“Point”ing in the right direction: Orlando 0-0 Philadelphia

Last nights fixture against Orlando City was set to either be a shootout or a gruelling yet physical game. We were treated to a goalless draw in which both sides failed to convert their chances, but a healthy point for the Union could be crucial come the end of the season.

Before the game, Union fans were treated to great news. For the first time since his injury, Vitoria returned to the lineup to partner a similarly returning Marquez. Arguably the teams most assertive defensive pairing sent a flow of optimism around the Citrus Bowl. Edu was rested which started to worry a few, but the control of Lahoud early on soon reassured fans that the team was not lost without their leader.

The first half saw opportunities wasted by the Union. It was a very slow moving game until Barnetta created the first real chance of the game for Le Toux, only for the ball to find the woodwork. The increasing frustration on the faces of players such as Sapong was a telling sign that the team simply needed to do more. It wasn’t as though the back line of Orlando was shutting the Union down, it just seemed that there was a lack of chemistry due to the new position changes.

Surprisingly it was the Union’s defensive efforts that stole the show. We spoke about how imperative it was for the back four to contain Kaka and Larin, they did just that. With only one real notable chance for the Lions in the opening half, it appeared Kaka had gone missing. He was later discovered in Carroll’s back pocket..

The teams went into the break tied at 0-0 with the Union needing to convert on opportunities. Perhaps the reason they were not as efficient as we would have hoped is due to the formation played. With Maidana being pushed out wide into unfamiliar territories it saw him having to play differently. He was no longer the gatekeeper of the midfield, instead he became a wide midfield playmaker..something that seemed a little alien. Whilst the unit was still effective, you have to feel that should Barnetta had switched positions with Maidana early on that the team would have flourished.

Thankfully for the Sons Of Ben, the prayers were answered about half way through the second period. Barnetta was substituted off as the Union moved Chaco back to his natural position. From then on, Maidana did what Maidana does best. Attack. He simply took complete control over the middle third of the field and not only helped Carroll in winning the ball but was consistently playing the ball down the flanks and driving the team forward.

The travelling side began to ramp up momentum with Sapong firing shots at the Orlando goalkeeper before Maidana even took a shot on goal. In fact he began to look much more comfortable from range, firing numerous attempts as the game began to close..a welcoming sign indeed. Still, nothing was to find its way past Hall as the Lions began to scrap defensively to stop an Offensive barrage.

The barrage soon turned into an ugly scenario for Orlando as a frenzy began to unfold. Corner after corner, shot after shot, it was like the Orlando shot stopper was being subjected to a vigorous training session as opposed to a match! Aristeguieta came in late on and almost found the winner until the returning Vitoria accidentally notched it clear.

The game ended 0-0 but it was a respectable point that many predicted would not have found its way into the Union’s column. It’s the first time that the Union have failed to find the net since May but also the first time they have ended a game without conceding since July the 12th. A defensive partnership that truly got fans excited and a second half showing more than worthy of a win. This was a good point to take.

From here on out the Union have to be prepared for a tough week as they host Chicago Fire in their U.S. Open Cup Semi Final before playing them in the MLS a few days later. One has to think that the victor of the Open Cup game will have a considerable advantage going into the second fixture, but only time will tell.