Orlando City just did not have the firepower to outscore the LA Galaxy. In a game that saw a total of 42 shots, with 15 of those shots hitting the target, the Galaxy powered from behind past the Lions, 4-3 at the StubHub Center. Orlando led three times, including a 2-1 advantage at halftime, but could not keep Zlatan Ibrahimović at bay.
The loss was the eighth in a row away from home for the Lions (7-14-1, 22 points) and a tough pill to swallow despite playing so well offensively. Ibrahimović scored his first MLS hat trick and added an assist for the hosts while Cristian Higuita and Dom Dwyer saw themselves on the score sheet for the Lions.
James O’Connor sent out this group of lads in the losing effort.
Giovani Dos Santos nearly scored in the second minute on a beautiful pass from Ibrahimović, but Mohamed El-Munir deflected his shot away from goal. The Galaxy (10-7-5, 35 points) dominated possession in the opening minutes, pressing the Orlando defense.
Earl Edwards Jr. made his first save in the eighth minute against Ibrahimović. Yoshimar Yotún fed El-Munir a great through ball in the ninth minute as that forced David Bingham to make a beautiful save. Kljestan took an unmarked header on the ensuing corner but couldn’t punish LA for its poor defense in the box just moments later.
Ola Kamara snuck behind the Orlando defense in the 13th minute but sent his shot well wide of the right post as the Lions dodged another bullet early on.
Kljestan again set up an attacking chance in the 15th minute with Yotún sending a powerful shot well over the crossbar from distance. Kljestan, along with the rest of the midfield, began to dictate the tempo of the match and limit the Galaxy’s chances.
Orlando took the lead in the 19th minute as Kljestan held the ball in front of the Galaxy defense and sent Higuita into the box to put Orlando up 1-0. The goal was Higuita’s fourth goal of the season and his sixth over his MLS career.
Ibrahimović tried to answer just two minutes later but Edwards Jr. made a solid play and got some help from Chris Schuler to shut down the attack.
The Lions continuously stole possession from the Galaxy in the midfield and final third throughout the first 25 minutes, as the opposition rarely saw good chances after the early pressure. PC got a nice ball from Yotún on the wing and sent El-Munir into a nice position but his shot was deflected to force a corner in the 30th minute. Dwyer nearly got open following the corner but the Galaxy defense managed to escape the danger.
Kamara decided to not go to goal as he sent a ball out of play just out of the reach of Ibrahimović to force a goal kick in the 31st minute. The Swedish striker even pointed to Kamara on where exactly he wanted the ball. Kamara followed up with a solid header near the far post on a corner but it flew just outside to force a goal kick.
Again Yotún and El-Munir connected on the wing in the 36th minute as the Libyan international sent his shot wide with Dwyer in the box. El-Munir again worked the wing well against David Romney and put another shot on goal that was easily saved by Bingham.
LA brought the game level as Ibrahimović outplayed Schuler in the box to head the ball to dos Santos, who worked his way past the Orlando defense and fired his shot into the bottom corner past Edwards. The play all started on a beautiful service to Ibrahimović and Tony Rocha’s poor defense led to dos Santos creating the space he needed to level the match in the 39th minute at a goal apiece.
Edwards Jr. made a beautiful one-handed save on Kamara’s shot in the 43rd minute to keep the game level.
Orlando regained the lead on a beautiful counter-attack as Kljestan worked himself into the box again. His pass for Yotún forced Michael Ciani into an own goal against the hosts.
The Lions took their 2-1 lead into the break. Orlando held the advantage in shots, 9-7 (but LA got more on target, 3-2), and possession (53%) over the Galaxy through 45 minutes. El-Munir took four shots, while Kljestan picked up and assist and forced the own goal.
As the second half began, Orlando immediately put the pressure back on the LA Galaxy defense as Yotún tried to find the corner on another shot outside of the box but just missed. It was a costly miss, as LA responded immediately, with Ibrahimović scoring his 13th goal of the season in the 47th minute on a cross from dos Santos. Edwards Jr. decided to not come off of his spot and it cost him, as the big striker was marked by much smaller defenders on the far post.
The Galaxy nearly took the lead in the 49th minute as Chris Pontius saw dos Santos on a trailing run. The Mexican international blasted his shot off the crossbar as the Galaxy created chance after chance to start the second half.
Bingham was forced to make a save against Dwyer on a counterattack as Orlando looked for an answer to its slow start in the second half. LA answered with a counterattack of its own as Rocha had to force a corner that was shut down by the Lions’ defense.
Kljestan fired a shot from distance right at Bingham when no one closed him down in the 54th minute. Moments later, El-Munir sent in a beautiful cross after a great individual effort and found Dwyer, who made a difficult header look easy as Orlando regained the lead in the 54th minute, 3-2. It was Dwyer’s 70th career MLS goal.
Amro Tarek‘s poor clearance led to a Galaxy chance, but Jonathan Dos Santos sent his shot well over the crossbar. Orlando was visibly starting to tire and had trouble keeping the ball at this point in the game.
Higuita’s poor tackle gave the Galaxy a free kick in dangerous territory just outside of the penalty area in the 64th minute. Ibrahimović blasted his shot into the stands. He nearly scored moments later but Edwards made the save.
Orlando was caught sleeping on defense as Kamara and Ibrahimović found themselves in a two-on-two situation against the Lions’ center backs. Ibrahimović easily won a header from Tarek, then beat the center back into the area and scored a header on the service from Kamara to pick up his second goal of the match and level things at 3-3 in the 67th minute.
Tarek made another vital mistake as his attempted clearance went directly to an unmarked Ibrahimović and Edwards had no chance on the blast. PC was out of position, which allowed Ibrahimović to be so open in the penalty area. He completed his hat trick in the 71st minute and gave LA a 4-3 lead with less than 20 minutes to play.
The defense began to seem lost for Orlando as Ibrahimović forced Edwards into another good save. The Swedish striker stole the ball from Schuler and almost scored again but Tarek finally cleared the ball out of the defensive third.
El-Munir, who caused problems on the wing was subbed off for Stéfano Pinho in the 80th minute as the Lions looked for some offense to find an equalizer. Following the substitution, LA continued to press the tired and confused Orlando defense, but again the Lions managed to keep the game in reach with 10 minutes to play.
Pinho found himself in a wonderful spot in the 88th minute but sent his free header over the bar. Bingham then made an easy save on Josué Colmán in the 89th minute as the LA defense gave him way too much space.
In the 93rd minute, Kljestan sent a cross to the far post but Colmán could do nothing with it as he couldn’t place the ball into a dangerous area.
After four minutes of stoppage time, the final whistle blew on Orlando’s 12th loss in 13 MLS matches. LA turned around the possession in the second half, finishing with 55%, and out-shot the Lions, 23-19 (10-5 on target). LA had a slight advantage in passing accuracy (86%-83%).
Orlando is back in action next Saturday against the New England Revolution at Orlando City Stadium.