Orlando City SC turns the tables to defeat Philadelphia Union

May 11, 2024; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Philadelphia Union midfielder Alejandro Bedoya (11)
May 11, 2024; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Philadelphia Union midfielder Alejandro Bedoya (11) / Kyle Ross-USA TODAY Sports

For the fifth match in a row, one of the teams on the Orlando City SC pitch showed a back-three formation. But this time it was Orlando, not their opponent.

Orlando City SC has enjoyed little success facing teams attacking from the back-three formation – using three defenders. Since they couldn’t beat them, they thought they’d join them in the back-three for their match at the Philadelphia Union.

But this time, the opponent didn’t play the back-three. Even though the Orlando squad didn’t completely shut down Philadelphia Union, City did leave the pitch with a 3-2 win and three points.

During drills all week to prepare for the road trip, head coach Oscar Pareja and staff enacted a brilliant, unexpected strategy. They knew the opposing team had scouted their opponents’ success with the back-three. So Orlando City would attack with that same formation.

The Orlando squad brought full energy to the pitch during both halves. They kept a high-level of focus. They brought back their ugly attack – emphasizing substance over style – and reentered the MLS marathon.

Play got wild. This form allows some effective attacks by opponents. For Philadelphia it meant two strong attempts by penalty kick, both by midfielder Daniel Gazdag. In the 66th minute, he netted one for the Union’s second and final score.

But in the 89th minute, City goalkeeper Pedro Gallese saved another strong attempt for his fifth save of the match.

In the 12th minute, Philadelphia striker Mikael Uhre got through for a goal, assisted by defender Nathan Harriel and midfielder Jack McGlynn.

But as long as the two wingers keep their stamina up, Orlando can overcome penalty kicks and nearly any other attack using the back-three formation.

That's because in the back-three, by design, the wingers can drop back and create a five-defender backline whenever necessary.

But it works best the way the Orlando squad played it against Philadelphia. It got the scorers working,.

As Pareja put it after the game, the players created many chances. That made just enough room in the net for Duncan McGuire to score in the 21st minute, assisted by Midfielder Nico Lodeiro – who earned the first assist on all three goals – with a second assist by fellow striker Luis Muriel. Muriel got the team ahead in the 41st minute with a second assist by midfielder Ivan Angulo.

Then Muriel put the team ahead for good in the 46th minute, with a lone Lodeiro assist this time.

Muriel has only just started his season of scoring, Pareja said. That’s just what supporters have been waiting for from the Designated Player. His second goal coming just 18 seconds into the second half is the fastest second-half goal in City history.

Pareja adds that this win is part of a long journey. So it’s the MLS marathon. And Orlando City SC is back in it.

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