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Orlando City’s attack just isn’t the same during six-match losing streak

Orlando City lost its six match in a row Wednesday in Montreal, this time falling 3-0 to the Montreal Impact at Stade Saputo. It was the Lions’ (6-8-1, 19 points) third defeat in a row by three goals. Here are three takeaways from the match: 

What’s wrong with Orlando City’s attack?

The simple answer is the Lions were without Dom Dwyer for a couple of matches, then he was subbed on too late to really make a difference against Vancouver and was still getting his feet wet as a starter against Montreal.

There’s some truth there.

Dwyer took five shots, including a free kick that went just high and a header that was wide by inches. He wasn’t in peak form – an in-form Dwyer puts those chances in the back of the net.

During its six-match win streak, Orlando City scored 15 goals. Dwyer was involved in nine of them in some way. It’s clear he’s needed and he needs to be at his best. During six consecutive losses, three of which were played without Dwyer, Orlando City has scored five goals

There could be something more, though.  

Maybe Orlando City’s attack is crowded with too many players who want to do the same thing when Dwyer isn’t at his best.

Left winger Justin Meram and midfielder Josué Colmán both receive the ball, dribble in space and try to find an open teammate or take a shot. They both typically wind up centrally located during this process. Or, at the very least, they’re closer to the top of the penalty area than they are to the end line. 

Without Dwyer, things get messy because no one on Orlando City commands space like he does, so there aren’t free running lanes for one-touch passes. Instead, the aforementioned players wait for reinforcements the best way they can: just dribbling and hoping they don’t get dispossessed. 

The issue is not everyone can be a central attacking midfielder. Meram found success earlier this season passing in the final third when he was centrally-located, but with Colmán seeing more match minutes, that role has been reduced. Why? Because Colmán is at his best with the ball at his feet, working his way into the penalty area and finding open teammates in space.

But it’s Sacha Kljestan’s job to be the central attacking midfielder, right?

Simply put, there’s some congestion in Orlando City’s attack, and it’s leading to bad possession and miscommunication in the final third. It’s exacerbated by Dwyer’s injuries — he’s been gone for a few matches and Orlando City’s attack is different with Colmán. 

“It’s a difficult situation,” Orlando City coach Jason Kreis said. “Dom’s absence has clearly hurt us and now he’s coming back from injury and it’s the same situation – it’s his very first game. So they have some different movements and different ideas working together that’s brand new.

“That’s unfortunate. That’s the way our season has gone.”

Orlando City misses Yotún

Orlando City misses the box-to-box presence of Yoshi Yotún, who is with Peru’s national team at the World Cup. He last played in Orlando City’s 2-1 loss to Atlanta United on May 13, and the connection between defensive midfielders Cristian Higuita and Uri Rosell doesn’t appear to be working out.

Higuita and Yotún worked so well together because Higuita could play to his strengths. Yotún was a valuable piece of Orlando City’s attack, so Higuita didn’t have to go so high up the pitch. Lately, Higuita has been the attacker to Rosell’s central defensive midfielder role, but Higuita is not the distributor Yotún is and Rosell hasn’t been a particularly sharp defender.

Plus, with Higuita involved in the attack, there have been times where he hasn’t tracked back in defense.

A possible solution might have come in the second half against Montreal. Attacking midfielder Jose Villarreal was subbed on for Higuita, and Kljestan dropped – more or less – into a box-to-box midfielder role.

Orlando City’s attack looked more cohesive in the second half, but that could just have been because Montreal decided to sit back and enjoy it’s 2-0 lead after centerback Amro Tarek’s own goal.

Still, if Kljestan plays behind the attacking midfielders, it could solve the issue of congestion in the attack, at least for a while until Yotún is back. Colmán takes up more of a central attacking midfielder role, Chris Mueller (who is learning to move well without the ball) and Meram are on the wings and Dwyer stays up top.

Lions can still get back on track

Orlando City, despite six straight losses, is still above the playoff line. The Chicago Fire are tied with the Lions with 19 points, but City has more wins, so Kreis’ crew would still be in the playoffs if the regular season ended today.

The Lions still have 19 games to right the ship. Plus, they’re still alive in U.S. Open Cup play and face D.C. United on Wednesday at the Maryland SoccerPlex.

“I hope [the urgency] is sky high,” Kreis said after the Montreal loss. “It doesn’t get any more urgent for me and we’ve made that very clear. We did not go into this game saying this was just a regular-season game. We told our players this was a massive, massive match and we 1000 percent needed the three points.

“We don’t get it, we need to deal with the disappointment of that and we need to respond the right we. We have a massive Open Cup game a week from tonight, which we need to win.”

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