New Look Offense Scores Big For Orlando

How several key lineup changes have revitalized the Lions' attack
by Chris Kimball   |   Thursday, May 08, 2014

Purple Pride – column on Orlando City SC (OCSC) & the Orlando & Central Florida area soccer scene.

In early April following an indecisive win over the Charleston Battery, Orlando City head coach Adrian Heath half-wondered aloud if he wasn't faced with a decision about his starting XI. Sure, his team was undefeated with 2 wins and 2 draws, but something wasn't right.

The usual high-octane Lions offense looked languid having scored just six goals in their first four matches. The team's center forward, Corey Hertzog, had yet to find the back of the net. And though looking competent and methodical, his midfield battery was generally uninspiring.

The next week Heath overhauled the lineup. Dennis Chin replaced Hertzog up top. Brian Span and Adama Mbengue took over in the midfield in place of Aodhan Quinn and Austin da Luz. And Darwin Ceren slotted in behind Span in a more defensive position.

The changes paid immediate dividends. City won their next game behind 3 goals, 1 by Mbengue, matching their season high. And they went on to win their next 3 matches, nearly doubling their goal-scoring rate along the way. Together, Span, Mbengue and Chin have scored 7 times and assisted on 3 since entering the starting lineup.

In choosing this new tack Heath was willing to diminish a basic tenet of his system: possession soccer. Span, Chin and Mbengue all bring speed to the lineup, but they are not players who prefer to linger in possession. Together they advance the ball quickly with fewer passes through the midfield. An offense that was previously prone to passing the ball around tiki-taka style before eventually dishing it outside to a charging fullback is now just as content to force it straight up Park Avenue through a short series of zippy passes and darting runs.

The stats tell the story. In their four games prior to the lineup change Orlando dominated possession at around 60%. In the 4 games following the change their rate of possession has dwindled to around 50%, even dropping as low as 41% against FC Dallas Reserves.

It's also apparent that the speedier offense plays to the strength of the club's best player, Kevin Molino. City's skilled Trinidadian is at his best when he has the freedom to be creative. His modus operandi is to embarrass defenses with his video game-like ball control. Span, Mbengue and Chin have proven to be the perfect co-conspirators in Molino's game of deception. Their ability to dart past defenders —often just the threat of their darting— keeps defenses on their heels, giving Molino prime real estate in which to work.

Molino has played MVP caliber soccer in the new system. He's scored 3 goals, assisted on 2 goals, and been named to USL PRO's Team Of The Week twice. Even Adrian Heath has seemingly run out of colorful accolades for the 23-year old midfielder. Following Molino's latest impressive, 2-assist performance, "he's a very, very good player" was all the gaffer could muster.

NEXT UP: May 9 – Orlando City vs. Pittsburgh Riverhounds, Highmark Stadium, Pittsburgh. 7 p.m. EST.

May 10  - Orlando City vs. Rochester Rhinos, Sahlen's Stadium, Rochester, New York. 7:05 p.m. EST.


William & Mary
Club Domestic:
Orlando City
Club Foreign:
Tottenham Hotspur
Christopher is editor of Orlando Soccer Daily, covering the beautiful game for central Florida. A retired music exec turned soccer fanatic, he landed in Florida via Paris & Boston. When not working he's usually chasing after his 2 sons or suffering after