Orlando City continued its struggles against Toronto FC in a 2-0 loss that lacked energy or urgency in any part of the field. Except for a decent spell late in the first half, the Reds (5-2-1, 16 points) thoroughly dominated a stagnant and lifeless Orlando squad (3-4-3, 12 points), often anticipating the home side’s next pass better than the Lions themselves.
Jonathan Osorio and Jay Chapman scored in the second half to break open what had been a mostly dull affair and the Reds defended well even as rumors swirl of the impending arrival of Omar Gonzalez to Toronto. The Lions were shut out for the first time in 2019 as a result.
“Obviously not what we were hoping for or looking for,” said Orlando City Head Coach James O’Connor of his team’s performance. “I think first half we seemed to do a decent enough job of limiting them. I think our expectation was the second half to have something similar where we could go and create some similar chances.”
O’Connor’s only change from the New York City FC game was to insert Dom Dwyer into the starting lineup and moving Chris Mueller to the bench.
Toronto did a good job of clogging up the middle of the pitch in the first half and pressuring Orlando into moving laterally across the field. The Lions got some half chances but had trouble finding the target or getting them through traffic.
The best early chance came four minutes in when Justin Morrow headed a back-post cross over the bar for Toronto.
Dwyer hit a drive off target in the 11th and Uri Rosell smashed what could have been a spectacular volley off a corner kick cross that was deflected out by the defense. Orlando’s best chance of the opening half came at the half-hour mark when Tesho Akindele sent in a cross to Will Johnson, who smashed it toward the net with his first touch. Quentin Westberg did well to get down and make the save on a ball behind his momentum.
That came in the midst of a flurry of corner kicks that Orlando won but could do nothing with. The Lions finished the first half with eight corners to Toronto’s one, but couldn’t create anything from them. Nani did well just to get a volley shot toward the goal in the 31st. Robin Jansson sent a shot toward the net in the 36th that Chris Mavinga headed off his own crossbar.
But the teams couldn’t score and went to the half without a goal.
Orlando City went to the half with an 11-2 advantage in shots (but only 1-1 on target). The Lions saw five of their shots blocked by the defense and another five sail off frame. Toronto held 56% of the first-half possession to Orlando’s 44% and the passing quality was nearly equal, with the Reds holding a slight advantage (85.3%-83.6%).
Toronto came out the stronger team in the second half and came close to scoring a few times before breaking down the door.
Brian Rowe did well to get to his corner and keep out a Laurent Ciman free kick in the 48th minute and denied Jordan Hamilton in the 57th minute as the Reds continued to keep possession and turn Orlando over repeatedly. Osorio tried his hand in the 60th but Rowe again made the save. On the ensuing corner kick, Mavinga made an excellent play to pick a ball out of the air and fire it on target but Rowe was there again to make the stop.
Akindele fired after settling the ball in the 63rd minute but had his shot blocked in one of Orlando’s few second-chance attempts.
Toronto then got the breakthrough in the 65th. Ruan ran up to win a ball in the air but then hesitated and allowed Toronto to play in behind him. The ball ended up with Osorio to the left side. The Toronto midfielder cut around Lamine Sané and Rosell in the box and fired into the back corner to make it 1-0.
“I take my responsibility,” Sané said after the game. “I say it in front of everybody. It’s like that, soccer, and I take my responsibility.”
Four minutes later, Dwyer had an opportunity to pull that goal back, but the striker sent a header wide for the second straight week on an excellent opportunity. Mueller came on moments later but his introduction didn’t inject any life into a Lions squad without any energy in the second 45.
Rowe did well to stop a shot by Alejandro Pozuelo in the 73rd minute, but the Reds had their second goal four minutes later. Substitute Chapman made an untracked run down the right side, made a wonderful play to bring down the ball with his foot, then sent a shot toward Rowe. The goalkeeper will want that one back as he stuck out his foot to block it and it went off the back of his foot and into the net to squash any Orlando comeback hopes.
Dwyer nearly scored a consolation goal in the 89th but Westberg made a tremendous reaction save to preserve the clean sheet.
The five minutes of stoppage time might as well have been 500 because Toronto kept the ball and the Lions couldn’t generate anything, especially when reduced to 10 men with Ruan cramping and getting treatment off the pitch.
Toronto turned around the shot total significantly after halftime, with 11 second-half shots, getting eight of them on goal. Orlando led in shots (18-13) for the game but the shots on target were lopsided in favor of the Reds, 9-2. Toronto held 58% of the possession to Orlando’s 42% and out-passed the Lions, 87.4%-81.6%.
“I felt that Toronto got the favor in the second half and they could play through us too easy,” Jansson said. “I think our shape wasn’t that good as in the first half and our control of the tempo of the game and when we had the ball. I think we did a great first half and we just need to bring the first half to the second half and continue the whole way.”
“I think when you look at the second half it wasn’t what we were anticipating,” O’Connor said. “I think there was, I would say a lack of quality in decision making about keeping the ball — areas about where to keep the ball, giving it away really cheaply and it compounded things that way.”
“I’m disappointed,” Sané said. “In the second half they beat us in our game. We have to keep the ball and make them run but I think they changed and we ran a lot and lost our energy. For me, it’s like we tie in New York for nothing if we don’t win at home. We had a big game in New York and when you lose at home it’s like you played for nothing over there. We have to win at home. It’s most important for going to the playoffs.”
O’Connor cited a notable lack of energy especially after halftime and said the staff will need to look into the reasons why that occurred before he can address it so that it doesn’t happen again.
“Whether that’s down to mentality, whether that’s down to training load — but I think that’s something we’re going to have to look at, and try to figure out is it a mentality thing where you need to just have more desire to push through? Is it genuinely that they’ve had too much exposure to the sun and are fatigued? So these are questions that I’ve got to sit down and try to look at and get some answers for myself.”