Orlando City refuses to control games, and that's really frustrating

Jul 9, 2022; Orlando, Florida, USA;  Orlando City midfielder Mauricio Pereyra (10) controls the ball
Jul 9, 2022; Orlando, Florida, USA; Orlando City midfielder Mauricio Pereyra (10) controls the ball / Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

Orlando City escaped Mercedes-Benz Stadium, a historical house of horrors for the Lions, with a 1-1 draw against Atlanta United, and was lucky to avoid a loss. In every major statistical category, Orlando got obliterated. Atlanta won the xG battle 2.19-0.24 per FotMob and outshot the Lions 18-3 and controlling 62% of possession.

After scoring on a Mauricio Pereyra free kick early in the first half, Orlando ceded much of the game, reverting to a conservative mid block and relying on Pedro Gallese and Robin Jansson to pull off heroics in the back.

If Josef Martinez was in good form, he almost certainly would've capitalized on one of the many half chances Atlanta created at the end of the game.

Orlando got decisively dominated by Atlanta everywhere but the scoreboard, but did it have to be like that? I don't think so.

"I still have no concrete explanation why a team with as much talent as Orlando exert so little pitch control through central midfield," Matt Doyle, MLSSoccer.com analyst, said of Orlando, and that encapsulates the frustrating lack of quality on display by the Lions.

Orlando has a team, especially in midfield, to control the tempo of games and create chances through possession. The trio of Pereyra, Junior Urso and Cesar Araujo is excellent by MLS standards and should have the offensive and technical quality to provide some thrust from midfield, but Orlando showed no quality to create or move the ball in midfield against Atlanta.

Atlanta brought the energy in the second half, but for most of the game, Orlando just allowed the Five Stripes to control possession and chose to build out through the wings instead of using its advantage in the center. This ultra conservative approach is arguably the reason Orlando keeps dropping points, especially away from home.

Both games this week were on the road, and both times Orlando dropped points after going up early in the first half. Oscar Pareja is far too quick to drop back and play conservatively after getting a lead on the road, and that allows motivated home teams to build chances and take back the game.

Orlando isn't struggling per se, still sitting in the playoff places and in the semifinal of the US Open Cup, but the results aren't consistent and the lack of a killer instinct is showing with dropped points and wasted opportunity. The Lions have a team capable of winning trophies, but they're playing like a team scraping to punch above their weight. To maximize the potential, Orlando needs to play up to its talent and dominate games the way it can.