Orlando City SC marathon ends in Toronto FC dash

Orlando City SC v Cavalry FC: First Round - Concacaf Champions Cup - Leg One
Orlando City SC v Cavalry FC: First Round - Concacaf Champions Cup - Leg One / Kevin Light/GettyImages

Orlando City SC opponents are pulling a defender as each match starts. This back-three formation worked in the match for Toronto FC.

Toronto FC started three defenders against Orlando City SC at home. That’s the third match in a row that opponents chose this formation.

For this starting formation, three times a charm does not describe how the meeting went for the home squad Orlando City SC. It was not fortunate, as the home team lost 2-1. And that’s despite the starters keeping up with Toronto FC for all but the last three of their 90 minutes.

Yet the formation definitely was a charm and then some for visiting Toronto.

Orlando stayed up with FC in almost every statistic during this meeting. Striker Duncan McGuire broke through with a goal on Toronto in the 55th minute. He was helped with assists from Facundo Torres and Robin Jansson.

Some key starters including McGuire ran down as the game approached the end. Head coach Oscar Pareja said he recognized that Orlando lost control of the game in the second half.

Even with that recognition, Pareja waited until the 71st minute to put fresh legs into the match. His go-to forward Luis Muriel only then took the pitch.

Once in the match, the opposition effectively contained Muriel. He didn’t get off a shot at all.

Yet, Toronto didn’t take many shots either.

Still, by the 87th minute, with Muriel contained, some of Orlando City’s squad hit a wall. The rest ran out of gas.

Toronto forward Tyrese Spicer scored in that 87th minute. In the 90th minute, Toronto striker Prince Owusu also netted a ball to seal the win. Following was a defensive five-minute stoppage time for the visitors.

For the back three formation to work, wingers must stay ready to drop back and help when the team doesn’t have possession.

This isn’t entirely foreign to Orlando City’s scheme. City has used defenders who also play midfield in their back four. These hybrid players remain ready to help channel the ball forward while containing opponents during an attack.

This game plan helps Orlando to draw – and even sometimes win – even while squads with more talent and ability play them. Retaining stamina the entire 90 minutes in this scheme means Orlando chooses to run a marathon, rather than a couple of 45-minute dashes.

As coaches and players study this latest match, preparing to face the next back three, they’ll need to make sure Orlando City SC continues to run a marathon. And prevent their opponents, like Toronto FC, from running a three-minute dash.

Comment to @chuckx777