Orlando City’s attack woke up with the return of striker Dom Dwyer — seven goals in the last two games isn’t a stat to scoff at following just two goals through the three matches of the season.
That’s one issue solved.
The other issue that hasn’t gone away is the club’s defending. Through five matches, the Lions (2-2-1, 7 points) have given up 10 goals, tied for the most in the Eastern Conference.
Orlando City also has played from behind in every match so far this season, having conceded first in five consecutive games.
There’s a lack of consistency in the back, but coach Jason Kreis said there’s a lack of control in the middle third that’s leading to defensive breakdowns.
“We want to be a team that’s more in control of the match,” Kreis said. “That’s always going to be difficult to do if you’re always coming from behind.
“Lots of improvement to be made, from my point of view, on the defensive side of things. It’s not necessarily the defending in our final third. For me, it’s more the defending happening in the midfield third and what we’re doing in those areas to control the match better so we’re not dealing with so many transitions.”
A trip to Chester, Penn., for a match against the struggling Philadelphia Union (1-1-2, 5 points) will be another solid test for the Lions’ defense. Orlando City plays the Union at 8 p.m. on Friday in a match that’ll be broadcast on ESPN.
The Union are winless in their last three matches, but have potent attacking pieces in established striker C.J. Sapong and wingers Fafà Picault and David Accam, who Philadelphia acquired via trade with the Chicago Fire.
“Very, very dangerous team,” Kreis said. “A team that, if you look at the last two matches, they’ve played really positively. No doubt about it, should have gotten better results from those two matches. They were dominant in both those games. Created a ton of goal-scoring chances.
“They’re a very dangerous team that’s going to be out looking for a fight because they dropped a result at home last week. They’re going to be looking to claw that back. We need to be very, very prepared for this one.”
The goals haven’t come for the Union in recent matches – they’re tied for last in the Eastern Conference in goals scored with three – but the potential is there for Philadelphia to take advantage of Orlando Ctiy’s defensive issues.
“Philly, I thought, played pretty well last week against San Jose,” Kljestan said. “I watched most of their game and the final product for them wasn’t there, but they really had majority of possession and chances.
“They pose a threat with their front three. Sapong, Accam and Picault – three very fast guys that can break on the counter. We’ve got to be smart about the way we play on Friday.”
Accam in particular has enjoyed success against Orlando City. He has six goals and three assists in seven matches against the Lions.
“A lot of speed there,” said goalkeeper Joe Bendik. “And a good bit of technical ability. They’re a good team at home so we’ll look to keep things compact.”
About Accam, Bendik added, “You get too tight from him, he can turn you and run past you. You get too loose from him, he can run at you full speed. It’s a balance in between that. I think, as always, it’s easier to just not allow him the ball as much as you possibly can. It’ll take a full team effort on Friday.”
Midfielder Sacha Kljestan said things in the back must be cleaned up.
“We’ve made some mistake at the back that have led directly to goals, so we’ve got to just clean that up and be better,” Kljestan said. “Maybe the answer is a better collective effort, starting even with us front four.”
Orlando City’s back line has been tested throughout the season, and Kreis is still looking for a consistent center back pairing. Captain Jonathan Spector did not travel with the club to Philadelphia and is back in concussion protocol after suffering another hit against Portland.
In last Sunday’s win over Portland, Kreis paired Lamine Sané with Spector. Against the New York Red Bulls, Sané paired with Amro Tarek, though when Tarek left the match with an injury, typical right back RJ Allen filled in at center back.
“I think our decision-making at times is a slightly off, but overall the picture is there,” Bendik said. “Now we’ve got two positive results in the last two games.”