The losing streak stands at four games. For the second straight game, Orlando City played well but failed to threaten goal, sending three shots off the woodwork en route to a 3-0 loss to New York City FC at Yankee Stadium. The Lions (6-6-1, 19 points) even hit the frame on a Sacha Kljestan penalty and Ismael Tajouri-Shradi scored a brace for New York City FC (8-3-3, 27 points) as the hosts improved to 6-0-0 at home this season.
Orlando saw its modest two-game road winning streak snapped as well at the start of a four-match road trip in all competitions.
It doesn’t matter that Orlando City played a good road game. It doesn’t matter if the score line flatters New York City. It only matters that the Lions can’t find the net with a map, a compass, two Sherpas and a laser guidance system. This time it was only two shots on frame out of 11 total attempts.
With Dom Dwyer still unavailable and no center backs healthy, Jason Kreis played this lineup:
The game began with both teams a bit sloppy early. New York City got the first good look with a cross in the fourth minute that Jesus Medina headed just over the bar.
Orlando came into the game and started getting more of the possession, but the Lions just weren’t sharp enough — again — in the offensive third. Justin Meram fired wide early. Minutes later, Josué Colmán cut in on his right foot and had a shot blocked in the 18th minute.
NYCFC’s best buildup play resulted in Jo Inge Berget firing over the bar in the 22nd minute.
The Lions nearly took the lead in the 30th minute, when Colmán curled in a right-footed shot that beat Sean Johnson but hit squarely off the right post. The defense was able to clear before Sacha Kljestan could pounce on the rebound.
A minute later, Meram fired through traffic but didn’t get all of it and directed his attempt right at Johnson.
Seconds later, the Lions narrowly avoided disaster when Will Johnson slipped while trying to evade a defender, setting up a 2-v-1 in the penalty area, but the cross ended up behind Berget and Orlando City was able to clear the danger. Berget then blew a free header well wide in the 33rd minute.
The hosts broke through in the 35th minute. A counter attack went down Orlando’s left flank and Donny Toia, playing his first game of the year, overplayed Ismael Tajouri-Shradi to cross with his right foot. He went to ground to block an expected cross and slid right past, as Tajouri-Shradi cut inside on his left and blasted a goal past Joe Bendik to make it 1-0.
That was the last good look at goal for either side in the opening half. The Lions did manage a late set piece near the edge of the area but Kljestan’s low drive was blocked out by the defense for a corner. Shortly thereafter, the whistle blew for halftime.
Orlando City held the possession advantage (54%) with each team firing six shots in the first half (1-1 on target). The Lions passed at an 81% clip compared to New York City’s 71%. But the hosts led through the Tajouri-Shradi goal.
Just three minutes after the restart, the Lions should have tied the game. Chris Mueller made a quick run into the area on a throw-in and was taken down before the ball arrived. Kljestan stepped up to the spot in the 48th minute, sent Johnson the wrong direction, and sent the shot off the outside of the right goal post.
It was that kind of night for Sacha, who got out on the break in the 60th minute and passed up an opportunity to send in Colmán, instead cutting a ball back for Meram who had a lot more traffic to navigate and the chance evaporated.
In the 74th minute, Colmán fired from the right that came off the crossbar, making it three shots off the woodwork on the evening. If soccer is a game of inches, the Lions were off by just those few inches.
Five minutes later, Tajouri-Shradi put the game away. After Uri Rosell conceded a free kick out wide by fouling Maxi Moralez — who really could have been called for tugging Rosell on the steal — the ball in was low and looked to be no threat but it didn’t touch anyone and Bendik got caught up in traffic on his attempt to punch it away.
If that didn’t seal the victory, Moralez did in the 87th minute. The Pigeons sent two consecutive shots off the crossbar and Orlando’s defenders stood around and watched while Moralez swooped in and finished to make it 3-0.
Orlando City won the possession battle on the road against the league’s best possession team, keeping the ball 52% of the ball. The Lions were leading in shots 10-8 at one point late in the second half but a flurry — including the three shot attempts on the third goal — allowed the hosts to take a 16-11 final advantage (5-2 on goal). Orlando was the more accurate passing team (78%-76%).
But all the good things the Lions did were undone by an inability to score goals. Even though the performance was much better than the March 17 match-up, Orlando City was shut out for just the second time all year — both at Yankee Stadium.
The Lions will travel to Miami for a Wednesday night U.S. Open Cup match against Miami United FC before heading to Vancouver to take on the Whitecaps next Saturday night.