Orlando City are through to the knockout rounds of the MLS is Back Tournament after handily dispatching long-time rivals New York City FC 3-1 on Tuesday night. It was an impressive performance, one that saw the Lions race out to a 2-0 lead before the ten minute mark and never relinquish their advantage. Here’s a data-based look at how they did it.
Dominance in central midfield
Orlando’s central midfield trio of Junior Urso, Uri Rosell, and Mauricio Pereyra were everywhere in this game, controlling the tempo from the get-go and dominating NYCFC’s duo of Alexander Ring and Gudmundur Thorarinsson, who were out-numbered due to Ronny Deila’s opening 3-4-3 formation.
Take a look at this pass map that shows just how omnipresent the Orlando City midfield was throughout the night. I’ve included Sebas Méndez, who replaced Rosell in the 65th minute and continued his good work through the end of the match.
Without anyone to counteract the presence of Pereyra–not to mention Luis Nani floating menacingly from the wing on occasion–New York City were hapless in the game’s opening phases. Orlando scored on a set piece in the 4th minute, then proceeded to hold the ball for 82.4% of the next five-minute interval before Chris Mueller’s second goal.
Mueller on the mark
Speaking of Chris Mueller, the third-year winger is enjoying something of a breakout so far through the tournament, scoring three goals through Orlando’s first two games and looking for lengthy passages like the most threatening player on the pitch. The data bears this out:
Mueller has been extremely sharp, putting the majority of his attempts on target, completing the passes he’s been asked to make (100% in the final third!), and taking players on successfully. I can’t speak to Brian’s assertion about Mueller’s defense, but it’s clear that the 23 year-old has taken a step forward under Oscar Pareja.
MLS fullbacks have traditionally been pretty utilitarian players, defending and occupying space while not bringing a ton of playmaking ability. Orlando City have the luxury of two modern-style fullbacks in Joao Moutinho and Ruan, both of whom bring vastly different styles to the table. Moutinho is a classic playmaker with a terrific left foot, while Ruan is a gunner who will blow past his opposite number to create chances.
We saw both approaches lead to goals in the first ten minutes of the New York City game. First Moutinho with a gorgeous set piece delivery to Mueller: