Orlando City

Orlando City vs. CF Montreal: Final Score 2-0 as Lions Suffer First Road Loss

Once again the Lions were simply not sharp enough with the final details as they suffered their first road defeat of the season.



Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

If Orlando City went to Montreal looking for revenge for last year’s road playoff loss, you’d never know it. The Lions (4-4-2, 14 points) were lethargic and sloppy as they suffered their first road loss, another 2-0 defeat to CF Montreal (4-6-0, 12 points) at Stade Saputo.

The hosts weren’t particularly good for much of the night either, but did enough in the attack to get on the board and got away with their few defensive mistakes as the Lions helped them by missing the target repeatedly on their best scoring chances. A Robin Jansson own goal and Romell Quioto’s strike moments later lifted Montreal to its third consecutive 2-0 victory.

“A game with two very different phases from our performance,” Orlando City Head Coach Oscar Pareja said after the match. “First half, I thought we dominated the game. I thought we were very clear with our actions that the boys put on the pitch. We had enough actions to unlevel the score and surely (should) just be leading it. But we came out of the half with a zero-zero that was dangerous. The reaction from Montreal in the second half made a difference.”

Pareja’s starting lineup was the same as last Saturday’s starting XI at home against the LA Galaxy, with Pedro Gallese in goal behind a back line of Kyle Smith, Jansson, Antonio Carlos, and Michael Halliday. Cesar Araujo and Wilder Cartagena held down the central midfield behind an attacking line of Ivan Angulo, Facundo Torres, and Martin Ojeda, with Ercan Kara up top.

The first half began a bit lively but then slowed to kind of a crawl over the final 15 minutes. The Lions were often the better side in the opening 30 minutes but Montreal found some control as the pace slowed. Orlando City failed to take the lead in the first half by missing the target on decent looks at goal and because Gallese made one good save on Montreal’s best chance.

Angulo got a good look early in the game, taking the ball in the left corner of the box and cutting across to his right, unleashing a shot near the arch. He hit his effort wide of the right post and that was the theme of the first half for the Lions.

Halliday won a foul on Ariel Lassiter in the 13th minute near the right corner. The set piece delivery found Kara in front, but it was dipping and the Austrian center forward had a defender in front of him. He still got his head to it but beat it into the ground and it bounced up easily for goalkeeper Jonathan Sirois.

One minute after that half chance, Ojeda could have put the Lions on top. Cartagena did well to turn Montreal over in its own half and Ojeda had space outside the area. He fired a rocket toward the right side of goal but it stayed wide.

In the 19th minute, Halliday sent a dangerous cross into the box but it was just a bit too far in front of Kara at the near post and the ball took a deflection before Torres arrived and whiffed on his shot attempt. Seconds later, it was Torres firing wide right, as the Lions just couldn’t dial in.

Montreal’s best look came just after that, as Halliday got a foot on Lassiter’s nutmeg attempt but the ball bounced favorable for the former Inter Miami man. he took a shot from outside the box that was labeled for just inside the left post but Gallese made a good sprawling save.

The hosts started to get into the match over the rest of the first half, moving forward up the wings and getting both Orlando City’s starting fullbacks booked. Chinonso Offor got a head to a corner kick in the 32nd minute but his shot was right at Gallese’s chest.

Kara sent a free kick over the wall in the 38th minute after Torres drew a foul in a dangerous spot, but his shot didn’t have much pace on it and asked no questions of Sirois, who made an easy catch.

That was about it for a plodding end to the first 45 minutes and the teams went to the break without any stoppage time at all.

The Lions finished the half with more possession (58.1%-41.9%), shots (8-4), and passing accuracy (82%-80.5%). Both teams got two shots on target and Montreal won more corners (3-2).

The second half began pretty much how the first ended. Neither team was doing much and Orlando couldn’t find a final product. There were a few decent crosses into the area in the first 10 minutes after the break but no Lions could get onto them. Kara had a nice knockdown for Torres in the 54th minute but the Uruguayan had his shot blocked by defender Rudy Camacho.

Montreal got its goal on the dumbest play in a dumb game. Camacho came up the pitch and no one picked him up after he passed it away, although he continued his run. Of course the ball found him in the area on the rebound of Gallese’s save on Lassiter’s shot, and the center back fired off the right post. The ball came to Aaron Herrera on the right. The winger/fullback cut inside onto his left foot and fired a shot that would have gone 10 yards wide if it hadn’t hit Jansson and bounced in for the opening goal in the 62nd minute.

“One of their center backs got forward and that sure did create the overload,” Smith said. “And the cross came in and it was a little hectic. And then the ball popped out. I just remember the shot got off, hit the post, and then unlucky with the deflection, because I don’t think it was going to hit the target.”

“It was a moment where we lost concentration,” Pareja said. “We knew that their wingbacks are aggressive and we needed to control them. And then after that, our reaction was timid. It was not with the same intensity and the same fire that we had in the first half.”

Orlando tried to respond immediately but didn’t fashion much danger and that allowed the hosts to put the game away with a second. A ball out on the right side was played to Herrera, who ran away from Angulo and found a wide open Quioto near the penalty spot. Players of that quality don’t miss from there. Quioto didn’t, and the Montreal lead bulged to 2-0 at the 66-minute mark.

“We started probably shy. We were not the same,” Pareja said. “And then they started getting the spaces on the flanks and they were fine and precise more than us. Every team has a half, but we couldn’t score in the first and in the second Montreal did.”

Angulo could have pulled a goal right back in the 68th minute, freeing himself up nicely for a shot from the left but again he fizzed a shot just off target, slightly high and to the right.

Rather than throwing on additional attacking players, Oscar Pareja subbed off some attackers for others. Felipe, Duncan McGuire, Rafael Santos, Ramiro Enrique, and Gaston Gonzalez, but he withdrew Kara, Ojeda, and Angulo, along with Smith and Cartagena.

The substitutions made no real difference down the stretch. They did manage to win a few set pieces and get a couple of Montreal’s defenders booked, but that was the only effect they had on the proceedings.

The Lions’ best chances in the final 20 minutes resulted in Ojeda crossing to no one in particular when he seemingly had enough room to try a shot or hold the play for some runners to arrive; Halliday getting way under a half-volley effort with the goalkeeper out of position after he came out to punch away a cross; and a free kick from just outside the area that Felipe sent into low orbit. Jansson had a shout for a penalty when Herrera pulled him down from behind by his shirt but a review didn’t convince the video assistant referee to ask the on-field official to take a second look.

City’s frustration was evident in late yellow cards on Araujo, Enrique, and Felipe that were all unnecessary.

Orlando City finished with more possession (54.9%-45.1%), shots (13-7), passing accuracy (81%-79.4%), and corners (5-4), but the hosts had more shots hit the target (3-2). A lack of the final details have plagued Orlando throughout this first third of the season and this match was no different. Angulo, Ojeda, and Torres all could have hit their shots inside the goal frame, but as we’ve seen all too often in 2023, they simply couldn’t do it.

Kara put two of his four shot attempts on target and at least forced Sirois to do something, but the rest of the team went 0-for-9 in getting their shots within the goal frame.

“The game became very lazy,” Pareja said of the second half, following Montreal’s two quick goals. “Montreal started stopping the game in every second and then it was difficult for us to get back in the game.”

“I think an important piece is everyone maybe just look at themselves and what they can personally do better on,” Smith said about his team finding some consistency. “And then, if everyone just gets a little better, then the whole team gets better. And you know, once we get everyone being consistent, then as a team we’re more consistent.”

The Lions will stay on the road and pay a visit to Charlotte FC on Tuesday in U.S. Open Cup action. The next league game will be next Saturday in Columbus against the Crew.


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