Missing five starters and several key reserve players is probably not conducive to beating, well, almost anyone in MLS, let alone a talented FC Dallas side. So last night's result shouldn't surprise anyone. Kaká, Kevin Molino, Brek Shea, Darwin Ceren and Cyle Larin would all have started last night if healthy, present, and/or permitted to play.
That's a lot of talent to be missing. FC Dallas was missing some key pieces too, but the long-time MLS club is much better positioned depth-wise to withstand that kind of hit. Orlando City looked like a reserve team much of the night because that's what they were in many respects.
Let's get to our five takeaways from last night's 2-0 loss.
Injury Woes Continue
As if Orlando City wasn't already dealing with a personnel crisis, Sean St. Ledger went down with a shoulder injury and was replaced in the 41st minute. The club is wafer thin already between call-ups and injuries, and only dressed 16 men last night.
St. Ledger has been one of the bright spots in recent weeks, but his injury forced Aurelien Collin back into action early. Heath said on Friday that Collin would be in the 18 (16, as it turned out) but wasn't ready to log a lot of minutes. Welp.
St. Ledger will be evaluated Sunday or Monday to determine the extent of his injury. It's a double blow if he can't play, because...
Boden Sent Off With Two Yellows
Already down Brek Shea, left back Luke Boden will miss next Saturday's match against New York Red Bulls with a suspension after picking up a pair of yellow cards in the second half last night. The first looked much worse live than it was, and probably wasn't a booking, but he definitely earned his second with an arm across the face of Alex Zendejas.
It will be interesting to see who plays left back next Saturday but it won't be Shea or Boden and whoever it is will be playing out of position. That's not what you want against Bradley Wright-Phillips. When asked for his early thoughts on who might occupy that spot next Saturday, Adrian Heath said, "We'll think about that maybe Monday."
Officiating Isn't Getting Better
The Lions were missing captain and talisman Kaká last night due to a fairly questionable officiating decision last week by Sorin Stoica. But last night's referee, Juan Guzman, wasn't an improvement and his assistants were equally inept.
Orlando City had a tying goal wiped out by an erroneous offside call when Pedro Ribeiro took a Carlos Rivas pass and slotted home past Dan Kennedy. The flag was up, but Ribiero was standing in an onside position when the back line tried to step up and play the trap. The center back made it, but the fullback did not step in time and kept the Brazilian onside. The goal should have counted.
Seb Hines was whistled for a foul in the Dallas box when he reached out to get his foot to a cross and the defender went low to try to head it away and made contact with Hines' outstretched leg. Although Hines went down, I didn't think it was a penalty. I didn't think it was anything. Guzman made some call on nearly every bit of contact and the majority of those went against the lads in purple.
Finally, in a game with a ton of delays, Guzman gave two minutes of stoppage, a week after Stoica gave five minutes in a Real Salt Lake match that saw almost no second-half delays.
Orlando City had trouble throughout the first half in maintaining any possession. FC Dallas played five in the midfield and seemed to overwhelm the young defensive midfield of Harrison Heath and Cristian Higuita, and there was a distinct lack of dynamic play on the wings from Eric Avila and Lewis Neal. All of that combined to keep Pedro Ribeiro and Carlos Rivas from getting many touches of the ball throughout the first half hour of the game. That resulted in Dallas building up a big early lead in corners and possession.
City got on the ball more in the second half after moving Rivas back to left wing and pushing Ribeiro up top. Adrian Heath also put Amobi Okugo into the midfield for Harrison Heath. Speaking of which...
Amobi Okugo, How Far You've Fallen
Faced with moving Lewis Neal into an attacking midfield position, and with Darwin Ceren away at the CONCACAF Gold Cup, it seemed like Okugo would finally make his return to Orlando City's defensive midfield. He did, but not until after halftime. Adrian Heath opted instead to start 19-year-old Harrison Heath in place of Okugo, alongside Cristian Higuita. As Okugo is not nursing a knock, it shows how far he has fallen out of favor with the coaching staff.
It's amazing when you consider how he started the season very brightly for Orlando but a few bad games forced him to the bench and since then he has been relegated to late duty to protect leads. Last night, he didn't provide much in the way of an improvement over Heath, although he displayed far more willingness to pass the ball forward than the 19-year-old had in his 45 minutes.
He allowed a golden FC Dallas scoring chance with a turnover and also was culpable on the second Dallas goal, failing to track David Texeira, while Seb Hines took Victor Ulloa, who was on his side of the field.
Please come home, Darwin.