Orlando City may win a road game or a match against the Fire at some point in the future, but it sure doesn’t seem possible, even under the most favorable circumstances.
Leading by a goal and with a manpower advantage against the 10-man Fire, Orlando threw two points away when CJ Sapong scored on a free header to level the game at 1-1 in the 95th minute at SeatGeek Stadium.
Dom Dwyer had given the Lions (0-0-2, 2 points) a 1-0 second-half lead, and Ruan’s speed forced a Jorge Corrales sending off. Still, Przemyslaw Frankowski was given time in the dying seconds to cross in for Sapong. Defender Shane O’Neill didn’t have tight enough marking and didn’t even jump to try to bother the Fire striker, who gave Chicago (0-1-1, 1 point) a late equalizer.
“That’s totally unacceptable,” James O’Connor said to My65 sideline reporter Jenny Chiu after the match. “You’re winning the game. You’re playing against 10 men. To get that [result]. It’s totally unacceptable.”
Orlando was seconds against snapping a six-game winless streak against Chicago and nabbing its first road win in league play since April 29, 2018. Instead, the Lions are now 0-3-4 in the last seven meetings against the Fire, dating back to Sept. 19, 2015.
The only change in O’Connor’s starting lineup from the opener was to replace Chris Mueller with Nani.
Chicago came out with a lot of energy and tried to jump on Orlando City early. A cross for Nemanja Nikolic should have seen the striker put the Fire on top in just the second minute but Kamal Miller did just enough to bother the Chicago striker and he wasn’t able to get on the end of the cross, which trickled harmlessly out for a goal kick.
The Fire tried going over the top with diagonal passes behind the wingbacks most of the first half and looked dangerous — especially early — but Orlando eventually settled into the game a bit. Both teams were struggling to defend the wide side on Orlando’s right, with Kyle Smith getting around Jorge Corrales a few times and Sapong doing the same behind Smith.
Nikolic missed just wide in the 20th minute on a tap-in given to him on a plate by Aleksandar Katai, who burned Smith badly and fizzed a perfect cross in to the Fire’s forward. He simply missed the net from point-blank range.
Tesho Akindele pulled up with an apparent hamstring issue and Dom Dwyer checked into the game in the 21st minute — much earlier than anticipated. Dwyer nearly sent Nani in behind the defense in the 36th minute, but the Portuguese international was just offside and fired over the bar anyway.
The Lions finally got a decent opportunity in the 40th minute, when Dwyer played a cross off his chest and hit it off the half volley. The shot was headed for the inside of the near post but David Ousted was able to make a sprawling save.
An uneventful five minutes later, the first half was over and the sides headed into the locker rooms scoreless. Chicago held 56% of the first-half possession and out-shot the Lions, 4-1 (1-1 on target). Fouls were 7-3, with the hosts committing more infractions. Each team had one player booked — Smith for Orlando and Djordje Mihailovic for Chicago.
City pounced early in the second half. Nani got on the end of a Danilo Acosta header and blooped a ball over top of the Fire defense. Dwyer ran hard to split the Chicago center backs and arrived just before Ousted, coming out off his line. Dom chipped it with his toe on the second hop over the Fire keeper and into the net for the 1-0 lead at the 47-minute mark.
It was Orlando’s first goal at Chicago since Aug. 14, 2016.
Dwyer got in behind again three minutes later but lost control trying to finesse his way past Ousted but the assistant referee’s flag came up anyway.
Ruan was introduced in the 58th minute, coming on for Smith, and his speed impacted the game. Six minutes after coming on for his MLS debut, the Brazilian blazed past Corrales to get onto a slick through ball from Nani. Corrales lunged and brought Ruan down. Robert Sibiga gave a red card and upheld it upon video review, putting Chicago down a man as well as a goal.
Orlando was either unable or unwilling to control the game by possessing the ball. Chicago actually improved its halftime possession numbers, finishing with 59% of the ball, compared to Orlando’s 41%. Chicago continued to try to attack down the wings and cross the ball into the middle. Alex De John did a nice job of clearing out a few crosses into dangerous spots.
The Lions continued to give the ball away too often down the stretch and it finally cost them in stoppage time. Frankowski was given too much time on the ball and picked out a beautiful cross for Sapong. O’Neill was the closest defender and perhaps expected De John to be able to jump up and head it away before it arrived. De John didn’t jump and O’Neill wasn’t tight enough to the Fire forward. He also didn’t jump, giving Sapong a free header to level things in the 95th minute with time essentially up. It was Sapong’s fifth career goal against Orlando City.
“It’s really poor play from us to allow that to happen,” O’Connor told reporters after the match. “I just think our understanding of when we’re playing against 10 men, we need to do a better job of keeping the ball and playing in their half.”
It’s just very, very annoying for all of us.”
Despite leading for about 48 minutes, Orlando City’s offense was dormant, attempting only two shots in the game, although getting them both on frame. Chicago out-shot the Lions, 7-2 (3-2 on target). The Fire were also the better passing team (80%-72%).
Where last week’s draw may have felt like a win, despite the penalty not given, this one’s surely feels more like a loss.
Orlando will be back in action at home next Saturday, hosting the Montreal Impact at 4 p.m. ET.