Apparently, the Lions aren't going to go undefeated on the road this season.
Orlando City will return from a two-game road trip with only half the six points the Lions hoped to bring home after tonight's 3-0 loss to Columbus Crew SC. The Black and Gold are the first MLS side to hand City a road defeat, but the game pretty much ended just when it was getting good.
It was Orlando's worst loss so far in MLS but the game was ruined early when a 34th-minute red card on Rafael Ramos put the Lions down a man for nearly an hour of normal time. The Portuguese U-20 international will miss City's next match with a league suspension unless the card is overturned on appeal.
Federico Higuain, Justin Meram, and Kei Kamara led the unexpected Columbus offensive outburst with goals at 32', 55', and 60', respectively. Kamara had a second called back for offside at 75' off a Chris Klute cross.
Adrian Heath featured the same lineup in consecutive games for the first time in this inaugural MLS season and the game was going nicely back and forth with chances for both sides until the sending off spoiled the event.
For the second away game in a row, Orlando started on the back foot for about 15 minutes before getting a foothold in the game. The Crew got most of the chances in the early going. Just four minutes in, Aurelien Collin made a vital challenge in the box to deny Ethan Finlay a shot. Finlay nutmegged Seb Hines three minutes later to set himself up, but shot high over the bar on a dangerous chance.
Higuain found Kamara on a cross at the 10' mark but his header was well high.
The Lions then started to generate some chances of their own. Brek Shea sent a shot over the net off a scramble at 12' and then Kevin Molino curled a shot over the bar off a nice pass from Ramos three minutes later.
Waylon Francis was left unmarked after a great dummy by Finlay at 17' but Ramos recovered to block his shot.
Columbus broke the deadlock off a poor clearance by Ramos, who failed to deal with a ball in the box and weakly sent it out to the left side where Ethan Finlay gathered for Columbus. Finlay found Higuain with a cross and the Argentine brilliantly backheeled one just inside the left post.
Ramos, perhaps feeling a little red mist after his giveaway led to the goal, made matters worse moments later. After losing the ball in the final third, he tried to win it back with a flying scissor kick that Waylon Francis made a complete meal out of. Referee Ricardo Salazar appeared ready to issue Ramos a yellow card, but a brief discussion with the referee's assistant turned it into a red, and the Lions were down to 10 men and behind by a goal on the road.
Orlando actually found some chances after Ramos was sent off. At the 40' mark, Shea sent in a gorgeous cross to Molino who headed it goalward but Pogatetz blocked it and it was inexplicably out for a goal kick instead of a corner. On the stroke of halftime, Kaká sprung Molino from a tight angle on the right side but Clark got low to make a tough save and no Lion could get onto the rebound.
There was no letup from the home side after halftime. Meram tried to add to the Crew lead two minutes after the break from distance, but Donovan Ricketts made a nice diving stop. Higuain sent one across moments later, but sub Tyler Turner cleared the danger.
Meram finally added insurance for Columbus when Kamara took the ball away from Cristian Higuita in Orlando City's box. Meram ended up with the ball, spun and fired one in from close range 10 minutes after the break. Kamara got a lot of Higuita on the play but Salazar deemed it a clean challenge.
Five minutes later, Kamara broke the offside trap on a fantastic curling pass from Higuain and put the game away by chipping Ricketts from distance.
The Lions will try to regroup a week from tomorrow when Toronto FC visits the Orlando Citrus Bowl.