Orlando City fell 2-1 Wednesday night at the house of horrors that has been BMO Field, where the Lions are yet to find a win — and have only one draw — in their MLS history. It was the Lions’ second loss of the season, but they still see themselves in first in the Eastern Conference table with two games in hand on NYRB, which got waxed at Sporting Kansas City last night. You can read the details of the match in the recap linked above, we’ll get into the takeaways now.
Orlando Failed to Take Advantage of its Chances
The Lions out-shot Toronto on the night and managed the same number of shots on target, but the Reds — Sebastian Giovinco, specifically — were more clinical in front of goal and it ultimately won them the match.
Kaká did well to pull a goal back just before the half with a top-shelf finish past Alex Bono, but Orlando squandered a number of other chances that could have seen them take a road win from BMO Field, and at the very least would have scraped a point. Cyle Larin had a pair of missed opportunities around the hour mark, the first on a Carlos Rivas cross that he slid into that took a deflection off Bono before trickling almost into the net, but not quite as Bono was able to swat it away at the last moment. About seven minutes later, Larin got on the end of another cross and just didn’t get anything behind the ball, leaving it well short on a chance that he almost certainly finishes on any other night.
Larin wasn’t alone, but he’s certainly the man that City looks to for goal-scoring support and he was unable to finish a couple chances he normally would. Against a Giovinco-led team, that wasn’t good enough, as the Italian finished a pair of chances efficiently to outclass Orlando. Bono deserves a mention for a few very nice saves against OCSC, as well.
The Value of Johnson and Nocerino is Clear
Will Johnson missed Wednesday’s match due to illness, and Antonio Nocerino sat out as a precautionary measure following his early-season calf injury. Without that stalwart duo in the midfield, things took a different shape for Orlando City.
The revamped defense that had been one of the best in MLS coming in looked disheveled in the first half when TFC notched both of its goals. Servando Carrasco and Luis Gil started in place of the missing duo, and although Gil was good the defense suffered as he and Carrasco didn’t appear to be clicking and failed to keep Giovinco from a pair of good looks, which he finished.
In addition to being solid pieces in the starting XI, Noc and Johnson are also leaders for the Lions, with the latter having worn the captain’s armband in place of Kaká during his injury rehab. It’s good to know that Nocerino’s absence was only precautionary and that he’ll presumably be back this weekend, and hopefully Johnson can bounce back quickly. We’ll just have to wonder if Wednesday’s result would’ve been different had one or both been in the lineup.
Giovinco Stings Orlando...Again
Speaking of Gio, he’s been really good against everyone in MLS since moving to Toronto in 2015 — he’d scored 39 goals and registered 31 assists across the past two seasons and won an MLS MVP award, so he’s been consistently great. He seems to find a little extra edge against Orlando, though.
Coming into Wednesday night, Giovinco had scored four times against the Lions during his MLS career, tormenting the Orlando defense en route to several blowout wins. He continued that trend even against an improved Lions defense, netting twice in the first half to bring his goal tally vs. City to six, surpassing Jozy Altidore’s five vs. Orlando.
His second goal was a poach of a score when Orlando City was unable to clear the danger following the swipe of a low cross from Joe Bendik, but his typical skill was on display for his first goal when he used a silky touch with his left foot off a half-clearance to play the ball around Luis Gil and onto his right foot and set up a finish into the bottom corner just nine minutes in.
As noted above, Giovinco is a brilliant MLS player, and he’s going to get his fair share against just about everyone. But the extent to which he’s burned Orlando has reached a ridiculous level.
Kaká Scores for the Second Consecutive Game
While Kaká’s season got off to just about the worst start possible with a hamstring injury just 10 minutes in, he’s made his presence known in the last two matches upon his return. The captain scored for the second straight game, notching City’s lone goal just before the half to restore some confidence and keep things tight going into the break.
He’s been the beneficiary of some good work from Larin on both of his scores, this time receiving a headed assist from the Canadian at the back post, but his top-shelf finish over Bono and another approaching TFC defender was not as simple as the Brazilian made it look. It was good to see some of the combination play between Kaká and players like Larin and Rivas again, as his creative flair is always refreshing. His match fitness will only improve as he progresses back into form, but the return from his first two appearances post-injury has been a good start.
Orlando Must Get a Result in Houston
The unfortunate consequence of missing a chance at a point (or three) on the road last night is that the Lions now have to finish off this back-to-back road session in Houston on Saturday in need of a result to prevent some negative momentum from building.
Two straight road losses would not only halt the fast start to the season, but it would restore doubt about the Lions’ ability to win on the road once again following a disappointment in Toronto. While Orlando can lament the absences of Nocerino and Johnson vs. TFC and know that Cyle Larin usually cashes in on at least one of the two excellent chances he had at BMO Field, another loss will overshadow those silver linings from Wednesday.
That’s the way I saw the match. What stood out to you? Let us know in the comments below.