Orlando City was desperately in need of a win but it was the Montreal Impact that played with desperation. The Impact sat deep and defended for 90+ minutes, hoping for a moment of magic on the counter and they got exactly that with Dominic Oduro’s 56th minute 1-v-1 opportunity. Oduro beat Joe Bendik and ended Orlando’s playoff hopes in a 1-0 Montreal win.
The Lions finished the season series 2-1-0 against the Impact but the one loss seems to more than cancel out the two wins — two of only seven times Orlando has collected all three points this season.
In the end, it didn’t matter that the Lions held the ball for 66.8% of the game (74.2% of the second half). It didn’t matter that Orlando (7-11-14, 35 points) out-shot the Impact 22-4. It didn’t matter that City won more duels, passed more accurately, or had 12 corners to Montreal’s one. All that matters is that it’s another loss for the lads in purple, and this one hurts more than all the others because it puts a finality to even the faintest glimmer of postseason hopes.
“In my opinion we did everything other than finish our chances,” said Head Coach Jason Kreis after the match. “And if we’d have finished one of our chances, I think the game would have been much different.”
Oduro’s one moment of magic was all that Montreal (11-10-11, 44 points) wanted. And Impact Head Coach Mauro Biello even acknowledged after the game that he’d have been satisfied with a single point in a 0-0 draw. But he did get that moment of magic – on his team’s only shot on target of the game, no less – and he has to feel like he’s sneaking out of Orlando having committed the great train robbery.
The Lions peppered 19 second-half shot attempts toward Evan Bush’s goal and not one of them fell favorably. Five of them were blocked and 12 were off-target, leaving only five on frame, which Bush stopping all of them, including two of the Save-of-the-Week variety.
Give credit to Montreal. The Impact came in with the bus already parked and their game plan worked to perfection, as the Lions missed the target, rushed shots, or hit Bush squarely with only a couple of exceptions. Only two denied first-half appeals for penalty kicks could have made a difference but neither was awarded. Even without those, you’d have to think the Lions generated sufficient chances to bulge the net at least once or twice. They didn’t.
Neither team did much through a sleepy first half. Montreal was content to give Orlando City possession, which the Lions were happy to take, holding the ball 62.2% of the first half to the Impact’s 37.8%. To Orlando’s credit, there weren’t a lot of turnovers leading to dangerous counters, but the Lions also failed to threaten goal much, finishing with three shots and none on target.
The Lions also largely wasted five corner kicks, either failing to find a teammate or not even beating the first defender. However, Jose Aja got onto a Matias Perez Garcia corner cross in the 20th minute and directed his headed shot toward goal. The ball appeared to take a deflection and went over the end line. The Lions protested for a handball but the ref awarded a goal kick.
In the 23rd minute, a nice bit of build-up led to a near chance but Kaká over-hit the pass and Bush came quickly off his line to beat Cyle Larin to the ball.
In the 41st, Kaká got to the end line and tried to cross the ball in. It deflected off a defender and again the captain and the crowd howled for a penalty but to no avail. A minute later the Lions got their best opportunity of the half as Larin turned and blasted from the top of the box but his shot was just wide. That would summarize Larin’s afternoon.
Kreis brought Julio Baptista on for an ineffective Kevin Molino at the half and Orlando’s attacking mentality certainly changed. However, David Mateos sustained a right knee injury and forced a second substitution early in the second period, as Seb Hines came on.
Hines’ first touch served to send Kaká up the left flank, where the Brazilian crossed in for Larin, but the Canadian couldn’t quite get onto it and may have been pushed but there was no whistle from Armando Villareal – a theme that played throughout the day.
In the 54th minute, Kevin Alston’s long throw found Baptista in the box, but he couldn’t control it and it was cleared as far as Luke Boden, who shot just over the bar from the top of the box. Within a minute, Larin turned around Laurent Ciman and sped toward goal. Ambroise Oyongo appeared to foul Larin just outside the box but Villareal saw nothing in the challenge and what was more or less a breakaway went without even an attempt at goal. A minute later Kaká tried a shot but it went straight at Bush, much like his attempt late at Toronto found Alex Bono.
A minute after that, Oduro ripped the hearts out of the 26,041 at Camping World Stadium, finishing a 1-v-1 opportunity against Bendik. Patrice Bernier found room on the right side and centered for Matteo Mancosu. The Italian’s one-time pass took an unlucky deflection off Hines and right into the path of the onrushing Oduro, who easily out-paced Boden and found the upper right corner of the net.
Kreis didn’t fault Hines on the goal or suggest that had he not been forced to sub out the inured Mateos the outcome would have been any different.
“I honestly don’t think that had much to do with (the goal),” Kreis said. “We let that break happen with the player on the ball where he was allowed a little too much time and space. And then Oduro makes a run that we should have held our line and we didn’t hold our line. When you do that and you end up with a player with that kind of pace behind you, you’re going to be in trouble.”
Orlando had an opportunity in the 60th with the ball pinging around in Montreal’s box after a corner kick, but every Lion shot or pass attempt was deflected by a Montreal boot and you just knew it wasn’t City’s day.
That became even more evident in the 62nd minute. Antonio Nocerino sent a lovely ball to the left corner for Boden, who one-timed a perfect cross into the six-yard box for Larin. The Canadian got it on frame but Bush made a point-blank save to somehow keep it out.
Kreis withdrew Servando Carrasco for Carlos Rivas in the 64th minute, going all-out in the attack. Just four minutes later, Rivas sent in one of his incredible crosses from the left flank that found Baptista’s head but he nodded off target. Baptista again missed the target in the 69th, firing just over the bar after a Kevin Alston cross into the box deflected right onto the Brazilian’s foot.
Rivas sent a free kick just inches over the bar in the 72nd minute, as it looked for all the world like a shot eventually had to find the net. He fired just over the bar again in the 80th, however, and you started to realize that Bush could leave the stadium and somehow the ball would stay out. But he didn’t leave the stadium, instead robbing Larin on a header off a corner kick in the 88th.
There were six minutes of stoppage time to try to at least pull a goal back but the best chances were already behind the Lions and the Impact saw out the clean sheet for Bush.
“Obviously we’re all very, deeply disappointed,” Kreis said. “I think we all put in a tremendous amount to that game, really gave our hearts and souls to it in the buildup the past several days. I couldn’t be happier with the work everybody’s done and the effort everybody’s given but soccer can be a cruel game and that’s what we saw today.”
The Lions are left to play two lame duck matches – two weeks from today at Philadelphia and again three weeks from today at home against D.C. United.
“We want to finish well,” Kreis said. “This group has worked extremely hard and it would be a real shame not to not give ourselves the respect and our fans the respect to do everything we can to get points and wins in these last two matches. I think we’re all too good of professionals to ever look at these games this way.”