Orlando Showing More Quality on the Ball
I've been extremely critical of Orlando City's ability to posses the ball this season. So many times through five games, we've seen possessions killed by sloppy passes and bad touches. There are sequences where Orlando seemingly can't complete a pass due to sloppy technique.
After the game against the Portland Timbers, I have hope once again that Orlando can play with the ball.
I have no illusions of "jogo bonito" after a 1-1 draw in Portland, especially when you look at the stats. Orlando only completed 83% of its passes and had 48% possession against a team that doesn't like to play with the ball.
However, in watching that game, Orland just looked more confident and capable with the ball.
Ruan was getting on the ball in space and actually pushing into dangerous areas. Alexandre Pato slalomed through defenders and combined well. Tesho(!) looked clean on the dribble and wasn't a human turnover.
At the MLS is Back Tournament in 2020, Orlando was clean on the ball, with quick, efficient possession play creating opportunities for stars like Nani to break open the game. That beautiful play has been hard to come by in the seasons since, with Orlando preferring a more pragmatic, defensive approach, and while it's been succesful it hasn't been much fun.
This current roster has the ability to bring the fun back to Orlando City, especially when the full cohort of players is available. With the likes of Facundo Torres, Mauricio Pereyra, Alexandre Pato and Ercan Kara going forward, Orlando has players with the technical and tactical ability to win with the ball, and we're seeing that in glimpses.
If Orlando can play attractive, attacking possession soccer this month, against elite teams like LAFC, the Columbus Crew and the New York Red Bulls (side note: don't try and do that against the Red Bull press), then who knows how high Orlando's ceiling can be this year.