Orlando City remained unbeaten at home, but it wasn't the result the Lions wanted, drawing 2-2 with Eastern Conference-leading Philadelphia Union. The announced crowd of 24,109 at Camping World Stadium saw a rather dull first half turn into an eventful second period with all four goals coming after the break.
The Lions (3-3-6, 15 points) came from behind to take the lead on goals by Kevin Molino and Cyle Larin but could not hold their advantage, allowing an equalizer by the Union (5-3-4, 19 points). Ken Tribbett's first MLS goal and a missed late chance for Molino sealed only a single point for the Lions, who must regroup for Sunday's match at New York City.
They'll have to play Sunday without center back David Mateos, who was sent off late (barring a successful appeal, should one be attempted), and midfielder Cristian Higuita, who picked up yet another yellow after foolishly throwing an arm out at Sebastien Le Toux as he ran past.
In the end, it was the conference leaders who spoiled the party for Orlando fans, scoring twice off set pieces. Orlando was not nearly as sharp on its set pieces, including a missed penalty by Kaká in the first half. Head Coach Adrian Heath, who made no changes in the starting lineup from Saturday except to replace injured defenders Rafael Ramos and Seb Hines with Kevin Alston and Tommy Redding, respectively, said he was "disappointed" with the result.
"When we got in the lead I thought we'd see it through," Heath said after the match. "I thought we were dangerous (in the) second half. We had a lot of momentum going at the time. So it's disappointing...It is what it is. We move on."
After a scoreless opening 45 minutes, the second half began with a pair of wide shots by Orlando City's Adrian Winter and Kaká before things livened up.
Tranquillo Barnetta then opened the scoring in the 52nd minute off a set piece, after an unnecessary Carlos Rivas foul. The free kick was from far enough away to not be much of a problem but Chris Pontius headed to Barnetta, who volleyed home with Mateos caught ball watching.
Joe Bendik's sprawling save on C.J. Sapong kept it at 1-0 on the counter attack off a turnover by Larin. But Philadelphia had a pretty good argument for a penalty in the 61st minute when Mateos clipped Warren Creavalle in the box but no foul was given.
Adrian Heath subbed Kevin Molino and Julio Baptista on for Adrian Winter and Carlos Rivas, respectively, in the 67th minute, and the substitutions paid immediate dividends. Molino scored on one of his first few touches of the match, knocking his fifth of the season into an empty net after Larin and Philadelphia keeper Andre Blake collided in midair going for a 50/50 ball. With bodies everywhere, the Trinidadian cleaned up the mess to even the score at 1-1 in the 68th minute.
Three minutes later, Kaká rounded Keegan Rosenberry in the left corner and squared a ball across the six-yard box that Larin chested home for his seventh goal of the year.
Orlando City led 2-1 but it wouldn't last long. Four minutes after Larin's tally, a cross to the back post by Philadelphia fell for Brek Shea, who took a heavy touch and conceded a corner. That proved costly. Bendik got a hand on the cross but the ball fell perfectly for Tribbett -- who came on at the end of the first half for an injured Josh Yaro -- for an easy equalizer with just 15 minutes left in normal time.
"We conceded two really poor goals," Heath said. "Defensively for both goals we were awful. If you give players time and room, especially quality players, it invariably ends up in the back of the net and that's what we did."
Molino worked hard to earn a corner just moments later and Baptista thumped a header just wide of goal in the 78th minute. Two minutes later, Philadelphia fashioned a chance against the tiring right side of the Orlando defense, with Fabian Herbers getting a shot on target that Bendik saved.
The Lions had a golden opportunity to regain the lead in the 86th minute, when Kaká sent Shea free in the left corner and the Orlando defender played a cross to the waiting Molino. The Trinidadian's one-time shot sailed just over the bar in what would be the last great chance for either team.
The first 45 minutes were nothing MLS marketing executives will ever use to promote the game of soccer. Both teams came out lethargic, missing passes, turning the ball over, and taking heavy touches and weak shots.
The Lions had the first attempt at goal with Kaká sending a weak effort on frame in the opening minutes. Philadelphia got its first decent chance at the eight-minute mark, with Sebastien Le Toux sending a cross for C.J. Sapong that David Mateos headed behind for a corner.
The Union won a free kick about 30 yards out to Joe Bendik's right in the 15th minute on a Mateos foul but the cross sailed straight to Orlando's keeper. Orlando countered with a chance in the 27th off a quick free kick after Sapong fouled Servando Carrasco. Kevin Alston crossed for Kaká but the captain's shot was off target.
The Brazilian was involved for both good and bad throughout the half. He got booked during a counter attack in the 32nd minute, grabbing the back of Le Toux's neck on the break. Sorin Stoica whistled the play dead and showed a yellow to Kaká as Le Toux made the most of the contact. Four minutes later, Carlos Rivas danced past Fabinho on a two-on-one and fed the captain, who took a touch past Andre Blake and was bundled over in the box for a penalty.
The spot kick, however, was left far too close to the center of the goal and didn't have nearly enough power on it, and Blake was easily able to keep the game level at 0-0.
Philadelphia mustered the last good chance of the half, with Le Toux squaring a ball back across the top of the box for Tranquillo Barnetta, whose shot took a partial deflection, narrowly missing finding Sapong on its way to Bendik's waiting arms.
The last significant play of a dull opening 45 minutes came when Union defender Yaro came together with Cyle Larin. The first-round pick out of Georgetown tried to hold off Orlando's No. 9 and injured his shoulder in the process. He went down, continued briefly, and then went down again before coming off for Tribbett. That ended up being a fortunate turn of events for the Union.
Orlando will be shorthanded Sunday when the Lions visit Yankee Stadium for the second time this season, with Hines, Mateos (pending a potential appeal), Higuita, and Ramos likely all out.