3 things we learned from Orlando City’s loss to New York Red Bulls

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·4 min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

Orlando City dropped its second loss of the season on Saturday in a 2-1 result to the New York Red Bulls, the only team the Lions have fallen to this year. Here are three things we learned from the match:

Backline hampered by injuries

The game changed drastically for the Lions when starting centerback Antonio Carlos went down with an injury in the 12th minute.

The defender stayed down for a minute holding his groin, then managed to return to his feet long enough to attempt a header at the net on an ensuing free kick. But Carlos quickly requested a substitute, exiting the game in visible pain with his head buried in his hands to obscure tears.

The loss impacted the Lions heavily as defender Rodrigo Schlegel entered in his place. Schlegel spent most of the month of June in Argentina with his family following the death of his father and had only practiced for a week ahead of the match.

If Carlos’ injury persists on a long-term basis, the Lions’ backline will be stripped down nearly to its final options for players.

The team finished Saturday’s match with four backups on the defensive end, including keeper Brandon Austin, outside back Michael Halliday and Schlegel.

Although outside back Kyle Smith has started most of the matches this season, he has not been a preferred starter when outside backs Ruan and João Moutinho have been available.

Among these injuries, the Lions are relying on rookies to fill out the defensive bench. Although Halliday has been growing into his position, the 18-year-old is still picking up the pace of MLS play. Rookie Rio Hope-Gund and 16-year-old homegrown Thomas Williams remain the only other options on the bench.

For the Lions, shoring up these positions will be critical entering the second half of the season.

DP’s face penalty kick uncertainty

The Lions have seen a common thread of saved penalty kicks from their designated-player stars this season.

Midfielder Mauricio Pereyra missed a would-be difference-maker on Saturday night after initially earning a penalty off a hard tackle in the box. The designated player’s shot was high and mid-range to the right of the keeper, in a zone that was fairly easy to extend and bat away.

Captain Nani previously struggled in a similar way from the penalty spot. The winger made his sole penalty kick of the 2021 season but missed several critical shots from the stripe last season.

Nani was saved by Matt Turner in the team’s elimination match against the New England Revolution and also missed a shot in the previous playoff game against New York City FC. The captain has gone 6-for-10 on penalty kicks since joining the Lions.

Although this is still a positive record, the Lions’ uncertainty in penalty-kick conversion from its two top-billed stars remains an important area of improvement for the team moving forward.

Red Bulls find Lions’ weak points

The New York Red Bulls have figured out Orlando City this season.

The team dealt the Lions their only two losses of the year and both of those performances have been notably lackluster from Orlando City.

New York’s success against Orlando has come from two key points of focus — applying high pressure and springing quick transition plays to free up attackers on the run. The Lions struggled to play passes through any type of midfield pressure on Saturday, an issue exacerbated by the absence of defensive holding midfielder Sebas Méndez.

Similarly, the Lions were a step slow during several transition plays, allowing the Red Bulls to challenge the centerbacks and keeper head-on.

Although the teams aren’t set to face again in the regular season, coach Oscar Pareja said it’s important for the Lions to create an effective counter to New York before they potentially meet again in the postseason.

“New York is a team who has a lot of stamina,” Pareja said. “You have to be in that level of concentration and energy that they bring from the beginning. I think we started slow today and they scored first and then it took us for a while just to find our rhythm. ... Sometimes the game goes back and forth. We wanted to pause the game and in certain moments we couldn’t do it the way we wanted, and then they were more effective. So we’ll find a way. We’ll see them again along the way.”

This article first appeared on OrlandoSentinel.com. Email Julia Poe at jpoe@orlandosentinel.com.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting