Orlando City returned to its home pitch this week for the first of a two-game swing inside of five days -- and the second of three in nine days -- and were welcomed home to a 2-1 loss at the hands of now-first-place Toronto FC in front of 23,802 at Camping World Stadium.
On the other side of things, Cyle Larin netted his team-high 13th goal of the season, putting him four shy of the 17-goal mark he set for himself last season, continuing his dominating follow-up season in MLS.
"It’s a night where I thought we did some really nice things," Orlando City Head Coach Jason Kreis said after the match. "We’re still seeing improvement, we’re still seeing positive signs that we’re headed in a good direction."
Following a shot blocked by Toronto FC goalkeeper Alex Bono in the fifth minute of play, the Reds took an early lead on Orlando in the seventh minute off a throw-in, when Tosaint Ricketts beat Tommy Redding, who stumbled in the run of play, leaving the Canadian striker all alone to beat Joe Bendik for his second goal of the season. The strike put Toronto up, 1-0.
Larin, much like the rest of his teammates, struggled offensively throughout the night. Coming off a scoreless draw in Colorado just three days ago, the Lions' poor passes and heavy touches dominated the evening. Larin looked sluggish from the start. In addition to hitting Bono squarely with an early shot, he also badly missed the target on a second golden opportunity. Again in the eighth minute, he was faced with a good chance to level the score, getting on the receiving end of a Kaká cross from the left side, but he heel-flipped the ball into Bono’s arms. No harm for Toronto.
Orlando City’s plan of attacking almost strictly through the left side of the field through Kaká and Luke Boden gave the club plenty of chances, but the lack of quality in the final third haunted the team throughout the night. Kevin Molino put up a shot in the 54th minute that that sailed just wide of the net, not all that challenging to Bono.
Orlando City’s MVP of the night, undoubtedly, was the goalkeeper, Joe Bendik, who wasn’t forced into action that often in the first half, but pulled out several key saves in the second half. Keeping his side in the match until the very end, Joe racked up five saves on the night.
"I get sick of it," Bendik said of his personal performance on the night. "I’d rather sit there and not make a single save and us win 3-0. But if I need to make saves, I need to make saves. I would rather win."
The final blow to Orlando’s effort came in the 86th minute, when Jozy Altidore, who had come off of the bench early in the half, was ruled onside, beat Bendik to a through ball, and dribbled around the Orlando keeper for an empty-net goal. It was his fifth of the season and fourth in as many games.
The loss prevents the Lions from being able to jump the red line once again, and sets up an even more important match on Sunday against New York City FC — Jason Kreis’ former club — at Camping World Stadium. A win would keep the Lions well in the playoff hunt, while another loss could effectively make their chase an almost impossible feat to accomplish.
"We did enough in this game, I think, to earn a point, but unfortunately, we didn’t get it. But on a different night, I think we do get it," Kreis said.
Jason Kreis Postgame Press ConferencePosted by The Mane Land on Wednesday, August 24, 2016