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Orlando City keeps pushing to improve after 2-2 draw with Philadelphia Union

Orlando City SC forward Dom Dwyer (14) controls the ball during the first half against the Philadelphia Union at Orlando City Stadium. (Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports)

Orlando City halted the Philadelphia Union’s MLS win streak by salvaging a 2-2 draw in Orlando City Stadium. Here are three takeaways from Orlando City’s second draw in its last four matches: 

Movement without the ball

Orlando City coach James O’Connor, striker Dom Dwyer and right back Scott Sutter all agreed a problem with the Lions’ attack lies in a lack of options for the player on the ball.

This has been evident in the second halves of recent matches. Orlando City’s attacking players aren’t getting forward and it leaves players like Josué Colmán, Sacha Kljestan and Yoshi Yotún without too many options to pass to.

For a player like Colmán, who is young and still trying to find a rhythm late into the season, this leads to turnovers. Colmán – most of the time – can’t take on three or four defenders at once, so he gets dispossessed and attacking chances fizzle out.

Orlando City’s offense lacked teeth in the second half until attacking options Chris Mueller and Stéfano Pinho came on in the 76th minute.

“In the second half, the movement, the demand for the ball, there needs to be way more movement and better understanding of our expectation for the player on the ball to come up with something,” O’Connor said.

“He should have four or five options and that’s something we need to do a way better job at. I think decision-making, when to keep the ball. I think at times, especially in the second half, we tend to give it away really cheaply and then it takes us a period to get it back. So then when you do regain it, the decision of when to keep it, where to play it, becomes really important.”

Sutter, who had his second match-tying goal of the season, agreed with his coach.

“I think today the movement wasn’t quite there,” Sutter said. “I think there wasn’t enough energy throughout the team. I think on [the Union’s] part, as well, but they had the excuse they played mid-week. It just didn’t feel like we were that energetic tonight. I think that should have been better. That’s something that definitely we need to address.”

Coming back

Attacking midfielder Kljestan (right ankle), Yotún (foot/suspension) and Cristian Higuita (adductor/hip flexor) all returned to the pitch on Saturday.

There was clearly some rust Kljestan was trying to shake off. He had some errant passes in the final third, but was still lively in the attack. He was subbed off in the 76th minute.

Cristian Higuita was everywhere until he was subbed off in the 57th minute. He had a shot ding off the woodwork, and also had a couple of careless turnovers in the middle of the pitch.

Yotún clearly ran out of gas toward the end of the match, but got his 10th assist of the season and facilitated Orlando City’s attack early on. He’ll miss the club’s next match due to international duty. 

“I think Sacha deserves an enormous credit,” O’Connor said.

“He’s literally had a long period where he hasn’t been involved and then he’s trained a couple of days and he’s come straight back in. So he deserves enormous credit for his character to say, ‘Yep, okay, I’ll step in. I’ll play.’

O’Connor added both Yotún and Higuita looked tired and said, “I think that’s where we can help them by having better options and move movement from the surrounding players to help keep the ball. I think the decision of when to keep the ball and when to play forward is something we need to be way better at.”

Looking toward the future

O’Connor played captain and typical centerback Jonathan Spector at left back. It was the first time all season Spector was deployed as a fullback and one of many lineup changes O’Connor made.

Orlando City’s two summer signings – Carlos Ascues and Shane O’Neill – formed the Lions’ centerback pairing. Higuita was listed as a right winger in a 4-2-3-1 formation, but mostly roamed where he was needed. In fact, a few players did some weird roaming. O’Neill, for instance, had no qualms about taking the ball up the pitch when it was at his feet.

Union coach Jim Curtin noticed City’s odd shape.

“Orlando came out and it took us a little while to get used to the formation that they were in,” he said. “I would say they found a way to put their best 11 guys on the field, not necessarily in any shape but gave us a little bit of problems early on. I thought we adjusted well.”

If Orlando City (7-16-3, 24 points) doesn’t make the playoffs, O’Connor has eight matches left to figure out what he has going into the 2019 season. He knows this, so he’s seeing what’s there.

“I think for me, when you come in as a coach midseason I think you need to assess everything,” he said. “I think you need to try and be fair to individuals. I think that’s something we’ve tried to do, we’ve tried to assess the playing style and have a good look at everybody.

When you concede as many goals as we have conceded I think it’s trying to find a solution that stops us from conceding goals. So for us it was a case of, ‘Okay, can Carlos play there? Can Specs play there?’ I know in England he’s played at full back and it was a decision we looked at and thought maybe he can do a job for us there and Carlos at centerback.”

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