Well that went about as horribly as it could have. Orlando City lost 3-2 on the road to the Columbus Crew last night in a game that it really needed to win. The Lions were not able to do so, and the nature in which the Lions lost is perhaps more concerning than the loss itself. Here’s what my takeaways were from this game.
From the opening kickoff, things didn’t look quite right for Orlando. I’m beginning to feel like a broken record when I say this, but there were heavy touches, misplayed passes, and Lions who didn’t seem to be on the same page as one another. The issues when OCSC had the ball were bad enough, but where it really bit Orlando was on defense. First, Kyle Smith played a corner straight back out to Lucas Zelarayan (a.k.a. the one guy you don’t want on the ball), who then picked out Miguel Berry in the box to head home. Then, Ruan was a non-factor during a corner kick at the back post, and while Pedro Gallese maybe should have done better with the cross, if the fullback had done a better job of marking then it wouldn’t have mattered. As it was, he got handled rather easily and Derrick Etienne put the ball home without too much fuss. The eventual nail in the coffin though was leaving Zelarayan all alone at the edge of the box with time to pick up his head and unleash a missile beyond Gallese.
Nonexistent Nani (and Midfield)
Nani did not have a good game last night. He had 30 touches before being brought off at halftime but it felt like infinitely fewer. Following Columbus opening the scoring, he found himself dropping deeper and deeper in an effort to get onto the ball and make something happen, but he simply was not able to make his presence felt in this one. Part of that was due to the lack of both creativity and bite in the Orlando midfield. Mauricio Pereyra, Andres Perea and Sebas Mendez were not able to win the battle against their Columbus counterparts and the team looked short of ideas in the midfield while simultaneously struggling to adequately stem the Crew’s flow. Nani was rightfully brought off at halftime, but Benji Michel’s introduction for Mendez only meant that Perea became more outnumbered in the center of the park.
Dike Gets His Goal
A lone bright spot for Orlando was Daryl Dike getting another goal. Although he wasn’t able to make much of an impact on the game during open play, he stepped up and converted the penalty kick that Orlando was awarded at the beginning of the second half. Eloy Room saved his first attempt but came off his line too early, and Dike went to the same side for his second attempt but put more mustard on the shot and placed it better. Daryl now has five goals in his last seven games, although three of those have been from penalty kicks. Regardless, being in a good vein of scoring is never a bad thing and the big striker is certainly putting the ball in the net at the moment.
Too Little Too Late
Heading into stoppage time, Orlando looked to be dead and buried, only to get a goal from perhaps the unlikeliest link-up imaginable. Tesho Akindele played an absolutely gorgeous diagonal ball over the Columbus defense directly onto the foot of the onrushing Robin Jansson, who neatly tucked the ball inside the far post. The goal came during Orlando’s best spell of possession on the night, but it ended up being too little and much too late. OCSC had one more half chance with a blocked Alexandre Pato shot, but that was it for the remaining seven minutes of stoppage time. It made the Zelarayan goal that much more frustrating, because without it the Lions could have at least had a point from this game.
Worry Sets In
I’m officially worried about this team. Junior Urso and Joao Moutinho aside, this was a first-choice Lions squad that came out and laid an egg at a time when they could least afford to do so. Yes it was a road game, yes it was on short rest, and yes it was against a Columbus team with nothing to lose and literally all to play for. All those things being said, the flat start, the sloppiness, and the generally underwhelming performance is a huge cause for concern given the 11 that started the game. The penalty made the scoreline look much kinder than it maybe should have been, and OCSC didn’t really create many clear-cut chances on the night. The Lions’ last two games are against a very good Nashville team and a Montreal team that’s already hammered them recently. Orlando controls its own destiny but unless the last two performances are a massive departure from this one, it might not matter. On paper this was the most winnable of OCSC’s last three games and for it to go the way it did is definitely concerning.
As I said at the beginning of this piece, while the loss is bad, the way that Orlando lost is perhaps far more concerning. Penalty kick and garbage-time goal aside, the Lions didn’t show much offensively in this game and were woefully sloppy and, at times, lazy defensively. Sunday’s home match against Nashville is now a must-win game with a Decision Day trip to Montreal looming large.
What were your thoughts from this game? Be sure to have your say down in the comments.