Nobody likes a draw. Well, almost nobody. You kind of have to like it when you're on the road and down to 10 men for the final 40 minutes. That's where we were last night and the Lions showed a lot of fight to come home from California with a point when the odds were stacked against them.
Let's jump right into our five takeaways.
Three Major Decisions
Still, it could have gone better from Orlando City's point of view, if not for a curiously bad play by Darwin Cerén in the 67th minute, when he went to head the ball and instead barreled into San Jose's Jordan Stewart, who did a nice job of shielding the ball and absolutely was under no mandate to try to stay on his feet, which it seems he might have done had he tried.
In other words, I thought it may have been a teeny tiny bit soft for a penalty, but you can't do something like that four minutes after a referee gives your team a penalty. You know he's going to look to even that up because it's just human nature for guys who get paid to try to keep things fair. I won't argue with it, but I've seen much worse collisions not awarded penalties.
The earlier one was a no brainer. Goalkeeper David Bingham whiffed on the ball and instead got a fist full of Cyle Larin, although thankfully (for both players) only a glancing blow. A more dead-on strike may have seen the keeper sent off. That's a foul all day, every day. Allen Chapman was given no choice but to point to the spot.
That leaves Brek Shea's red. I can see why it was given. Any time a player goes over the ball it's going to get the referee's attention. I think it was clumsy of Brek. It appeared to me that he tried to get the ball but simply missed (if you watch Shea regularly, you understand that he can be...somewhat awkward sometimes) and as soon as he saw that he'd missed, you can see him turn the ankle and point the foot downward and get it to the ground as soon as possible. He didn't make significant contact with the opponent or leave his foot high in the follow-through.
I personally think it was more caution-worthy than a straight red, but it's hard to fault the referee for seeing the boot go over the ball and making that call. Again, we've seen worse not given a red (Vancouver match, anyone?).
That's three red cards for Orlando City on the season and none for the Lions' opponents. Hopefully these things will find a way to even out over the course of the year.
Who thought playing MLS matches at Levi's Stadium was a good idea? It's big, so it looks empty on television, even with a decent crowd like last night's 36,224. On top of that, the turf is in terrible condition. Oh, it looks nice and all, but with players slipping all over the field, clearly it's way too hard to find purchase with your studs. That's a player safety issue and also negatively affects the quality of game play.
And, worst of all (IMO), there's a shadow over part of the field, which makes watching the game an adventure as the ball travels back and forth from sunlight to shadow. Sure, it has more to do with the time of day the game is played than the stadium itself, but would we be getting as big a shadow at Avaya Stadium? I doubt it. Bigger stadium, bigger shadow.
The West is the Best?
Major League Soccer's Western Conference is perhaps universally lauded as the far better than the East. This may be, as the West boasts last year's Supporters Shield winners in Seattle and defending MLS Cup winners, the LA Galaxy. There are several good teams over there, for sure, and it was deemed to have gotten even stronger with the additions of Sporting KC and the Houston Dynamo.
But Orlando City has had far less trouble with the Western Conference than the East thus far. Through five of their 10 scheduled games against the opposite side of the country, the Lions are 3-1-1, including a 2-0-1 mark on the road. City has away wins at Houston and Portland and a draw at San Jose. Conversely, at home the Lions have fallen in the 96th minute against Vancouver (of four minutes of announced stoppage time...yeah, I'm still a little salty), and beat the Galaxy, 4-0. Is it too late to swap conferences?
Larin's Not Going Away
Sure, his three-game goal streak ended (four games, counting the friendly), but Canadian international Cyle Larin looks like his run of form is here to stay. Larin was dangerous against San Jose last night and made two of the game's best plays, as he continues to improve on a weekly basis.
Larin's hustle play to get on the end of Tally Hall's long ball at the 61-minute mark created the foul that led to Kaká's penalty kick goal. That was the second of two big plays for the rookie. Larin got up the right side and made a great effort to keep the ball in bounds while sliding out, and got up and created a scoring chance. Plays like that show Larin's quality. He seems to have a bright future ahead.
It's Good to Have Tally Hall Back
While Donovan Ricketts was mostly fine as the goalkeeper to start the season, the plan was always for Tally Hall to be Orlando City's regular man between the sticks. Hall didn't have much to do in his first match back, a 4-0 destruction of the LA Galaxy.
Hall had much more to do in San Jose. Hall made three saves on the Quakes' four shots on target, denying all except the Chris Wondolowski penalty. Hall's best stop came on a curling effort from Matias Perez-Garcia in the 71st minute -- a diving save to his left he was able to get a hand on. Aside from that, Hall was decisive on corners and crosses and communicated well with his back line.