MONTREAL — It's only been a couple of weeks that Dom Dwyer and Cyle Larin have trained and played alongside one another in Orlando, but their first two matches already have some questioning whether their partnership up top for the Lions can work.
“The question would be: Are they too similar?” Kreis said. “Are they two strikers that are too similar? And ultimately can they figure it out, the spaces that need to be taken? Can they do a little something different than they’re both accustomed to? I feel like Cyle probably a little bit more than Dom right now because Cyle’s at least been playing with two strikers all year whereas Dom’s been playing in a one-striker system. So, it’s a question of whether or not he can figure out the spaces he needs to take and the runs he needs to make.”
It’s clear that the understanding between the players and the movements they need to make in different situations, is still a work in progress. Against Montreal, much like against Atlanta United last week, Dwyer and Larin often made the same run, or didn’t capitalize on opportunities to combine with one another.
“I think that they both enjoy each other,” Kreis said. “I think they’re both hard-working players. I think they’re both similar in that they want to get themselves in front of the goal often. But it’s still a little bit of a question in my mind about the balance of that. So we continue to judge that and make decisions as we go forward.”
Larin did score in the game (watch below), giving Orlando a short-lived lead in the first half, but it was mostly a solo effort in which he capitalized on an individual error from Montreal midfielder Marco Donadel.
Later, midway through the second half, Larin nearly scored a second goal, which could have proved to be the potential game-winner. It was one of Orlando’s few other scoring opportunities, and a rare occasion where Dwyer was involved in the development of a noteworthy attacking sequence.
Inside his own half, Larin fed Dwyer, who was in a pocket of space in front of the Impact backline. Larin continued to make an aggressive run in behind and Dwyer, showing some of his quality attacking instincts that made his recent trade to Orlando such a big deal, immediately placed a ball into his path. But Larin, with the ball on his left foot and aiming for the top corner, missed the net.
Compared with their first game together away to Atlanta last weekend, a match which ended in a 1-1 draw, there arguably wasn’t any noticeable improvement in the Larin-Dwyer partnership. And with Orlando below the playoff line in the East, there’s definitely pressure on them to figure things out quickly.
However, Dwyer says he doesn’t have the same concerns as Kreis about whether or not the duo can coexist.
“I would disagree with that,” Dwyer said. “I wouldn’t say we’re too similar. Obviously, we’re still learning. It’s been a week, so maybe it’s too soon to call, but he’s the coach. That’s his call.”
While the strike pair may not be completely in sync yet, Orlando’s attacking issues do not rest solely with the forwards.
Their 4-3-1-2 formation has its strengths, but it also presents challenges: It doesn’t readily offer any wide players in either the attack or midfield, and in order for it to be truly effective, it requires a great deal of movement and fluidity. The fullbacks are required to push forward and the wider center mids need to be adept at making penetrating runs, while the attacking midfielder (in this case Kaka) is depended upon to make wide supporting runs in a flash.
None of this seems to be happening often enough for Orlando, resulting in attacks that quickly become very narrow and predictable. Balls are played directly to either Larin or Dwyer, but they rarely have enough available players to pass to, and as good as they are on the ball, they only have so much time to hold it up and wait for other players to finally get themselves into helpful, supporting positions.
In their current setup, the Lions are clearly struggling. Tactical and personnel changes may not be far behind.
“I’m making decisions game by game now and it’s about to get more crowded everywhere on the field,” Kreis said. “We’ve got some guys in the locker room that have been left out that aren’t happy and it’s going to continue to be that way the rest of the season.
"We need to find a team that’s going to win for us. Once we do, that team will stay, but otherwise we’re going to be looking to make changes and make difficult decisions every week.”