Orlando City striker Dom Dwyer celebrates with teammates after the Lions' win over the New York Red Bulls Saturday at Orlando City Stadium. (Reinhold Matay/USA Today Sports)
Orlando City got its first win of the season on Saturday. It was a wild, 4-3 victory over the New York Red Bulls. Here are three things we learned from the match:
Kreis is willing to switch his formation
Orlando City’s formation changed to start the second half of its 4-3 victory over the New York Red Bulls.
Attacking midfielder Josué Colmán came on for holding midfielder Cam Lindley and head coach Jason Kreis opted to field a 4-2-3-1, with striker Dom Dwyer playing up top. Sacha Kljestan was the No. 10 with Justin Meram on his left (his more natural position) and Colmán on his right.
It was a switch from the 4-4-2 diamond formation Kreis used to open the match, pairing Meram with Dwyer up top. Yoshi Yotún and Will Johnson were shifted back to start the second half and the back line stayed the same.
“It is absolutely our ideal scenario to be able to play in different shapes,” Kreis said. “We’ve been working through that in preseason. Yes, I do think you will see variations in how we approach matches, no doubt. Both within matches and from match to match.”
It’s interesting, because earlier in the week, Meram mentioned he was still learning and adapting regarding his position up top.
He was solid in his Week 1 debut, but his passes weren’t as sharp against NYCFC two weeks ago.
Meram notched an assist against the Red Bulls. He created three chances – as many as Kljestan – and his passing accuracy was 78.2 percent.
“Obviously, I’ve played wing for seven years,” Meram said on Friday. “I’ve played up top for three games. You do the math here, I think it’s pretty simple. You know, there’s no excuses with that. For me, I have to learn quickly and be productive for this club.
“I have to get back to my abilities of what I did in Week 1 [against D.C. United] and get on the ball and make plays happen for my team.”
Maybe this attack will be OK after all
Orlando City’s first goal, which tied the match at one goal apiece, must have been the type of goal Kreis had been hoping since the first match of the season.
A gorgeous through ball from Kljestan to Meram. Meram finds an unmarked Will Johnson, who was running free because Red Bulls left back Connor Lade was too busy staring at Dwyer. Johnson taps it in, the crowd goes wild.
“We had some really good plays,” Kljestan said.
“The first goal is a perfect example of things we work on in training. Trying to find an open guy and find an open guy and then get someone behind and then a ball across the goal for a tap-in. Those are the most beautiful goals. In the end we scored a couple of good ones.
After scoring just two goals, one of which came from the penalty spot, through three matches, Orlando City came alive for four goals. Dwyer opened things up. If he’s on the pitch, he adds a new level to Orlando City’s attack.
“Tactically, he gives us a little bit more of a true No. 9,” Kreis said. “We’ve been kind of playing without one for the first three matches, so to have a true target there, a true player that’s going to be in the box to finish things is real nice for us from a tactical point of view.”
The back line must clean some things up
As fun as it was to watch the Lions’ offense finally wake up, the club’s defending wasn’t solid against New York.
Left back Mohamed El-Munir in particular had a rough match. The first goal the Lions gave up came after a poor clearance from him, which led to Kaku’s cross to Florian Valot, who had an easy header.
Valot came in unmarked behind El-Munir.
Derrick Etienne Jr. beat center back Lamine Sané, who was making his first Orlando City start, into the penalty area, then put a shot past goalkeeper Joe Bendik for goal No. 2 for the Red Bulls.
Though, that play was started after a bad pass from rookie Cam Lindley and continued thanks to a solid through ball from Valot.
Goal No. 3 came off a set piece.
Collective defending is one thing, but Orlando City’s back four has a bit of work to do heading into the club’s next match on April 8 against Portland.