This is why they invented air conditioning. Friday night we were entertained with maybe 15 minutes of soccer, followed by 75 minutes of 22 guys simultaneously suffering from oxygen deprivation.
No one in their right mind voluntarily goes to Florida in August. This in part explains Justin Meram’s urgency to get out of Orlando, and also in part explains Orlando City’s continual ineffectiveness.
Indeed, over the course of 5 seasons in MLS, Orlando has accumulated an impressive 7-12-5 home record in the months of July and August. In PPG terms, that amounts to a paltry 0.36. They scored 28 goals in those 24 games (1.17 per game) and allowed 34. This season, they had 6 home games in that stretch, more than in any previous season, and eked out a 3-3-0 record, scoring 5 and allowing 5. And that’s not including the 0-2 Open Cup loss to you-know-who.
Of course, that doesn’t explain their 3-4-1 home record in the season prior to that, but still. So, Orlando City has a lot of problems, but there are two that stand out:
- They are in Florida. Of course, they are as a group the soccer realization of Florida Man, so they should feel right at home, but nonetheless it’s a massive disadvantage.
- They can’t score. At all.
Both these points were on clear display Friday. The weather conditions were verging on unplayable. The pitch looked pretty torn up, too, with the ball taking unpredictable bounces all over the place, but that’s a separate matter. The key though was that, despite attempting 22 shots and managing an xG of 2.10, Orlando, for the second straight home game against the They’re-not-claw-marks-they’re-just Stripes, completely and utterly failed to score.
Of those 22 shots, 10 were from outside the penalty area, and only 2 were inside the goal area. 15 were off target. 2 were blocked, and of the 5 that made it as far as Brad Guzan, only 1 really tested him.
Orlando coach James O’Connor made 6 lineup changes from the team that had tied Minnesota United 1-1 the prior week, all of them in attack. He dropped Sebastian Mendez, Will Johnson, Robinho and Dom Dwyer, moved Nani from right attacking mid to central attacking mid and moved Benji Michel from left attacking mid to right attacking mid.
Under normal circumstances, a coach benching the disreputable Johnson and the atrocious Dwyer would be applauded. But in O’Connor’s case it’s not as if he has any better options. Dwyer’s MLS career scoring rate is 1 goal every 186.9 minutes, and since joining Orlando that’s up to 200.9 minutes. Tesho Akindele, who started at striker Friday evening, has a lifetime 247.3 minute scoring rate, although that has improved significantly this season at Orlando to 174.4 minutes.
When your best available strikers score about once every other game, you’ve got problems.
Defensively, they really aren’t too bad. They have allowed 36 goals so far this season, good enough for 3rd best in the Eastern Conference (after Atlanta and New York City FC) and 5th overall (adding Los Angeles FC and Real Salt Lake). And that’s the only reason they are even remotely in the playoff hunt this year.
Why focus on the opponent so heavily in an Atlanta United blog, you ask? Well, the fact is that Atlanta came away with a win Friday despite playing poorly. The team did not play down to the opposition, it played fatigued and under rough conditions. Atlanta was saved in this game by Orlando’s laughable inability to find the back of the net. United could have played a 0-5-6 formation and still finish with a clean sheet.
In fact, Atlanta was generally outplayed. Fully 36% of the game was played in its defensive third, and penetration in attack was generally lacking:
And in stark contrast to recent games, the team was very disorganized:
Atlanta is on the right, supposedly in the 3-4-3 we have seen over the past couple of months.
The good news from both of these graphics is that Orlando, although playing better than Atlanta, didn’t play well. They managed barely more penetration and their 4-2-3-1 was equally dysfunctional.
However, there is one player above whose positioning made the difference in the game. Miles Robinson (#12) was parked right at the top of the D. Obviously, Atlanta did not play without any defense at all, but one central defender and a keeper were evidently enough. Miles let very little get past him.
And so Atlanta maintained its Eastern Conference lead. After Toronto FC beat the Montreal Impact on Saturday Orlando dropped one more place below the playoff line. And the Chicago Fire’s loss to the New England Revolution reduced the number of teams who can dislodge Atlanta from a playoff spot to just 2, namely Orlando and Montreal. Orlando’s next two games are against the San Jose Earthquakes and LAFC, and Montreal just hired Wilmer Cabrera, so a playoff spot is pretty much a lock.
But first, we have a cup to win tonight, and before that, here are the Dirty South Soccer Staff Player Ratings:
Man of the Match is the aforementioned Miles Robinson. I’m splitting with the team on this one; they went for Florentin Pogba. He takes a Special Mention, though, as does Josef Martinez.
GK: Brad Guzan – 7. Brad recorded his 13th MLS clean sheet, matching his personal best from 2007. He is 1 shy of 3rd best, and 3 short of the record. To get there he logged 5 saves, but as noted above only 1 of those was tough (a point-blank attempt from Akindele).
CB: Florentin Pogba – 7. 2 tackles, 4 interceptions, 1 clearance, 1 block and 8 recoveries. His passing was also more on target than normal: 82.8% on 45 passes. An immovable object as usual, and Orlando certainly does not possess an irresistible force.
CB: Miles Robinson – 8. 2 tackles, 3 interceptions, 9 clearances, 3 blocks and 6 recoveries. Miles continuing a breakout year.
CB: Leandro Gonzalez Pirez – 5.5. Another game, another yellow card. LGP looked almost disinterested in this game, and logged just 1 interception, 1 block and 4 recoveries.
LWB: Justin Meram – 6. “Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.” Justin started 9 home games while with Orlando in 2017. He’s started 2 there just this month. Not a great game this time, with just 75.6% accuracy on 41 passes.
LM Eric Remedi – 6. Subbed out at the half in a planned move, and probably not quite back up to speed. 23 passes with 87% connecting. Despite playing just 45 minutes he was the most fouled player in the game, suffering 3 of them.
RM: Darlington Nagbe – 7. A rare early break for Darlington, exiting after 61 minutes. A massive 96.6% completion rate on 29 passes, although they were pretty scattershot with no obvious plan in mind. Did get a shot in though, albeit off target.
RWB: Julian Gressel – 5.5. A dumb foul on Nani late in the game that earned a yellow but could easily have been a red. Of all the Atlanta players he looked the most affected by the heat and humidity. 1 shot off frame and 84.4% accuracy on 32 passes.
LAM: Ezequiel Barco – 7. Played the full 90 for once. 1 shot on target, and 44 pass attempts with 81.8% completion. Fouled only twice, which is an indication that he was not being overly effective. Except, of course, for that marvelous backheel assist.
RAM: Pity Martinez – 7. 39 passes (74.4% accuracy) and 3 shots (all off target) in 78 minutes. The numbers don’t look great, but he did seem to be causing problems for Orlando’s back line all night.
FWD: Josef Martinez – 8. 5 shots, 2 on goal. And the streak extends another game.
SUB: Jeff Larentowicz – 6. Came on at half time to spell Eric Remedi. 21 passes for 85.7%.
SUB: Emerson Hyndman – 5. Came on for Darlington, putting him in the middle for once. Just 7 passes with 85.7 on target. 1 off-target shot.
SUB: Tito Villalba – 6. Just 6 passes, all connecting. 1 long-range shot, just to keep Orlando honest.
COACH: Frank de Boer – 7. Played pretty much the same team as the last game, but got a very different performance out of them. His fault? Probably not.
NEW MATH – 0. The world’s purplest timeshare has a published capacity of 25,500. The announced attendance was 23,014. By my admittedly old-fashioned reckoning, that means there were only 2,486 empty seats (or, for the Wallys, who are incapable of remaining upright unassisted, safe standing spaces). Yeah, right.