Adrian Heath and Kevin Molino have won in Orlando before but not as the visitors. Now they have, as two Ethan Finlay goals were enough to offset a Yoshimar Yotun penalty kick and hand Minnesota United a 2-1 win in front of 24,038 at Orlando City Stadium.
Finlay’s second goal came on a quick counter in the 79th minute and secured all three points for the Loons (1-1-0, 3 points) on a night when the Lions (0-1-1, 1 point) lacked offensive bite — and lost even more with another striker injury.
“Obviously we’re very disappointed to lose a game at home,” Head Coach Jason Kreis said after the match. “To lose that one I think really hurts deep.”
Kreis made only two substitutions to last week’s lineup to start the match. With PC suspended, Richie Laryea started in the midfield and last week’s hero, Stéfano Pinho, started up top next to Justin Meram in place of rookie Chris Mueller. The only other change to the bench was the addition of Cristian Higuita.
As with last week, Orlando got off to a slow start in terms of finding a rhythm and stringing passes together. This led to some back and forth early play with the game’s first decent chance coming after an Orlando corner in the seventh minute was straight to Minnesota goalkeeper Matt Lampson. He started a counter that looked dangerous until the last pass was intercepted and the Lions broke back the other way. Meram finished the sequence with a shot that took a slight deflection and went just wide of the top left corner.
Spector got a free header on the ensuing corner but hit it well wide.
The Loons broke through in the 12th minute when former Lion Kevin Molino slipped a ball in behind the defense to Finlay, who beat Joe Bendik to the ball and put it in the top of the net.
The Lions lost yet another player to injury when Pinho got onto a cross but headed wide. Meram argued for a penalty as Pinho had been shoved while in midair by defender Francisco Calvo but no foul was given and Pinho could not continue, being stretchered straight to the locker room with an apparent leg injury. Mueller came on in the 28th to replace the Brazilian striker.
“He’s on crutches so it doesn’t look like a good sign at all,” Kreis said about Pinho. The Brazilian will undergo medical evaluation in the next couple of days.
Orlando City looked a bit shook after the Pinho injury and Minnesota nearly took advantage. Molino played a through ball behind Orlando’s defense that Bendik came off his line to grab in the 29th minute and, seconds later, Molino himself nearly broke in behind, but Bendik got to the ball just in time to prevent any further damage.
Laryea fired over the bar from the top of the box off a short corner in the 33rd minute, and Yotun sliced a moving ball wide a minute later as the Lions regrouped. Mueller crossed for Laryea in the 38th, but Richie’s header toward goal was blocked by the defense. However, that sequence led to Orlando tying the game.
Laryea won the race to a loose ball near the edge of the box and was bundled over from behind by Finlay. The Lions were initially awarded a free kick just outside the area but then Sorin Stoica got a call from VAR Edvin Jurisevic and took a second look. After video review, Stoica awarded a penalty. Yotun stepped up and sent Lampson the wrong way, hitting the upper left corner to make it 1-1 in the 42nd minute.
From there, the two teams saw out the remaining time and five minutes of stoppage before going into the break deadlocked at 1-1. The Lions had a 10-4 shots advantage (1-1 on target), 58% of the possession, and an 82% passing accuracy.
Molino went off injured early in the second half on a non-contact play after coming down awkwardly. It was a terrible way to end the night for the former Lion, who played well in his roughly 49 minutes.
“It doesn’t look good for Kevin at the minute. We’ll have a better idea on Monday,” Heath said after the game.
Meram nearly gave Orlando the lead at the 52-minute mark but his shot took a slight deflection and fizzed just left of goal. The ensuing corner kick by Will Johnson found Amro Tarek’s head, but Lampson made a fingertip save on the goal line to keep the game level.
Mueller was bundled over from behind in the box two minutes later while setting himself for a shot in a good area but Stoica saw nothing wrong with the challenge despite loud calls for a penalty by the Lions. Lindley fired wide from above the box in the 64th as Orlando continued to look for a go-ahead goal.
Minnesota started to get a bit more of the game after that. Johnson’s corner service cleared everyone and the Loons countered but Sam Nicholson’s cross was just a tad too far in front of Finlay. Just after the 70th minute, Jonathan Spector had back-to-back clearances on set pieces that prevented Minnesota from taking the lead, but it didn’t last long.
As the Lions pressed for a winner, the Loons countered again and this time it paid off. Scott Sutter allowed the attack to get in behind him and second-half sub Miguel Ibarra sent a perfect cross for Finlay to knock in for the eventual game winner.
“In transition on the counterattack I thought we could cause some trouble and that’s the way it proved,” Heath said.
“If we lose the ball in bad spots then the transition will be on to hurt us. So it’s a little bit about not losing the ball in those kind of spots, not taking too much risk when the ball’s in the midfield third, and the other part is, can we recognize those situations quicker to transition defensively quicker,” Kreis said.
This time there were no last-minute heroics. Meram fired a blast that Lampson fought off for a corner in the 90th minute. The ensuing set piece from Johnson came off Tarek in the middle and had Lampson beat, but Ibson cleared it off the line with some last-ditch defending to preserve the Minnesota lead.
After a couple of scary counters where it looked like the Loons might get a third, the final whistle blew on a disappointing 2-1 home loss. Orlando City finished with a 19-10 shots advantage but got only two on target to Minnesota’s three. The Lions couldn’t take advantage of 59% of the possession and an 82%-74% passing accuracy.
“We’ve got to continue to draw the positives out of the performance and I think we have to continue to learn about ourselves,” Kreis said. “And after a night like tonight I think we need to take a look at ourselves and figure out what it is we need to improve upon this year and just keep doing that. Because we’ve got a brand new group of players together. It’s going to take some time. And, all in all, I still think it was lots of positive performances out there but in the end we didn’t quite have the quality to score the goals.”
The Lions take to the road for the first time in 2018 when they visit New York City FC’s awful baseball diamond next Saturday at 3:30 p.m. ET.