Charlie Davies: Four keys to Orlando City getting back on track

Sacha Kljestan made his season debut. So did big offseason signing Josué Colmán. But there were no points to show for it for Orlando City.

The Lions are still winless after Week 3, with two untimely mistakes and too few scoring chances costing Jason Kreis’ side on a day when NYCFC – even without David Villa – proved too strong.

There was plenty to be desired as I watched Orlando’s attack. Kljestan, who had limited opportunities to create in the final third, didn’t have the dream debut he was surely hoping for. It looked like it was his first game of the season with a new team.

The chemistry seemed lacking and Kljestan had a tough time getting on the ball. When he did, he seemed hesitant to make that killer pass for which he is known. Colmán, who came in for the final 14 minutes, did not do enough with his time to make an impact on the game.

For a team like Orlando City with a playoff-or-bust approach to 2018, getting a single point from the first nine available will hurt. But here are four ways that Kreis and Orlando City can flip the script:

Get Dwyer back

Dom Dwyer has been sidelined by a quadriceps injury to start 2018. | Bill Streicher / USA TODAY Sports Images

Dom Dwyer needs to get healthy. And fast.

Orlando is missing the clever and creative runs off the ball that he provides. Dwyer creates a ton of space with his runs for the other players in the attack by dragging defenders out of position, but he also can be a threat by getting in the box to finish off chances.

Rookie Chris Mueller has shown his inexperience and at this moment he’s not dangerous enough to be the Lions’ No. 9. For a player like Kljestan, who is coming off three seasons of playmaking for one of the league’s expert strikers in Bradley Wright-Phillips, it makes the adjustment that much tougher to also have to bring along a first-year pro.

Tactical change

Sacha Kljestan has experience playing in a 4-5-1 with the NY Red Bulls. | Vincent Carchietta / USA TODAY Sports Images

I think the array of players that Jason Kreis has at his disposal right now would be best suited for a 4-5-1 formation as opposed to their current diamond 4-4-2 shape.

Even when Dwyer returns, the 4-4-2 formation is still not optimal for getting the best out of Orlando’s players since it forces players to play out of their accustomed positions.

With the offseason transfer of Cyle Larin, Orlando only have one proven MLS striker in Dwyer, making the two-forward set-up that comes with a 4-4-2 less than ideal.

The 4-5-1 would still allow for Kreis to implement his philosophy of building a possession-oriented team by allowing more midfield options to break pressure. And it would make for an ideal fit for Uri Rosell, who has yet to make his debut. He is a veteran defensive midfielder who is a great distributor and tends to find the right outlet and make the simple play.

Shifting Justin Meram's position

Justin Meram played in a more central position against NYCFC. | Vincent Carchietta / USA TODAY Sports Images

I contend that Justin Meram is most effective as a winger. He is a nightmare for defenders because he has the ability to go down the line and deliver great service or cut inside and create for himself or others.

He is very difficult to match up against 1-v-1 because he's so unpredictable. Having him operate in a more central position as he did against NYCFC, does not allow for him to be as dynamic as he can be.

Cleaning up at the back

Joe Bendik and the Orlando back line committed two costly errors against NYCFC. | Vincent Carchietta / USA TODAY Sports Images

It goes without saying that Orlando City must limit their mistakes on defense moving forward.

Although their defending has improved over the past two games – their focus on closing down attackers has been noticeable – they still find themselves giving the game away.

The fact is that they committed two really bad turnovers against NYCFC and those errors cannot continue to happen like they did in 2017.

A potential bright spot on the defensive side is the signing of Lamine Sane, who should prove a solid contributor. His experience of playing for top-tier clubs like Bordeaux and Werder Bremen, coupled with his athleticism and anticipation, should help cut down on the costly lapses.

The fact of the matter is that we’ve yet to see Orlando City at full strength. They seemingly made all the right moves in what was a hype-filled offseason, but they are still a work in progress.

It won’t be fair to grade them until all those pieces have taken the field and gone through several reps together. The pressure on the team will build with every negative result, but the fact is that there’s no skimping on the process.

Charlie Davies is a former US national team forward who played six seasons in MLS (D.C. United, Philadelphia Union and New England Revolution). He also starred for Sochaux (France), Hammarby (Sweden) and Randers (Denmark) in Europe. Prior to turning pro, Davies was a Hermann Trophy finalist during his collegiate career at Boston College.

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