Massive Scouting Report: Orlando City

After a mid-week thrashing of USL Championship side Loudoun United FC in the U.S. Open Cup, the Columbus Crew returns to MLS action on Saturday night when Orlando City travels to Field. Both sides suffered defeats in their most recent MLS matches and will be looking to get back to winning ways in this fixture.

Orlando has traditionally been a difficult opponent for the Black & Gold and will represent a tough challenge for Wilfried Nancy and company this weekend. Here’s what you can expect from each side heading into the match.

Orlando City at a glance:

League Form: L-W-L-W-L

Record: 4-2-4 (14 Points)

Leading Scorer: Duncan Mcguire (3 goals)

Assist Leader: Martin Ojeda (3 assists)

Player to watch: Facundo Torres

Despite being one of the most talked about signings of the 2022 offseason, Torres experienced a slow start to his MLS career for much of 2022. Despite his slow start, Torres ended the year with nine goals and eight assists for Orlando.

At 23 years old, Torres is one of the most exciting young prospects in MLS and for the Uruguay national team. Torres has a ridiculously talented left foot that he uses to terrorize defenses in the final third. He usually plays on the right side of the field, which allows Torres to cut inside on his preferred left foot. The attacker can then pick up the ball in dangerous areas before looking to finish himself or set up his teammates. His combination of movement and skill makes him incredibly hard to track on the field, making him the focal point of the Orlando attack.

How Orlando City plays:

Head coach Oscar Pareja’s Orlando City is the same tactically (more or less) as the team has been for a few seasons now. While Pareja has shown more willingness to change his formation in 2023, the basic principles of play are still there for Orlando.

In possession, the Lions look to push numbers into the attack to create overloads and mismatches centrally. Typically, this features at least one, sometimes both, wingers tucking into the midfield to create a numerical overload in the center of the pitch which allows the team’s most creative attacking players to receive the ball in dangerous areas with time and space. The Lions also will push wide players up in the attack to try and create 1 v. 1 matchups with their opponent’s wide defenders. Once in this shape, Orlando will circulate the ball side to side before attempting to penetrate the opposing defense.

When defending, Orlando prefers to defend in a compact mid-block to frustrate the opponents. Pareja is likely will have his team defend in a 4-4-2 formation to try and frustrate the Crew in possession. Regardless of the shape, OCSC usually tries to press the opponent when the ball goes into wide areas in an attempt to squeeze the space on the ball and create turnovers. 

How the Crew can win:

Thanks to the rout of Loudoun United on Wednesday, the Black & Gold weren’t forced to play any first-team regulars for long periods of time midweek. Thus, Columbus should feel rested and well-prepared for this match and be able to use that to the team’s advantage. This is especially true since Orlando used a decent number of first-team players in its Open Cup loss to Charlotte FC this week.

Here are a few things to keep an eye on.

The best way for the Crew to maximize its physical advantages on Saturday is to make Orlando defend and chase all over the field. If the Black & Gold can keep the ball, not only will that play into their game plan but it will wear down their opponents and allow Columbus to use the team;s freshness against them

Like the Crew, and most possession-based teams, the Lions sometimes struggle in defensive transition. Coupled with the fact that at least a few members of the Orlando side will have heavy legs means the Black & Gold could have a huge advantage over OCSC in this phase of the game. Look for the likes of Cucho Hernandez, Alexandru Matan, Yaw Yeboah and others to get out in transition early and often.

Columbus gave away another cheap goal against Loudoun on Wednesday after a sloppy giveaway at the back that led to a penalty kick. This is a habit the Crew must break to be a successful team in 2023. If they keep giving goals away, it will continue to be a problem for them and lead to bad results and performances.

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