Facundo Torres scored in the first half and Orlando City played well defensively to beat the New York Red Bulls, 1-0 on the road at Red Bull Arena. With the win, the Lions (9-10-6, 33 points) snapped a three-game losing streak and a five-match winless skid in MLS play. It was Orlando’s second straight win over the Red Bulls (10-8-7, 37 points) following last month’s U.S. Open Cup victory and only the team’s third win ever at Red Bull Arena (3-5-1),
“A tremendous victory for our team. A tremendous effort for the players,” Orlando City Head Coach Oscar Pareja said after the match. “A tremendous week of work that they have done as well, after a couple weeks where we could say that we deserved much more but the game did not reward them. They kept pushing, and today, in a difficult place against a difficult rival, they confirmed first that they are committed with this group. Second, that what happened in Open Cup was not just a one-day thing.”
Pareja doubled down on 10 of his 11 starters from the past three matches, with the only change being Kyle Smith going into the lineup at right back for Ruan. As a result, Pedro Gallese took his place in between the sticks behind a back line of Joao Moutinho, Robin Jansson, Antonio Carlos, and Smith. Cesar Araujo and Mauricio Pereyra played in central midfield behind an attacking line of Torres, Alexandre Pato, and Junior Urso, with Benji Michel up top.
The first shot of the match fell to New York in the third minute. A long throw from John Tolkin was headed out of the area by Carlos and came straight to Lewis Morgan, who fired immediately but sent his shot over the bar. A few minutes later, Kyle Duncan sent a shot well over off a free kick played short to the top of the box.
Orlando opened the scoring in transition in the 17th minute. Gallese sent a ball forward from the box toward Pato, who faked out a Red Bulls player and then chested it down, sending it to Urso up the middle. Urso cut to his left and sent a pass wide to Torres while Michel dragged a defender toward the middle. Torres fired from a tight angle and goalkeeper Carlos Coronel got a piece of it with his left foot, but it found the post and bounced into the back of the net to make it 1-0 .
It was Torres’ fifth goal of the MLS season and eighth in all matches (five MLS, two U.S. Open Cup, and one in the Arsenal friendly).
New York got forward more in transition late in the half as Orlando City held more of the ball. A turnover by Pato led to a counterattack that ended in a ball skipping through the six in the 33rd minute. Jansson blocked a Patryk Klimala cross out for a corner two minutes later.
Urso got taken off the ball by Tolkin moments later and Smith fouled him to set up a dangerous free kick. Tolkin sent the set piece short to Morgan, but Pereyra did well to close and block the shot in the 37th minute. A minute later, Morgan sent a shot just inches over the bar from the left after Orlando City failed to adequately defend the box, allowing the ball to ping around from New York’s right to left.
The Lions had an excellent chance to make it 2-0 in the 41st minute as Torres got to the end line and cut a good pass back for Pato, who attempted to take his shot right away. Pato was hit from behind while he was in the process of shooting by Dru Yearwood, who got a significant chunk of the forward’s plant leg cutting across from behind. Referee Rubiel Vazquez and video assistant referee Joe Dickerson judged it to be a fair challenge, but Pato had to be stretchered off in a lot of pain.
Pareja said the play was a foul in the box in his eyes.
“We could have gone to two-zero with the PK they didn’t call against Pato that hurt him also. I don’t know why they didn’t see that,” Pareja said. “Everybody tries to do their job well. I think referees try very hard to do it well and sometimes it works, sometimes not. The play was a foul because it was the player who hurt (Pato) and I thought it was surely when he tackled his knee.”
Pato left the stadium on crutches and Pareja said they’ll have to wait for a medical evaluation to determine his condition.
Pareja sent Jake Mulraney on to see out the first half, with the delay for the injury costing the Lions a substitution window as Orlando couldn’t afford to risk playing four minutes while a man down at the end of the half.
The Lions escaped a late scare on a pair of turnovers by Smith in his own defensive third and Carlos did well to clear a corner kick, allowing Orlando to get into the locker room with a 1-0 lead.
Orlando held more possession (58.5%-41.5%) despite starting the game by absorbing pressure, and passed more accurately (79.8%-70%). New York had more shots (5-2), although Orlando got one on target to none for the hosts, and more corners (3-1) than the Lions.
Without Pato, Pereyra moved back into the No. 10 role and Urso left the wing, dropping back deeper to his No. 8 spot. Orlando wasn’t able to create much of anything after halftime and didn’t even register a shot in the second 45 minutes.
Smith conceded a dangerous free kick early in the second half after Tolkin beat him. Morgan’s set piece was cleared to Frankie Amaya, who sent a shot right at Gallese in the 48th minute. Three minutes later, Urso coughed up the ball in his own half and Klimala blasted a shot well wide.
Mulraney crossed in from the left on one of Orlando’s rare forays into the final third in the 55th minute but hit his pass deep into the six, where it was easily caught by Coronel. After a poor shot from distance by Amaya, Moutinho got forward and sent the ball into the area but nobody made a near-post run and Coronel again collected.
Luquinhas fired over the bar in the 66th minute off a long throw-in. He was freed up for the shot when Carlos mistimed his jump and missed his attempt to clear with a header. Araujo did well to read a cutback pass in the 77th minute and chest it away for the clearance but the Red Bulls kept coming.
Cameron Harper sent a shot/cross just over Gallese’s bar in the 83rd minute. Moments later, Orlando did nothing with a corner kick and Luquinhas got down the right side of the box in transition, sending a shot into the outside netting from a severe angle.
Omir Fernandez and Tom Barlow came nowhere near hitting the net as time wound down, but substitute Tesho Akindele conceded an unnecessary free kick just outside the box to Gallese’s right late in stoppage time. Morgan sent the set piece on target, but Moutinho got his head on it just in front of the line and it was cleared by midfielder Wilder Cartagena, who subbed on late to make his Orlando City debut.
That was the last decent look for either side and even though Vazquez allowed yet another attack nearly a minute after his already generous five minutes of stoppage time, the final whistle eventually blew on a much-needed Orlando victory.
Orlando finished the match with more possession (55.1%-44.9%) and passing accuracy (73.4%-69.3%), with each team winning four corner kicks. New York badly out-shot Orlando (15-2), with each getting one on target, but the Lions prevented the Red Bulls from getting into good scoring positions throughout the match and the hosts were forced to take most of their shots either from outside the area or from wide areas.
“Sometimes the game’s like that,” Mulraney said about the lack of chances created in the second half. “Sometimes you score five goals like you did last time. Sometimes you just have to grind out the three points and we did that tonight.”
The Lions will be back on the road next Sunday night when they visit Charlotte for the first time. They’ll have to play without Moutinho, who picked up a yellow card in the match and will be suspended for caution accumulation.