Orlando City snapped its four-match winless skid with an emphatic 5-1 victory over expansion side FC Cincinnati. Here are three takeaways from the match:
Orlando City’s five-goal explosion against FC Cincinnati was the result of the Lions taking advantage of their ability to create chances.
The match calls to mind when coach James O’Connor said someone would get a “bit of a hiding” when Orlando City decided to convert its chances. Against FCC, the Lions put away their best chances and the end result was Orlando City’s best win in years.
“I thought the finishing was very clinical today,” O’Connor said. “Not just the finishing. I think when you look overall at the way that we played, we had some lovely possession. … It was great to watch.”
During the past two matches, the Lions have proven Nani isn’t the team’s only goal scorer. Chris Mueller, Tesho Akindele and Dom Dwyer have all scored during Orlando City’s past two games, ending individual slumps as well as the team’s goal-less skid.
Nani had two goals against FC Cincinnati. He put four shots on target in his return from a two-match absence due to calf inflammation and looked like he hasn’t missed a beat. Nani leads the Lions with seven goals.
“We must be strong, [mentally], and continue to believe,” Nani said. “Like I said before, this is a great team [with] great players. We have a lot to do. We have a lot to show. We didn’t show our best yet, but we need to stay on our feet and continue to work very hard, because just like that, we’re going to get our results.”
O’Connor said it was hard to single out just one player when the team’s performance was so strong on Sunday.
“It was really good for me,” Akindele said. “I feel like forwards, obviously, we live and die by goals. So, you know, the more games go by without one, you kind of feel pressure. You feel uneasy. I’m glad I got two today and then got back on track.
Orlando City took 17 shots against FCC, nine of which were on target.
The midfield trio of Will Johnson, Cristian Higuita and Sebas Méndez garnered praise from O’Connor after the match and it was well-deserved.
All three completed at least 90 percent of their passes. Johnson led the team with three chances created and assisted on Tesho Akindele’s goal in the 37th minute, which leveled the match at a goal apiece. Mendez led the team with 100 touches and completed 93.4% of his team-high 91 passes. Higuita had a team-high four tackles.
“There were some great passages and really good movement,” O’Connor said. “I think, again, there was a couple of times where you think, ‘OK, it needed to be a little bit crisper. A little bit cleaner.’ Because you can see the opportunity that’s there.
“I thought overall, you could see the intensity that we were able to play at and the quality, whether it was one-touch or two-touch [passing] and the understanding of space was very, very good.”
Neither of the aforementioned takeaways matter if Sunday’s performance was a one-off. Players and O’Connor agreed the team needs to carry the momentum gained on Sunday into Friday’s match against the LA Galaxy.
The Lions (4-6-3, 15 points) are still two points outside of seventh place and the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. There’s a lot of soccer left in the 34-game MLS season and Sunday’s win was Orlando City’s first since April 20.
O’Connor said he doesn’t want the team to get “too carried away” after the win.
“Perspective, I think, is probably the biggest thing that we’re going to need this year,” O’Connor said. “We said a couple times we’re following a process. Equally, you need to add some perspective to that.”
Akindele echoed his coach.
“Obviously, we can enjoy the win tonight and then starting tomorrow we’ve got to focus up for the next game and make sure our mentality is the same,” Akindele said. “That we’re ready to work like we did today.”
Orlando City’s next two matches (home against the LA Galaxy and at Montreal) are against teams that are in the playoff hunt. Both have earned at least 21 points. Whether the Lions’ performance on Sunday was a one-time thing against a struggling opponent will quickly be seen.