A late corner kick goal spoiled Orlando City’s trip west, allowing the Colorado Rapids to nip the Lions 2-1 at the death at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. The Lions (0-1-1, 1 point) were moments from a solid road point but fell to the Rapids (2-0-0, 6 points) for the first time in the series history. Orlando drops to 4-1-1 in the all-time series and 1-1-1 in Colorado.
Younes Namli and Drew Moor scored second-half goals for Colorado, with the latter coming in the 90th minute — just eight minutes after substitute Chris Mueller had knotted the game. Orlando remains winless under Oscar Pareja, but started the game without any of its three Designated Players.
Just a week after getting shut out at home, the Lions took the pitch with eight defensive-minded players, as Oscar Pareja deployed a back line of Rodrigo Schlegel, Robin Jansson, and Antonio Carlos. Kyle Smith and Joao Moutinho book-ended a midfield trio of Sebas Mendez, Junior Urso, and Andres Perea. Tesho Akindele and Benji Michel started up top and Pedro Gallese was in goal. This operated as a 3-5-2. Ruan was held out of the starting lineup after dealing with an illness and Mauricio Pereyra was deemed not 90-minute fit with a minor quad knock.
The teams spent the early going feeling each other out a bit, but creating very little. Orlando pressed a bit early and that kept the Rapids from settling into the match until about 20 or so minutes in.
The first big opportunity for the Lions came in the 19th minute when a cross from Moutinho skipped through the area and Smith smashed a shot off the bounce that forced a good save from Clint Irwin.
Seven minutes later, Mendez freed himself up to send a rocket shot from outside the area but it fizzed about a foot wide of the right post.
Colorado came back with its first great look in the 29th minute as Keegan Rosenberry had time and space outside the area and sent a cannon shot on goal that Gallese parried away. In the 35th minute, Gallese made a strong save to deny Andre Shinyashiki, who shook Smith and fired a rocket. Sam Vines sent the rebound over the bar.
A minute later, Moutinho got the ball on the left and sent a curling shot with his weaker right foot just inches wide of the far post.
Perea and Urso sent shots from distance straight at Irwin’s chest and the half came to an end with no goals on the board.
The Rapids had an advantage in shots (9-7), with each team getting three on target. Colorado held 56% of the first-half possession and an edge in passing accuracy (88%-81%).
The ‘Pids started firing the ball in behind the wingbacks to start the second half and it nearly paid off in the 51st minute, as Smith got caught forward and Shinyashiki fired just wide.
Orlando got a free kick in the 55th minute as Moor took down Akindele just outside the area. It perhaps should have been Moor’s second yellow and had Tesho taken a better first touch on Moutinho’s long ball, it might have drawn a straight red. Mendez sent the free kick off the head of Lalas Abubakar and out for a corner.
Younes Namli broke the deadlock in the 64th minute, cutting around Perea and then firing just inside the right post to make it 1-0. It ended Orlando’s streak of 154 minutes without conceding. It appeared Urso and Mendez could have challenged the Colorado DP, but they seemed to lack the energy — perhaps a product of running at altitude for over an hour — and Namli fired before the center backs could converge.
Mueller equalized in the 82nd minute to finish a great team play by Orlando City. Urso found Perea on the right side and he slipped a ball in to Mueller, who made a great run off the center back’s shoulder. Cash turned and fired a shot through Irwin and into the net to make it 1-1.
Orlando seemed more likely to get a second goal than Colorado until the waning moments, when Mendez conceded a corner. Schlegel was fighting through a cramp and had moved forward due to his more limited mobility, leaving the Lions having to cover with a midfielder. Colorado made a substitution prior to the corner and Orlando looked confused on the delivery, with Carlos late to identify Moor as his man and getting beat to the jump. That left Moor with a free header to score the winner.
Orlando wasn’t able to muster much in the six minutes of stoppage time aside from one free kick that was wasted when second-half sub Pereyra pulled up and forced the team to reset. Schlegel looped back and ended up bundling over his man, drawing the whistle and a free kick for the Rapids, ending the final threat.
The Lions finished with a 14-12 advantage in shots, with each team getting five on target. Colorado held 54.8% of the possession and an 86%-80% edge in passing accuracy.
Overall, Pareja’s game plan was mostly solid, as Kei Kamara was held to just one fairly weak shot attempt. Usually one to have Orlando’s number, the striker was held in check on this night. Still, the Lions lacked much bite with their own forwards as well, as the defensive-minded lineup behind Akindele and Michel didn’t provide them many opportunities. Mueller’s movement and energy against tired legs late in the game gave Orlando its only threatening movement from the forwards all night.
The Lions will look to get into the win column next Saturday when the Chicago Fire visit Exploria Stadium at 7:30 p.m.