Oscar Pareja can be one of the most pragmatic coaches in Major League Soccer. It's not always by choice, the veteran manager just does everything he can to win matches. His team showed every ounce of that hardworking pragmatism against the New York Red Bulls Saturday.
Games against the Red Bulls are never fun. The high-press, Energy Drink Soccer style makes every game ugly. That's why New York has been so succesful over the last decade: They make every game a battle.
Orlando has a team full of skillful, creative attackers, but that was hard to find Saturday. Instead, it was a messy rock fight. But the Lions still came out on top.
One of the best attributes of Orlando City under Pareja is the grit and ability to win ugly games. This team is willing to get in the mud and play bad soccer to eke out results. Pareja will drop 10 players behind the ball and pack in the defense. Orlando will engage in the dark arts of flopping and time wasting.
The Lions will also just out effort teams in spots. Players like Rodrigo Schlegel and César Araújo might not always make the best or cleanest plays, but they always make the maximum effort plays. There were small moments of players giving their all to charge into challenges or win the ball in the midfield.
These ugly, effort wins set the tone for a team early in the season. The first month or so of the year is always hard to play the best soccer. The chemistry is still building and the players are still working their way into form.
We saw that not just in Orlando, but across the league at points. It can be hard to play really clean soccer in the first few weeks of the season. But the best antidote for subpar soccer is supreme effort and grit. And Orlando City has that in spades.