Could some European team please come buy Jozy Altidore and Sebastian Giovinco? The Toronto duo has terrorized Orlando City for the last three seasons and did it again to lead the visiting Reds (11-3-5, 38 points) to a 3-1 win at Orlando City Stadium — just the second home game lost in league play by the Lions this year.
Altidore scored one, assisted Giovinco’s first, and drew the foul that led to the Italian’s second in a game where Orlando (8-7-5, 29 points) played mostly well but had a few bad moments undo a lot of good — at least defensively. On the offensive end, Orlando failed to get onto crosses and lost balls in the air time and time again to let Alex Bono have a relatively relaxed night in goal.
“Obviously really disappointed to lose at home, first and foremost. A result like that at home is never something that we want,” Head Coach Jason Kreis said after the match. “We’re a team that needs energy and when we don’t have that energy we suffer results, I think, like we did tonight. I thought we lacked a little bit of the energy to get ourselves back into this game.”
Carlos Rivas scored for Orlando City, which heads into the Gold Cup break in fifth place in the Eastern Conference.
Toronto got the first good attempt on goal off a free kick nine minutes in but the cross was headed out of a sea of bodies right at Joe Bendik. A minute later, Jose Aja was forced to take on Sebastian Giovinco one-on-one and he made a nice play to knock the ball away when the Italian star tried to cut inside for a shot. A minute after that, it was Antonio Nocerino blocking a Giovinco effort from above the box.
Minutes later, Giovinco shook free through the defense and when four Lions converged he fed a ball for Altidore to run onto in the box. Bendik got a piece of the USMNT striker’s shot but not enough of it and it was 1-0 to the visitors just 18 minutes in.
“We have to find a way to stop conceding goals early,” Kreis said. “When we do that I think we’ve really struggled. The first goal to me is a play where Giovinco’s floating in the space between our back four and our midfielders and is just given too much time and space there, and I think that’s something we’ve been trying to get our team to tactically sort out.
“For me it was a little bit about stepping at the wrong time and stepping late and we’re a little bit caught, and also how close we were to the players that were playing those balls through for [Altidore]. We weren’t close enough, we didn’t have enough pressure to those balls, and when you give a player like Giovinco time to slot those kinds of passes, he’s going to take full advantage of it.”
He added that he thinks the team’s current defensive personnel are good enough to get the job done.
“I think there’s just some small things that we’re not quite doing the same way were doing in the beginning of the season. ”
Five minutes later the Reds looked to double their lead as Altidore felt a shirt pull from Jonathan Spector and picked his feet up, going down easily and not only getting the call but also a booking on the Orlando City center back. Giovinco stepped up and blasted a free kick off the crossbar that the Lions were able to clear.
Much of Orlando’s first half offense was getting crosses into the box, only to watch Toronto defenders cut them out before they could find Cyle Larin. But the Lions finally got a decent opportunity at 36’ when Will Johnson stepped into a shot at the top of the box but he hit it directly at Alex Bono for the easy save.
In minute 39 the Reds got their last good look of the opening period when Oyvind Alseth sent a cross in that Giovinco volleyed wide. The Lions owned the rest of the half but struggled to find the final ball. There were several good crosses from Kaká, Scott Sutter, and Giles Barnes, but the Toronto defense was first to the ball each time, even if only to get a toe on a pass to knock it slightly off course. Orlando was still on the front foot when the halftime whistle blew.
The Lions held 64.9% of the first-half possession and a 12-1 advantage in crosses, but were out-shot, 7-5 (3-2 on goal).
But that good end to the first half was wasted when Toronto scored in the first minute after the break. Once again a well-timed run by Altidore had the U.S. international completely in behind the defense. He passed off to Giovinco for the tap-in when he was cut off in the box and it was quickly 2-0.
“Early in the second half was a back buster,” Kreis said.
Rivas, who came on at halftime, had an impact in his return from an ankle injury sustained at Chicago last week. He used his pace to break through a compact Toronto defense, which kept its three lines very tightly packed, and he eventually got on the score sheet in the 63rd minute. The Colombian took a beautiful through ball from Kaká and sent a shot that kissed the right post and went in to cut the lead to 2-1 with a lot of time left.
The good feeling from that goal didn’t last long, however. Altidore went down in a tangle of bodies and got his (I don’t know, I lost count) foul given by referee Alan Kelly. Giovinco, whose worst miss ever on a free kick against Orlando was probably the one in the first half that smacked the crossbar, found the upper 90 on an unstoppable shot to restore Toronto’s two-goal advantage at the 65’ mark, just two minutes after Rivas had given the Lions a lifeline.
From that point on, it was mainly a series of near misses for both teams. Rivas just missed over the bar in the 68th minute. Barnes had a good opportunity on a Kaká cross but his shot was deflected out for a corner in the 71st.
Bendik made a great stop on second-half sub Jordan Hamilton in the 88th minute after Ashtone Morgan’s back-post cross found him on the break.
Eventually, Kelly blew the full time whistle and the Lions had their second home loss in Orlando City Stadium history. The Lions finished with 64.6% of the possession, a 14-11 advantage on shots (but 3-6 on target), a 20-1 edge in crosses and 5-1 in corners, but the Reds won the only stat that matters.
The Lions are off until Atlanta United comes to town on Friday, July 21.
“Disappointed to go into a long break now to have to feel the suffering of losing three points now for the next two weeks. But it doesn’t change the fact that we know there’s some particular areas that we need to be really focused in on improving in the next couple of weeks and we’re going to take the opportunity with the extended period of time to train to really get after those things and get back to some of the things I think brought us a lot of success in the beginning of the season.”