Orlando City will be happy to have seen the last of the New York Red Bulls this regular season. The Lions (6-2-3, 21 points) were sloppy and wasteful in a 2-1 loss to New York (5-5-1, 16 points) at Exploria Stadium, getting swept in the two-game season series by identical scorelines.
The Lions could have climbed to the top of the Eastern Conference with a win after New England dropped points, but the team conceded a late goal and missed a first-half Mauricio Pereyra penalty. Chris Mueller’s second-half goal tied the match after an early Cristian Casseres Jr. goal put the visitors on top, but Fabio Gomes Netto’s winner late sent the wet crowd of 19,009 home unhappy.
“Obviously sad with the result but with our heads very high with the effort of the players,” Orlando City Head Coach Oscar Pareja said after the match. “But we accept it. I think we need to move forward. It’s a quick turnaround with a game in the middle of the week.”
It was New York’s first road win of the season.
Pareja started Brandon Austin in goal behind a back line of Kyle Smith, Robin Jansson, Antonio Carlos, and Michael Halliday. Junior Urso and Andres Perea started in central midfield with Pereyra and Mueller feeding the attack to Nani and Daryl Dike up top.
The Red Bulls took advantage of an early mistake by Orlando by doing what they do — scoring a transition goal off a defensive end turnover. The ball cycled to Casseres Jr. on the right and the defense overplayed him to the outside, so he cut back inside and curled a ball into the far side of the net to make it 1-0 in the sixth minute.
Carlos went down in the 10th minute while Pereyra was winning a free kick near the left corner of the box. He signaled for a substitute but Rodrigo Schlegel wasn’t ready yet so he stayed on for the set piece. Carlos scored on the set piece but was called for a foul. He went down after the call and was subbed off officially in the 14th minute.
The Lions started getting more of the ball and creating some opportunities but couldn’t quite cash in. Mueller smashed a shot in the 16th minute that was heading in but Carlos Coronel made a good diving save to keep Orlando scoreless. Two minutes later, Halliday fired just wide off a corner kick. Pereyra fired on target in the 26th minute but it was no trouble for Coronel. Seconds later, Mueller fired a shot just over the bar.
The best chance to tie the match in the first half came late in the half when Pereyra drew a foul in the box for an Orlando penalty. The Uruguayan took the penalty himself but Coronel guessed correctly to his left and Pereyra’s shot was at an easy height for the goalkeeper to make the stop.
The Lions got one more good look in stoppage time, with Dike heading over the bar on a good cross into the area. Despite getting some good looks, the Lions went to the break trailing.
The Red Bulls out-shot Orlando 7-6 in the first half, although the Lions had more on goal (3-2). Orlando held more possession (58.6%-41.4%), had more corners (3-1) and passed more accurately, but the passing wasn’t terribly accurate despite the Lions’ 78.2%-73.3% advantage, especially in the final third.
Orlando’s second half didn’t start much better than the first, as the Red Bulls had a lot of possession in the attacking third and the Lions struggled to accurately play the ball out of their own half. A giveaway by Perea in the 50th minute could have been fatal but the shot went over the bar.
The first good look of the second half for Orlando came in the 53rd minute when Urso slipped Dike in behind the defense. Dike tried to slip it under Coronel, who came off his line and made the save and it just didn’t look like the Lions’ night at that point.
It was a New York mistake that let Orlando back in the game. Defender Sean Nealis decided to try to dribble the ball past Dike, but the Orlando forward had no trouble dispossessing him and poking the ball to an onrushing Pereyra. The Uruguayan found Mueller on his left and Cash sent a perfect shot under the bar to tie the game at 1-1 in the 59th minute.
After the Orlando goal the game settled into a bit of a stalemate for about the next 10 minutes. New York looked the likelier side to score the second goal as the Lions continued to make silly mistakes in possession, forcing passes and trying to split double (and sometimes triple) teams against the Red Bulls’ press.
Patryk Klimala fired just inches wide in transition in the 72nd minute.
Orlando’s best chance to take the lead came in the 79th minute when Nani got the ball on the left and fired a shot on target. The captain’s chance was too close to Coronel, who made the save and then started the play the other way for the winning goal.
The Lions’ two center backs closed together to stop Klimala, but in doing so, Schlegel left Fabio to Halliday while helping Jansson, who appeared to be in good position. Klimala was was able to get a pass through to Fabio, who held off Halliday and beat Austin to make it 2-1.
“I think it was a counter for them, it was a quick transition,” Schlegel said. “And as they were bringing the ball up, they sort of came into the middle and (were) trying to play into the middle, so I stepped up to try and cover, and they were able to get it behind me and, frankly, their number nine just finished really well.”
“On the last goal I would say that it’s a lack of coordination when we have to step and cover,” Pareja said. “They don’t go around much, but through the middle they put a lot of numbers, so as you have to be concentrated on those small passes and short diagonals. And that’s why they found that goal. They made a good movement there where we were off, and in no time they scored that second goal.”
Orlando wasn’t threatening much in the final 10 minutes due to careless passes and poor decision-making. Dike ignored a run by substitute Silvester van der Water on one attack opportunity and Nani ignored an outlet pass to Benji Michel in his own half in stoppage time and lost the ball when three Red Bulls converged on him. Uri Rosell got a last gasp shot attempt off deep in stoppage time but missed the net.
New York out-shot Orlando 18-13, but the Lions got more on target (6-4). Corners were even at four apiece, with Orlando holding an advantage in possession (55.2%-44.8%) and the Red Bulls edging the Lions in passing accuracy (75.4%-76.1%).
“Obviously disappointed,” Austin said after the loss. “We wanted to keep that winning streak going. Tough game. I think there were chances where we definitely had opportunities to get more out of the game. Credit to New York, they came up with a game plan and they executed it quite well.”
The Lions will try to bounce back Wednesday night on the road at the Chicago Fire.