A hell of an effort went to waste by Orlando City at Audi Field in a 3-2 loss to D.C. United. Down a man for more than 40 minutes, the Lions saw Luciano Acosta complete a controversial hat trick at the death, providing D.C.’s game-winner in the 96th minute.
Orlando City (7-15-2, 23 points) had Cristian Higuita sent off after video review in the 55th minute, Acosta’s second goal was initially called offside and then awarded after another video review on a close play, and a final video review of Acosta, who appeared to be offside when Wayne Rooney delivered a cross from midfield, was not overturned, as the calls all went the way of United (5-9-6, 21 points) whether they were clear and obvious errors or not.
The really frustrating part is that the winning goal for D.C. came seconds after an opportunity for Orlando to steal an improbable win. United goalkeeper David Ousted came up for a corner kick with about a minute to play. The Lions cleared the ball way out and Will Johnson busted his lungs to try to reach the ball just ahead of Rooney. Rather than try a low-percentage left-footed effort from midfield, he tried to spray a pass across the field for Stefano Pinho, who had a much more open look, but Rooney blocked the pass, got up first, and made the game winning assist.
It was maybe the toughest of all the 2018 losses to swallow, but it was yet another loss in a growing season of them. Orlando City lost its ninth consecutive road match in league play and the current winless streak is five games (0-4-1).
James O’Connor had no Sacha Kljestan (ankle) or Yoshimar Yotún (suspension) available, so he decided to free all of his defensive midfielders with this formation:
An often dull and plodding first half was just what Orlando City was going for, as the majority of play took place between the two penalty areas. Orlando dropped into a five-man back line on defense and took on a bunker mentality. Moving forward, the attack, such as it was, looked like a 4-3-2-1 or a 4-2-3-1, depending on how many Lions got forward. But in that final third, things often broke down, as they often do. The passing quality of Kljestan and Yotún was definitely missed, and, as you’d expect from a plethora of defensive midfielders, very few runs were made into the area.
It was a back-and-forth opening period. The Lions got the first look at goal in the game’s opening minute, with Higuita smashing a shot that stung Ousted’s palms.
D.C. countered six minutes in with a shot over the bar by Yamil Asad. Tony Rocha tried to go straight at goal on a set piece but his shot wasn’t close in the eighth minute and Zoltan Stieber fired well wide for D.C. in the 11th minute.
Stieber again missed the target in the 22nd minute off a Higuita turnover in the defensive half. After a few crosses from Chris Mueller were either deflected away or were off target, Mueller had a go himself in the 28th minute, and his blast forced a good save from Ousted at the near post.
The hosts thought they went ahead in the 44th minute on a Rooney header but the pass to Rooney came from an offside Asad. The flag came up but the referee went over himself to check the replay and correctly ruled no goal.
That was only momentary, however. With just seconds remaining in the three minutes of first-half stoppage time, Mohamed El-Munir got cute near the sideline rather than blast the ball down the field. It was costly. On the throw-in, the ball found Acosta, who worked a give-and-go with Rooney, continuing his run into the box and beating Amro Tarek and El-Munir. Rooney’s return pass found him but he still had a lot to do from a tough angle. Joe Bendik left Acosta too much room at the near post and the United midfielder blasted the first of his three goals inside that post to put D.C. ahead 1-0 at the death of the first half.
Shots in the first half were even at 6-6, with Orlando holding a 3-1 advantage in shots on frame. United held a slight possession advantage, with 51%, and Orlando connected on 88% of its passes to D.C.’s 85%.
Stieber nearly doubled the lead in the 47th minute but his left-footed effort found the post instead of the net.
The Lions equalized in the 50th minute out of nowhere. Uri Rosell made a good play to push the ball into a wide area, then ran it down and tried to cross for Dom Dwyer. Ousted stuck out a leg to block the cross and it deflected into his own net to make it 1-1.
The game changed in the 54th minute, when Orlando City came forward and Higuita crossed the ball over everyone and out of play. Behind the play, Asad was on the ground and after referee José Carlos Rivero spoke with Video Assistant Referee Jorge Gonzalez, he went over to take a look at the replay. He decided that Higuita intentionally swung an elbow at Asad and sent the Colombian off. Whether Higuita was trying to elbow Asad or trying to get inside of him into the counter doesn’t matter now — he’ll miss the Atlanta United match along with Yotún.
Oniel Fisher fired over the bar off a corner kick in the 61st minute as D.C. began to dominate possession with the manpower advantage. Three minutes later, the ball was served to the back post where Acosta scored his second goal. Only he didn’t. The flag was up for offside and no goal was given. Again Rivero spoke with Gonzalez and went to look at the video. He awarded the goal on what looked to be a very close play. Personally, I think it was onside, but it doesn’t matter what I think. What matters is whether a clear and obvious error was made. Rivero decided it was, and United led, 2-1.
It didn’t seem Orlando had a chance at that point but the Lions kept fighting (and mostly defending). City struck back in the 71st minute off a brilliant run by Dwyer. Rosell found him and the striker scooped a shot over Ousted and into the net for his 11th of the year to make it 2-2. It was the kind of pass we’ve been expecting from Rosell when he was signed in the off-season and he delivered perfectly. Everything looked good at full speed and on replay but Rivero took a look at the replay anyway and quickly decided the goal was good.
Orlando was a bit energized by the goal and made a few efforts to try to take the lead. Substitute PC had his shot blocked just wide in the 77th minute. Then Scott Sutter fired off a short corner a minute later and his effort was also just outside the post.
After that flurry, D.C. brought on Darren Mattocks and Ulises Segura, changed shape, and went for the win. The moves put Orlando on the back foot and Bendik was forced into big saves in the 83rd and 85th minutes. Dwyer got forward on the counter and looked to steal the three points in the 86th minute but Kofi Opare blocked his shot.
Bendik made another big save off a Russell Canouse header in the 93rd minute as the Lions tried to hold onto a big road point. Defending heroically, Orlando City was about a minute from getting that point when D.C. won a corner in the 95th minute. Despite having a good minute remaining, United brought Ousted up and went all out for the win. It should have backfired.
The ball was cleared out to the left, where Johnson ran it down just ahead of Rooney. He took a touch to cross midfield and saw Pinho across the field. With Rooney closing him down, Johnson tried to knock it across the field to a wide-open teammate but the former Manchester United and England star blocked the attempt, then got up and carried the ball back into Orlando territory. He looked up and sent a back-post cross to Acosta. Mueller tracked the ball in the air but didn’t sufficiently close down Acosta, who nodded it back across and into the goal. Rivero again went to the review but this time he decided he did not make a clear and obvious error, although Acosta did look a step offside this time.
It was just a brutal and awful finish to a game that saw a tremendous road effort from the Lions, missing several key players. The silly mistake by El-Munir just before halftime, the failure to get a shot off on the open net from distance, and several officiating decisions helped send Orlando City to yet another defeat.
Shots ended up 19-11 to D.C. (6-4 on goal) and United won the possession battle, with 60%, mostly due to being up a man for about 42 minutes. D.C. was more accurate in passing, 88%-83%.
After getting next weekend off, Orlando City will look to regroup at home against Atlanta United on Friday, Aug. 24. But seriously, how does a team regroup from that?
Lion Links: 3/4/24
Lions lose big, Tigres is up next, the USWNT wins, USMNT news, and more.
Merry Monday morning, Mane Landers. No, I’m not feeling very merry either, but it’s a tradition at this point. The good news is that we don’t have to wait long for Orlando City to get a chance to make us forget about Saturday. In an effort to help with that, let’s get to the links.
Massacre in Miami
If you’re like me, you turned off Saturday’s Orlando City match at some point. It was easily the worst showing by an Oscar Pareja-coached Orlando City team. Typically, these Lions are mentality monsters and do not give up. I’m not saying that any of the coaches or players will say they did, but the results speak for themselves. I think it best to just put it behind us and move on to the Tigres match, but if you want to revisit it — or if you were fortunate enough not to watch but still want the details — you can read our match recap.
Up Next: Tigres
The early part of the season doesn’t get any easier for Orlando City as the Lions are set to face Liga MX giant Tigres UANL in a Round-of-16 match in Concacaf Champions Cup. Our own Nic Josey touched on the upcoming match. Unlike the previous matches against Cavalry FC, the Lions will play the first leg at home. The match is tomorrow night at 9 p.m. at Inter&Co Stadium. Tigres is coming off a 2-1 loss to Toluca in Liga MX competition. Hopefully, the Lions can shake off the Miami result and take it to Tigres.
It couldn’t happen before the Orlando City match, but Inter Miami is reportedly trading DeAndre Yedlin to FC Cincinnati. Good timing, guys.
In happier news, Malik Tillman scored a very nice goal for PSV against Feyenoord in the 2-2 draw. Tillman made a nifty move through the defender and then slotted it inside the left post.
Tillman isn’t alone in scoring for the Eredivisie club, as both Ricardo Pepi and Sergino Dest have also scored goals this season. In all, the three have 24 goal contributions so far. That ties Mexico for the most by players from another country.
Brentford will be looking to replace departing striker Ivan Toney, and Norwich City striker Josh Sargent is a contender to make the move. Sargent has 11 goals for Norwich so far this season. Christian Pulisic received online death threats after he goaded two Lazio players into receiving red cards in AC Milan’s 1-0 win over the Serie A opponent.
USWNT Rebounds, Blanks Colombia 3-0
The USWNT bounced back from a 2-0 loss to Mexico in the group stage to defeat Colombia 3-0 in a quarterfinal match in the Concacaf W Gold Cup. The U.S. started early with a converted penalty kick by Lindsey Horan. Former Orlando Pride player Alex Morgan drew the foul in the box for the USWNT. Jenna Nighswonger and Jaedyn Shaw added two more goals in the first half. There were no second-half goals, nor were any needed. The U.S. will face Canada in the semifinals on Wednesday.
- Xabi Alonso’s Bayern Leverkusen moved 10 points clear atop the Bundesliga after their 2-0 win over Cologne. It’s a little bit funny that Harry Kane made the move to Bayern Munich and the club might not win a trophy because of Leverkusen’s amazing season.
- NWSL Commissioner Jessica Berman spoke about the growth of women’s soccer in the U.S. amid the joint bid with Mexico for the 2027 Women’s World Cup.
- In a result that everyone hated other than Manchester City fans, Manchester United wasn’t able to help out the rest of the world, falling 3-1 to City on Sunday.
- Catarina Macario scored a goal in her first match back from injury in Chelsea’s 4-0 win over Leicester City.
- The match between Real Madrid and Valencia ended in a 2-2 draw. It also ended on a controversial call when the referee blew the whistle just as Jude Bellingham was scoring what would have been the winning goal.
That will do it for today. Check back for our coverage of the upcoming Tigres and Minnesota United matches later this week. Vamos Orlando!
Orlando City vs. Inter Miami: Five Takeaways
What did we learn from a thoroughly unenjoyable outing in South Florida?
Well. Orlando City’s second league game of the season was a thoroughly unenjoyable one, as the Lions got played clean out of South Florida by Inter Miami. As much as I hate to do it, we need to talk about this one, so what follows are my five thoughts from a horrific showing in SoFlo.
Early Mistakes Seal Orlando’s Fate
The Lions barely had a chance to get their feet underneath them before Pedro Gallese was picking the ball out of his net. Cesar Araujo received the ball in Orlando’s defensive third and immediately tried to play a blind pass backwards, but it went straight to a Miami player. Once the ball made its way from Lionel Messi to Julian Gressel to Luis Suarez, the latter made no mistake and scored to put OCSC into an early hole from which it would never recover.
Tough Night for Two Lions
Speaking of mistakes, that wasn’t the only one that Araujo made during this game. Miami’s second goal came as a result of Rodridgo Schlegel getting pulled out of position and Araujo failing to track the run of Suarez, who found it all too easy to fire past Gallese and double the deficit for Orlando. Schlegel was also culpable for the third goal, as he was too slow to step up with the rest of the back line, and prevented the tally from being called back for offside as a result. Almost no player in purple had a good game, but it was a particularly rough night for two guys who are normally so good for OCSC.
The Lions didn’t look bad going forward for a lot of this one. They managed to get the ball into some good areas, but just had trouble getting the final ball right that would lead to a chance. The introduction of Luis Muriel and Nico Lodeiro after halftime helped provide a spark early in the second half, but Orlando ultimately couldn’t find a way through and the score only got more and more lopsided as a result. When OCSC finally did fashion a clear-cut chance for Ramiro Enrique, the forward didn’t place his shot far enough in the corner and Drake Callender made a good save as a result.
Lack of Effort Worsens Scoreline
Somewhere around the 53rd minute, things really started to devolve for the Lions. Multiple turnovers in the team’s own half led to chance after chance for the home team, and Miami eventually made Orlando pay. The fifth goal will make for extremely unpleasant viewing, as Dagur Dan Thorhallsson decided to not close down Suarez on the wing, giving him way too much time to put the ball on a plate for Messi to head home, while the rest of the team took their time jogging back as Miami broke forward in transition. Orlando kept coming forward doggedly, but the lack of effort on display at times at the back was shocking and uncharacteristic to see.
I have no idea what happened in this match. As soon as the first goal went in, almost the entire team looked slow, out-of-sorts, and on its heels when Miami had the ball. That sort of thing is unacceptable in any game, but especially in this particular fixture. Yes, the match against Tigres is looming large on Tuesday, but the lineup Oscar Pareja put out was not one that suggested the Lions were punting on this game to throw everything they had at Tigres. Instead, an almost first-choice XI turned in perhaps the worst performance we’ve ever seen from an Orlando team coached by Oscar Pareja. It’s possible that we’ll look back on this game as the moment that this team came together and kicked onto bigger things, but in order for that to happen the Lions need to take a good, hard, brutally honest look in the mirror.
I’m sorry to say that’s the worst Orlando City performance I’ve seen in a very long time. Thankfully, the season is a long one and the Lions have plenty of time to right the ship and get back to playing in the manner we’re used to seeing. I think we’ll learn a lot about what we should expect from this team on Tuesday against Tigres. OCSC has a chance to respond the right way and make a statement, and you can bet I’ll be looking for one. Until then, vamos Orlando.
Strong Early Season Competition an Opportunity for Growth
Schedule congestion and tough opponents present opportunities for growth.
It is hard to imagine a more intense start to the season than the Lions have faced competing in both the regular season and the Concacaf Champions Cup at the same time, yet that is exactly the task that the boys in purple find themselves dealing with only days into the season. With both away and home matches already in the books, let’s examine how strong early season competition can be a key factor in the growth of the squad as the season progresses.
For comparison we can look back to one year ago, as thanks to winning the U.S. Open Cup, the Lions found themselves in the Concacaf Champions League for the first time in club history. During their short foray in the 2023 version of the competition, they were matched up against Mexican powerhouse Tigres UANL in a two-leg competition. Orlando did something that many MLS sides can not boast by coming out of the first leg in Mexico without conceding a goal and only failed to advance because of the competition’s away goals rule.
At the time, and even looking back through rose-colored glasses, those two performances demonstrated the quality that Orlando City was ultimately capable of, and it was a form which Orlando showcased in the later stretches of the 2023 season.
This year, once again Orlando is faced with stiff competition throughout its early season matches, which present a grand opportunity to build team chemistry and fortitude that will only truly manifest itself as the season progresses. While Cavalry FC may have not presented much a challenge on the pitch, the logistics of starting a season off thousands of miles away in the Pacific Northwest were challenges that the Lions had to face before a 48-hour turnaround to open the regular season against a CF Montreal side which some are projecting to be a surprise force in the Eastern Conference. Sandwich in the close-out leg against Cavalry in the CCC at home some 72 hours later, and you once again have a recipe for tired legs but early season growth through adversity.
Up next was Saturday’s forgettable trip to square off against archrival Inter Miami. A year ago, Orlando City was one of the only MLS sides to truly frustrate one of the world’s best and unfortunately for players, coaches and fans alike, the first meeting between the rival sides in 2024 ended with a landslide victory for Messi and friends. Still, despite the frustrating loss, there are lessons to be learned and mistakes to correct which can only help the squad grow as the season progresses.
As if all of the schedule congestion was not enough, Orlando learned that its prize for dispatching Cavalry in the CCC was a rematch against Tigres, once again in a two-match, survive-and-advance format. The first game will be played two and a half days after having been beaten down by Miami and the second will come a week later, with yet another MLS regular-season match crammed in between.
All in all, once Orlando City is done facing off against Tigres, the team will have traveled roughly 9,700 miles for matches in the first 21 days of the season and played a match roughly every 60 hours. These matches and the quality of the opponents present Orlando and its players with numerous chances for individual and squad growth, and the experience, especially for still a somewhat young team, is something OCSC can draw upon once the late season and playoff push portion of the calendar arrive. I truly believe this early in the season the importance of the results of the matches come secondary to the opportunities for growth when faced with so many challenges so quickly.
Let us know in the comments below if you think that the early season match ups against quality opponents will ultimately hurt or benefit Orlando City and, as always, vamos Orlando!
Lion Links: 3/4/24
Orlando City vs. Inter Miami: Five Takeaways
Strong Early Season Competition an Opportunity for Growth
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