Minnesota United (n) Match Recap
A Nani-led Orlando City beats Minnesota United 3-1 in the MLS is Back semifinals.
I can't believe I'm writing about yet another win. This team has come on leaps and bounds since last season. Even the most optimistic of fans couldn't have seen this coming from Pareja. We knew he would improve us drastically but by this much in this amount of time? I don't think that any of us were expecting this. We are fighting for a CONCACAF Champions League spot now. Like... WHAT??? We have a chance at CONTINENTAL FOOTBALL. It's just so insane. All of us who have been here through the bad times deserve this.
What a match it was on Thursday. We started off slowly but felt our way into the game. Nani's goals were world-class. Our set-piece defending was impeccable. Our defense was a brick wall... again. This team is showing us that they are ready to compete at the highest level and now they have the chance to do so. Before we talk about that though, we have to talk about Thursday night first.
1. Antonio Carlos deserves praise
After a series of average displays from the Palmeiras loanee, Antonio Carlos has turned his narrative around. It's now been five matches in a row that the Brazilian hasn't put a foot wrong. His aerial presence has been dominant. His tackling has been assured. His positioning has been impeccable. His distribution has been on point. As I said, he hasn't put a foot wrong and he was a major reason as to why we beat Minnesota.
Let's look at his game statistically. Carlos completed 37 of his 42 attempted passes. Four of those five misplaced passes were long balls. He made one tackle, two interceptions, two blocks, three clearances, and won one of his two aerial duels. It was another assured performance from someone who took a lot of stick for his performances against Colorado and Miami.
2. We were right all along
What is one thing we've all been saying this whole tournament? Get Nani closer to the goal. He is too much of a goal threat for us to stick him on the touchline. In this game, we used him as an inside forward rather than a touchline winger and look at what happened. He scored two world-class goals to propel us into the final. The first was him cutting inside from the touchline and receiving a long ball from Jansson (what a fucking ball by the way). The second was him already standing on the inside left channel when Mendez found him. He then cuts towards the middle and curls the ball gorgeously into the back post.
We have been struggling for goals and we all know the quality Nani has. His performance in this game shows that we were right to be frustrated seeing him on the touchline. I know that it's a team sport and he was being asked to do a job for a specific reason, but when you have his quality sitting there, you need to try and take full advantage of it. Fortunately for us we did and we are now one game away from a CCL berth.
3. Joao Moutinho is a top 5 LB in the league
Yet again, Moutinho put in a massive shift to win us this game. He absolutely shut down one of their most dangerous players in Ethan Finlay. He did that off the back of shutting down LAFC's Brian Rodriguez and Diego Rossi when they switched sides. He is very good at tackling, has some great on the ball technique, and can serve a nasty cross. Even his defensive positioning has improved. While this league isn't deep at the left-back position, he is forcing himself into the top 5 conversation at that position.
Here's his stats from the Minessota United match. He went 6/6 on tackles. He also made four interceptions, one block, one blocked cross, one clearance, and won three of his five attempted aerial duels. He. Was. Immense. At 22 years old, there is a very real possibility that European sides will be looking at him and he will want to play there. I hope he stays for as long as possible but if he were to leave, his contribution to the squad would be very hard to replace.
Gallese - 7/10
Ruan - 7/10
Carlos - 8/10
Jansson - 8/10
Moutinho - 9/10
Rosell - 7/10
Mendez - 8/10
Mueller - 6/10
Pereyra - 6/10
Nani - 10/10 MOTM
Akindele - 4/10
Urso - 6/10
Michel - 7/10
Schlegel - 5/10
Smith - 5/10
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'Til next time, this has been Gavin Rushnell and #VamosOrlando