Orlando City’s defense could not contain Sporting Kansas City’s attack, and the Lions fell short 2-1 in front of an announced 19,080 fans at Children’s Mercy Park. Orlando City fell to 0-2 under Mark Watson, who filled in while Adrian Heath served his suspension for entering the pitch against New York Red Bulls. Watson also coached the 5-3 loss at New York City FC last season.
Orlando (2-3-5, 11 points) could not hold on after taking the lead, weathering 34 shots from Sporting Kansas City (5-6-2, 17 points), the third-highest shot total ever recorded in a regular-season MLS contest and the most since 1998, according to Paul Carr of ESPN. Orlando goalkeeper Joe Bendik saved 10 of them in a heroic effort, but the Lions’ defense was not good enough to get a result, and Orlando remains winless in its last six matches (0-3-3) going back to April 3. Sporting snapped a seven-game winless streak with the win.
The match was wide open from the start, with both teams trading clear chances. Longwood’s own Graham Zusi had his curler from outside the area rebound off the crossbar, while Brek Shea missed just wide on the other end after a great ball by Kaká released him behind the Kansas City defense. Unfortunately, Shea had a wide-open Cyle Larin lurking for a tap-in but the left back opted to go for goal. Dom Dwyer had a near miss of his own midway through the first half when a loose ball fell to him only a few feet from Bendik.
Orlando’s defense had to deal with a barrage of Sporting opportunities and seemed content to sit back and defend the center of the pitch and try to release on the counter. Kansas City dominated possession (54.4% to 45.6%) and looked the better side for the majority of the match. The deadlock was nearly broken by the home side at the end of the first half, but Dwyer’s blast off the underside of the bar was from an offside position. Bendik then thwarted a pair of Kansas City attempts while Darwin Ceren was on the ground injured, keeping the Sporting attackers onside after referee Ismail Elfath decided against blowing the play dead.
Shea was the focal point for the Lions’ attack for most of the match. His attempt was one of Orlando’s two chances in the first half and several of his crosses nearly found a streaking Larin or created havoc in the opposition area. The rest of the Orlando attack was toothless, though, and the Lions finished with zero of their seven shots on target. It was a quiet night for Kaká and Larin, who never looked dangerous in front of goal.
Saad Abdul-Salaam and Dwyer went close again at the beginning of the second half, with Abdul-Salaam rattling a header against the framework and Dwyer splitting the Orlando center backs, only to shoot wide of the mark. For the Lions, Shea again missed the top corner by inches on the other end.
The stalemate ended at 67′ when David Mateos nodded a Kaká corner into the mixer and off of Jimmy Medranda and into the back of the net.
Dwyer returned the favor to his old team just a few minutes later, however, heading the ball over Bendik’s reach and equalizing for the home side on a great build-up play by SKC. Benny Feilhaber sent a perfectly timed scoop pass over the back line to Jacob Peterson as Dwyer slipped past Tommy Redding. Peterson headed to Dwyer, who then headed over Bendik to tie the game.
Peterson was then left unmarked by the Lions not five minutes later and beat Bendik at the near post to give Sporting Kansas City the 2-1 lead.
A troubling sight for City fans was Ceren being stretchered off after a physical collision with Nuno Coelho. This came after Shea was also taken off after colliding with the corner flag. For a side that was already missing Seb Hines due to injury, losing two more key pieces would test the roster during a key stretch of Eastern Conference opponents.
The Lions’ next stop is back home at Camping World Stadium on Saturday, where they take on the Conference-leading Montreal Impact.