When Major League Soccer debuts its channel of classic league matchups 20 years from now, Orlando City’s first meeting with the Philadelphia Union won’t make the cut.
Coming off their 4-1 defeat at Toronto FC on Wednesday night, the Lions returned home and dropped two points in a must-win game, as the Lions played the Union to a scoreless draw on Saturday night in front of 28,495 fans at the Orlando Citrus Bowl.
“It looked like the game on Wednesday night in Toronto had an effect on us,” said Head Coach Adrian Heath. “Our group looked a bit leggy at the end. The last four or five minutes of injury time I was relieved that we came through unscathed in the end. We’ll take the point. We say to the players, don’t disregard a point in any stage of the season.
“Sometimes you take something from the game and that’s what we’ve done — take the clean sheet. I thought we had some good passages of play in the first half but we just didn’t have that final ball and the final finish.”
Tally Hall finished as the unquestionable Man of the Match, making a handful of huge saves down the stretch to keep Orlando City in the match in the second half. Adrian Winter also came on as a second-half sub to make his Orlando City debut, nearly scoring a goal late, too.
“(Hall) came up big on a couple of occasions when it was really important,” Heath said. “He’s a quality goalkeeper. We expect him to make saves and the best goalkeepers make saves when you need it. Tonight we needed it on a couple of occasions.”
The first half featured just about nothing.
The biggest moment of the first 45 minutes happened about 10 minutes in, when Orlando City defender Conor Donovan, making his MLS debut, got tangled up with a Union defender, which sent him to the ground immediately, holding his left knee in a lot of pain. Donovan was eventually taken off with what the team is calling a left knee injury, and he’ll run through the MRI machine in the coming days.
Donovan’s premature departure from the match paved the way for Tommy Redding to come in and make his MLS debut, as well, after being called back from his loan with the Wilmington Hammerheads to cover for a Seb Hines knock.
“I thought Tommy Redding did smashing when he come on. I thought that was a huge plus for us,” Heath said.
Sebastien Le Toux provided Philadelphia with its best chance of the first half in the 21st minute, when he banged an angled shot off of the post, sparing Orlando City from going down 1-0 in the first half at home for the second week in a row.
Orlando City’s best chance of the half came in the 30th minute when Kaká set up Cyle Larin with a chance just inside the arch. But the Canadian striker sent a low shot straight into the hands of Philly’s goalkeeper, John McCarthy. Larin has been held off the score sheet in consecutive MLS games for the first time since May.
In between Donovan’s injury and the final moments of the first half, Cristian Higuita went down twice, and Aurelien Collin and Corey Ashe each went down once. All three were able to stay in the game.
This is the part where I tell you how the second half was much better and everyone started scoring goals, right? Wrong.
The first notable moment was Carlos Rivas replacing Lewis Neal on the left wing in the 65th minute.
Both sides traded decent chances, primarily the Union, who tested Hall heavily in the second half. “Tally Wall” made two big saves on Cristian Maidana to deny the visitors.
Orlando City fans had a reason to get loud again in the 72nd when Winter came on for his Orlando debut. He replaced Servando Carrasco, and nearly made an impact in the 83rd with a shot just 10 feet off of the goal that would have put the Lions in front.
His hard play is sure to excite some fans, but goals, of course, are more important.
“We think he’ll suit the way that we play,” Heath said. “He’s experienced, he’s got a bit of pace, he can run with the ball. I think he will give us more of an energy and more of a threat in the final third. By the end of next week he’ll have a better idea of the names of the people he’s playing with. Obviously it’s never easy when you first make your debut when you come into a new club. He’ll be better for that tonight. He’ll give us good minutes down the stretch.”
After the match, Heath announced that new center back David Mateos arrived in Orlando today, so he should help with Donovan appearing to be out long-term.
The Lions will spend the next week looking for answers before one of the toughest away matches of the season, as they head to CenturyLink Field for an inter-conference matchup with the Seattle Sounders next Sunday at 5 p.m. on ESPN2.