Orlando was able to steal one on Saturday vs Toronto despite controlling most of the match, with a 1-0 win in the dying minutes of the game. It was a near-post corner where Kyle Smith was able to flick his head onto it, not giving the Toronto keeper a chance. The team hug that ensued was one of relief - another game with inconsistent offensive chemistry, dominating stats, and squeaking out a result. The Lions led in possession, shots, shots on goal, corners, and passing accuracy.
Orlando now improves to 6-4-2, with 20 points on the year. The Lions have extended their unbeaten streak against Toronto to five matches, and it gives Toronto their fifth consecutive loss this season. It must have been gut-wrenching - you hold off Orlando all game, just to concede deep in stoppage time.
What’s still frustrating as an Orlando City fan is the inability to capitalize on chances. There were plenty of intricate passing plays between Torres, Kara, and Pereyra, but the end product was non-existent. Of course, it definitely just feels good to get the win. But if Smith didn’t bail us out with that header, the vibe around the team would be a whole lot different. Another long 90 minutes with not too many true chances created, despite holding a lot of the ball.
Going forward, the offense needs to gel right away. It was a strong defensive showing on Saturday, but more goals are needed.
Yellow Card - 42’ - Bradley
Yellow Card - 71’ - Joao Moutinho
Yellow Card - 72’ - Schlegel
Yellow Card - 88’ - Jansson
Goal - 90’ + 2’ - Smith
1. Araujo, Unsung Hero
The young midfielder has been flying under the radar for the majority of the year, especially in my articles. I tend to focus a lot of my attention on the defense and attack, and forget about the bulldogs in the middle. Araujo was a workhorse on Saturday, winning two tackles and two interceptions, had two clearances, and one blocked shot. He was second in touches (76) and had a 93.3% passing rate. His name won’t cover the stat sheet, but he does the dirty work for the rest of the team.
2. Critical Substitution Choices
In the 76th minute of the game, Pato and Smith both were substituted in for Kara and Torres. I really thought Pato should have seen the field much earlier in this game. Pato drops deep into the middle, almost like a False 9, picking up the ball and combining with those around him. Additionally, he served up the match winning corner kick assist, putting a beauty on top of Smith’s head. When Smith was substituted on, it was clear he was more of a defensive change because Ruan and Moutinho were both still on. They started operating more as wingbacks after that substitution and created width on the pitch. It was simply a bonus that Smith got his head on the corner. I liked Pareja’s game management in this one.
3. At Least We Got Some Shots
In a lot of my article reviews, I’ve been begging the team to at least attempt more shots on target. In the first three matches combined, the Lions had 12 shots. Against Toronto, they were able to shoot 17 times, with 6 of them getting on frame. Shoutout Toronto’s keeper - not that 5 saves is a crazy amount, but he did keep his squad in the game until the very end. The question at the end of the day is about the quality of shots and the type of offense the team is creating. However, Pareja definitely urged his team to take more chances in the final third. You can’t score unless you shoot. Next time though, can we get more behind the keeper? Just a thought.
3 points is 3 points at the end of the day. The impressive 3-1-2 record on the road says a lot about this team as well. Does the offense need to improve? Yes, but we are hard-nosed. We are gritty, and we don’t give up without a fight. It’s a good win at the end of the day.
Orlando stays on the road as they take on Austin in their first-ever meeting in MLS history.