Less than a month ago, Orlando City fans were enjoying a six-game winning streak and the Lions were charging towards the top of the Eastern Conference table. Now, after a 5-2 beat-down at the hands of the Vancouver Whitecaps on Saturday, City is reeling from five straight losses and is flirting with a dip below the red line.
Saturday night’s loss came over 3,000 miles from home in British Columbia and the lopsided score was due in large part to the Lions facing the final half hour-plus of the match down a man following the questionable sending off of Mohamed El-Munir. The Caps ran riot late against 10-man Orlando, and Kei Kamara led the way with a brace in the win for Vancouver. Orlando fell to 0-3-1 in four MLS matches against the Whitecaps.
The first half was a familiar refrain for Orlando City (6-7-1, 19 points), which controlled the possession and out-shot Vancouver (6-5-5, 23 points) only to find itself on the wrong end of a 1-0 scoreline at the break.
The Lions were unable to find an end product and saw chances from Will Johnson, Sacha Kljestan, and Chris Mueller go unfinished, with Kljestan’s 1-v-1 opportunity feeling particularly wasteful. The Caps, meanwhile, took advantage of a clear-cut chance off an Orlando giveaway in minute 36, when Kamara put Vancouver up 1-0 with a finish on the counter after Cristian Higuita gave the ball away near midfield. Alphonso Davies gained possession off Higuita’s mishap and, after a long gallop up the left side, proceeded to pull one back for Kamara for the right-footed finish past Joe Bendik.
City ultimately went into the locker room down a goal despite owning the edge in shots (8-4), possession (57% to 43%), and passing percentage (86% to 81%).
Vancouver (6-5-5, 23 points) came out of the break on the front foot, however, creating a couple of chances in the first two minutes of the second half. None of the early chances amounted to anything, and after Josué Colmán sent a free kick high and wide, and Justin Meram was dispossessed in the box to waste a ball into the Vancouver area, things got a lot tougher for Orlando in minute 58.
Jake Nerwinski was making his way up the right flank when Mohamed El-Munir — who was booked in the first half — made a challenge from behind in an effort to separate the right back from the ball. The contact that ensued probably constituted a foul, but it hardly seemed worthy of a yellow. Regardless, El-Munir was shown his second yellow in harsh fashion and the Lions went down to 10 men with over half an hour remaining. El-Munir will miss the next two matches due to both the sending off and yellow card accumulation.
Despite the setback, Orlando City wouldn’t take long to flip the momentum on its head. Following a 63rd-minute substitution that put Dom Dwyer on the pitch in place of Higuita, the Lions leveled things up on a Kljestan goal that was assisted by Tony Rocha. Rocha sent in a pretty ball from the left side that Kljestan finished nicely across the face of goal, but a run from Colmán was what set it all up. The Paraguayan made a nice turn in the middle of the park and charged forward on the left, beating several defenders before dishing the Rocha on the right wing.
The shorthanded Lions had managed to make a game of it, but it didn’t take long for things to unravel for the 10-man side as the floodgates opened for Vancouver.
It started in the 76th minute when a scramble in the box led to a low, hard shot from the edge of the box that Bendik stopped but couldn’t manage to corral. The rebound went straight to Davies who tapped in to give the Caps a 2-1 advantage. That lead grew in the 85th minute after Amro Tarek made a sliding challenge on Yordy Reyna in the 84th minute and caught Reyna’s foot studs up in the box. The penalty wasn’t initially awarded, but after a quick review the ruling was changed and Kamara coolly slotted home from the spot for his second goal of the evening and a 3-1 Vancouver advantage.
Things only got worse from there as the snowball continued to roll downhill against a tired, undermanned Orlando City side. The Caps were getting out on the break often, and after Kamara made a charging run up the left side in the 87th minute and played a ball across the box, Reyna tapped home for a 4-1 lead. That lead grew again to 5-1 when Nicolás Mezquida fired past Bendik into the corner after yet another run out by Vancouver against a gassed City defense.
Dwyer made the scoreboard look a little better when he tucked one home in the 94th minute. It was Dwyer’s first appearance since May 13, so it was perhaps a silver lining that he looked healthy and quickly got back to his scoring ways with goal No. 7 on the season.
Saturday night’s match was the third of four straight away from home for Orlando, which will take on Montreal on Wednesday to close out that stretch. It’s a stretch that hasn’t been kind to the Lions so far outside of a U.S. Open Cup win over an inferior Miami United side, but the final match of the trip offers hope against an 11th-place Montreal side.