The Lions climb into sixth place in the Eastern Conference with a 3-1 win over Chicago.
Before 22,070 supporters at Exploria Stadium, Orlando City ran the Chicago Fire out of the building with a decisive 3-1 win. Facundo Torres had another MOTM performance and the back four, as well as goalkeeper Pedro Gallese, put in a great performance limiting Chicago to four shots on target. Here are a few takes from last night's game:
Early on in the season, there was a good bit of concern that Orlando's attacking force was underperforming. The likes of Facundo Torres, Martin Ojeda, Ercan Kara, Duncan McGuire, and Ivan Angulo did not seem to be on the same page, especially in the final third. Whether it was the final pass or clinical finishing, there was a lot left on the table in the first fourteen matches of the 2023 campaign. Those concerns are no longer warranted with the Lions looking much more clinical in the final third. Facundo Torres' first goal and Ramiro Enrique's strike from just outside the penalty area provided both great passing and finishing that we did not witness early on in the season.
Bossing the midfield may be an overused phrase - but not last night. Orlando's two central midfielders, Mauricio Pereyra and Wilder Cartagena, along with Martin Ojeda, Ivan Angulo, and Facundo Torres, worked very hard to limit Chicago passing between lines, often cutting down passing lanes and winning duels in the middle third. This was all done without Orlando's outstanding central midfielder César Araújo, who had to sit this match due to yellow card accumulation. Araújo sitting out surely has a silver lining as he should be well-rested with the short turnaround with Tuesday night's match against Toronto.
I have sung the praises of Vice President Luiz Muzzi reconstructing the Lions' player pool. The depth and quality was never better represented than last night with manager Oscar Pareja making three changes in the starting lineup, inserting Mauricio Pereyra, Rodrigo Schlegel, and Kyle Smith into the starting lineup. Pereya and Schlegel were solid, with Smith offering up his second assist of the season with a perfect service leading to Facundo Torres' first goal. Pareja has a variety of quality players to rotate, and last night was no different as substitutes Dagur Dan Thórhallsson, Luca Petrasso, Fabian Loyola, Felipe Martins, and Ramiro Enrique all made contributions, with Enrique hitting a perfect strike in the seventy-fifth minute to all but close out the match. With fixture compression, travel, and high gametime temperatures, the depth and quality that Orlando now has will continue to pay dividends.
Orlando now sits on thirty-one points, good for sixth place in the Eastern Conference. Toronto, with only three wins in twenty-one matches, comes to Exploria Stadium Tuesday night for a July 4th fireworks extravaganza. With temperatures expected in the 90's at kickoff, look for the Lions to again deploy those seventy-fifth minute substitutes while the Toronto side tries to keep composed in the sweltering heat. Orlando should take another three points from this match.
Gary Levitt @gary1123 justmytake.net
photo credit: Orlando City Soccer Club