Orlando City got goals from Carlos Rivas and Julio Baptista and played a solid defensive game to beat the Philadelphia Union, 2-0, at Talen Energy Stadium in the last road game of 2016. The win snapped a five-game winless skid (0-4-1) and the Lions (8-11-14, 38 points) earned their first MLS win against the Union (11-13-9, 42 points) with an outstanding defensive effort and finally burying a couple of chances.
Don’t look now, but Jason Kreis’ club has allowed only one goal in its last three matches as we head toward next weekend’s season finale.
Kreis started a 4-4-2 with a back line left to right of Mikey Ambrose, Seb Hines, Jose Aja, and Rafael Ramos. The midfield selections were Kaká, Antonio Nocerino, Cristian Higuita, and Matias Perez Garcia. Rivas and Cyle Larin operated up top as the strike force.
The scoreless deadlock lasted through the first half and into the second period before the Lions grabbed a goal in the 59th minute on a play that started with a Philadelphia set piece. Hines hit a thunderous header off a Union corner kick cross that sailed out to Philly defender Fabinho, who showed a charging Rivas too much of the ball.
The Colombian nicked it and sped toward Andre Blake’s goal. A heavy touch allowed Blake to come out and challenge Rivas and the two players collided just as Rivas took a shot. The ball deflected off Blake and back off Rivas before trickling toward the net. Just before it crossed the line, Keegan Rosenberry tried to clear it but only succeeded in helping it into the back of the net.
The goal was called an own-goal on the television broadcast but I’m giving it to Rivas because MLSSoccer.com did the same and also because Rivas earned it with his play.
Philadelphia threw numbers forward to look for an equalizer but the Lions continued to get chances. Larin got a head to a corner in the 64th minute but sent it right at Blake. Two minutes later, C.J. Sapong got a header on target from a Fabinho cross but Bendik made the save. A minute after that it was Chris Pontius with a header on frame but Bendik made a diving stop to hold off the Union.
Perez Garcia was robbed of a goal in the 79th when Rivas sent him in alone down the right. MPG took a touch to allow a defender to fly past and tried to curl it in at the back post but Blake made a spectacular diving save to keep the score at 1-0.
The Union had an opportunity with a free kick from the top of the box in the 84th minute but Tranquillo Barnetta curled in a bouncer right to Bendik. The Lions countered and MPG got to the byline but had his cross back for Kaká cut out by Fabinho.
Barnetta nearly broke Orlando hearts in the fourth minute of stoppage time but his free header skipped just wide of Bendik’s goal. A minute later, Baptista got a breakaway after a ball deflected in behind the Union defense. The Beast took a few touches toward Blake and then hit a power shot that the Philadelphia keeper got a piece of but couldn’t keep out.
Roland Alberg put the final Philadelphia effort just wide in the 97th minute and the Lions held on for the win.
There were few chances in the first half but most of them were in Orlando City’s favor. But the Lions over-hit several crosses and free kicks as their lack of clinical precision in and around the penalty area continued. Rivas got in behind the defense in the 11th minute and fired a ball across goal from let to right that was either a wide shot or an over-weighted cross for Larin.
Philadelphia tried to play into the box in the 17th and 18th minutes but Aja and Hines were there, respectively, to prevent any danger. Sapong got a head on a Rosenberry cross in the 21st minute but he didn’t get much on it and it was well wide of target.
A minute later, Ramos crossed into the box and the ball deflected off Fabinho and nearly found the back post for an own-goal but went just wide for a corner.
In the 30th minute, the Union got the best clear-cut chance of the first half when Fabian Herbers took a pass in the box on the right, but he fired well over Joe Bendik’s goal. Orlando then got a series of long free kicks but didn’t do anything with them, hitting them long and either to Blake or out for a goal kick.
But in the 43rd the Lions were a post away from taking the lead. Kaká sent a cross into the six-yard box that Ken Tribbett deflected off the back post and the ball ricocheted straight to Andre Blake. In first-half stoppage time the Lions got two quick back-to-back chances. Rivas sent Kaká down the left and the captain crossed for Perez Garcia’s one-timer. Unfortunately, Richie Marquez blocked the shot on what would have been a sure goal. Rivas followed off the deflection with a shot on the half volley but his effort was just over Blake’s crossbar.
That was it for the opening period as Ricardo Salazar blew his whistle for halftime seconds later.
Orlando City out-shot the Union 12-10, with each team getting four attempts on target. Philadelphia held the possession advantage, 56.6%-43.4%, but that got skewed after the Rivas goal, as the Union pushed numbers forward and the Lions often conceded possession to just clear their lines.
The Union remain above the red line because New England lost to Chicago, and Philadelphia more or less has clinched, since the Union are 12 goals better in goal differential than the Revolution. Orlando City jumped Columbus into eighth in the Eastern Conference standings with the Crew losing 3-2 to New York Red Bulls today.
The Lions will finish the season next Sunday when D.C. United visits Camping World Stadium for the finale at 4 p.m.