Charlotte FC Surprises Orlando City At Home.
Charlotte Changes Five Players From Last Week And Beats Orlando City 2-1.
No matter the circumstances surrounding Orlando City's rough opening season schedule, which included away and home CCL matches with Tigres, I was relatively confident that Oscar Pareja's side would find a way to overcome Charlotte, who came into last night's game at Exploria Stadium with no points after three games. I was wrong and here a few takeaways from a tough night in Orlando:
Yes, Orlando City came into last night's match having played five games since the February 25 home opener. Those five games, which included the two CCL battles with Tigres, was one of the reasons Pareja and VP Luiz Muzzi rebuilt their player pool. Unfortunately, Orlando City, after last Wednesday's return match with Tigres, came out a bit flat last night. I had called for Pareja to change the system last night with Charlotte, who gave up three first half goals to Atlanta last Saturday, Pareja followed suit, with a different system, and it backfired in the first forty-five minutes. While the new look got Orlando City forward, the space in the middle of the field was too open and exposed our backline to Charlotte's well-crafted counter attacks.
Charlotte F.C. manager Christian Lattanzio, who has a strong pedigree after working under and with Fabio Capello, Gianfranco Zola, and Roberto Mancini, came into last night's game after a poor performance against Atlanta last week. Lattanzio changed five starters and his tactics last night were spot on, exposing Orlando City with their ball-winning and counterattack.
Though Charlotte's two first half goals put Orlando on their back foot, there were some positive moments last night, one of them being rookie Duncan McGuire. Pareja started him on top, and his tireless work rate and hold up play was outstanding. Sure, McGuire could be more technical and savvier with his first touch, but that will come with more playing time. The only downside to McGuire's excellent performance may result in Pareja having to sit Kara, one of three Orlando designated players.
Whether it was the new system employed by Pareja, or starting his workhorse, Duncan McGuire, on top, many Orlando City players turned the ball over repetitively in the first half. The basic no-go is to limit the number of times you lose possession in the defending or middle-third of the field, and many Orlando players did just that in the first half. Yes, with McGuire on top, playing direct is certainly an option, but too many times the ball was played long and ended an Orlando possession. One stop-gap will be the eventual return of center back Antonio Carlos, who is recovering from a prolonged injury.
Orlando City, after four league matches, sits on five points in the middle of the eastern conference table. Next Saturday gets no easier for the Lions, as they visit the Union in Philadelphia. The good news is that Orlando's new players now have enjoyed playing time and the schedule normalizes a bit and the changes Pareja made at halftime last night paid dividends. He will again need to figure out the best eleven and system next Saturday night at Philadelphia's Subaru Park.
Gary Levitt @gary1123 justmytake.net
photo credit: Orlando City Soccer Club