FC Cincinnati formation hexes Orlando City SC

May 4, 2024; Orlando, Florida, USA; Orlando City midfielder Wilder Cartagena (16) plays the ball
May 4, 2024; Orlando, Florida, USA; Orlando City midfielder Wilder Cartagena (16) plays the ball / Morgan Tencza-USA TODAY Sports

Orlando City SC faced the back-three formation for the fourth match in a row, losing to FC Cincinnati 1-0.

The lone winning goal for FC Cincinnati came at 17 seconds, the ninth-fastest score in MLS history and a team record. That beat Orlando City SC 1-0 on midfielder Luciano Acosta’s score. It was the 45th goal for Acosta, the team’s all-time scoring leading.

Defender Deandre Yedlin assisted.

As Orlando players continued their struggle with Cincinnati’s attack, they lost a player to a red card in the 23rd minute. That was when FC striker Yuya Kubo moved in for another score but got fouled by SC defender Rodrigo Schlegel.

By necessity, now both squads have the back-three – using only three defenders – as their go-to formation.

Head coach Oscar Pareja credited his players for their effort, even in this loss. What he saw testified to the team’s heart and courage.


The team has learned some things from their previous matches fighting the back-three. They nearly equaled FC Cincinnati on passing accuracy and matched them with three shots on goal. They created some chances.

But Orlando stayed far behind in clearances. Their focused emphasis on defense, especially after losing a defender to a red card, detracted from their attack and put them down in possession percentage.

Then, they lost several chances at an equalizer in the game. The greatest one came in the 68th minute when midfielder Wilder Cartagena directed a ball into the net. But Facundo Torres was called offside.

Even while down a player, Orlando showed competent defensive form. Then, Cincinnati went down a man in the 78th minute. That happened when FC Midfielder Bret Halsey picked up a second yellow card in the 78th minute and got sent off the pitch.

 Yet Orlando got off only two shots in the remaining time. Their chances, then, had all run out.

Opponents will continue using the back-three formation since Orlando has consistently shown vulnerability against it. Yet, the back-three has weaknesses of its own. SC just has to continue drilling on how to exploit those weaknesses.

The three-defender problems begin with the stamina required of the squad’s two singers. These two players have to play the best defensive of their lives when the opponents attack.

Orlando will have to drill – perhaps with Orlando City B in the back-three – widening their attack until they learn what it takes to overload the wings serving as extra defenders.

Orlando City SC can beat the back-three. Until they do, this formation will keep coming against the squad.