New York City FC continue their 2021 MLS campaign with a trip to Exploria Stadium to face Orlando City SC.
Here’s the Keys to the Match, presented by Tri-State Ford…
Apply Some Pressure
Orlando City SC are having a somewhat difficult season in the striker position. The future of Daryl Dike is unclear as he continues to perform well in England with Barnsley, while new signing Alexandre Pato will miss several weeks due to injury.
That means Tesho Akindele is again set to lead the line for Orlando on Saturday. The 29-year-old has a solid 1 goal in 3 games regular season record, but more importantly for Óscar Pareja, he is very good at pressing.
“We all know what Tesho can give us,” Pareja said after the win against FC Cincinnati. “We would like him to be more polished, on certain places, but the generosity that he has with his teammates, with the game, the effort that he put into it I think is very, very very valuable for us.”
The benefit of counter-pressing is well-established. if you win the ball high up the field your opponent does not have time to get organized and back in shape. There is also more space for your team to exploit, instead of trying to find passing opportunities against organized lines of opponents.
Pareja likes to press, and that will test NYCFC’s backline and central midfielders. At the same time, if we look at the one goal Orlando have given up this season it came via pressing, against Sporting KC.
Against FC Cincinnati and the Philadelphia Union, the Boys in Blue showed a willingness to press and it certainly aided their cause. For that reason, this game may come down to who can handle the pressure - literally.
Tacticians do battle
In Óscar Pareja and Ronny Deila this game will have two studious coaches that have clear ideas on how they want to play.
Both men have been happy to change formation this season. Granted, some of Pareja’s decisions have been a consequence of injuries and suspensions, but that hasn’t stopped him utilizing both a 4-2-3-1 and 4-4-2 formation during the early weeks of the season.
Meanwhile, Ronny Deila surprised everyone at the weekend by utilizing a back three against the Philadelphia Union. The last time the pair met Deila opted for a 4-2-3-1 and Pareja used a 4-4-2 with two holding midfielders (sometimes called an empty bucket).
The potential outcomes for this game are wide-ranging due to the similarities between the pair. Both men will want to control possession and use that as a foundation to build from, and that will put a greater emphasis on contesting second balls and individual battles.
That makes it a fascinating contest if you’re a fan of the tactical side of the game (full disclosure: I am) and one that could see small tweaks have a big impact.
Lay a ghost to rest
“This year has been maybe the toughest in our careers and to end the season in this way ... it’s ‘2020’ all over this game,” Anton Tinnerholm said after the playoff defeat to Orlando City last year.
The drama that shrouded the game provided ecstasy for the hosts and agony for the Boys in Blue. Tinnerholm was right when he said it was a ‘brutal’ way to lose, but after time off and a chance to recharge the group looks refreshed and ready.
The season has started brightly for Deila and his players, and while Saturday’s game won’t define the campaign, it does represent a good opportunity to make a statement and show the progress that has been made between November and now.
Next up for New York City FC is a trip to face Orlando City SC at Exploria Stadium on Saturday, May 8 with kickoff taking place at 6 PM ET (ESPN/ NYCFC.com/Radio).