In perhaps the most disappointing performance of the season, Orlando City bowed out of the U.S. Open Cup, falling 3-1 to the Chicago Fire in front of a paltry 4,723 fans at Toyota Park in the quarterfinals. Chicago moves on to the semifinals at Philadelphia next month and Orlando’s fixture schedule becomes a bit less crowded.
It was the Lions’ deepest Cup run in their five-year history but it will go down as one of the more forgettable performances they’ve ever had in the tournament—which is saying something when you consider they’ve lost to the Fire 5-1 a few years ago.
Cyle Larin’s header in the 56th minute gave the Lions a chance in this match but two late goals by Kennedy Igboananike on the counter attack in the final three minutes kept the game from getting to extra time. Orlando had passed the ball disastrously all night, giving it away like it was a magnet on Monday all over the pitch. It finally came back to haunt them in Chicago’s late spurt.
City fell behind in just the third minute, when the Lions stood around on a clearance by Fire keeper Jon Busch and Patrick Nyarko simply outran everyone to the ball and slotted past an indecisive Tally Hall. Seb Hines and Sean St. Ledger were very slow to react and by the time Hall saw the danger he got caught between coming out and holding his line and there wasn’t much he could do with Nyarko’s open shot.
The half didn’t get much better for the Lions, who were sleepwalking throughout, turning the ball over constantly and failing to present any threat to the Chicago goal. Crosses, movement and passing was all far too slow to worry the Fire. Shots were 10-2 after the first 45 minutes. Chicago got two on goal and the Lions failed to trouble Busch. Even Orlando’s four corner kicks were all straight to the keeper.
Orlando somehow held 55.1% of the possession in the first half, which is hard to believe considering the number of times it turned the ball over or failed to string together a series of forward passes.
After the break, Orlando was better, but the Lions still couldn’t do much after crossing midfield. Passes went directly to Chicago players or bounced off Orlando shins to the home side. Shots got blocked. Movement was poor.
Aside from a brief spurt after the goal, Orlando was almost never the better team in any category in this match. And what a goal that was.
Rafael Ramos played a wonderful through ball for Eric Avila, who whipped in a cross that Larin won cleanly for the equalizer. It started a bright spell for Orlando that resulted in nothing but a few shots well over the bar from Cristian Higuita and Darwin Ceren.
Just when the game seemed headed for extra time, the Lions got caught forward and David Accam raced downfield, shooting from Hall’s right. The ball hit the post and bounced directly into the path of Igboananike, who easily hit the back of the empty net. Three minutes later, it was Igboananike again on a counter to put it out of reach.
Shots finished 20-8 in Chicago’s favor and that says little about how lopsided the match was. The only shot the Lions put on target was Larin’s goal.
There was little quality on the six-man bench for Adrian Heath to bring on, as the reserves featured a rookie goalkeeper, three U-20 defenders, little-used striker Danny Mwanga and newcomer Servando Carrasco, who did come on late for an ineffective Pedro Ribeiro.
The big concern for Heath is that this team has conceded seven goals in the last three competitive games and scored only once. After a good run of form, the wheels have suddenly come off.
Orlando gets a chance to right the ship Sunday at New York City FC in a 2:30 p.m. matinee. It’s expected to be Frank Lampard’s MLS debut and could also be Andrea Pirlo’s first game with the club. Meanwhile, Higuita will be suspended for yellow card accumulation for Orlando City.