Orlando City hosted the New England Revolution in the team’s second-ever playoff match, with a spot in the Eastern Conference final on the line. In the end, it was a frustrating, ill-disciplined game that saw Orlando’s incredible season come to its conclusion. Here are my takeaways from the Lions’ final match of 2020.
Unlucky In The First Half
Out of the gate, Orlando City was on the front foot. The Lions dominated possession for much of the first half, especially the first 20 minutes, but they couldn’t capitalize on their early success. They never really asked much of Matt Turner, and got caught on the counter and conceded a penalty for an early goal completely against the run of play. The second goal was more of the same, Orlando held the ball, created a few half chances, but weren’t threatening enough before getting caught on the counter, although they’ll feel hard done by for not getting a foul call at the other end when Nani was dispossessed.
For all of their positive possession play, they lacked the quality in the final third to make things happen. Nani was sloppy at times, while Daryl Dike and Chris Mueller were largely ineffective for stretches once again. Nani made up for his mistake with a brilliant ball that created Junior Urso’s goal, and things looked solid.
It was a good first half. Orlando had chances and possession, and was unlucky that New England was more clinical in the final third. There was no reason to expect Orlando couldn’t win this game, but that’s not how things went down.
Moutinho And Ruan Were Desperately Missed
Orlando City hasn’t been the same team without Joao Moutinho at left back, and losing Ruan in this game was another huge blow. Not having that offensive threat from fullback hurt this team. While I like Kamal Miller and Kyle Smith a lot, they have provided next to nothing offensively. Both Ruan and Moutinho provide a real threat out wide with their quality on the ball and ability to cross. They also provide more in transition with their pace, especially Ruan. Without that pacey outlet, Orlando struggled at times to push the game and expose the Revolution in transition. Without help from deep, Nani and Mueller were basically on an island, and they couldn’t muster enough individual brilliance to compensate.
If Orlando had a healthy Moutinho and not-suspended Ruan, this is a complete team, and losing one of the best fullback pairings in all of MLS severely handicapped the Lions.
Frustration Got to Orlando
The second half was downright embarrassing at times. The discipline issues that plagued the second half last week — namely Ruan completely losing his cool — came back to bite Orlando in a big way against the Revolution. It started early, with yellow cards against Dike and Antonio Carlos, and while carding those players felt a little unfair, the energy of Orlando City wasn’t good.
There was an obvious frustration and anger that was largely unchecked from this point on that put a nasty stain on the match. With Matt Polster running in transition, Mauricio Pereyra made a late, reckless challenge that caught Polster’s leg with his studs. While it didn’t seem malicious, it was undeniably a red card and an uncharacteristically poor play from Pereyra. It was a sloppy tackle that was completely unnecessary and ended up costing his team dearly.
Nani could’ve been sent off in the fallout of Mauricio’s red card as well, with his badgering of the official going beyond what should be acceptable. I understand how frustrating it is to have an officiating decision have such a big impact on the game. I understand that Orlando has felt hard done by the referees really their entire existence. But this level of dissent and immaturity was hard to watch.
The Lions weren’t rejuvenated from this point on, making more mistakes, though nothing as frustrating, and weren’t able to create any real chances, except a penalty kick. Somehow someway, New England threw a spiraling Orlando team a bone by fouling Dike in the box, setting up a Nani penalty. Unfortunately, it was a lackluster strike from Nani — credit to Turner for a nice save, but it was still a poor spot kick — and the chance was gone.
Orlando was on the front foot for most of this game, but it was a lack of composure or discipline that did the Lions in. When your best players are making mistakes like this and the overall energy of the game is that negative, it’s impossible to get anything going. New England played a good game with relatively few mistakes and great contributions from their best players, but Orlando lost more than the Revolution won.
Strikers Fail To Impress
As the game wound down and Orlando was running out of time to equalize, Oscar Pareja threw the kitchen sink at New England, subbing on two strikers, Benji Michel and Tesho Akindele, to compliment Dike in attack. While it was a noble move putting on extra forwards, it did very little. The two substitutions combined for one shot on target in their near 20 minutes of game time, and while their pace was a welcome addition, they didn’t contribute much in the way of possession or chances. None of the strikers, including Dike, who went the full 90, completed more than six passes, and nobody registered a shot on target.
There were positives, with Dike making several nice moves, including drawing the penalty, but it was a poor display from a forward group who had played well for much of the season.
Brian Rowe Was Solid
It was a big story coming into the match, but the goalkeeper situation for Orlando City was a non-factor. Brian Rowe stepped in for the suspended Pedro Gallese and put in a solid shift. He only made three saves and allowed three goals, but the saves were good and the goals weren’t all on him. He nearly made a catastrophic mistake while being pressured on the ball, but he had the quality to escape the press and keep Orlando in the game.
This isn’t really a surprise given how well he’s played in the past, but it’s nice to know that Orlando has a viable second option between the pipes. Hopefully next season it’ll be a unit of Gallese and Rowe once again.
What takes did I miss from a frustrating end to the year? Comment your takes from Sunday’s game below.