A Wayne Rooney wonder strike downed Orlando City (5-8-3, 18 points) once again as the Lions fell 1-0 to D.C. United (8-4-6, 30 points) at Audi Field. Rooney has tortured the Lions since entering the league and his ambitious effort from his own half beat a sleepwalking Brian Rowe from distance for the game’s only goal.
James O’Connor was forced to make some changes to his usual lineup as Joao Moutinho (quad) was injured and Dom Dwyer was home with Sydney Leroux, who is expecting their second child. While Dwyer has come off the bench multiple times this season, Moutinho was replaced in the starting lineup by Kyle Smith. Mason Stajduhar made the 18 for the injured Adam Grinwis (quad) and Carlos Ascues stepped in for the injured Cristian Higuita (hamstring).
The XI representing the Lions in the Nation's Capital tonight.— Orlando City SC (@OrlandoCitySC) June 26, 2019
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D.C. dominated the early minutes of the game, creating several good chances. Most of these opportunities came from Orlando City giveaways on the D.C. side of the field. The hosts nearly took the lead in the fifth minute when Rooney played a ball across for Russell Canouse, whose header went just over the crossbar.
In the 10th minute, Rooney continued his tendency of creating memorable moments against Orlando City. Inside the D.C. box, Ascues gave the ball away to Canouse, who quickly played it forward. Two Lions converged on the ball but it slipped through for Rooney. Seeing Orlando City goalkeeper Rowe off his line, Rooney played the ball over his head and into the goal from his own side of the field.
WAYNE ROONEY FROM PAST MIDFIELD!!!! pic.twitter.com/dJ5BriAOx3— Major League Soccer (@MLS) June 27, 2019
This is the third time Rooney has faced Orlando City and the third time in which he has produced a magical moment. Last year it was a last-minute steal off Will Johnson and stunning cross to Luciano Acosta that produced the game-winning goal for D.C. Earlier this year, it was a wonderful free kick that beat the Lions. This will go down as the most spectacular of the three.
Orlando City appeared to wake up following the Rooney goal, creating several opportunities of its own. Most of these came through Ascues and Nani. While Nani was able to get off a few shots that were saved by Bill Hamid, Ascues had trouble pulling the trigger, resulting in multiple buildups ending without a shot being taken, including one where he rounded Hamid wide but didn’t take a shot.
In the 49th minute, Orlando City had its first great chance as Chris Mueller and Tesho Akindele hooked up with a quick one-two. The ball back to Mueller was launched off his left foot and looked to be headed for the inside of Hamid’s near post but the goalkeeper dived to his left and made the stop.
The fast start to the second half provided some confidence for the Lions. In the 57th minute, a pair of crosses into the box were dangerous but couldn’t find the head of a player in white. A minute later, a low cross into the six-yard box for Akindele created a scramble in front of goal before D.C. was able to clear. It was one of many chances that Orlando City would rue in the end.
In the 67th minute, a beautiful cross by Dillon Powers found the head of Mueller but the forward put it just over the crossbar.
Orlando City’s failure to convert on its chances caused devastation in the 73rd minute when a great run by Ulises Segura allowed him to be played through on goal after Lamine Sané lost an aerial duel against Rooney. Rowe came out to cut down the angle but Segura placed it past him well and into the net, doubling the D.C. lead.
After the goal celebration, referee Alex Chilowicz was notified by VAR to review the play. The quick review showed that Segura was offside when the ball was played, giving Orlando City a lifeline.
In the 82nd minute, Ruan played a great ball across the front of goal but nobody in white was able to get to it before D.C. pushed it out of play. It was another good chance for the Lions in which they were unable to take advantage. That would be the last real chance for Orlando City as D.C. would do well to drain the clock until the final whistle blew.
Orlando City led United in most statistical categories at the end of the game. The Lions held 54% of the possession and out-shot D.C. 19-15. In the end, it came down to the Lions being unable to take advantage of their opportunities. Only three of their 19 shots were on target. Four of their shots were blocked, as they waited too long to shoot, allowing the defense to close them down.
It will be a quick turnaround as the Lions will now head to Ohio to take on the Columbus Crew Saturday night. They’ll be looking to get back on the winning track as they sit four points behind Toronto FC for the seventh and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.