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Learning focus from a game lost late

By listening to what the team said after that loss, Orlando City SC players can learn more.

The game should have been a big celebration – and not just because of a win or at least a draw. Midfielder Nico Lodeiro made his 200th MLS appearance in this game. According to his analysis, Orlando was not adequately prepared for the second half.

Lodeiro saw Toronto's players take the field in the final 45 minutes with the kind of confidence that defines a new game strategy. Then Lodeiro and his teammates saw the visitors create chances. They focused on that and not where they were on the field. His team was no longer able to create chances and even made a few mistakes.

Focus is the key concept of what Lodeiro noted. Concentration and focus are taught during drills at the beginning of any solid youth soccer program. In order to create chances, each player must pay attention to the positions of his teammates on the field. At the same time, they have to read the movements of their opponents.

According to Lodeiro's report, Orlando couldn't keep the ball against Toronto. Then they started making more mistakes, which meant they lost their focus and attention. Towards the end of the second half, the home team spent too much time defending deep near their own goal.

Toronto FC opened the game with a back three that only consisted of three defenders instead of the usual four. Since they played mostly in their attacking zone in the second half, it hardly mattered how few defenders they used.

During stoppage time, with Toronto leading 2-1, the back three allowed the wingers to join their defenders as Orlando desperately tried to keep out some desperate shots from outside the goal.

Head coach Oscar Pareja said his diagnosis of how to finish and win a game like the one against Toronto involves building a sense of urgency among the players. He saw that urgency in their first-half performance. Then they won.

Recognizing the lack of urgency in the second half will explain the lack of focus. The team's halftime strategic plan should have allowed Toronto to adjust and increase its defensive efforts. And they should have considered that the visitors could also try to open up offensive lanes to strengthen their attack, if not ensure the success of that attack.

Orlando City SC can beat or at least draw many teams in games. This is despite the fact that Orlando does not have the talent and skills of many opposing teams. But they have solid training.

What they lacked in their last defeat was concentration. This focus is achieved with effective exercises. And with it the self-confidence that the team lacked towards the end of the game.

Anna Harden

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