Orlando City may have opened up the 2021 MLS regular season with a scoreless draw against rivals Atlanta United on Saturday, but there was still enough action to take away following the match at Exploria Stadium.
From Alexandre Pato and Silvester van der Water making their official league debuts to the team’s defensive unit coming through with putting out fires. Perhaps there was a lack of finishing, but in the end, that resulted into the Lions getting their first earned point of the season.
Let’s dive in with some notes and takeaways.
Pato’s first outing
The newest Lion this season was named to the starting lineup and had a pair of looks that almost opened the scoring for Orlando on two occasions. The first coming in the 62nd minute and the second in 72nd minute — with the latter being the best chance of the game for Orlando.
Pato’s playing time ended on the 80th minute after coming down with an apparent knee injury, though it’s still unclear on the status or severity of the injury.
“Second half as well when we stretch him as a number nine, we had the best of him, put him in front of the ball twice,” head coach Oscar Pareja said on Pato. “And then finally, we are waiting. Doctors will evaluate what happened. I saw that we don’t have the diagnostics yet.”
Saturday not only saw the omission of several key starters, but the inclusion of key rotating players stepping up on the defensive side of things for Orlando.
Kyle Smith was deployed at left back while Rodrigo Schlegel slipped in at left centerback to fill in for Joao Moutinho and Robin Jansson, respectively, who are both out with lower body injuries.
The performances from both Smith and Schlegel left Pareja pleased following the back-and-forth affair from both sides.
“They stood out the most from the players we had available,” Pareja said on the duo. “Logically, one analyzes the teams starting with their defensive parts, but since it was a closed-game, very competitive, I think we had a serious defense. Rodrigo, Kyle, Antonio Carlos, Ruan, the young lads had a very good game, they gave us balance and sustained the team, so I’m left happy with the job they done.”
On the statistic side of things, Smith finished with two tackles, seven clearances and one block with 86.7% passing, according to WhoScored.com. Meanwhile, Schlegel kept it simple and subtle with two tackles and two clearances.
Perea plays a difference
Orlando was considerable the dominating team in the second half and most of that fell on Andres Perea’s introduction to the game after halftime.
The midfielder entered for Tesho Akindele at the break, and with that change, it opened up the game more Orlando City, allowing Pato to roam with more freedom to find space to execute on open chances.
The goals, however, didn’t exactly come to fruition and the sub-par finishing was evident but there was the tactical vision from Pareja to consider.
“The intention in the second half it balanced much more the middle,” Pareja said on Perea. “We needed a player who can mix the energy there and bring us some legs too. Andres knows how to do it. He has a lot of glue, has a lot of range and we needed to stop [Atlanta’s] No. 5, who is a key player for them and Andres did that job.”
Pareja continued: “So we cut that connection and we started increasing ours and stretching Pato as a number nine as well. It just gave us some space and more creativity in that part of the field, and that’s that’s why we created the best options in the game no doubt, and the second half was much better.”
Silvester van der Water played the final 10 minutes of Saturday’s game.
Also check out this photo gallery of some saves from goalkeeper Pedro Gallese.
Last but not least…
Our own Austin David was on Spectrum News 13 following Saturday’s match and provided his takeaways as well.
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