Holding onto a late lead can be one of toughest tasks for a team to face. For two consecutive matches, Orlando City’s defense has been up to the challenge. The team’s re-imaged back four of Will Johnson, Jonathan Spector, Jose Aja, and Donny Toia has played a large part in that.
“I thought it was another really strong performance defensively, really from the entire group,” said head coach Jason Kreis. “But from the back four, when you look at each individual player and how many important plays they made, tackles they made, headers they won in the box, being in the right place at the right time, I’d say all four of those guys had big, big nights for us and we know we need it.”
Kreis knows to win in Major League Soccer, he’ll need strong defensive performances extending past the backline. The second year Orlando City head coach singled out the performance of midfielder Antonio Nocerino.
“I thought he was spectacular. I really thought everybody’s effort tonight was spectacular. He in particular was breaking up a lot of plays, was in and around a lot of important possessions for us. Found the right pass many, many times and did get forward a little bit more than he has typically.”
Not be left out of the defensive equation is goalkeeper Joe Bendik. While he was counted on to make a few highlight reel saves against NYCFC, Saturday night’s affair was a bit quieter.
“Not a lot to do though, it’s nice. I thought we played really well,” said Bendik, who’s only major action came in stoppage time. “We dictated the game to them, especially in the first half. We were a little bit lazy in the second half early and gave up a goal but cleared that up and were good.”
Possibly the biggest boon to the Orlando City defense? The fans.
“Obviously credit to Orlando and their fans and the atmosphere here because we started the first half very poorly,” said Union head coach Jim Curtain. “[Orlando's defense] was all over us -- we didn't look like ourselves. Again, silly mistakes, silly turnovers. Even on free kicks, we weren't dialed in.”
With the entire team, and fans, bought into Kreis’ defensive methodology Orlando City’s defense looks to be up to the many challenges that lie ahead.