Facundo Torres' second-half penalty leads Orlando City to season-opening 1-0 win over the New York Red Bulls.
An offseason that saw Orlando City change up their player pool, and a full season under the guise of the Wilf family ownership, has many people betting on OCSC to finish high up on the eastern conference table. Saturday night showed a good bit of promise, but clearly, there is a good bit of work to do with the meshing of the new players. Here are a few takeaways from Saturday night's home opener with the New York Red Bulls:
It was game one out of thirty-four regular season games, along with the various Champions League, U.S. Open Cup, and Leagues Cup matches. The starting eleven included two newcomers, Luca Petrasso and Martin Ojeda, and two other players who saw limited starts last year in Michael Halliday and Ivan Angulo. It is clear that these four have the ability to make Orlando a tough team to contend with...but it will take a number of matches to get these four integrated with the group.
Even at home, playing against a high-pressing New York Red Bulls side is a formidable task. Due to the high pressure, OCSC had trouble breaking the pressure and in the first thirty minutes, played direct balls out of the back, repeatedly losing possession. Orlando City manager Oscar Pareja likes playing with one front runner on top, and his selection of Ercan Kara in that role did not pay off. NYRB are always difficult to play against, but if other teams employ high pressure tactics against Orlando, look for Pareja to change that frontrunner to newly signed Ramiro Enrique.
Speaking of newcomers, Ojeda, Petrasso, and Enrique showed great promise. Right fullback Michael Halliday was shaky in the first thirty minutes, but he was able to get forward and play in a few excellent crosses. Ojeda looks like he could be a big time MLS player though it will take him time to integrate with the team. Enrique came on in the second half, after NYRB had spent a good bit of their energy, and showed great pace and his ability to run into dangerous channels and space. As mentioned earlier, I would not be surprised if Pareja starts Enrique, or at the very least inserts him into the game much earlier on than he did on Saturday night.
If there is one concern with the OCSC player pool, it would be in central defense. With Antonio Carlos sidelined due to injury, Pareja had to go with Rodrigo Schlegel accompanying Robin Jansson at center back. Schlegel is a tremendous competitor and great athlete, but not consistent from a man-marking and ball-distribution standpoint. Antonio Carlos will be back with the team soon, and we will need to gauge his match fitness after being unavailable to train with the team.
Saturday night's home opener and the tough March schedule will see some rotation with OCSC starting lineups. Seven games within 30 days are a tough task, especially when three of those games include Tigres twice, as well as the Philadelphia Union on March 25. Luiz Muzzi and Oscar Pareja have rebuilt this roster to include a good bit of depth, which certainly will be utilized during this tough opening stretch. Next game: home to Cincinnati this Saturday night, March 4, at Orlando's Exploria Stadium.
Gary Levitt @gary1123 justmytake.net
photo credit: Orlando City Soccer Club