Orlando City may have been the better side but the Lions failed to take advantage of their chances and, as a result, suffered their second loss of the season. Toronto FC got a pair of goals from Sebastian Giovinco on what were pretty much the only two chances the Reds got in the first half to win 2-1 at BMO Field.
The Lions (6-2-0, 18 points) held 56.9% of the possession, out-passed the hosts, and out-shot Toronto, 9-6 (3-3 on target), but could not finish a couple of golden chances in the second half. Toronto (4-1-4, 16 points) is now 5-1-1 in the all-time series against Orlando, including a 3-0-1 mark at BMO Field.
Jason Kreis reinserted Kaká into the starting lineup at the top of the diamond after his 30-minute return on Saturday off the bench. Carlos Rivas returned to the starting lineup up top next to Cyle Larin. Luis Gil started for an ill Will Johnson, and a decision to rest Antonio Nocerino’s sore calf saw Servando Carrasco man the bottom of the diamond.
Giovinco scored a pair of first-half goals to put the hosts well on top, 2-0, getting the first just nine minutes into the match. Raheem Edwards made a nice move to work inside of Scott Sutter on the flank and centered for Jozy Altidore. Carrasco came in to sweep the ball away but just as he arrived Altidore touched it back to Giovinco. The Italian faked to send Gil one way and then cut inside to shoot with his right, beating Joe Bendik to the near post.
Jozy nearly doubled the lead in the 24th minute, after Rivas was run over from behind but no foul was called. The result was a near breakaway for Altidore but Bendik came off his line to challenge the U.S. international and defuse the situation.
After a lot of possession but not much menace by Orlando City, the Reds did double the lead. It was Giovinco again. After Steven Beitashour found room down the right flank, he sent a ball across the top of the six that Bendik went down to parry away. The ball didn’t go far, but no Lion could get onto it before Victor Vazquez. The Spaniard quickly tapped a slick ball to Giovinco, who swept it home to make it 2-0.
Kaká pulled Orlando City back into the match in first-half stoppage time. Donny Toia worked his way up the left and earned a corner kick. Kaká took the set piece short to Gil, who sent the ball out top to Rivas, who curled in a back-post cross to Larin. The Canadian was well covered and nodded it back across the six-yard box where the captain swooped in and pounced, roofing the ball into the top of the net to make it 2-1 at the break.
City owned 53.3% of the first-half possession but took only two shots – Kaká’s goal and a Rivas shot from outside the box that was over the bar. The Lions not only attempted more passes in the first half (284-251) but also was more accurate (85%-82%). Toronto took only three shots in the opening period but made two of them count.
After the intermission, the Lions came out hungry and controlled play, looking dangerous. Just five minutes in, Rivas released a forward ball down the left for Larin. The Canadian beat his defender then touched the ball past goalkeeper Alex Bono, who ignored the ball and knocked Larin down, resulting in a free kick. Carrasco took the set piece and whipped a low cross in that Kaká flicked just wide of the net.
Two minutes later, a long throw-in from Scott Sutter fell perfectly for Larin, but he lost the ball trying to turn. It was that kind of night for Cyle, and it only got worse.
In the 59th minute, Rivas curved in a dangerous cross for Larin who got a touch on it but it bounced up and hit Bono’s hand. The ball continued to skid toward the gaping goal mouth and Larin appeared content to shepherd it in but Bono made a diving swipe to clear it off the line at the last second.
Despite a ton of possession to start the half, Toronto nearly got a third through Altidore on a counter. Giovinco gave Jozy a backheel pass and Gil came back to do just enough to throw off Altidore’s timing and his shot whistled just wide of the far post.
In the 65th minute, Toronto Head Coach Greg Vanney withdrew Vazquez, replacing him with Jonathan Osorio, at the same time that Kreis sacrificed Kaká for Matias Perez Garcia. Those two moves combined to settle the game down for the hosts, who stayed organized and defended in numbers as if they were the road team.
But before the game settled down, Larin again failed to finish a ball that Rivas put right on his foot just a few feet in front of goal. His touch let him down and the hometown boy’s second golden chance of the night went wanting again. He has yet to score in Toronto, near his hometown of Brampton, but he might not get two better opportunities than he had on this night.
That was the last good chance for Orlando City and the Reds were able to see out the game and stay undefeated at home in 2017.
It will be no consolation to Kreis or the players, but it’s noteworthy that, in such a tough environment, the Lions acquitted themselves well, actually outplaying their hosts for much of the contest.
The Lions have a quick turnaround, heading to Houston on Thursday ahead of Saturday night’s match against the Dynamo at BBVA Compass Stadium. That match takes place at 8:30 p.m. ET.