Orlando City needed to get something against the San Jose Earthquakes at Avaya Stadium. But what the Lions did not need to get was an ass kicking. They got one anyway as the Quakes (13-10-5, 44 points) scored three times in the first half en route to a 3-0 win over Orlando City (9-13-7, 34 points).
The Lions lost to San Jose for the first time ever and still have never won in the state of California in MLS play. It was the second straight loss for Orlando and both of those came without scoring a goal. That’s less than optimal with the games dwindling and other playoff contenders picking up points.
According to an Orlando City spokesman, Mauricio Pereyra picked up an injury and couldn’t travel for the match. He’ll be evaluated upon the team’s return and we should get further word on his condition (and the actual injury) at that time. Cristian Higuita returned to the 18, with the starting XI lining up like this:
The Quakes needed only three minutes to score. Magnus Eriksson took a pass from Jackson Yueill, baited Robin Jansson into giving him space, then dribbled in and scored to make it 1-0.
The Lions remained on their heels for the first 12 minutes or so, fending off several corner kicks after deflecting crosses or shots over the end line. Orlando’s first decent exploration of San Jose’s territory ended with a shot by Uri Rosell from outside the area that forced a diving save from Daniel Vega. Rosell didn’t get all of it but did get Orlando’s first shot attempt on target.
Wondolowski made it 2-0 at the 20-minute mark. A simple through ball from Vako caught the Orlando back line napping and Wondo got in and chipped Brian Rowe, who got a piece of it but couldn’t knock it off line. There was a hint of offside but if referee Silviu Petrescu spoke to his VAR, Victor Rivas, it never went to review, so it must have been deemed not to be a clear and obvious error.
Rowe kept it 2-0 for the moment in the 32nd minute with a big save to deny a Judson shot after a turnover by Will Johnson. The goalkeeper then made a save on Cristian Espinoza but San Jose maintained possession.
Moments later, Espinoza took the ball to the end line and cut it back for Wondolowski, who was left all alone by Lamine Sané and easily made it 3-0 in the 33rd minute.
Orlando kept looking for a way back in. Nani’s cross for Benji Michel got deflected out for a corner by Florian Jungwirth in the 37th minute and Kamal Miller worked the ball in to Carlos Ascues who fired just wide of the near post in the 42nd minute.
One more save by Rowe on a long-range shot from Yueill and that was that for the first half.
The Quakes led in shots (12-4), shots on goal (3-1), possession (63%-37%), corners (7-1), and passing accuracy (88%-80%) and took their deserved advantage into the break.
James O’Connor was visibly upset with his team during a halftime TV interview, vowing changes would be made and he lived up to that by inserting Higuita and Tesho Akindele into the match for Ascues and Michel. It was Higuita’s 100th MLS appearance.
The Lions came out of the locker room with more passion than they showed in the opening 45 minutes but that didn’t get them back into the match. Higuita did send a shot toward goal in the 55th minute that was blocked out in front and seemingly every Lion on the pitch raised their arm and shouted for handball. No penalty was given at the time and there wasn’t a stoppage in play for several minutes.
My65 reporter Jenny Chiu stated that the fourth official had said the play was reviewed by the VAR and the arm was judged to be in a natural position. No replay was ever shown on the broadcast.
The Lions did well to see a lot more of the possession in the second half but didn’t generate many chances. There were some half-chances and a few blocked crosses but nothing too dangerous.
Nani pulled up with an injury and had to come off to add to Orlando’s woes, with Chris Mueller replacing the captain in the 71st minute.
Orlando’s best scoring opportunity of the second half was Mueller’s 93rd-minute effort when he got into the box but he fired off target.
San Jose finished with the advantage in shots (19-9), shots on target (9-1), possession (57%-43%), corners (10-5), and passing accuracy (86%-83%). The second half was much better from Orlando but it was too little, too late, and it’s difficult to know how much of that was due to San Jose’s big lead.
The shutout was the first by either side in the series and Orlando has only managed two goals in three trips to play San Jose. Only one of those two came in the run of play, with the other being a Kaká penalty in the initial meeting.
Orlando now sits four points behind Toronto in the race for the last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference with the Montreal Impact in between.
The Lions return home next Saturday night to face LAFC with what will be a severely depleted lineup as Carlos Ascues, Sebas Mendez, Tesho Akindele, Kamal Miller, and Will Johnson will all be away on international duty. With Pereyra’s injury and the status of Nani, Ruan and Joao Moutinho up in the air for next weekend, O’Connor may have to suit up himself.