Orlando City dominated possession Saturday night against Minnesota United, but didn’t do all that much with the ball, ultimately falling 2-1 to the Loons at Orlando City Stadium in front of an announced home crowd of 24,038.
It was a disappointing loss, for sure, and it means the Lions have dropped five points in two home games to start the season.
Here are three things we learned from the loss:
1. This club really needs a No. 10
Luckily, that No. 10 is coming next week in the form of Sacha Kljestan. Team captain and center back Jonathan Spector said it best: It’s no good having all the possession if you’re not going to use the ball well.
Kljestan was suspended for the first two matches of 2018 due to an incident with Toronto FC. With him out, coach Jason Kreis tried Yoshimar Yotún against D.C. United and fielded Richie Laryea against Minnesota United. Neither player is bad, but they aren’t true No. 10s and it showed.
“He’s an important player for us,” Kreis said about Kljestan.
“We compound the issue when we don’t have another No. 10 that’s healthy with Josué Colmán being injured. For the last two weeks, we’ve been playing players out of position to fill that spot. I feel like we’ve lacked just a little bit of quality. Nothing to do with the effort, I think the guys efforts have been fantastic, but just tonight, for me, we lacked a little bit of quality in the final third.”
The Lions maintained possession, but just about everything was in front of a compact Minnesota United defense. Orlando City’s only goal came off a penalty kick earned by Laryea. It was an effort play – he worked to maintain possession in the penalty area and was brought down by Ethan Finlay.
Spector said players who’ve stepped in to the 10 spot have done well, but Kljestan will improve the team’s attacking threat.
“He’s a natural No. 10,” Spector said. “That’s his role. We’ll be happy to have him back.”
Mar 10, 2018; Orlando, FL, USA; Minnesota United midfielder Ethan Finlay (13) celebrates with defender Francisco Calvo (5) and teammates as he scores a goal against the Orlando City during the first half at Orlando City Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
2. Tarek is getting better
Amro Tarek had himself a game Saturday night against the Loons.
He wasn’t bad to begin with, but it’s looking more and more like Lamine Sané will have to rip the other starting center back position away from Tarek.
The Egyptian center back was confident in his challenges, he made timely tackles and, in general, helped anchor Orlando City’s defense alongside Spector when Minnesota United players weren’t just running free.
“He’s been spectacular, to be honest,” Kreis said of Tarek. “He’s provided some real stability for us. He’s able to track things down. He’s got some terrific speed and I think really good timing in his challenges. He’s obviously a player we’re very, very happy we found at a late stage.”
3. Depth could become an issue
The extent of striker Stéfano Pinho’s ankle injury was unknown as of Sunday morning, but if he’s out for an extended period of time, Orlando City could be looking at a roster with just Justin Meram and Chris Mueller up top.
Striker Dom Dwyer isn’t scheduled to return from a quad strain until the end of the month.
Earlier this month, Kreis said it’s good Orlando City’s depth is being challenged early. At some point, too many challenges to a club’s depth can sink a season.
Kreis said during Saturday’s loss to the Loons, he was running out of options in the attack.
“I think, obviously, in a game like that, as a coach, I’m looking for the next forward and the next attacking option to put out there,” he said. “We just didn’t have any. So, at some point, of course you’re going to expect to have much more of your complete roster.
“I really don’t concern myself too much. I know we’ve got guys that are coming back. We’ve got guys that are going be ready. Once we have our full squad I think we’re going to be in very good position, still.”