Orlando City

Orlando City vs. Charlotte FC, U.S. Open Cup: Final Score 1-0 as Lions Crash Out of the Competition

The Lions continued to fail miserably at getting the ball on target and to avoid crippling mistakes in their own end.



Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Orlando City will not repeat as U.S. Open Cup champions. The Lions crashed meekly out of the competition in their first match without even getting one lousy shot on target in a 1-0 loss to Charlotte FC at Mecklenburg County Sportsplex in Matthews, NC. Kamil Jozwiak came off the bench to score the game’s only goal off a costly giveaway deep in his own end by fullback Mikey Halliday.

Three nights after getting just two shots on frame at Montreal, the Lions couldn’t even get one out of 11 attempts within the perimeter of the goal mouth. Charlotte mustered only six attempts all night but got four of them on frame and managed to get one past Mason Stajduhar to pick up the win.

“We came with the highest intentions to defend the cup, and obviously advance, but it was not like that,” Orlando City Head Coach Oscar Pareja said after the match. “The game was just getting us frustrated with the options that we had to tie it up and just making a mistake that was costly. We couldn’t get the result and we’re very disappointed.”

Pareja ran out a mixed starting XI, including Stajduhar in goal behind a back line of Rafael Santos, Robin Jansson, Rodrigo Schlegel, and Halliday. Cesar Araujo and Felipe played in the central midfield behind an attacking line of Gaston Gonzalez, Facundo Torres, and Dagur Dan Thorhallsson, with Duncan McGuire up top.

The first half was just about unwatchable from a spectator’s point of view. The game was often plodding, and neither side did much with the ball — especially Orlando. The Lions were content with trying to stay organized and looking for opportunities to counter, but then rarely moved the ball quickly or accurately enough when they regained possession. Meanwhile, the hosts were kicking the ball around a lot but not producing anything from it.

Orlando City’s best opportunity came four minutes in, when Torres slipped Thorhallsson into the area but the Icelandic midfielder took an extra touch and then was dispossessed by the arriving defense without getting a shot off.

The best chance for either side in the first half came at 13 minutes, when McKinze Gaines blew past Santos and fired from a tight angle. Stajduhar was there to make a good reaction save and the ball skipped through the six-yard box and out for a goal kick before any Charlotte attackers could arrive.

Charlotte and Orlando got a bit chippy at times, with Brandt Bronico booked for a heavy challenge on Felipe and Araujo booked for a fairly innocuous arm up on an aerial in the attacking penalty box. Former Lion Justin Meram got into a shoving match with McGuire in the aftermath of the booking but nothing came of what amounted to just a lot of bluster.

Felipe went down with a knock in the 43rd minute and took his shoe off but quickly put it back on and soldiered through to halftime while noticeably limping in order to save his team a substitution window. Wilder Cartagena came on for him after the break.

That was about it for a dull opening 45 minutes.

Charlotte finished the first half with more possession (60.2%-39.8%), passing accuracy (84.3%-80%), and shots on target (1-0), with Orlando earning more corners (3-2), and both teams attempting one shot in the opening 45 minutes. It was not the kind of game you show a friend to get them excited about the game of soccer.

The hosts came out of the locker room swarming to try to grab the lead. Jaylin Lindsey’s cross found Enzo Copetti in front of goal and Stajduhar made the save of the match to get his hand on the powerful header in the opening minute of the second half.

It took Orlando a few minutes of withstanding set pieces and recycled attacking crosses into the area before the Lions could settle into the second 45 minutes. McGuire was nearly sent in behind in the 50th minute but Kristijan Kahlina quickly came out of his box to head the ball away.

McGuire thought he’d scored in the 57th minute but the whistle blew for a foul on the Orlando rookie striker. The play came from another good long ball, as McGuire tried to get to the outside around defender Jan Sobocinski. The Charlotte center back appeared to lose his balance before any contact was made, and McGuire slotted his shot just inside the right post. McGuire did get a hand to Sobocinski’s shoulder, but hardly was able to use the defender as leverage, but that didn’t matter because the ref saw a foul there. It might have made for an interesting video review had there been VAR in the match, although it’s hard to say that there was an error that was clear and obvious (whatever that even means).

The game turned in Charlotte’s favor in the 70th minute on an unnecessary turnover. Halliday tried to head a pass backward but didn’t get any power to it and turned it over to Karol Swiderski. Schlegel tried to put out the fire by fouling Swiderski, but the ball was picked up by Kamil Jozwiak, who beat Araujo to it. Jansson stepped up and got a foot on the ball, but it took an unlucky bounce after the contact, and Jozwiak was suddenly behind the defense with the ball, chipping it over Stajduhar for the opening goal.

“First of all, we have to get rid of the ball and don’t put us in situations like that,” Jansson said. Just kick the ball away and just go for the next ball. I think their striker got it and went to the center of the field. I came in, in the PK box, and I tried to do everything not to cause a penalty but then it bounced back to him — how you say, the feet against the feet — then he luckily got the bounce with him. So yeah, it’s it’s a bad one.”

Orlando City should have pulled the goal right back when Derrick Jones lost control of the ball in front of his own net moments later. The ball found McGuire in front with a ton of space to shoot but he rushed his shot, got his feet all wrong, and missed what should have been an easy sitter in the 72nd minute. Just a minute later, second-half sub Ivan Angulo lifted a cross through the area that should have given fellow substitute Martin Ojeda an easy header at the back post, but the pass was too high.

In the 82nd minute, a long throw from Araujo skipped to the feet of Torres. The Uruguayan fired wide as the inexplicable run of misses continued.

As time wound down, Angulo sent a low shot in that deflected out off of McGuire and moments later the winger fired again but sent his effort sailing over the bar on yet another wasteful attempt.

The final whistle was typical of the game. Kahlina had a goal kick, took nearly 30 seconds setting it up, and the ref blew the whistle at precisely the four minutes of stoppage time he’d given. That was the 2023 U.S. Open Cup as far as Orlando City is concerned.

Orlando finished with more possession (50.5%-49.5%), shots (11-6), and passing accuracy (80.8%-79.5%). Both teams won four corners. But the telling statistic was shots on target, where Charlotte held a 4-0 advantage, and once again the Lions are left wondering how they can at least worry a goalkeeper once in a while.

“It’s a frustrating one and yeah, it has to be better than that,” Jansson said of the team’s performance.

“At this point it is difficult with a speech to fix the things,” Pareja said when asked what he told his team after the match. “I think we have to absorb it. We are a professional soccer club and we are professionals that need to think first. We need to calm down. We have a turnaround pretty quick. We have a game in three days, and if you want it or not, we have to rescue all the good things that we had in the game.”

The Lions will continue their road trip after a brief stop home, visiting the Columbus Crew on Saturday night.


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