The speed of the Houston Dynamo and the tired legs of the Lions were a bad combination, as Orlando City was blown out, 4-0, at BBVA Compass Stadium. The club suffered consecutive losses for the first time all season, after dropping both matches on its two-game road trip. Alberth Elis, Mauro Manotas (twice), and Romell Quioto provided the goals for Houston.
Orlando City (6-3-0, 18 points) played away to Houston (5-3-1, 16 points) for its third game in just eight days and second game in as many time zones just three days apart and despite squad rotation, the Lions looked tired and slow throughout the match.
Jason Kreis made several changes, dropping Kaká and Carlos Rivas from the starting lineup and dropping Jonathan Spector from the 18. Giles Barnes started up top with Cyle Larin, atop a midfield of Antonio Nocerino at the bottom of the diamond, Luis Gil and Will Johnson on the wings, and Matias Perez Garcia at the tip. The back line consisted of Donny Toia, Tommy Redding, Jose Aja — in his return to the field — and Scott Sutter.
One noticeable name out of the starting XI for Houston was Cubo Torres, the league’s leading goal scorer. Houston wouldn’t need him.
The Dynamo were able to take advantage early, as they earned a corner kick in the first three minutes and were inside the 18 with the ball three times in that same time frame but were unable to test the MLS Player of the Month for April, Joe Bendik. Unfortunately, that wouldn’t last.
Toia gave away a bad foul on his own end line on the outside, right of the box early. Houston hit the ensuing free kick well, but fortunately Aja cleared it away. The ball was immediately fed back into the middle of the field, and Houston's Mauro Manotas hit a scary ball just wide of the post. With the pressure never ceasing, the ball was turned over by the Lions again and Houston broke away to earn a penalty kick on a Johnson foul. Manotas took the shot and hit the ball wide left as Bendik was diving the opposite way, giving the Lions a momentary reprieve.
Orlando needed a break and Manotas’ miss seemed the perfect opportunity for Orlando City to take a deep breath and try to work back into the game. But it wasn't happening for the Lions as they could never really find possession of the ball — Houston was beating them to everything and continued to dominate the game. This proved costly in the 23rd minute, as Alberth Elis beat Donny Toia wide and fired a shot on goal that beat Joe Bendik inside the near post on a shot that perhaps the keeper should have stopped.
Orlando City has three losses on the season and all of them came after conceding the first goal. So Elis’ strike was a bad omen.
The best threatening moment of the first half for Orlando City finally came in the 29th minute on a nice build-up, but a turnover from Scott Sutter in Houston’s 18-yard box resulted in a fast break for the opposition. Houston pushed and managed a shot but Orlando's Tommy Redding prevailed and the counter was squashed as the ball sailed over the goal post.
Orlando City finally earned a corner in the 35th minute of the game but it resulted in nothing positive for the men in purple as the ball was easily hit away from being any real threat. It did however, finally seem that Orlando City was pushing further up the field, resulting in better touches and more pressure against the Houston defense. The Dynamo, after 35 minutes of pressing, finally seemed fatigued and Orlando was doing a better job of making things happen at this point.
The story of the first half is simple — Houston dominated all but seven, maybe eight minutes of the game as Orlando City struggled to find its footing. The Dynamo were more than likely wondering how they didn’t score more goals, especially with a missed penalty kick. The Lions had to be thankful they didn't get scored on more as they looked fatigued and not too much excited about playing within the first 45 minutes.
Orlando City started off the second half a little bit better, even producing its first shot on target in the 47th minute. Johnson fired in a shot with a lot of pace but Houston keeper Joe Willis was not bothered as he made a comfortable save. A mere two minutes later, Houston was on the attack as Alex broke down Toia and assisted a beautiful touch pass to Manotas, who hammered the ball into the net. Bendik was able to get a piece of the ball under his leg but the shot was just powerful enough to find its way into the net.
Just before subs Kaká and Rivas made their way into the game, Barnes found an open opportunity in the middle of the 18, but the shot was taken on his weaker foot and ended up sailing away from the goal.
Kaká and Rivas finally made their way onto the field in the 58th minute with hopes of changing the tide of the game. Those hopes would seemingly dissipate rather quickly as Quioto found what seemed to be an entire field of space. Quioto came up with a fast break opportunity in the 64th minute but Bendik made an amazing save in a one-on-one situation that could have put Houston up 3-0.
But then the 65th minute came and Quioto again found himself wide open on the left flank, breaking away with great speed. This time, however, Quioto laid the ball off to a wide open Manotas, who clanked the ball in off the right post, scoring his second goal of the game.
Larin finally got his first real chance of the game in the 71st minute, an opportunity that came in front of the goal but Willis pushed the ball back into the middle of the 18, where no Orlando City player was able to capitalize.
Kreis subbed Cristian Higuita on for Johnson in the 71st minute. A minute later, Kaká wiggled his way through defenders and set up Gil, who scuffed his shot and Orlando's opportunity to find a way into the game.
In the 75th minute, Quioto again found himself in acres of space on the left side of the field, where his pace again left defenders in his wake, as he put away his opportunity with a well placed shot in the top right corner, chipping Bendik. This put Houston up 4-0 and put a cap to the scoring on the night.
The last 15 minutes of the game were played out with Orlando City looking to get a consolation goal, but the final touch was missing as the Lions were unable to capitalize on their opportunities. Houston earned many of the same opportunities where they could have run up the score but Bendik was able to prevent the game from getting further out of hand than it already was.
Orlando City never found its stride in the game and along with that looked fairly fatigued. The motor we are used to seeing was absent from the players and the end result was domination from the Houston Dynamo.
The Lions are back in action at home next Saturday against Sporting Kansas City at 7:30 p.m.