideal situation for Orlando.
Prediction: Our crystal ball has been fixed! After correctly predicting a Fire victory in the last match will it be two for two? Records are meant to be broken and the Fire have enjoyed dangling hope in front of fans the past few seasons. Chicago 4-2 Orlando. Igboananike will earn his Giordano’s in this one, Gilberto and Polster will each notch their first of the season, and Collin will put one in his own net before getting sent off.