For most of the game it was far from a pretty affair, but at the end of the day Orlando City left BMO Field with a point. It was a result that didn’t look particularly likely for a large part of the night, but the Lions ultimately stopped a two-game losing streak ahead of returning to the comforting confines of Exploria Stadium.
Rocky First Half
The first half was...not a good one for Orlando City. The statistics didn’t necessarily convey that, with the two teams level on possession and Toronto with five shots to Orlando’s four, but the home team very much was the better side through the opening 45 minutes. It seemed that OCSC’s strategy was to cede possession for the most part and try to hit TFC on the counter, but the Lions had a tough time breaking out of their own half when they won the ball back after breaking up Toronto attacks. Misplayed passes, tackles from Toronto players, and a general lack of an ability to retain the ball meant that while Orlando had 50% of the ball in the first half, it wasn’t particularly meaningful possession. The best chance of the half came when the ball was worked down the right side and Mauricio Pereyra found Nani in the box, but the captain’s shot was blocked behind for a corner. That was basically all she wrote in terms of Orlando’s scoring chances in the opening half, and the Lions could probably count themselves lucky that the Reds didn’t capitalize on several good scoring opportunities.
Big Battle for Fullbacks
I was pretty impressed by Yeferson Soteldo in the match-up in Orlando on May 22. After getting a second look I’m very impressed by him, and he was easily the best player on the field during this one. Kyle Smith and Joao Moutinho faced a tough task stopping him, and the Venezuelan was a menace all night long. Smith in particular had his work cut out for him in the first half, and Soteldo was torturing pretty much any Orlando player who came near him during the opening 45. However, Smith tightened up to him in the second half and Soteldo didn’t have quite as much joy, but he was still at the heart of most of what Toronto did well on the night. Stopping him wasn’t going to be an easy task, but all-in-all the Orlando defenders did a decent job of it. Smith in particular grew into his task during the second half, and ended up having a good game, especially given his assignment for the night.
Close Call on Penalty Kick
Orlando was given a gift almost immediately after conceding the opening goal of the game to Jozy Altidore. Alex Bono badly misjudged a ball over the top and cleaned out Benji Michel in the penalty box. Nani stepped up to take the ensuing penalty kick after a video review overturned the initial call of a foul committed by Benji. Things very nearly went sideways, with Nani converting his penalty by way of a deflection off a strong hand from Bono, and my heart was very much in my mouth during the split second between the connection with Bono’s hand and the ball settling into the back of the net. Upon seeing the replay, it wouldn’t have mattered even if he had kept the ball out as the shot stopper was several feet off his line by the time Nani struck the ball. After Mauricio Pereyra had a game-tying penalty saved in the 2-1 loss to the New York Red Bulls, it was nice to see things get back on track from the spot.
Tense Final 20
The last 20 minutes of the second half were the most intense ones of the game. After Altidore gave Toronto the lead in the 72nd minute, the game really opened up, and it continued to be open after Orlando got a quick equalizer. The Lions probably had the best chance of winning the game when Andres Perea got his head to a bouncing ball in the penalty area but was only able to send it wide. OCSC also had the ball in the penalty box during the last couple minutes of stoppage time but was not able to fashion a shot on goal. The last 20 minutes were probably Orlando’s best of the game, and the players might even feel a little hard done-by that Perea’s chance didn’t end up being the game-winner.
In the end, Orlando will be much happier with this result than Toronto will be. On the whole, TFC was almost unquestionably the better team on the night. The Lions rode their luck a little bit though, and Toronto’s lack of a clinical edge in front of goal ended up being the difference between the two teams. With that being said, OCSC fought hard from start to finish, and had a wonderful response after conceding late in the game in front of a fired-up Toronto crowd that had just seen its favorite son score in his return from a month-long exile — in the team’s first home match in more than a year. That counts for a lot, especially after losing back-to-back games against arguably inferior opposition. It was definitely nice to get a point and prevent a three-match losing skid, but the manner in which Orlando won the point was even more encouraging.
That’s what I saw from this game. What were your thoughts from this one? Feel free to have your say down in the comments. Vamos Orlando!