Orlando City dropped its first match in almost three weeks on Sunday, falling 1-0 to the New York Red Bulls Sunday. Here are three things that we learned from the match:
Game plan fell apart
Heading into the game, Orlando City knew to expect the Red Bulls to press. As forward Tesho Akindele pointed out after the game, the high press is what New York is known for and it’s the first step in preparing for any game against the team.
In the first 30 minutes of Sunday’s game, the Lions stumbled under the pressure, falling deeper into its defensive third. In that time, the team chose to bomb long passes over the top of the back line rather than pass out of the back.
While some of those passes provided players such as Nani and Chris Mueller one-on-one opportunities, the tactic didn’t allow Orlando City to establish meaningful possession in the first third of the game.
“We tried to go in behind a lot which was on sometimes, but we could’ve tried to pass out of it, break their confidence,” Akindele said. “We didn’t do that for the first half. That’s what cost us.”
The 33rd minute goal snapped Orlando City out of its defensive shell. As the Red Bulls tired in the heat and relinquished some of their pressure, the Lions began to construct passing sequences that led to sustained possession. The team dominated the second half, but without a finish for an equalizer, the mistakes of the game’s first 30 minutes remained in the 1-0 finish.
Lions eager to earn more points at home
So far this season, Orlando City has played 11 regular season games at home and 11 on the road. The team posted a 4-6-1 (13 points) home record during that time, while going 3-4-4 (13 points) on the road.
The team’s home-field advantage has carried into the U.S. Open Cup, where the Lions have won two games at Exploria Stadium.
The team has gone 2-2 at home during its past four MLS matches and sees any time it doesn’t capture at least a point at home a setback.
Coach James O’Connor said Sunday’s difficulty at home stemmed, in part, from the team’s packed schedule throughout the past month, with only two days to travel and recover from a cross-country trip to Portland. But O’Connor refused to use travel as an excuse for the loss and pointed to the team’s slow starts on its home pitch as a main key to the losses.
“I think we’ve tried to ingrain that within the players,” O’Connor said. “I think it’s a case of understanding the process and mentally making sure that we start the games a little brighter.”
For a team that has spent week floating only a handful of points below the playoff cutoff line, home wins will become vital in the second half of the season.
After taking several weeks to recover from a hamstring injury, defender João Moutinho returned to the starting lineup at left back on Sunday and played a full 90 minutes for the Lions.
At the half, the coaching staff wasn’t sure if Moutinho would make it to the final whistle — he had taken a hard hit at the start of the game and told the coaches that he was struggling to keep up his pace.
But in the second half, Moutinho began to build his comfort. He pushed up the field to feed several chances into the box, setting up Carlos Ascues for one of the crossbar deflections that plagued the team.
“He gives a great balance,” O’Connor said. “Especially second half, he started to get higher up the field and cause them some problems. He’s a player that’s got great ability. We’re pleased that he’s back.”
This article has been updated to correct Orlando City’s home and road statistics.