Maybe they should have played with only nine guys again?
With just two days of rest coming off of a 1-1 draw in Seattle on Wednesday night, Orlando City was back in action yet again this evening, but fared much less favorably against the hottest team in MLS, as the Lions will return to Orlando with just their point from Seattle in hand after a dreadful 4-0 loss to the Chicago Fire (10-3-4, 34 points) at Toyota Stadium.
Orlando City (7-6-5, 26 points) led the game in yellow cards (4-3) but were shut out in the goal department, dropping all three points to the Fire for the first time in seven meetings since joining MLS back in 2015.
Any optimism in the air flew out of the stadium quickly from the Orlando City bench just three minutes into the match when David Accam, back in the lineup after missing Chicago’s last two games due to various reasons, beat Joe Bendik with a beautifully composed backheel finish off a Matt Polster cross to make it a 1-0 game.
The nearly minute-long build-up play by Chicago led to Polster receiving the ball on an overlapping run down the right side before finding Accam inside the penalty area, where he tucked it home for his eighth goal of the season.
Things went from bad to worse for the Lions just five minutes later when Accam doubled the lead with his second score of the night, slipping past the Orlando City back line to reach a long ball over the top before dribbling past the charging Joe Bendik, leaving nothing but the air to beat for his ninth on the year.
If anything was evident for the Lions early on, it was that they were surely suffering from tired legs and being at a clear disadvantage of having played just three days ago in Seattle, while the host side had been at home all week, resting, preparing solely for one opponent, and not playing a midweek game on the opposite side of the country. Nevertheless, Orlando City came out slow. The Lions lacked pace, energy, and a decent final touch. A bad combination of lacking skills against a Chicago team that had come into the night unbeaten in eight straight contests.
Orlando City didn’t tally its first “shot” of the match until Carlos Rivas sent a free kick into the wall in the 25th minute. And the first actual shot didn’t come until Victor Giro ripped a ball from deep that sailed wide of the target near the end of the first half. In 90 minutes of soccer, the Lions didn’t register a single shot on target and only three attempts in total.
Major League Soccer’s leading goal scorer, Nemanja Nikolic, virtually put the game out of reach in the 52nd minute when he finished off a perfectly placed through ball from Accam for his 14th goal of the season. And then Accam officially sealed the deal 11 minutes later when Chicago was awarded a penalty after Scott Sutter took down Accam in the penalty area. Bendik went left, Accam went hard to the right, and the Ghanaian striker collected his first career MLS hat trick in the 63rd minute.
Antonio Nocerino was denied his first MLS goal by the offside flag in the 66th minute, and then controversy struck in the 75th minute when Rivas had his leg stomped on by Chicago goalkeeper Matt Lampson just outside of the penalty area. No foul was ruled on a play that could have easily resulted in a red card for Lampson. It was that kind of evening for Orlando City. Rivas was taken to the locker room and Orlando finished the game with 10 men, having already used all three substitutes.
If there was a positive from the match, Richie Laryea, Orlando’s first-round draft pick in 2016, made his MLS debut for the club, coming on as a substitute for Kaká in the 64th minute.
Well, Orlando City will return home now, but will have to prepare for their next opponent out in Utah next Friday in a match-up with Real Salt Lake — the final match of their three-game road slate to finish out the month of June.