Well, that was certainly a soccer match. Orlando City (3-6-3, 12 points) lost its third consecutive game and is winless in its last four after a 2-1 loss to the Seattle Sounders (7-1-4, 25 points) at CenturyLink Field. With the loss, the Lions remain winless in five meetings (0-4-1) against the Sounders. The hosts improved to 6-0-2 at home this season.
Shockingly, I can’t say I was full of confidence when the Orlando City lineup came out an hour before kicking off against the Sounders. We all knew to expect some rotation because of the Lions having three matches in three different cities in an eight-day span. The keyword, however, is “some.” No one could have reasonably predicted an entirely different starting XI, including the MLS debut of Greg Ranjitsingh in goal.
Having said that, and considering that the Sounders put out a nearly full-strength lineup, things certainly should have been worse. Orlando City entered the match having conceded six goals in the first 15 minutes of games, the worst tally in Major League Soccer. On the flip side, Seattle led MLS with six goals scored in the opening 15 minutes.
As those initial 15 minutes passed, the Lions looked better than expected. The men in purple were maintaining around 40% possession, not terrible for a squad of bench players on the road against one of the league’s best teams. Sacha Kljestan took a slow-moving shot from distance in the ninth minute that went wide of the goal. Ranjitsingh came off his line decisively to grab a couple of crosses Seattle players put into the box. Then the 19th minute came, and it brought a Raul Ruidiaz goal for the Sounders with it.
Left back Brad Smith made a run into the box and was not shut down by Orlando City right back Kyle Smith. He then sent a nicely weighted cross rolling in front of the goal right to Ruidiaz’s foot. An unmarked Ruidiaz slotted it past Ranjitsingh and the Sounders went up 1-0.
In the 22nd minute, Uri Rosell took a shot from distance that, similarly to Kljestan’s earlier attempt, was wide and left of the goal. Rookie forward Santiago Patino made an excellent run down the left flank in the 24th, but was cleanly tackled by Seattle center back Roman Torres. Fellow rookie Benji Michel made a run down the right a few minutes later that resulted in a corner for the Lions. Midfielder Dillon Powers put a Carlos Rivas-style shot a mile into the stands after nothing was doing on the corner.
Surprisingly, the Sounders looked content with the one-goal lead for the last 20 minutes of the first half, though Orlando’s possession climbed closer to 50% as the half progressed. Rosell took another shot from 25 yards out in the 43rd minute, sending it over the crossbar. Seattle had one more chance to add a goal before the half when Brad Smith sent a cross right to the head of Jordan Morris. Morris tried to bounce it off the turf and ended up watching the ball skyrocket over the bar.
Seattle took its 1-0 lead to the locker room, leading in shots (7-4), shots on goal (2-0), passing accuracy (87%-83%), and possession (53.4%-46.6%).
Neither side made any changes at the half, and the Sounders came out pressing at the start of the second half, ready to maintain or build on the one-goal advantage. Young Designated Player Josué Colmán provided a chance for the Lions when he put in a good through ball to Danilo Acosta, who subsequently had his shot blocked. Morris went down with what appeared to be a hamstring injury, forcing Seattle Head Coach Brian Schmetzer to pull him out for Handwalla Bwana in the 53rd minute.
Sounders midfielder Cristian Roldan got past Orlando City center back Lamine Sane in the 56th minute to take a shot directly at Ranjitsingh. Ruidiaz couldn’t bring down an over-the top-pass from Bwana at minute 60, allowing Ranjitsingh the time to come out and make the save. Seattle right back Kelvin Leerdam decided to get in on the action in the 62nd minute, shooting from right outside the 18-yard box just over the bar.
Lions Head Coach James O’Connor had seen enough of Patino by the 63rd minute and subbed him out for Dom Dwyer. Harry Shipp took a shot that went right over the bar again in the 67th, then came off immediately after, when Schmetzer brought in Nouhou Tolo. Apparently, that change sparked something for the Sounders, as Bwana scored a minute later to make it 2-0 to Seattle. The play started from a turnover on a loose touch by Powers in the midfield and then Acosta lost Bwana in the box. The always astute Nicolas Lodeiro saw that, so he crossed a beautiful ball into the six-yard box that Bwana only had to redirect into the back of Ranjitsingh’s net.
A five-minute discussion and video review followed the goal to check for a handball on Lodeiro, but the goal was allowed. The goal was finally confirmed in the 73rd minute.
O’Connor subbed on Chris Mueller for Colmán during the video review delay. Mueller looked to make an impact off the ensuing kickoff. Bwana gave the ball away to Kljestan, not far from the top of Seattle’s 18. The midfielder then passed to Mueller just above the six-yard box, but he fluffed the shot, sending it high.
Mueller made up for it in the 75th. He made a run to the top of the 18 and took a low, driven shot past Stefan Frei and into the bottom right corner of Seattle’s goal to make it 2-1. The goal snapped a 327-minute scoring drought for Orlando City and it was the first goal scored by a Lion other than Nani in 534 minutes.
In the 84th minute, Ranjitsingh quickly came way off his line to clear a dangerous through ball. He did the same thing again four minutes later. The 85th minute saw O’Connor sub in Joao Moutinho for Acosta, followed by a Seattle sub of Alex Roldan for Smith a minute later.
It looked like the Sounders made it 3-1 in the third minute of stoppage time. Orlando City center back Shane O’Neill hit a header straight up into the air and then had a terrible moment that led to Ruidiaz scoring. Thankfully, the goal was instantly called back for an obvious handball on the Seattle striker. The Lions had a couple of other crosses find their way into Seattle’s box during the last five minutes of the long stoppage to no avail.
Seattle finished with a 14-10 advantage in shots (3-1 on target), and slightly more possession (50.7%-49.3%), with the teams each completing 84% of their passes.
Unfortunately, the 2-1 loss means Orlando City will return home on Sunday with no points from the two-game road trip. Hopefully, that will be all the motivation the team needs to take all three points in the team’s first ever meeting against FC Cincinnati. The match kicks off at 3 p.m.