A valiant effort from Orlando City came up short as the New York Red Bulls claimed the Supporters Shield on Decision Day, thanks to a 1-0 victory. Orlando (8-22-4) had several opportunities to come away with a result but New York (22-7-5) proved too strong on the day. With Atlanta United’s loss to Toronto FC, the Red Bulls topped the final table and set a new record for points in a season. Orlando ends its 2018 campaign with a loss and finishes on just 28 points, the club’s lowest in its short MLS history.
The Lions also lost their final 14 consecutive road matches.
Head Coach James O’Connor named a largely-unchanged side from the Lions’ 2-1 victory over Columbus, with Carlos Ascues (quad injury) making way for Amro Tarek and Chris Mueller in instead of Will Johnson in the front three. Lamine Sané sustained a knee injury in pregame warm-ups and was replaced by Chris Schuler in the center of the three-man back line. Sacha Kljestan was given the captain’s armband in his return to Red Bull Arena. Don’t mind the shape on the graphic.
Orlando started the match well, getting into the final third and causing problems for the Red Bulls’ league-leading defense, but it was New York that had the first real chance of the afternoon in the 15th minute. Referee Ismail Elfath awarded the Red Bulls a penalty after Mohamed El-Munir and Bradley Wright-Phillips collided in the area.
Derrick Etienne stepped up to the spot but Adam Grinwis came up big to deny the Haitian international’s attempt. It would be New York’s only shot on frame in the first half.
The home side stepped up the pressure after the missed spot kick with Wright-Phillips missing just wide of the post and Etienne skying a shot from the top of the area. Grinwis was called into action repeatedly and time after time saved the day for City, though he only technically needed to make three saves in the match. The keeper pawed away a threatening cross that was eventually cleared out of danger and then took the ball off of BWP’s foot a few minutes later.
The Lions were content to sit back and absorb pressure as the first half wore on and frustrated the New York attack. Wright-Phillips was forced to the side due to an ankle issue following a collision with Amro Tarek but managed to continue on.
The next golden opportunity came to Chris Mueller. Shane O’Neill got forward and put a rocket of a shot on target, which was parried away by Luis Robles to the foot of Scott Sutter. Sutter’s cross found Mueller unmarked for a free header in the six-yard box but the rookie put his attempt over the bar.
Sean Davis had one final attempt in the first half but Chris Schuler stepped up to make the stop and keep the match goalless entering halftime. Orlando held a very slight advantage in possession (50.9% to 49.1%) and both teams managed to take six shots each (one each on frame) before the break.
Kaku nearly put the home side in front after the re-start after claiming the ball from Uri Rosell. The Paraguayan midfielder skipped by Schuler and took a shot from distance that landed just outside the far post. Sacha Kljestan responded well against his old team, putting a perfect ball behind the back line to Mueller, whose cross was stopped by Robles.
But it was Etienne finding redemption and the breakthrough for the home side in the 54th minute. The pacey forward sent Shane O’Neill the wrong way and Grinwis couldn’t get a strong enough hand on the shot to keep it out of the net.
New York kept the pressure on as Michael Murillo was next to take a chance but once again the Red Bull player couldn’t put a shot on target. Dom Dwyer thought he had found the equalizer in the 64th minute after his header found the back of the net but the Orlando forward was correctly deemed offside by just a few inches. Dwyer had his third and final opportunity just minutes later but his shot bounced just to the left of goal. City’s star striker made the Red Bull defense work hard all afternoon but Dom couldn’t quite capitalize.
Josué Colmán was O’Connor’s only substitute at the 70th minute mark, replacing Mueller after a performance where the rookie couldn’t take advantage of his chances in the final third. Chris Armas responded by bringing on center back Fidel Escobar to try and hold the lead.
Yoshimar Yotún earned a foul in a dangerous area at minute 77 but Kljestan’s attempt to spoil his former club’s afternoon went high and wide. Yotún once again led Orlando City in chances created, this time with two.
The Red Bulls continued to pile on the pressure even with the extra defender, spending most of the final minutes in Orlando’s end. Kaku and Wright-Phillips linked up for a potential score but the Englishman was denied by Grinwis once again in the 83rd minute.
Elfath added four minutes on to the end of the match and Orlando used almost all of it searching for the equalizer. Armas brought on Brian White to bleed the clock but the Lions put several dangerous balls into the area that New York neutralized.
The Red Bulls had another chance in the final minute of added time as Daniel Royer took a first-time shot. It was denied in the 94th minute by Grinwis, but New York wouldn’t need the insurance goal, however, as Elfath called for full time.
While Orlando took the possession lead in the second half and ended with 54% on the afternoon, the Lions couldn’t quite capitalize. City added just two more shots in the final 45 minutes and couldn’t put either on frame. The Red Bulls, meanwhile, ended the match with 13 shots and tested Grinwis much more in the second half.
In the end, it was a strong performance to close out the year from Orlando but City couldn’t put it all together to come away from Red Bull Arena with a result.
Orlando finishes the season in last place in the Eastern Conference and second from the bottom in the overall table. The Lions will have a lot of work to do in the upcoming off-season.