Luck, Turf and Midfielders; or How Orlando City SC Was Able to Defeat the Defending MLS Cup Champions

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Sunday was a pretty special day for Orlando City Soccer Club, the Lions were able to secure not only their first home win but their biggest win of the season, while completely wiping out their goal difference and finally playing the type of game we have been waiting to see since March. This was more than a big win for Orlando, it represented the type of possession-dominated-complete-victory Adrian Heath’s men should have been securing since the beginning of the season.

I, personally, have been calling for patience among Orlando fans knowing that this type of game was possible. How could it not be with some extremely talented players occupying the entire pitch? Injuries have impacted Orlando, that is obvious, but despite that it felt as if this type of game was imminent. So let’s take a look at what helped the Lions onto a 4-0 victory against the defending MLS Cup Champions.

Luck is something that plays a part in all sports, but it can only take a team so far unless they have done the work as Orlando has. The majority of Orlando’s previous home games were heavy in Lion possession but light on the goals. The stoppage time ghosts that haunted Orlando had nothing to do with luck, but the momentum shift at the Citrus Bowl on Sunday might have a bit to do with it. The first goal to get Orlando started was great, but it was also early coming in around the 11th minute, the second goal or the “momentum shifter” came from none other than Kaká and Cyle Larin. Kaká was making a fantastic run at the goal when Tommy Meyer tripped and allowed the Captain to send in an easy ball for Larin’s right foot. 2-0 is not easy to come back from, especially away and despite the slippery turf, Meyer’s trip was pretty lucky which brings me to my next point.

Turf is a controversial surface, especially in cardio-heavy soccer, which is what covers the ground at the Citrus Bowl. It is like running on concrete which can damage knees and heats up quickly which is not a great combination, especially in Florida. The official reason the L.A. Galaxy sat their dominating, Robbie Keane, was injury, but the unofficial reason was that they did not want him playing on turf. Keane is 34 years old and the Galaxy, with 14 points, could afford a draw or even a loss at this point in the season. The combination of “old knees” and 14 points gave Ignacio Maganto and Bradford Jamieson IV the start up front. Of course Orlando would rather be playing in their own stadium on grass, but that seems like a far off reality for right now, so until then the Lions need to use the slippery turf to their advantage.

A strong midfield is essential, especially in Orlando where injuries have brought to light some major holes in front and back. This midfield houses two of the Lion’s best players but the gameplay so far has not been reflecting this, until Sunday where the chemistry between Kaká and Brek Shea really started to kick in. There were some great one-two touches between them and Shea playing a bit further up definitely helped. Instead of being constantly caught out of position he dominated the left side of the field throughout the game, “He plays the way I like to play and I think it’s just connecting..” said Shea when asked about his working relationship with Kaká following the match.

Overall this is exactly the type of win Orlando needs to keep them in playoff contention and one they especially need before a difficult away game against the San Jose Earthquakes this weekend. If Orlando can add goalscoring to their ever expanding list of descriptors then this season might finish very differently from the way it started but it will not come easy as the typical possession heavy style of play that the Lions are known for is physically draining and they cannot afford to lose any more players. Hopefully this Sunday issued in the new era of Orlando soccer, but only time will tell.

Caitlin O'Connell

A Senior Writer and Orlando City Correspondent for 90 Minutes Strong, Caitlin has years of experience as a soccer journalist. She was the Managing Editor at World Soccer Talk and was the Events Assistant at the Boca Raton Bowl.

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  1. What Is Orlando City's Best Bet Without Brek Shea? - 90 Minutes Strong | 90 Minutes Strong - […] to focus on controlling the pace and looking for openings when Cyle Larin needs them most. The blowout 4-0…

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