Orlando City punch ticket through to the knockout stages of the MLS is Back tournament after impressive 3-1 victory over NYCFC
I don't know about you guys but I feel as if I'm in the Twilight Zone right now (I know I'm only 21 but I love that show so don't you dare say "you're too young for it" because I'm not). Orlando City has won back-to-back MLS matches for the first time in 800 days. Yep. You read that right. 800 days. The last time this occurred was at the end of our 6-game win streak on May 6th, 2018. It has been a long road to where we are now, but now that we're here, let's f***ing enjoy it!
With that out of the way, let's get into my three talking points.
1. Mueller's improvement helps us in more ways than one
Obviously Mueller scoring goals is helpful because, well, it makes us win. What isn't so obvious is the other effects Mueller's purple patch will have on the team, specifically in the attack.
What is one thing that all good MLS sides have in common? It's a 3-plus pronged attack.
Atlanta - Martinez, Barco, Pity
LAFC - Vela, Rossi, Rodriguez
Seattle - Morris, Ruidiaz, Lodeiro
Every player on that list is capable of creating and scoring goals. This is an aspect that Orlando City has lacked since the days of Molino, Kaka, and Larin. At the end of last season, the only person on our squad who fell in that category was Nani. That meant that all teams had to do to get a result against us was shut down Nani. Do that and the other team was almost guaranteed a result from the match.
Adding Mueller into that category creates problems for the opposition because now they must take some focus away from Nani and put more on Mueller. That clearly happened against NYCFC. In the opening 15 minutes, Nani received the ball 8 times. In the next 15 minutes (which were after Mueller's two goals), Nani received the ball 14 times. NYCFC had to adjust to Mueller's momentum and that meant taking the focus off of Nani. In total, Nani received the ball 63 times in the match. That's in no small part to Mueller's early dominance.
Now that teams can see that Mueller is a threat, they will have to adjust their gameplans. Instead of only focusing on Nani, they must focus on Mueller too. If not, he will hurt them. We also must not forget that Pereyra is another player who possesses the quality to hurt the opposition, and they will know that. These teams aren't going to be dumb enough to leave Pereyra unaccounted for, meaning that we have a 3-pronged attack in Nani, Mueller, and Pereyra. That can only bode well for our attack moving forward now.
2. I'm sorry Ruan
I feel as though it was really harsh of me to say Ruan as my dud on the NYCFC review podcast and if given another chance, I wouldn't. My thought process was because of his struggles in the final third but in all reality, he was actually pretty good in that aspect. He attempted three crosses and, out of the two he completed, he got a pre-assist and almost got a real assist when Mueller's header crashed against the woodwork.
Not only was he good on offense, but he was excellent on defense. He went 5/6 on tackles, made 4 clearances, and won both of his aerial duels. If anything, Ruan should've been my stud, not my dud. If Ruan can show consistency in the final third and continue his stellar defensive work, he has the potential to be one of the top right-backs in the league.
3. Pareja got it right
While I think Pareja performed well in his managerial duties against Inter Miami, I don't believe he got the tactics right from start. Instead, it took about 10 minutes before we really started to do our high press that worked so well in that game. Against NYCFC though, he got them spot on. We started off with a very direct, high-pressing style that the Pigeons struggled to deal with and it paid off. While the first goal comes from a set-piece, the second comes from patient, yet direct build-up play. As soon as we spotted the 2v1 situation, we exploited it. Ruan plays a one-two with Pereyra and from there it's just individual brilliance.
After the quick start, the team seemed to slow down the press to conserve energy. While this was smart, it did allow NYCFC to come onto us and push for a way back into the game. Ultimately, they got it after Medina's impressive goal but we looked solid from a defensive standpoint.
In the second half, Pareja showed his true class when he made the right subs at the right time again. He did it in the Miami match and he did it again against NYCFC. We were struggling to get out of NYCFC's pressure so what Pareja did was bring on someone who could hold up the ball (Akindele), someone who could help out defensively (Mendez), and someone who offers pace to help out on the counter-attack (Michel). Pareja has been a major reason that we have 6 points out of 6 so far in this tournament.
Gallese - 9/10 MOTM
Ruan - 7/10
Carlos - 5/10
Jansson - 8/10
Moutinho - 6/10
Urso - 7/10
Rosell - 7/10
Mueller - 9/10
Pereyra - 7/10
Nani - 7/10
Dwyer - 6/10
Mendez - 5/10
Akindele - 7/10
Michel - 5/10
Perea - 4/10
If you liked what you read, you can follow me on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook. Please don't hesitate to let me know your thoughts on what I said. I really do enjoy having conversations with my fellow Orlando City fans about our team. That's why I started this blog/podcast in the first place.
'Til next time, this has been Gavin Rushnell and #VamosOrlando