Orlando City SC has been all over the place this MLS season. One minute they are beating the reigning MLS Cup champion Portland Timbers 4-1, the next moment they are relying on two fortunate goals to make a 3-2 loss to the New York Red Bulls look a lot closer than it really is.
On the surface, the answer to this is easy. When the Lions have Kaka, they win. When they don’t, they lose. To a certain extent, that is absolutely true. But there is another trend we must look at as well. Orlando doesn’t have to rely completely on Kaka. They have excellent quality on their flanks to keep the team afloat.
Let’s consider some examples. First, Orlando City vs New England. Kaka was again the center piece. Everything ran through him. He contributed four shots and four chances created. Meanwhile, the starters out wide, Adrian Winter and Carlos Rivas, only managed 39 touches combined in an hour of play. When Kevin Molino was brought on, he managed 27 touches by himself in half the time, scored the goal that should have been the winner, and gave the Lions a point.
When Kaka was not enough, Orlando dared to give a chunk of the responsibility to their wide man and it worked out.
Now, let’s look at when Orlando took on the Philadelphia Union. Kaka was very ineffective, as he fired zero shots on target. The central midfielders controlled the game, but they only created five chances between them, three coming from who else but Kaka. The wide players, Winter and Molino, ranked in with fewer touches than all of the central midfielders, yet it was the wide men who gave the Lions hope. Molino set up Adrian Winter for the only Orlando City goal. Winter ended up firing all of Orlando City’s on-target shots in the match.
Again, Kaka was not enough, so they relied on the wide men.
Next up, the biggest win of them all, that 4-1 win over Portland. Yes, Orlando found the majority of their success from Kaka, who contributed a goal and two assists. He created four chances and fired two of his three shots on target. But Kevin Molino had just as big of an impact, he just didn’t have the hard stats to back him up. Molino had the second most touches on the team from the right side. He fired more shots than anyone else.
This is arguably the first time where Molino and Kaka were both clicking and look at the result.
Finally, the loss to the Red Bulls. Orlando was again without Kaka, yet instead of relying on their talented wide midfielders, Orlando ran everything through the middle of the pitch. Molino and Winter combined for just over 80 touches, ranking in the lowest on the team aside from the strikers.
The result was a disappointing loss that was not as close as the score would hint.
Kaka does not have to be the be-all, end-all of Orlando’s success. Molino and Winter have combined for four goals and two assists on the season, almost half of Orlando’s total yield. When Kaka is out, they just need to feed these two and let them do their work.