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Orlando City midfielder Sacha Kljestan: For now, Lions best with 3 centerbacks

Orlando City midfielder Sacha Kljestan (16) against the Montreal Impact at Orlando City Stadium. Montreal Impact defeated Orlando City 3-1. (Matt Stamey-USA TODAY Sports)

SANFORD, Fla. — Orlando City’s formation shifted at the start of its game against the Montreal Impact, with coach James O’Connor opting to utilize a four-man backline, instead of the three-centerback formation he used during the Lions’ first two matches of the season.  

Veteran midfielder Sacha Kljestan said the plan was to “catch Montreal and expose them in, maybe, flaws in their game that we thought that we could expose.” Still, Kljestan said he thinks the Lions were at their best using the three-centerback formation the team deployed in the first two games.

Orlando City (0-1-2, 2 points) will work to get back on track in hostile territory when it plays the New York Red Bulls (1-0-1, 4 points) on Saturday at Red Bull Arena. 

When Kljestan was asked if he felt the Lions were at their best when using three centerbacks, he responded, “For now, I think so, yes. I think it puts some of our players in a better position to succeed in different parts of the field. So yeah, I’m a fan of it. I really like the way we’ve employed it throughout the preseason and through the first two games of the season. Yeah, I do like it a lot.”

The Lions gave up two goals early against Montreal, which meant tactics didn’t count for much.

“Unfortunately, after going down 2-0 after 15 minutes, sometimes tactics lose their way a little bit because of desperation and things like that,” Kljestan said. “So, it’s not really a great game to judge tactically, in my opinion. But, I think, for the most part, yes, we have a very good grasp on, I think, what he wants out of us tactically and when we get the guys on the field, we all pretty much feel like we’re on the same page, which is very important.”

O’Connor did eventually switch back to a three-centerback formation against Montreal after subbing on young attackers Josué Colmán and Santiago Patiño for centerback Shane O’Neill and left back Danilo Acosta. It was an attempt to put pressure on the Impact and it backfired. The double substitution left the Lions with a three-man back line of Sebas Méndez, Ruan, and Carlos Ascues.

Orlando City gave up a third goal shortly after Colmán and Patiño came on. Kljestan said he took responsibility for that goal.

“I raised my hand and completely said to the group that that goal is completely on me,” Kljestan said. “I made a mistake in the back third. I lost a bad ball in a bad spot and it cost us. But other than that, yeah, we switched up things to get more attacking pieces on the field and really just tried to go after it and unfortunately, we did not do well enough with our chances that we created.”

The Lions also managed to get a goal back after Patiño linked up with star striker Dom Dwyer. 

“At the end, we’ve got players in positions because it’s, you know, we’re throwing everything at them to try to get something,” O’Connor said.

He added, “When you’re 2-nil down after 16 minutes at home, the game, for us, it’s going to open up. Our choice then, at 2-nil down, is to sit and to try to defend and hope that, maybe, you nick a set piece or you just open the game up and you come out and you accept that you’re going to leave yourselves open to maybe conceding a few more goals, but you run the risk of trying to get some goals.”

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