Well, it’s Orlando week.
Over 70,000 fans will be at Mercedes-Benz Stadium for Mother’s Day as Atlanta United look to extend its unbeaten streak against Orlando City SC. More importantly, Atlanta will seek to continue a strong run of form with their fourth straight victory and fifth in the last six matches.
Ben Mille writes for our sister blog, The Mane Land, and helped us dig into what to expect from Orlando, its big ticket signing Nani, and the club’s mindset heading into a key Sunday afternoon match.
1. It’s James O’Connor’s first full season at the helm of Orlando City after taking over for Jason Kreis last year. What differences have you seen in the two men’s coaching styles, and how has O’Connor been able to imprint his identity on this team?
O’Connor has put a very big emphasis on character and culture, two buzzwords that are flying around in just about every professional organization these days. He’s stressed that players will be started on merit and for the most part that’s been true. Dom Dwyer has seen some time on the bench in the midst of a scoring drought, Sacha Kljestan hasn’t been starting every game, and Ruan and Joao Moutinho have been starting at fullback for the last few weeks because they won those positions and locked them down. As a whole he’s preached accountability and a strong work ethic and it seems that the players have bought in. He’s also been very big on keeping possession, playing out of the back, and stretching the width of the field, all of which have been on display in Orlando’s games so far this season.
2. Nani was the big offseason acquisition for Orlando City and is off to a great start, registering 5 goals and 4 assists through 10 matches. How has he changed the face of this Orlando offense?
Nani has certainly given the offense a spark that it was missing for a lot of last year. When he gets the ball he’s always a threat to do something special, something that just wasn’t present on the roster before his arrival. He’s capable of both creating and scoring, which his stats point to, and he also possesses the sort of vision and creativity that is capable of producing moments of magic. His impact on the team has been to the point that when he isn’t on the field the team looks slightly bereft of ideas and inspiration, and while his fellow Lions aren’t helpless without him, the dip in attacking threat when he’s on the bench points towards the Portuguese winger needing more help.
3. From a team standpoint, Orlando has been a little inconsistent and have yet to really put a string of positive results together. What are some of the big-picture things you see that might be the cause of that?
I think some of that can be attributed to what I touched on in the previous question. This team could really use another creative force in the midfield, Nani needs another presence to help take some of the creative onus off him. Orlando also hasn’t been the best at being clinical in front of goal. Last week alone the team took a whopping 18 shots but only put two on target. Those sort of numbers will rarely win games, and poor finishing has been a recurring theme in a lot of Orlando games, even some of the victories. A telling statistic is that the team has scored two or more goals only twice all season, and only concedes an average of 1.3 goals a game. In many of their games the Lions would be getting at least a point if the finishing product wasn’t so woeful.