Orlando City had high hopes going into Thursday night’s Leagues Cup quarterfinal match against Santos Laguna. Oscar Pareja started close to a first-choice lineup and the Lions started the match on the front foot, looking to get that all-important first goal which always looms so large in international competitions. Unfortunately, a sliding block off the line prevented a dream start and the Lions couldn’t quite find a way to get the ball in the net for the next half hour, despite creating some decent chances.
That came back to haunt the men in purple at the half-hour mark when Juan Ferney Otero sent a ball skipping in front of Mason Stajduhar that the young goalkeeper got a hand to but couldn’t prevent from going in. That was all the scoring on the night as the visitors prevailed, 1-0. The Lions were unable to break through the well-organized Santos defense once they fell behind and the guests spent more time holding shape than looking for goals, with only one more effort on target the rest of the way.
A one-goal loss to an undefeated Liga MX side is not the worst showing, despite fans, players, and Head Coach Oscar Pareja all wanting more from the match. A little more one-touch passing, some quicker decision-making, and a bit more quality with the end product could have produced a much different result on the night. Orlando City now knows what it takes to compete in these kinds of competitions and that will serve the Lions well in the future.
There were some positives. Pareja finally got to start his first-choice back line all at the same time. That included the return from concussion protocol of Antonio Carlos, who played well, as did his central defense partner, Robin Jansson.
Chris Mueller has had a tough few weeks but he was active and looked dangerous early in the match. The last time he looked like that, he went on to register four goal contributions in his next four games.
We hope you enjoy the photos below from Orlando City’s first ever foray into an international cup competition. It wasn’t the result the Lions were hoping for, but it’s an important step in the growth and maturity of the club and it was a close match.
Images: Dan MacDonald
Words: Michael Citro