The Lions may not be unbeaten at home anymore... they may be on a five-game winless skid (0-3-2)... they may look like they lack teeth in the attack in recent games... wait, I forgot what my point was going to be. Let’s just forget everything I just typed and you just read and move on.
Sure, last night’s game was no fun, but we’re still going to talk about it because that’s what we do. Here are my takeaways from a result I never wanted to see against New York City FC.
Home Magic Gone
The first loss at home was always going to come at some point but did it have to come against New York City? Apparently it did. While the final score might flatter NYCFC a bit, the visitors were more clinical and deserving of the three points. The Pigeons also played good defense, frustrating both Cyle Larin and Carlos Rivas up top. It was a good run to open the stadium but all good things must come to an end. Hopefully the Lions can start a new home unbeaten streak the next time at OCS when D.C. United visits at the end of the month.
A Tale of Two Penalties
Referee Mark Geiger awarded each team a spot kick in the match but it’s what each team did with its penalty that represented the entire match. David Villa coolly deposited an un-savable kick inside the right post despite goalkeeper Joe Bendik going the correct way. It gave the visitors early momentum they were able to build on and forced the Lions to chase the game only 14 minutes in.
Cyle Larin’s attempt in the second half could have pulled Orlando back within a goal and put some pressure on the visitors during a time when the Lions were getting forward and creating a bit more. But the Canadian international smacked the woodwork with his effort and it didn’t even fall in an advantageous spot to get onto the rebound, bouncing harmlessly over the touch line. If Cyle hits that, it’s game on. He didn’t.
Reality Check for Leo
After a solid MLS debut for Brazilian center back Leo Pereira, it was probably too much to ask of the 21-year-old to go up against David Villa and Jack Harrison on a few days rest and a cross-country flight. Pereira went 90 on Wednesday in San Jose and for the most part did a good job of handling whatever the Earthquakes threw at him, but the speedier and shiftier NYCFC attackers gave him much more trouble. He was forced into two early tackles of Villa that gave away dangerous free kick opportunities and was booked for his second consecutive game in the latter stages of the match. There will be better days ahead for the youngster but perhaps Jose Aja’s experience may have helped with some of those dangerous early chances.
Oh, and playing Pereira as the left CB shifted Spector to the right side. Had Spector and Aja been together, perhaps the veteran U.S. international sniffs out the cross that led to the second goal before it happens.
Off Night for the Captain
I don’t know if it was the early handball against him that put New York City ahead, the visitors’ defense, or just the toll of three games in nine days, but Kaká just wasn’t himself last night. He was dispossessed twice, had one bad touch, and his passing was a bit off (74%). He offered up no crosses on the night and created just one chance. The Brazilian will have better nights than this one.
Bench Offense Lacking
Matias Perez Garcia and Giles Barnes came on for the final half hour and offered virtually nothing to the offense as the Lions tried to get back into the game. MPG and Barnes combined for just 25 touches over the final half hour and only offered up one shot attempt and that wasn’t on frame. They did manage to combine for three key passes, but there simply must be a threat to goal coming in off the bench when Orlando City’s offense needs help. Hadji Barry is raw but may have offered more with his speed and movement had he been in the 18. It’s definitely an area of need for the summer transfer window.
By way of contrast, Luis Gil came on for the final 15 minutes and managed 12 touches, one shot that tested Sean Johnson, and completed all nine of his passes. It’s arguable that Gil’s 15 minutes were more productive than MPG’s and Barnes’ 60 combined minutes.
Well, that’s what I saw last night. What stood out to you? Let us know in the comments.