After sleeping on it, there’s still no two ways around what we saw last night from Orlando City — the Lions’ 3-1 dismissal from the U.S. Open Cup at the hands of Miami FC at home was shameful.
If you were fortunate enough to miss the match, we’ve got you covered with a full recap as well as player grades. Right now, it’s time for the takeaways, which, as you can imagine, weren’t overwhelmingly positive.
Orlando’s Biggest U.S. Open Cup Disappointment Since...Last Year
Wednesday marked the second year in a row that Orlando City was eliminated from U.S. Open Cup play by an NASL side, after falling 2-1 to Ft. Lauderdale in 2016.
This loss was perhaps even more disappointing, however, as it took a heroic extra-time goal from then-Striker PC to lift Ft. Lauderdale over Orlando last year. Miami FC, on the other hand, didn’t need the help of any red cards and it sure as hell didn’t need extra time, looking superior from the opening minute and embarrassing Orlando on its way to a 3-0 lead. It took former Ballon d’Or winner Kaká and Carlos Rivas coming on in the second half to create much of anything for the Lions against NASL competition, and even then the only goal of the match for City came off a header on a set piece from a difficult angle, hardly an indictment of the Miami defense.
Miami is currently five points clear at the top of the NASL table, so it’s a quality NASL side to be sure. But getting so thoroughly out-played at home by a lower-division side is unacceptable, and the fact that it’s the second home loss to an NASL club in a row to end Orlando’s U.S. Open Cup hopes makes it all the more frustrating.
Orlando’s Defense Pulled a 180 from Chicago Performance
The same back line that started Orlando’s recent 0-0 draw with Chicago took the pitch to start Wednesday night’s Open Cup match. Perhaps the Lions should’ve had a man sent off as they did with Rafael Ramos in what would eventually be a nine-man defensive stand against the Fire, because that back line turned in a very different effort vs. Miami FC.
There is a very different atmosphere for a home league match with 24,469 fans and a fourth-round U.S. Open Cup match in front of a sparse crowd of 5,838, but the effort was very, very poor from the Lions overall, starting with the back line. As great as City’s home-field advantage has been in league play, the Lions shouldn’t have to have such a crowd to inspire better effort.
Miami was on the front foot from the start, and by the time Stefano Pinho slid to tap home the visitors’ first goal of the night half an hour in — the low cross he finished having easily gotten past PC, Jonathan Spector, and a sliding Ramos — Miami already had a 7-0 advantage in shots. Pinho skied over Spector to head home a second goal just six minutes later, and Kreis was prompted to change things up at the half by inserting Tommy Redding into the defense and sliding Ramos forward in more of a 3-5-2 look. Miami immediately put two shots on target within the first two minutes of the second half, so it’s safe to say things didn’t get too much better despite the shift.
Miami was still clearly the better side and would go on to make it 3-0 with a laugher of a tap-in from Pinho to complete his hat trick, having made a run unmarked behind the Orlando back line with Leo Pereira notably jogging behind him, seemingly unaware and helpless. Spector didn’t deputize in his usual manner, while neither Servando Carrasco nor Antonio Nocerino put in the kind of inspiring shift that Will Johnson did in the central midfield vs. Chicago, and things were just bad in general, which Miami happily took advantage of.
Speaking of Pinho
You might have expected the star man for Miami to be former NYCFC attacker Kwadwo Poku, who registered five goals and seven assists and flashed star potential at times in his year-and-a-half stint in MLS. On Wednesday, though, it was former NASL Golden Ball winner Stefano Pinho who stole the spotlight.
The Brazilian single-handedly put Orlando City down 3-0, setting up all three of his scores with direct runs at goal followed by sure finishes. He never ceased working and made the City defense look flat-out bad at times, and he was rewarded with a fairly easy three-goal night that eclipsed his current league-goal tally of two so far in 2017. Minnesota United shipped Pinho off before its ascent to MLS this season, but he notched 15 NASL goals in 2015 for Ft. Lauderdale, and the former Fluminense man showed out against an MLS side on Wednesday when he got the chance.
The last Brazilian to doom Orlando City in the U.S. Open Cup (the aforementioned PC) wound up in purple the following season, so who knows, maybe Pinho chose the perfect club to audition against with a hatty.
The Lions Were Toothless in Attack
The Lions rolled out a somewhat-experienced starting lineup against Miami, but there was a notable lack of firepower up front that became glaring as the evening went on. Hadji Barry and Giles Barnes started up top for the Lions in the 4-4-2 and, along with their supporting teammates, looked mostly harmless in attack. While Orlando’s defense was under-performing and allowing Miami to get shot after shot at Josh Saunders’ net, there was zero support on the other end.
Barry deflected a PC cross wide of the goal in what was probably Orlando’s best chance of the first half (which is saying something, and not in a good way), but he made way for Carlos Rivas in minute 69 in an effort to get some forward momentum in what was already a lost game. Barnes did notch a goal with less than 15 minutes to go, and it was a beauty — coming off a flick on from a Rivas corner at a tight angle — but Barnes was not much of an open-play threat up front despite that effort.
Kaká came on in minute 63 in a swap for Spector, but the duo of Kaká and Rivas couldn’t have realistically been expected to erase the three-goal deficit at that point with less than half an hour to work. Cyle Larin continues to carry the brunt of the scoring load for Orlando in MLS, and his absence on Wednesday was noticeable, as the Lions don’t have anything close to a formidable replacement for the Canadian up front, which doesn’t bode well for the upcoming games that Larin will undoubtedly miss following his DUI arrest Thursday morning.
Orlando Must Rebound Quickly
We could keep talking about Wednesday’s loss, but it would only further improve the chances of nausea at this point. Orlando City welcomes Montreal Impact on Saturday, so the Lions can’t afford to let this result linger at all otherwise they risk letting it affect their league campaign in addition to their cup run.
The Lions sit in fourth place in the Eastern Conference standings at the moment, level on points with third-place NYCFC and are only behind due to goal difference. As uninspired as Wednesday night’s showing was vs. Miami, Orlando’s last home showing in MLS was about as inspired as they come, making a 0-0 draw feel like a triumph due to two red cards. The crowd will be back to its usual level — both in numbers and in terms of noise — and Orlando City has a chance to keep itself sitting nicely in the table while burying the memory of their lone 2017 U.S. Open Cup match as soon as possible.