Heading into week three in MLS, Orlando City SC find themselves with four points. How long will they have four points? Will they take down Vancouver this weekend or will they suffer their first loss in franchise history? Orlando City have experienced drawing and winning thus far. A loss hasnt occurred yet obviously. Vancouver may or may not bring that first loss. Let us take this space to examine and discuss their success in MLS up to this point.
It was a stereotypical Florida day. There was a usual glimmer expanding across every inch of the ground from the sun with a faint smell of alcoholism in the air. Something was different though. Orlando and Florida were getting the greatest game in the world in their own yard for the first time in a while and hopefully plenty more times, professionally. There was a happy anticipation.
The day ahead for Orlando City included a red card, Kaka debut goal, and a scrappy opening game. I can not say it included anything close to beautiful football. There were some positives for the rallying Orlando side. Kevin Molino was very promising against New York City FC. His reactions are swift with a calm, possessed control. He seems overtly capable in MLS after two weeks and hasnt contradicted my expectations in being a top 3 player in this team. He’s what Darlington Nagbe is to Valeri but to Kaka. Dont compare Portland and Orlando City however. Portland rely on other pieces. Orlando City havent, yet.
Against New York, Kaka, Molino, and Rafael Ramos were the only Orlando City players to even attempt a dribble in the final third. That is telling. They and Brek Shea are your most creative players and two of them are fullbacks. This rhetoric was displayed in the game. A goal was hard to come by. It came when Kaka struck a free kick from roughly 30 yards out in stoppage time after Mix Diskerud’s hitter and quitter. Kaka’s strike hit a tap-dancing Jeb Brovsky and ricocheted into the net. So, Orlando City came away with a tie their first time out. Many probably expected that sort of game and outcome. You shouldnt have expected a beautifully played game from Orlando in their first MLS match ever.
W in H-Town
On to Orlando’s second fixture against Houston, you can expect them to let loose a little despite it being away from home. However, they didnt. This was a 0-0 thriller until the tremendously spectacular Tyler Deric decided to take a large touch in his own box which Pedro Ribeiro pounced on, which subsequently led to Deric punching the ball into his own net. There were a lack of great chances in this match much like the first fixture. Molino and Kaka were the only ones to complete dribbles in the final third. Lewis Neal and Carlos Rivas “Lewis Nealed” all over the place again.
Houston however was much worse than New York. They performed terribly. Stringing simple passes together was an ordeal for them. Darwin Ceren was extremely successful because of this. Regardless of the opponent, he had a very good game. The back four were strong here much like the first fixture. Consensus would probably say Orlando City have a solid back four but it’s also tough to set your expectations high considering the two opponents they faced.
Surmising and Vancouverising
Summarizing, nearly three games in, the back four have done their job. Brek Shea and Rafael Ramos have done well on both sides of the ball and have added some creativity out of the back. Amobi Okugo, Cristian Higuita, and Darwin Ceren have been properly destructive when the opposing side has had the ball. Theyve served appropriately when distributing to Kaka and Molino as well. The most important aspect for Orlando City is the Kaka – Molino combo. They’re shifty, they’re swift, quick, and precise with a touch of innovation. However, it’s like they’re on an island when either one of them gets the ball. There is no outlet up top and there is little to no contribution wide left. It’s basically just Molino and Kaka in the final third together. At least, that’s what has happened thus far.
Does this change against Vancouver and if it doesnt, how does Orlando City fare on Saturday? I dont have the answers to those questions. I can say however, this Saturday will be Orlando City’s toughest task yet. Home advantage is a nice aspect for Orlando. However Vancouver are a tougher opponent than a first-game New York City and a dreadful Houston (that night). The silky smooth passer that is Pedro Morales, the exuberant Kekuta Manneh in the form of Gambian Messi of late, and the interestingly varying Octavio Rivero provide a potentially tough task for Orlando.
Kaka comes up against a stronger holding mid this time around. Ricardo Clark can be tough to play against as a number ten. However, Matias Laba is a different animal. He slides in at extremely appropriate times, he’s patient, and it’s scary what he can do one touch after dispossessing opponents. He also has a viable outlet within close quarters with the likes of Gershon Koffie and Russell Teibert. If Koffie and Laba start, Orlando City will have a lot of trouble penetrating Vancouver. Teibert is scrappy but if he starts, that is a point in Vancouver’s team that Kaka can exploit with perhaps more success.
Examining what weve seen from Orlando City thus far, you can surmise that this Saturday could be another gritty, low-scoring affair. Orlando’s defense has appeared solid and if that continues, Vancouver will find success in the final third hard to come by. Pedro Morales provides a threat that Orlando City havent quite faced yet but a positive there is that he’s been relatively quiet two weeks in. If he decides to break out in this game, Orlando may or may not be in trouble. It’s time to truly test out that back four. It’s also time to see if Orlando can be more diversified in the final third. Orlando City have to perform well and get results against these sort of opponents at home in order to make the playoffs in their inaugural year. Let’s see if they are up to the task. The season begins now.
(image courtesy of Orlando City SC)