Orlando City Lacking Midfield Creativity
Orlando City has a major creativity problem.
Through four weeks, Orlando is in the bottom five for expected goals and bottom ten for expected assists, per FBref. The Lions also have the sixth-fewest key passes and seventh-fewest shot-creating actions in the league.
There are reasons for this beyond creative issues, with an overly pragmatic approach against the Los Angeles Galaxy and early season growing pains in the final third, but the numbers and eye test don't lie; Orlando is struggling to create quality chances right now.
A lot of that inability to create is coming from the midfield. Orlando's maestro Mauricio Pereyra carries all of the creative load for the Lions midfield, and the captain hasn't been his best in the final third. Pereyra is more of a connective player than some other No. 10s in MLS, so his creative numbers won't compare to the likes of Carles Gil, but even still, the Uruguayan is nowhere near the league-leaders in any statistical category.
Pereyra is far behind the league's elite midfielders statistically, but his creative numbers dwarf any other midfielder on Orlando's roster. He has twice as many key passes as second-place Junior Urso. Nobody else's numbers are even worth mentioning.
The creative burden is placed entirely on Pereyra, plus forwards Facudo Torres and Alexandre Pato. Orlando's midfield lacks any secondary creators and puts all of the onus on the front three to provide chances, plus the overlapping runs from Ruan on the right side.
This lack of creativity in the middle of the park is leading to less quality opportunities for Orlando City and needs to be addressed in the coming weeks. Playing Facundo Torres more as an inverted winger could add a "second No. 10" to the lineup, further creativity centrally. Playing Pato as a second striker also gives another 10-esque presence in the middle.
But all of that still needs more creative help from deeper in midfield. Maybe that can come with the evolution of César Araújo. The young Uruguayan midfielder is already an astute progressive passer and could feasibly develop into a more cultured, creative passer with time. Andres Perea is another talented young midfielder, but he was woeful around the final third against CF Montreal. If he can refine his decision making in those areas, perhaps he can become that secondary playmaker, but through three years in Orlando, we haven't really seen that.
If not through internal growth, Orlando could look to bring in an option through the transfer market. Luiz Muzzi and Oscar Pareja are somewhat limited in what they can spend, with all three U-22 and DP spots filled, but perhaps there's a player available in the internal trade market.
Orlando City boasts one of the league's better rosters and early results inspire hope of a strong season, but creativity issues remain the biggest potential downfall for the Lions in 2022. Be it from internal growth or outside transfers, Orlando needs to improve it's creativity from the center of the park this season.