Orlando City probably deserved more than a single point with a good performance against FC Dallas at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, TX, tonight, but after midfielder Sebas Mendez was sent off, the Lions (7-2-5, 26 points) will take the single point and be satisfied with running their unbeaten streak to eight matches (5-0-3) against a stubborn FC Dallas (5-3-5, 20 points).
City played well in all phases but had trouble breaking Dallas down in the final third, and when the Lions did create something, the shots were either saved or just a tad off target. The Lions felt they were the better side even though they played down a man for almost half an hour.
“It was a point and we’ll take it,” Orlando City Oscar Pareja said after the match — his first at FC Dallas since leaving that club after the 2018 season. “We’re proud after such effort that the players gave on the field. But knowing that we had the majority of the options and the personality, and the most important consistency during the game, we feel that it was not enough for us, the point.”
“Honestly, we felt like it was two points lost tonight,” Tesho Akindele said. “We were happy to get the point, especially after we went down to 10 men, but I think that we outplayed them for most of the game and probably deserved three points and I think that’s how everybody feels tonight.”
Pareja’s lineup featured fewer changes than expected. Pedro Gallese lined up behind the same back line as Wednesday — Kyle Smith, Robin Jansson, Rodrigo Schlegel, and Ruan — as Antonio Carlos did not make the trip. Mendez and Junior Urso stayed in the central midfield but starters Mauricio Pereyra and Chris Mueller were inserted back into the attacking midfield with Nani. Akindele got his second straight start at striker.
The Lions had a bright start to the game and held most of the early possession. But when Orlando got into the final third, things generally broke down. Ruan put an early cross into the box but split his two teammates and passed directly to the defense. Nani had shots blocked in the third and fourth minutes and then sent a cross through the area that was just a bit too far out in front of Ruan at the back post.
FC Dallas finally got a foot in the game in the 10th minute with a nice buildup that sent Santiago Mosquera in on goal alone but Gallese made a huge stop with his leg to keep the game scoreless.
Mosquera picked up an apparent quad injury and had to be subbed off for Fafa Picault shortly after his golden scoring chance.
Andres Ricuarte took a weak shot in the 19th minute that almost became a problem when it deflected off Jansson but it skipped just wide of the right post.
The Lions had to make their own injury substitute shortly after that, as Ruan went down on the pitch and came off with what appeared to be a hamstring issue. Kamal Miller checked in and took up the left back position, with Smith moving over to the right.
Pereyra sent in a nice cross for Mueller in the 27th minute but Cash headed his shot right at Jimmy Maurer, who made the easy save. Ten minutes later, the Lions had a good attack building on the counter. Akindele had options to pass to either Nani or Mueller but opted to shoot instead from just outside the area and his shot was blocked out for a corner.
Late in the half Matt Hedges headed just over the bar on an FC Dallas corner and then the Lions got their best opportunity of the half when Pereyra picked out Nani with a gorgeous pass from right to left. The captain headed it to the back post but Akindele couldn’t get to it and by the time Mueller got there he was out of room and headed into the outside netting.
Orlando City held the advantage in shots (8-7) but got only one on frame to FC Dallas’ three. The Lions also had more corners (4-3), and possession (56.1%-43.9%), with both teams passing at an 85% rate.
Dallas fashioned a chance just after the break after an apparent foul on Pereyra went uncalled and Ricaurte fired over the bar. Three minutes later Nani smashed a shot from distance that forced a good diving save from Maurer. The rebound was tantalizingly close to Mueller but a bit off line for the Orlando forward to pounce on.
Mendez got his marching orders in the 69th minute. He’d picked up a yellow card for time wasting just five minutes earlier, kicking the ball away after a foul was called on Kamal Miller. Then he was late into a challenge on Bryan Reynolds, and a bit behind, and was well deserving of his second yellow.
The sending off put his teammates in a hole as it was the first time this season the Lions had played a man down due to a red card. Mendez will miss Saturday’s match against the New York Red Bulls.
Despite being down a man, Orlando continued to play the same way. They pressed when they could, defended well, and looked to counter. Nani smashed a shot just wide of the left post in the 75th minute as the Lions still looked the likelier side to score.
Just after Tanner Tessman’s long-range effort in the 79th minute was easily saved by Gallese, the Lions nearly got their game-winner. The outlet pass from Gallese found Nani on the left side and the captain drew a defender toward him and played a diagonal ball for Urso to run onto. The Bear sent a shot on target that forced a good save by Maurer to keep the game scoreless.
“I saw good space to run in,” Urso said. “I think I made a good shot but I think I can do more power the next time. I just say congratulations to the keeper because he saved his team.”
On the ensuing corner, the ball was played short — as it had been all night, mostly ineffectively — and a good cross came into the area where multiple players took a swing at it as it ping-ponged around but no Orlando City player could make good contact.
Dallas earned a few late corners but was unable to do anything with them. Orlando defended well and looked to break out. Nani got the last chance of normal time, sending a shot just wide — on the right side this time — in the 90th minute off a throw-in play.
Miller made a rare bombing run forward in the 97th minute and got all the way into the Dallas penalty area, but just as he was freeing himself up for the shot, he had his pocket picked and the final chance evaporated. After one more FC Dallas corner, the game was over.
Orlando finished with more shot attempts (17-14) but Dallas got more on target (4-3). Corners ended up at six apiece, and the extra player allowed the hosts to finish with a slightly better passing rate (83%-82%), while the Lions held more possession (53.4%-46.6%), even though they were a man short for a good chunk of the second half.
“We had the possession, we had the options, and we continued with the ambition of winning. And that says a lot about the character of these guys,” Pareja said.
“I’m very proud of the team because we were running to the end,” Urso said. “And one player less is not easy to play, so I think we did a good job today.”
With the draw, Orlando fell to fourth in the Eastern Conference and Supporters Shield standings due to wins by Philadelphia and Toronto tonight, but the team earned its first ever point at Toyota Stadium. Orlando City is now 0-2-1 at FC Dallas and 1-3-2 in the all-time series.
Orlando City now gets its longest rest until the one after the penultimate game of the season, with a meeting with the New York Red Bulls set for next Saturday afternoon at 4 p.m.