So…that happened. (But can we pretend it didn’t?)
Orlando City’s final tune-up for its inaugural Major League Soccer season was a complete bust, as the Lions played most of the game down a man and finished with just nine men in a 3-0 preseason loss to the Houston Dynamo on the final night of the Carolina Challenge Cup.
It was Orlando City’s first loss since becoming an MLS side and the second time the Lions have failed to score a goal in seven preseason contests.
Defender Aurelien Collin was sent off after his last-ditch effort to thwart a breakaway resulted in a penalty in the 29th minute. Carlos Rivas came on in the second half for Kaká and played two minutes before also being sent off for what looked to be an accidental elbow against Luis Garrido.
Will Bruin (26′), Brad Davis (pen. – 30′) and Lionel Miranda (45′) scored first-half goals for Houston.
Despite the final scoreline, Orlando City SC actually started the game quite brightly and dominated possession early. What the Lions failed to do well was string passes together in the attacking third, so they weren’t able to capitalize on the early possession advantage.
Orlando also gave the ball away far too cheaply at times in the midfield and that’s what ultimately turned the tide. A giveaway led to a Houston break against the run of play for Bruin’s easy tap-in off Boniek Garcia’s well-timed pass to open the scoring. Minutes later, Garcia got behind Collin to draw the penalty and effectively end the game.
Davis calmly chipped home the spot kick.
The Lions never seriously challenged once down a man and two goals, and things only got worse when Kaká was deemed to have been legally stripped of the ball on a hard challenge by Garcia just before the half.
The Houston forward fed Miranda, who fooled Donovan Ricketts and the City defense with a right-footed shot fake, only to pull it back and score with his left on the odd-man rush.
The game got a bit chippy at times, including a dust-up between Brek Shea and Garrido in the second half, with Kaká coming in to play peacemaker, only to take a shove from goalkeeper Tyler Deric for his troubles. Shea and Miranda got booked.
Even the possibility of a consolation goal was erased with Rivas’ red card. The Colombian did raise his arm to fend off pressure from behind, but it didn’t seem a deliberate attempt to injure.
Regardless, there’s nothing Orlando City can take away from this game, including its first trophy as an MLS team. With two red cards tonight and a weather-shortened 26-minute game on Wednesday, the trip seems rather a waste of time.
Let’s hope for better fortune in eight days’ time when New York City FC visits the Citrus Bowl.