In Orlando City's third appearance of "Viernes de Futbol" this season, the Lions fell to the Philadelphia Union on a goal-of-the-week contender from Tranquillo Barnetta in the last minute of the match. Going on the road, on a short week and short-handed, the deck seemed stacked against Orlando City.
The Lions' listless performance couldn't be shaken off, as the cold temperature made tired legs evident as the clock continued to tick off and the sloppy play came back to haunt Orlando City. Here are the five biggest takeaways from the match.
Rafael Ramos Not Living Up To His New Contract
Ramos entered the 2016 season after just signing a muti-year contract, which gave him a significant raise, but so far he has failed to impress with his play this year. His performance against the Union was the worst so far in a series of bad performances. He had numerous turnovers, bad passes, and a howler of a soft clearance which directly fed C.J. Sapong on the first goal of the night only two minutes into the match.
Ramos has been caught ball watching instead of defending, like in the home opener against Real Salt Lake, outplayed against the Chicago Fire, and easily dispossessed of the ball against New York City, while managing a lucky assist. The only real positive from Ramos this year is that he has been able to control his temper, so he has yet to be booked this season.
This isn't good enough.
Back Line Woes
This loss is not on Joe Bendik. He valiantly made saves when his line let him down and poor defending made the four corners from the Union look dangerous. In addition to the poor play from Ramos, Aurelien Collin demonstrated why he hasn't been starting for Head Coach Adrian Heath, by pulling the shape of the back four off, causing too much space in front of Bendik. Luke Boden had an off night with his passing and barely crossed the ball. Seb Hines was the best of the back line, which isn't saying much. Missing two starters with Tommy Redding and Brek Shea was noticeable. There seemed to be a lack of cohesiveness and I felt we could have seen the debut of Kevin Alston, but Heath decided not to go to his bench for the substitution. Oh, about those substitutions...
Subs Too Late To Make A Difference
The depth of the team has been touted as its strength, and it was on display in Philadelphia. Missing Cyle Larin, Cristian Higuita, Tommy Redding, Brek Shea and Pedro Ribeiro caused the Lions to only field 17 available players on the game-day roster. Lacking a full bench, Heath decided not to change out any players while the Union made adjustments in the second half. Perhaps he felt the team could hang on for a draw, but Kevin Molino and Antonio Nocerino looked gassed by the 70th minute. The combination of the cold with tired legs made the Lions foul more, giving up dangerous free kicks to the Union.
Why didn't Heath make adjustments to change the game in favor of Orlando City? What did he know to give token appearances to Julio Baptista and Carlos Rivas past the 90th minute? If he really wanted to go for the win, Heath would have changed things sooner. It was pointless on multiple levels.
Molino Mania Still Not Running Wild
Kevin Molino could not back up his excellent performance against the Timbers with the same level of play against the Union. He was good, but not great. Molino managed to assist on Adrian Winter's goal, but only mustered one shot the whole game. He needs to shoot more; Seb Hines out-shot him. Kevin just seemed to tire late. I'm going to say the cold temperatures played a factor in fatigue.
There's no question Molino belongs in MLS; the question for me is, are the expectations for Kevin too high?
Winter Is Underrated
The man of the match for Orlando City was Adrian Winter. He has consistently proven his worth with the pace of his game and willingness to take shots on goal. He almost pulled some magic if it wasn't for what could end up being save of the week from Andre Blake. While people wonder who would step up with Cyle Larin injured, Winter was all over the pitch with Kaká. When Orlando City has all its players back and healthy, Winter will end up on the bench, but he has made a case for himself in the starting XI.
Those are my five takeaways. Let me hear from you, fair readers, with your thoughts by leaving a comment below.