Orlando City went to Toronto looking to stop the bleeding after giving up four goals in three consecutive losses. Mission…accomplished?
The Lions didn’t ship any goals and didn’t lose, but the unbeaten streak grows to four games (0-3-1) after an unsatisfying 0-0 draw against Giovinco-less Toronto FC. With D.C. United winning, Orlando fell five points behind the final playoff spot with three games to play in the 2016 regular season.
While a draw on the road against a team that’s tied for the conference lead is usually a good result, the Lions (7-10-14, 35 points) can’t be happy with failing to score a goal against a Toronto team that played the final 20 minutes a man down. The Reds (13-8-10, 49 points) were left shorthanded after Tosaint Ricketts received a second yellow with a dangerous play while attempting a bicycle kick, getting a boot up around Jose Aja’s face.
Orlando has struggled at times while up a man this season but on this night the Lions controlled the ball but had trouble breaking down the stingy Toronto defense. When they did free themselves up, they failed to capitalize due to a heavy touch or a misplaced shot. In the end, it’s something the team can build on but there’s precious little time left to build anything.
For the first time since his arrival in Orlando, Jason Kreis went with his old, familiar 4-4-2 diamond midfield formation that he’s long been known for.
Neither team could break through in the opening 45 minutes. Toronto had more numerous chances, but Orlando City had a couple of outstanding opportunities as well. Much of the pressure Toronto was able to generate came because of a large number of set pieces in Orlando’s defensive third. The Reds had five corners in the first half and several free kicks around the top and sides of the box.
Toronto got the first good chance off a corner with Tosaint Ricketts heading just over the bar when left unmarked just five minutes in. Orlando City had a great chance in the 11th minute as Brek Shea got a cross in that Kevin Molino mishit and it fell for Cyle Larin, but the Canadian’s shot didn’t have a lot of power on it and Alex Bono made a diving one-handed stop to keep it scoreless.
Kaká fired over the bar in the 18th minute off a nice build-up but just a minute later Toronto nearly opened the scoring when Marky Delgado’s cross was just inches out of the reach of Justin Morrow at the back post.
In the 31st minute, Ricketts got in behind the defense – mostly because he was offside – but Bendik came off his line to smother his shot attempt. Moments later, Jozy Altidore appeared to handle the ball in Orlando’s box to settle it but there was no whistle and Bendik was forced to make another save.
Orlando City should have scored in the 38th minute on a counter attack that ended up in a four-on-three break. Kaká opted not to play to Larin, who was splitting two defenders, and instead gave off to Brek Shea. Shea played in Kevin Molino but he brought defenders with him and so he tried to backheel the ball back to Brek. It didn’t work and the Lions failed to get a shot out of a promising attack.
In the 40th minute, Kreis had seen enough of the 4-4-2 diamond, with the Lions leaving the Reds far too much attacking space. He subbed Cristian Higuita on for Rivas and returned to the 4-2-3-1. Orlando managed to get forward and earn a corner and the ball fell for Higuita after Bono punched the cross away, but the Colombian fired high over the bar on the half volley.
Just before the half ended, Shea took a silly yellow card yelling at referee Alan Kelly and as a result he’ll miss Sunday’s match against Montreal.
Toronto should have taken the lead shortly after halftime, as Orlando continues to concede excellent scoring opportunities early in the second halves of games. Michael Bradley chipped in a back-post ball toward Altidore, with Bendik slow to come off his line. The ball fell onto Jonathan Osorio’s head instead and the Toronto attacker headed over the bar from close range.
The Reds got another good opportunity in the 65th minute, when a cross attempt deflected off an Orlando defender to Delgado at the far side, but Bendik got across and stopped the shot.
Two minutes later, Molino fashioned a half chance, playing a ball behind the defense to himself, but a defender got there first to sweep it away. That came just moments before Ricketts picked up his second yellow, trying to bicycle kick in a high bouncing ball with Aja on his back. Ricketts’ boot got up into the face of Aja – who is not a short man – and just like that the Reds were down a man.
That almost paid off for Orlando just three minutes later. Kaká worked his way around a pair of defenders and was in alone on the left with only Bono to beat. But the captain’s shot was right at the Toronto keeper, who reached up and parried the shot away to end the Lions’ best chance of the second period.
From that point on, Orlando had a series of corner kicks and free kicks but could do nothing with them. Toronto locked down the defensive half and the Lions were too deliberate with passes and runs, failing to create anything dangerous in the final 10 minutes. Toronto, meanwhile, nearly got a gift victory when Luke Boden’s ill-advised clearance attempt fell perfectly for Will Johnson, but the Toronto midfielder fired wide of Bendik’s net in the 92nd minute.
Moments later, the whistle blew on another non-win. It would have been a much more palatable draw had D.C. United and Montreal not both won, but no one’s doing Orlando any favors these days. The Lions will need to win out and hope for some help.
Orlando did manage to earn its first ever point at BMO Field, after two lopsided losses there last season. The Lions are now 1-4-1 all-time against Toronto FC, and finish the 2016 season series 1-1-1.