The Orlando Preview, Part II
Wednesday night was incredibly exciting and surprising. I know there are some of you out there who predicted a win and, I say this sincerely, I wish I had your optimism. By nature, I'm a pretty pessimistic sports fan and I saw very little chance of us winning that game. To be wrong never felt so right.
One of the biggest takeaways I had with that game was the defensive structure we seemed to have. NYCFC dominated possession (64.6% vs. 35.4%), outshot us (14 vs. 6 on total shots; 6 vs. 5 on shots on target), and outpassed us (529 vs. 289). Yet, we ended the game with an xG of 1.7 versus their 1.2. Further, and more importantly, we won 3-1.
I thought Derrick Jones had a terrific game as well. I saw some criticism of him on the NYC goal. Specifically, there were some saying that he should have closed down Chanot (the goalscorer for NYCFC) quicker. There is some truth to that, however, I think it's important to keep in mind that it's a CB who is getting the ball in that position. I'm not sure I blame Jones too much for not expecting that shot from that player. Additionally, that goal had an xG of 0.04. It's an absolutely terrific goal, but also a highly unlikely one for more than one reason.
Back to Jones: He added defensive stability to the team, was able to carry the ball fairly well, held off players, and passed the ball efficiently (91.7%). I think he's definitely earned another start, but I think he further highlights our deficiency in the midfield. Outside of Bronico, we have no consistency in that area of the pitch. Instead, we seem to go with "hot hands" to some degree. That's not going to be fixed this season, so going with Jones should happen.
At the end of the day, I don't think Jones is a long-term starter for us, but if he can help us grab some points over the next few weeks, that's perfectly fine. I like him as a squad/rotation player for this club over the long term. He's big, physical, and can add something "different" to the midfield from time to time. He should never be more than 4th choice on a good team, but he's still a valuable player to have in a squad.
Shots per game
Shots on target per game
Goals for (xG)
Goals against (xGA)
WhoScored team rating (SofaScore team rating)
32 (10th in East)
33 (7th in East)
To say this is a big game for both teams is a huge understatement, though it's bigger for Charlotte for two reasons. One, it's at home where Charlotte has been much better over the season. Two, Orlando has a game in hand (25 matches played to our 26). All of our remaining home games are must-wins and this is no exception.
Orlando is 4-3-6 on the road, so they're actually good in this respect, all things considered. Only Montréal (7 wins) and RBNY (8 wins) have more wins on the road in the East. Those 6 ties are 2nd most in the East on the road behind only Columbus, with 7. Points on the road are always at a premium, so their ability to consistently get them is hugely impressive. Orlando will undoubtedly want a win this game, however, getting a point won't be the end of the world for them. The stakes are high for Charlotte in this one.
If you would like a full report on Orlando's team, check out the first preview here. Orlando is a 4-2-3-1 team. FBref have them in a 3-4-3 (once), a 4-1-4-1 (once), and a 4-4-1-1 (3 times). These 5 games in a different formation came in 5 straight games (July 4 - 23). Before this run of games, Orlando had been in a 4-2-3-1 and over the past 3 games, they've been in that formation.
Orlando is only dealing with 2 injuries according to MLS's Availability Report. The two injured players are midfielder Joey DeZart (OUT: right knee) and striker Ercan Kara (lower left leg). With that said, Alexandre Pato went down against RBNY with a knee injury. He hasn't been added to the injury report officially, but Orlando's head coach, Oscar Pareja, stated that he was on crutches after the game. There's been no official word about the injury in a few days (at least from what a quick google search turned up.). However, this update from an Orlando journalist doesn't make it sound good:
This Pato injury is a big deal as he was actually having a good year for once. He is at 3 goals and 5 assists for the year in 22 appearances.
The Kara injury also shouldn't be dismissed. The 26-year-old Austrian striker is a DP for Orlando and their leading goalscorer on the year with 7 goals (along with 2 assists). He hasn't played since the Philadelphia game on July 23 and it remains to be seen if he will this game. If he does, it's a big boost to Orlando considering the loss of Pato. If he doesn't, Orlando will be missing players with a combined 10 goals and 7 assists from their attack. For a team that only has 28 total goals on the season, that's a dire situation.
The player who has taken Kara's position at the top of the formation is 24-year-old American Benji Michel. Michel is in his 4th season with Orlando and has been okay. He has 15 career goals and 6 career assists over 94 appearances (47 starts). Until this year, he's been pretty consistent with his goal return, having 5 goals in 2019, 5 goals in 2020, and 4 goals last year. He only has 1 goal this season which came all the way back in the opening game of the season (February 27 against Montréal). The glass-half-full crowd would say that this means he's nothing to worry about; the glass-half-empty crowd might suggest he's due.
In fairness to Michel, he's not really a striker. He's a wide midfielder who Orlando has asked to spearhead its attack. It's an unfamiliar role for him, to be sure, and he's struggled to make an impact.
Over the past 3 games, he's only had 5 total shots, including none last game against RBNY. He did actually have an xG of 0.8 against DC (a game Orlando lost, by the way), but that was his highest xG of the year, by far. In fact, if you exclude that game, Michel's season xG is only 1.7, meaning he got almost a third of his season xG in one game (and still didn't score).
He's not been particularly involved in these past 3 games either. He had 17 total touches in 88 minutes against DC, 19 total touches in 75 minutes against NE, and 14 total touches against RBNY. Further, he's only attempted 2 dribbles (both against DC) over the past 3 games, though he did complete both of them. He has 3 progressive carriers over the past 3 games but had none last week.
I'm actually very curious to see if he will play this week, as the game against RBNY was not good. In addition to the above stats from that game, he had 4 miscontrols and 1 dispossession, only had a 43.5% passes received percentage (10 out of 23), and only completed 6 passes (out of 8 attempts). There's a lot up in the air with Orlando's attack right now, but I'm not sure how much longer they can employ Michel in this role. It's clearly not working. Of course, as a Charlotte fan, I hope they persist with him. A struggling attacker against our depleted backline is a welcome sign.
Júnior Urso and Facundo Torres
Of their healthy attackers, the two best remaining are Júnior Urso and Facundo Torres. I touched on Torres before the first matchup, but he's continued his great start to his MLS career.
Torres is a 22-year-old Uruguayan DP and has 5 goals and 4 assists so far on the year in 24 appearances (22 starts). This goalscoring form is nothing new for him, as he had 5 goals in 2020 and 2021 for his previous team, Peñarol, in the Uruguayan Primera División. As his heatmap to the left shows, he's going to pop up all over the pitch.
His passing is decent for a young wide player, as he's in the 78th percentile for passes completed and pass completion percentage when compared to MLS CAMs/wingers over the past 365 days. He's better with his short passes (87th percentile for short passes completed, 85th percentile for short passes attempted, 86th percentile for short pass completion percentage). He struggles more in the medium range, though he's not bad (70th percentile for medium passes attempted and completed, 68th percentile for medium pass completion percentage). His long-distance passing is a definitive area of weakness and an area he'll need to improve drastically (46th percentile for long passes completed, 57th percentile for long passes attempted, 20th percentile for long pass completion percentage). With all this said, he's not conservative with his passes, as he's in the 76th percentile for passes into the final third, 83rd percentile for passes into the penalty area, and 80th percentile for progressive passes.
Even as a young player new to the team, he's clearly an important part of the team as he touches the ball a lot. He's not a player who is going to dribble around opponents, however, he carries the ball exceedingly well. His ability to make himself available and to receive passes is also impressive. He'll need to improve his control of the ball. If Kara isn't available, Torres is probably the player Charlotte should most gameplan for. If not him, it has to be Urso.
Urso is 33 now and in his 3rd season with Orlando after having spent time in China and the Brazilian leagues. For Orlando, he's made 78 appearances (70 starts), scoring 10 goals and getting 4 assists. He's another consistent scorer. In 2015, he had 9 goals for Chinese team Shandong Lunen. Since then, he's had season goal totals of 4, 2, 4, 3, 3, and 4. He has 3 goals on the year so far (and 3 assists).
FBref allows you to compare Urso to midfielders and CAMs/wingers. Based on how he's listed on Orlando's site (midfielder) and what his heatmap looks like, I'm inclined to call him a midfielder. As his heatmap (below) shows, he's a player who favors the right side of the pitch, but it doesn't scream winger to me. For comparison, look at Gaines' heatmap from this year. That, to me, is the heatmap of a winger. Urso is a wide player, but comparing him to CAMs/wingers feels unfair. As such, any talk of his percentiles will be when comparing him to MLS midfielders over the past 365 days.
Urso shoots a lot for a midfielder (1.77 per 90, 88th percentile), gets a lot of shots on target (92nd percentile), and takes good shots (90th percentile for xG). He creates a decent amount of chances from dribbles (71st percentile), even though I wouldn't call him overly proficient at dribbling (69th for dribbles completed, 71st percentile for dribbles attempted, 54th percentile for successful dribble percentage). His shots also lead to a lot of scoring chances for Orlando (90th percentile for SCAs from shots, 93rd percentile for GCAs from shots).
Urso will find himself in the attacking 3rd (17.66 touches/90 in the attacking 3rd) and penalty area (2.25 touches/90 in the attacking penalty box), but I don't know that he should concern you too much in those positions. Yes, his goalscoring for a midfielder is good, but it's not off-the-charts dangerous. Meanwhile, his passing (see the percentiles below) is hugely underwhelming for a midfielder. Again, if you consider him a CAM/winger and compare him as such, the passing numbers become really good, while the goalscoring numbers suffer.
The main takeaway is that he's a flawed player. If he's a CAM, he's can't score. If he's a midfielder, he can't pass. He's not a bad player by any means, but he's more of a concern when he's the 4th or 5th option in attack. If he's your second best option, that's an issue. With the injuries Orlando is dealing with, he may very well be that for them Sunday.
Pedro Gallese has been the primary keeper for Orlando all year. Only one other GK has made a start for them in MLS this year (Mason Stajduhar on 3/27). The Peruvian is in his 3rd season with Orlando after having spent time in the Mexican and Peruvian leagues. Since joining Orlando, he's been their starter with19 starts in 2020, 22 last year, and 24 this year.
With Orlando, Gallese has a save percentage just shy of 70% (69.9%). He's at 66% this year and this percentage has decreased each year (73.2% in 2020 and 70.5% in 2021). He's allowed 1.31 goals per 90 in his career for Orlando, including 1.46 per 90 this year. In 2020, his PSxG+/- was at -1.2. Last year it was at +0.9 and this year it's dropped to -1.6. The fluctuation in this stat makes it difficult to say where he truly is with it, but considering his only positive year was a barely positive one, I'm inclined to say he's a below-average shot-stopper.
Gallese is facing difficult shots, as he's in the 81st percentile for PSxG per shot on target. He seems somewhat susceptible against corners (44th percentile) and crosses (59th percentile for crosses stopped percentage). I don't think it's a huge weakness for him, but it's definitely not a strength.
Gallese isn't a factor when it comes to build-up play. He's in the 11th percentile for passes attempted, although he's only in the 33rd percentile for launch percentage (non-goal kicks), which is interesting. It seems to me that he's not much of a passer, but when he does, he doesn't just boot it far.
There's an opportunity here for Charlotte to get some goals. Gallese isn't a bad keeper, but Sean Johnson who we just saw in New York is having a much better season. I didn't really touch on the defenders for Orlando in this preview (see the first one for more information on them), but Orlando isn't a defensive powerhouse. They're not DC, where anyone can get a goal, and they have some good defenders, but there should be opportunities for Charlotte to rustle the back of the net.
There really isn't any excuse for Charlotte to not win this game if they're serious about making the playoffs. Yes, the other team wants it just as much as we do, but coming off a road win against the reigning champs and a (basically) sure-fire playoff team, this game is ours for the taking. Orlando doesn't "out-talent" us, they don't have an elite defense, and they struggle even more than us to get shots off and score. Further, they are dealing with injuries at some vital positions.
If there was a week between Wednesday's game and this one, I'd probably guess the lineup wouldn't be changed. With only a few days between these games, though, I'm not so sure. I do think the backline will remain the same, with maybe only Mora coming in for Fuchs. If Afful replaces Lindsey, we're going to need an answer from Lattanzio, as Jaylin has not really put a foot wrong over the past few games.
Up top, I imagine Reyna will come back into the side, though I'm not sure that's the best move. Świderski is almost guaranteed to start. I'm with many of you who want to see Andre get more time, but Lattanzio has shown he does not want to play Shinyashiki with Świderski, at least from the start. My boy Gaines, if he has the legs, has absolutely earned the start at RW.
I don't expect changes in the midfield. It's clear we're not going to give Bronico any rest this season and Jones doesn't have that many minutes on his legs. He should be good to go on short rest. My guess is McNeill will start again because Lattanzio clearly rates him above almost anyone else on this team. I would like to see Bender come on around the 60-65th minute, though. I have issues with him, but I think he plays better at home and off the bench.
On paper, I think this is our easiest game remaining (when you factor in opponent and home vs. away). We threw away points against Chicago; we can't afford to do that again.
Prediction: Charlotte 2 - Orlando 0