There are no two ways about it, Orlando City’s 3-1 loss to the New England Revolution was horribly painful. The Eastern Conference semifinal match-up was the biggest fixture in the Lions’ history and the elimination coming from a side that ranked four spots lower than Orlando in the regular season made the result all the more painful.
The Revolution used their experience in the playoffs well. In my opinion, that is what made the difference, along with the Lions struggling to put shots on target and complete crosses. Oscar Pareja’s men never stopped trying and fought to the end, even a man down. As long as that fighting spirit remains, the future of the side could be a bright one. Losing is unfortunately part of most long-term processes.
Falling short in such a historical match is excruciating and any sadness or even anger among players and supporters is understandable. That said, pain is a pivotal part of progress and failure is necessary in order to succeed. The old adage that says a loss is a lesson learned is a factual one that few would like to hear at this time, but it’s the truth. The players have now seen firsthand what happens when more experienced sides come to town for such significant bouts. The Revs may have never won the MLS Cup — though manager Bruce Arena has — but they have been to five MLS Cup finals and are familiar with the pressures of the postseason.
Orlando City struggled massively in making anything of the crucial moments, while the Revs held their composure extremely well. Only three of Orlando’s 11 shots were on target, which was nowhere near as potent as its opponent’s shot rate. The opposition had six of nine shots on target, nearly 40% more efficient than Orlando.
The Lions statistically dominated in terms of passes completed and shots taken, but the final ball was off. The effort was there, but the intricacy required to steer shots on target, however, was not. And while there is no fun way to lose, at least the side went down putting up an indefatigable fight. The opposition’s experience just seemed to outweigh said tenacity. The work ethic and unpredictability the Lions possess could not get the job done yesterday and while it may not seem like it now, that is okay. There are worse ways to suffer such a result. Many sides go down and lose miserably in an apathetic fashion, Orlando City did not and seems like it never will.
Additionally, while I certainly do not intend to praise the opposition too much, it is fair to say the Revs have also been quite incredible this postseason. Arena’s men have now eliminated the top seed in the East and Orlando City, which finished fourth in the conference standings. The tables have turned, it feels weird to be overtaken by the underdog.
All in all, the loss was an agonizing one — it was without a doubt the most notable in the Lions’ history. But while the soreness is undeniable, the lesson had to be learned at some point for the franchise.
If Pareja and company can use the gut-wrenching result as a lesson going into the future, then this glum moment could serve as a good thing in the long run. It can be hard to stay positive after such a horrible night, but we can have a good deal of confidence going into the hopeful hereafter.