Well, that wasn’t what I was hoping for out of that game, plain and simple. Orlando City fell to Toronto FC 2-0 at home in a game the Lions certainly should have gotten more out of based on the team’s first-half performance. Instead, a mini streak of home victories is broken ahead of a particularly tough part of the schedule. What follows are my five takeaways from the match.
Brian Rowe Hard Done By
I felt bad for Brian Rowe after the match. He had seven saves on the day, including a stellar save with an outstretched left hand to deny Chris Mavinga and keep things scoreless. He later made a wonderful 1-v-1 save, coming off his line to briefly keep the game at 1-0. He was absolutely helpless on Jonathan Osorio’s goal, and was not at all helped by some slack defending from Lamine Sané and Uri Rosell. And while he almost certainly should have done better on the goal that Jay Chapman scored, it was the lone blemish on an otherwise nearly flawless outing. Without Rowe turning in the second-half performance he did, the score certainly could have been very ugly as the Lions faded badly defensively and could have conceded four or five.
Two Very Different Halves
While the Lions didn’t score in the first half, I thought it was one of, if not the best, half of soccer I’d seen the team play this season. The players looked composed and organized for the most part, and in particular showed good instincts to immediately press their advantage when things went their way, like Tesho Akindele winning the ball down the left wing and immediately pressing forward to attack. Though the team wasn’t bad when it came to attacking in the second half, the Lions faded. Not only was there the shoddy defending I mentioned on Osorio’s goal, but players frequently failed to close down Toronto players who had space to shoot, and in general looked to have very heavy legs after about the 60-minute mark.
Halftime at the Wrong Time
Speaking of halves, halftime could not have possibly come at a worse time for Orlando in this game. The team owned the first half, with 11 shots (although only one was on target), and eight corners, compared to Toronto’s two shots and one corner. Stats aside though, the Lions were simply the more dangerous team in the first half. They constantly harried Toronto’s players, closing down the ball well and immediately pouncing on any mistakes the opposition made. Had there been 10 more minutes in the first half, Orlando probably would have scored, but after halftime it seemed that Toronto used the break perfectly to regroup and recharge while the men in purple just seemed to have lost their edge and subsequently paid the price for it.
Missed Chances Haunt Lions
What really hurt Orlando on the day however was an inability to convert chances. The best chance of the first half fell to Will Johnson, and while there’s no denying that Quentin Westberg did well to keep Johnson’s shot out, it was a chance the midfielder will probably feel he should have stuck away. Even though Mavinga made a timely intervention to keep a Nani cross from reaching Dom Dwyer several minutes later, it was only one of several half-chances that simply weren’t put away. In the end, Orlando took 18 shots, but only put two on target — Johnson’s chance and a second-half Dwyer header in the six-yard box. The biggest difference between the sides at the end of the day was that Toronto took its chances, while Orlando did not.
Fatigue Could Be a Problem
I spoke earlier about how Orlando seemed to fade as the second half went on, especially defensively. No doubt the oppressive heat and humidity had a part to play in that, but things aren’t going to get any easier for the Lions. Starting with an away game at Atlanta next Sunday, Orlando City will play four games in 13 days, including a road match at Seattle the Wednesday after facing off against Atlanta. It’s a packed May schedule for the men in purple, and Ruan cramping at the end of the match may further point towards some fatigue beginning to set in for players like the speedy right back, who have featured prominently up to this point in the season. MLS is a league full of surprises, but a stretch of scheduling like the Lions are about to face could very well spell trouble.
This was a match that I really struggled with. I couldn’t help but fear for Orlando after the Lions were unable to put the ball in the net in the first half. I just couldn’t shake the feeling that they would come to rue the missed chances and unfortunately my gut was proven right. I found it particularly frustrating precisely because of the way the team played in the first half, only to fade badly after the opening minutes of the second 45.
Such is the way of the game though, and all that can be done now is for the Lions to pick themselves up, dust themselves off and look ahead to next week.
What were your impressions from the 2-0 loss to Toronto? Be sure to have your say down in the comments.