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Orlando City focused on defending dead-ball situations

San Jose Earthquakes midfielder Jahmir Hyka (10) controls the ball around Orlando City defender Mohamed El-Munir (13) during the first half at Orlando City Stadium. (Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports)

Orlando City has given up 12 goals through seven matches so far this season.

It’s a stat that, while not ideal, doesn’t exactly tell the whole story. For the most part, Orlando City’s collective defending, anchored by a backline that’s been beset by injuries since the start of the season, has been solid enough in the run of play.

When play stops, things get dicey.

The club’s players and coach Jason Kreis said defending dead-ball situations has been a point of emphasis as the club prepares for its Sunday road match against the Colorado Rapids. 

The lone goal conceded by the Lions against D.C. was off a free kick. Against Minnesota United, the Loons got their first goal after a throw-in and scored their second after a restart following a foul.

NYCFC’s goals were gift-wrapped by bad giveaways.  

During the club’s four-match win streak, the Lions have conceded seven goals. Two of them were goals that weren’t off free kicks in dangerous areas, corners or penalties. Both of those goals were scored by the New York Red Bulls.

The San Jose Earthquakes scored two goals off corner kicks in the final 15 minutes of Orlando City’s 3-2 victory last weekend, prompting Kreis to address the issue in his post-match press conference.

“For me, defending dead-ball situations is a matter of commitment, organization and focus,” he said. “I would say that to give up the number of dead-ball goals we have this year, we’re extremely disappointed with that.

“But it’s not just the coaches. I just walked out of the locker room and we had some people in there who were very, very disappointed to have not obtained all of our objectives tonight.”

Kreis, speaking to reporters Wednesday, said it’s a problem the club can fix “very easily.” 

It’s an issue Will Johnson – who has recently filled in at right back – believes won’t define the Lions’ season.

“For me, it’s been an organizational issue,” Johnson told Pro Soccer USA. “And communication, somewhat. We’ve missed man-marks. We’ve missed zonal responsibilities. I think guys are committed. I think we’re focused on the play but at the same time, we had a guy man-marked at the end of the last game and that fell through and nobody else picked it up or recognized it quick enough to do something about it.

“It’s on all of us and it’s something that we’ve addressed a lot throughout the week. Luckily, we’re still winning games while these mistakes are happening and we’ll correct them. It’s a new group. We’ve all got to learn our responsibilities on the field and jell together and figure these things out as we go.”

As far Orlando City’s back line, it’s still a work in progress. The year started with Scott Sutter at right back, Amro Tarek and Jonathan Spector as the two center backs, and Mohamed El-Munir at left back.

El-Munir is the only one of those four players who hasn’t come off the pitch for any reason.

Against the Quakes, Orlando City’s back line consisted of (right to left) Johnson, Lamine Sané, Tarek and El-Munir.

“We have to stay focused,” Sané said. “Focused every time. Sometimes, you’re a little bit lazy during the game, during the last game.”

Player updates

Sutter (knee) was running on the pitch while warm-ups were going on during Friday’s training session. He’s missed the club’s last two matches with what was at first described as a “lower-body” injury, though Kreis on Wednesday told reporters it was a knee injury.

Jonathan Spector (concussion protocol) was not at the portion of Friday’s training session that was open to the media.

Chris Mueller, who left Wednesday’s session with a bag of ice wrapped around his calf, was training on Friday.

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