Orlando City was back in New York for the second time this season, and just like their first trip, the Lions nicked a goal in the opening minutes of the match. Unlike their first trip, however, the Lions were sent home with a loss after a three-goal second half propelled New York Red Bulls to a 3-2 victory on Sunday evening.
Without the services of his captain, Kaká, due to a groin injury, Adrian Heath deployed his troops in a 4-4-2 formation for the first time in Orlando's MLS history with Júlio Baptista alongside Cyle Larin up top, and the Lions didn't take long to get the party started in Harrison, NJ.
Things started quickly for Orlando thanks to a tidy sequence between Baptista, Rafael Ramos and Larin. Baptista notched the hockey assist when he played a ball from the middle of the pitch out to the right to Ramos, where Ramos found Larin on a near-post run with a cross that the Canadian easily finished past Luis Robles. The marking was poor from the NYRB back line as Larin hardly had to use his big body at all to shield Ramos' service, but it was an efficient play from the Lions to open the scoring a grab a quick 1-0 lead.
The rest of the half -- and the match -- was much more red than purple.
Red Bulls created a number of first-half chances against an OCSC back line that looked shaky and needed last-second blocks from Brek Shea and Tommy Redding, along with a wonder save from Joe Bendik and a goal-line clearance from Larin just to get to half with a clean sheet intact. Bendik claimed what will almost surely be a Save of the Week nominee in minute 45 when he lunged back to his left to stop a cross-goal, volleyed effort from Mike Grella off a ball from Sacha Kljestan -- an effort that seemed almost certain to level things for New York.
Bradley Wright-Phillips appeared to have equalized earlier in minute six, but was correctly ruled offside after he put back a rebound off a Bendik save.
While New York was unable to finish a number of dangerous chances -- many of which were facilitated by Kljestan -- on 56% possession in the opening half, it was the more threatening side throughout the first 45 minutes. Had it not been for a few desperation stops and a bit of bad luck for NYRB, things could have easily been level, or worse, for the Lions at the break.
Bendik came up large again in minute 54 when he made another great reaction save to stop a low shot from Felipe off a Kljestan dish, but he couldn't stop the onslaught that was about to come, as all the bad luck the Red Bulls have seen in 2016 seemed to turn the other way in an explosive 10-minute stretch.
Kljestan's playmaking was finally rewarded in the 65th minute when the midfielder nutmegged Tommy Redding to set up an equalizer for Grella, who coolly slotted past Bendik. Grella paid it forward just four minutes later when he set up BWP's first score of the year on a chip from the right side of the box that may have found its way in anyway had Wright-Phillips not tapped it home at the post. The levee now seemingly broken for the City defense, BWP notched his second in the 75th to make it 3-1 Red Bulls off a sweet curling assist from Lloyd Sam on the right wing, and the Red Bulls were rolling.
That didn't stop City from trying to claw its way back, though.
Larin misfired on a header from six yards, after Ramos did some creative work to free himself and fire in a solid cross from the right in minute 81. Three minutes later, Ouimette was served a bit of karmic revenge (more on that in a bit), as the defender put a Carlos Rivas corner into his own net after it redirected off his knee to make it 3-2 in the late stages and give the Lions hope of salvaging a point.
Things didn't get much better on the defensive end for the Lions though, as Bendik was forced to make another pair of great stops and OCSC was unable to manufacture any more truly dangerous chances to equalize on the attack. Shea managed a cross into a vulnerable area in stoppage time, but the only Lion close enough to leap for it was Kevin Molino, who couldn't elevate enough to get anything on the ball.
This week's officiating snafu came just before the avalanche of goals when Orlando City was hurt by a no call against the aforementioned Oiumette. The NYRB defender scissor-tackled Larin from behind just outside the 18 to deny an obvious goal-scoring opportunity, but referee Hilario Grajeda swallowed his whistle and said play on. The foul, if called properly, would not have resulted in an OCSC penalty kick, but the Lions would have had a free kick in a dangerous area and a one-man advantage for the final half-hour of the evening.
Instead, NYRB finally found a breakthrough, and the BWP brace lifted the Red Bulls to their first win of the 2016 season after amassing only three points through the first seven matches of the campaign. The Lions now sit on nine points through seven matches, and will fall in the table following wins for D.C. and Columbus. NYRB finished the game with nearly 60% of the possession and 25-11 shot advantage, accurately reflecting the level of play we saw from Orlando City for the majority of the night.
The Lions will be back in action Saturday at New England at 7:30 p.m.