Well, that didn’t go well. Orlando City was unable to maintain the early momentum it created against Santos Laguna, and exited the Leagues Cup courtesy of a 1-0 defeat at the hands of the Mexican side. Here’s what we took away from the match.
The Lions Started Fast
Orlando probably should have scored within the first minute of the game, but Chris Mueller didn’t make clean contact on his shot after a cutback from Mauricio Pereyra and Santos midfielder Ronaldo Prieto was able to clear it off the line. A few minutes later, Mueller provided a good ball for Nani, but the captain put his shot over the bar. Based on how the Lions began the game, there was plenty to be optimistic about before Santos scored. Unfortunately, the opportunities that were missed early on eventually came back to bite OCSC before the first half was even over.
Orlando Was Too Sloppy
The other mark of Orlando’s first half was a high degree of sloppiness. Granted, Santos was pressing the ball high when Orlando had the ball in its own half, but far too many of the Lions’ passes were wayward, poorly controlled, or simply came too late. The mistakes came to a head on Santos’ goal. Ruan failed to close down Juan Ferney Otero on the edge of the box and the winger was able to get a shot off towards Mason Stajduhar’s near post. It looked to be placed in a comfortable enough area, but it took an awkward bounce right in front of the Homegrown keeper and he could only parry it into the roof of the net. It was emblematic of Orlando’s half as a whole.
Early Promise Faded
Missed chances at goal aside, Orlando looked threatening going forward for the first 28 minutes or so. During that time, the Lions did a good job getting the ball out wide to stretch the field and then finding the spaces that opened up as a result. As the game went on though, OCSC carried less and less threat. The offense became too slow, too predictable, and ultimately didn’t make the visitors work hard enough or often enough. Santos honestly had a pretty easy time of things after scoring the opener, content to stay within its defensive shell, and I expected more based on the good signs from Orlando’s start.
Mistakes Haunt the Lions
Orlando will rue the mistakes it made and the opportunities it failed to capitalize on early in the game. Even putting aside the two early chances that went begging, Ruan also failed to put a free header on target in the box on what was really a great chance to at least test Santos’ goalkeeper just prior to the visitors scoring. Add in the defensive mistakes and the general air of sloppiness that pervaded the Lions and they were mostly the architects of their own downfall. I don’t think I’ve ever seen players get dispossessed in the midfield as often as in this game. The home team never really recovered after conceding the goal, and things were all against the grain once chasing the game.
Possible Reasons to Worry
As a whole, did this game give us cause for concern going forward? It might be a bit of a cop out but...yes and no. The mistakes in front of goal, while extremely frustrating, aren’t the end of the world, and on most nights at least one of those chances gets converted. It was only the third time Orlando’s been shut out this year. While we don’t know how Santos would have looked had it not been leading for a majority of the game, a pair of defensive mistakes ended up being the difference between the two teams. What’s more worrying is just how mistake-ridden the almost-first-choice lineup was. Yes, Santos is a good team, but Orlando made it far too easy for the Mexican side by making repeated giveaways through bad passes and being caught in possession. The Lions haven’t looked their sharpest for a few games now, and that is concerning.
It’s not what the Lions wanted from their first Leagues Cup campaign. A win and subsequent trophy chase could have been a good way for the team to build momentum for its MLS season, while also getting OCSC that much closer to some silverware. The silver lining is that the Lions now have one less competition to worry about and will hopefully use this loss as fuel to prepare for Nashville next week. Heads up and eyes forward, everyone. Vamos Orlando!