I've made many excuses for Orlando City's sloppy play against the New York Red Bulls Saturday. After all, the Lions won the game 1-0 and had to batter through the Red Bulls' Energy Drink Soccer.
But if Orlando wants to really compete in the Eastern Conference, it has to be better against these high-pressing systems.
Three of the top teams in the East play a style similar to the Red Bull way (or just that general German high-press). Obviously, the Red Bulls are the most uniquely difficult team to play against in the league. They finished fourth last season, and I picked them to win the Supporters' Shield this year.
The Philadelphia Union and FC Cincinnati are also teams built in a similar school of football thought. Neither of those sides are nearly as "all gas, no breaks," as New York, but they're miserable to try and play through.
Philadelphia, especially, punishes teams with its high press. The Union's strikers make possession impossible at times, and the midfield fights really hard for every duel. Cincinnati does a lot of the same, especially with its hard working striker tandem.
Orlando really struggled with some of that physical pressing Saturday. The Lions couldn't play through midfield for long stretches of the game. Orlando couldn't break down the Red Bulls defense. If it weren't for a fluke penalty and a big save from Pedro Gallese, this easily turns into a loss.
While Orlando clearly doesn't match up well against these super high-pressing teams, the Lions have shown a willingness to win ugly. That grit helps overcome some of the deficiencies in playing through difficult teams.
This question will really come to a head as the season goes along. Orlando is still in early season mode, so the passing and chemistry isn't as crisp as it will be by the summer. If at that point the Lions still can't beat the press, problems will be abound.