Facing an important match in the playoff race, Orlando City didn’t show much fight in a 4-1 loss at Gillette Stadium in the race for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The Revs are now unbeaten in 11 games (7-0-4) as New England (9-8-6, 33 points) handed Orlando City (7-11-5, 26 points) its worst loss of the season.
The Lions still haven’t won at Gillette Stadium (0-4-1) since joining Major League Soccer and Orlando has now lost two straight games after a modest unbeaten streak.
City conceded within the first two and a half minutes in both halves — by Gustavo Bou in the first half and Cristian Penilla in the second to squarely push New England into the driver’s seat. Carles Gil added a penalty kick goal and Diego Fagundez tacked on a rocket from distance when no one closed him down later in the game. Tesho Akindele pulled one back but it was far too little and far too late to be of any use.
Per Orlando City communications, Chris Mueller stayed in Orlando due to an illness and Will Johnson did not travel as a precaution after a heavy workload and is expected back next week. Sacha Kljestan and Dillon Powers were inserted in their spots in the lineup while Dom Dwyer returned to the 18 after serving his red card suspension. With Mueller unavailable it was a bit surprising Dwyer sat the bench and it was clearly not the right move in the end, as Orlando bogged down repeatedly in the final third with most of the players looking for the next pass instead of making runs or finding pockets of space.
New England needed only three minutes to get on the board before Orlando even possessed the ball. Bou passed off then took a return ball from Edgar Castillo as no one tracked him into City’s penalty area and he beat Brian Rowe just 2:37 after kickoff.
The Lions finally got possession of the ball in the fifth minute and were the better team for much of the remainder of the half, but were wasteful in front of net and susceptible on the counter at times.
Orlando’s first good opportunity came in the 10th minute when Uri Rosell sent Nani down the left with a great ball. The captain slid a ball across for Akindele, who made an absolute mess of what should have been the tying goal. Two minutes later it was Ruan giving Akindele a sitter but again the Canadian couldn’t get his footing right and the chance was completely wasted.
New England came right back the other way and nearly made Orlando pay for those missed chances, as Bou got another good opportunity to score but this time he missed the net with only Rowe to beat.
Powers smashed a shot from outside the area in the 24th that took a touch and sailed a bit high.
The teams then started trading chances. Four minutes later, Nani cut inside from the left and sent a curler headed for the inside of the back post but Matt Turner made the save. Moments later, Bou attempted a shot from above the area at the other end but Powers blocked it. Kljestan got onto a Nani pass at the top of the area in the 38th minute but didn’t get a lot on the shot and Turner was able to save it.
Bou fired another effort over the net in the 45th minute and then Kljestan wasted an opportunity in stoppage time as he got the ball caught up in his feet trying to find either a shot or a pass in the penalty area. The Revs took their 1-0 advantage into the break.
New England led across the board statistically after the opening 45 minutes, out-shooting the Lions 9-5, although Orlando got more on target (3-1), leading in possession (51%-49%), and passing more accurately (82%-81%). But just like the second half against New York on Sunday, the Lions were not sharp in front of goal, particularly Akindele.
Things got worse for Orlando at halftime as Moutinho couldn’t continue and rookie center back Kamal Miller came on at left back with Kyle Smith still available on the bench.
New England found Miller’s side quickly and put the game away early in the second half. Brandon Bye beat Sebas Mendez to the end line and crossed through the area for Penilla to sweep home in the 47th minute as Ruan was caught napping.
Rowe prevented a quick third goal by denying Teal Bunbury in the 52nd minute as he was left alone in the area. Three minutes later, Ruan fired wide of goal from the right.
Things got worse in the 57th minute when Bou smashed a shot from a yard away from Mendez that hit the inside of his elbow. After video review a penalty was awarded and Gil converted to make it 3-0.
Rosell was caught by a Bye horror tackle in the 67th minute but instead of being down a man, New England got away with just a yellow. The play was reviewed and judged not to be a clear and obvious error, but Rosell’s leg would disagree. He went off two minutes later for Dwyer.
The striker made a difference in the attack almost immediately. He fired a shot that was deflected wide in the 72nd minute and provided a missing spark to the Orlando offense in the final third. Unfortunately the score got worse anyway.
Mendez opted not to close down Fagundez at the top of the area and the Revs’ second-leading all-time scorer blasted a laser that will be an MLS Goal of the Week contender, making it 4-0 in the 75th minute.
Akindele finally got the goal that had been eluding him all night in the 77th minute, smashing a cross from Dwyer into the roof of the net to make it 4-1 and at least avoid the shutout. Nani picked up the hockey assist on the play with his great vision to find a lane to get the ball to Dwyer.
Dwyer nearly pulled back a second in the 80th off a cross from Ruan but Antonio Delamea made a vital challenge at the last second to keep Dwyer from getting a clean shot off. That was about the last good opportunity of the match. Gil missed a shot wide for New England and Orlando had several shots blocked at the other end, with Robinho firing a weak shot in on goal as well.
Shots finished nearly even, with New England holding a 20-17 advantage, but the Lions got more on target (8-6). Orlando ended up with 58% of the possession and the better passing accuracy (85%-81%).
In the end, Orlando simply wasn’t good enough at either end. Akindele had good enough chances to give the Lions a first-half lead and the defensive lapses early in both halves were crucial mistakes. In between, Orlando held its own on the road against one of the league’s hottest teams, but that will be of little comfort after absorbing the team’s worst loss of the year.
Additionally, O’Connor will have to wonder if he should have started Dwyer or brought him on earlier, and it made little sense to bring Robinho on in the 87th minute with too little time for him to make any impact in a game that was already out of hand.
The Lions will be off for the All-Star break except for Nani, who will participate in both the match and the skills challenge. Mueller will presumably be OK to participate in the skills challenge as well. Orlando will try to halt its two-game losing streak next Saturday night at home against FC Dallas but maybe it’s time to put all the emphasis on the U.S. Open Cup after falling seven points adrift of New England.