Orlando City went down a man and two goals but battled back to even the score before suffering a second straight loss — this time 4-2 to CF Montreal at Exploria Stadium. Nani hit the showers before halftime after picking up a pair of yellow cards and Andres Perea joined him in the dressing room during the second half with a straight red. Romell Quioto led Montreal (9-8-7, 34 points) with a goal and two assists while defenders Robin Jansson and Ruan provided the only offense for Orlando City (10-6-8, 38 points).
The Lions have conceded nine times in the last three matches but at least they didn’t score on themselves as they had in the previous two. It was just Orlando’s second home loss of the season and a disappointing performance in all phases almost from the opening whistle.
“First, I apologize (for) our performance to our fans,” Orlando City Head Coach Oscar Pareja said after the match. “Not just because the game became messy with all these incidents and things, but because we’re much more than that. But at the end, you have a coach and you have a leader who takes the responsibilities on the way we line up, the way we choose to play the game, and our strategies, and all those things and today it didn’t work.”
Pedro Gallese returned to the starting lineup in goal for Orlando City behind a back line of Emmanuel Mas, Jansson, Antonio Carlos, and Ruan. Junior Urso returned from suspension to take his spot in central midfield beside Perea. Silvester van der Water and Mauricio Pereyra facilitated the attack to Nani and Daryl Dike.
Orlando City looked a bit out of sync to start the match and everything was just a little off. The Lions started several Montreal counters with poor passes and poor decisions with the ball and the one time they managed to put together a good attack early, the goal didn’t count. Van der Water got in behind and put the ball in the net in the seventh minute but he was flagged for a clear offside.
The first good look fell, literally, to Montreal. A cross from the right came to Jansson but he failed to clear it and only knocked it as far as Djordje Mihailovic, who fired a shot over the bar in the 11th minute. A minute later, Joaquin Torres fired just wide on a counter that was set up when Mas tried to flick a back pass to Pereyra in the attacking third but the ball got caught under his foot in the process and Montreal took it away.
In the 15th minute, Samuel Piette recycled a corner kick that Orlando cleared and sent a ball that Joel Waterman headed toward goal but Gallese was able to get over and save it.
Montreal broke the deadlock in the 18th minute after Perea turned it over. The visitors came forward and Ruan drifted too far inside. A quick pass outside and Quioto had plenty of space to send in a good cross. Montreal somehow had two runners — one on each side of Jansson, who was left to try to defend two men. The ball sailed over him to Mathieu Choiniere, who headed home.
Orlando tried to pull that goal back but lacked the quality and the creativity to do it. Nani sent in a cross for Urso but he was well covered and could only send a weak header toward goal. Moments later, Nani tried a shot from distance but it was always going over the bar.
The Lions got a set piece when Pereyra was fouled but it ended up doing more harm than good. Ruan played the free kick short to no one in particular and Nani raced forward to try to beat Torres to it and ended up fouling him and getting booked for it. That became a big booking shortly therafter. Nani coughed up the ball in the midfield for the second time in the game in the 35th minute and clipped Quioto from behind trying to stop the counter. Rubiel Vazquez showed him a second yellow and the Lions were forced to play at a manpower disadvantage for the rest of the match.
“Sometimes this happens,” Urso said of the sending off. “I know it’s hard to play with 10 players against 11. We have to be a team. Nani is our captain and he was sad and mad in the locker room, but we understand him and we are a team. We have to keep going. Nani has our respect (and) has our support.”
To make matters worse, Montreal scored right after the restart. Mihailovic played Quioto behind the defense and his shot hit off the far post and went in to make it 2-0 in the 37th minute.
Orlando managed to pull one back on a set piece. After Victor Wanyama fouled Dike from behind and was booked for it, Pereyra sent in a ball that fell to Wanyama to clear. The midfielder hit it only as far as Jansson near the top of the area and the Beefy Swede chipped in a shot toward the far post to make it 2-1 in the 40th minute.
Montreal out-shot the Lions in the opening half, 7-4, and got more on target (4-1). The visitors had more possession (57.2%-42.8%), more corners (4-0), and more accurate passing (92.5%-84.7%). The Orlando passing accuracy doesn’t look that bad as a statistic, but seemingly every wayward pass ignited some kind of Montreal transition.
Pareja subbed Benji Michel on for Chris Mueller to start the second half, which seemed odd because Mueller had replaced van der Water in the 41st minute. It turns out that both wingers picked up knocks in the match.
“When Chris came in for Silvester, Silvester was hurt,” Pareja said. “He asked for the substitution. And then when we came back to the locker room, Chris was hurt too. He got his ankle tweaked and then he couldn’t come out for the second half.”
The Lions had an excellent opportunity to tie it up in the 54th when Ruan got down the right flank and sent a ball toward the net that hit the goalkeeper and bounced straight to Dike. The big forward sent his shot over the gaping wide net.
Montreal seemed content to knock the ball around and keep possession, not attempting to get forward much. Orlando took advantage of that in the 63rd minute. Michel got down the left side and sent in a quick pass to Mas, who took an extra touch instead of shooting. Zachary Brault-Guillard swept in and knocked the ball off Mas and it bounced straight to Ruan in the middle. The right back fired immediately and scored his first career MLS goal, tying the game at 2-2.
CF Montreal was no longer content to just kick it around after the game was tied and started attacking again. Orlando managed to fight off the visitors for a while but only for about 10 minutes. Quioto got the ball on the right and sent a wicked low cross into the box. All substitute Lassi Lappalainen had to do was stick out a foot and redirect it to restore Montreal’s lead at 3-2 in the 73rd minute.
The visitors got an insurance goal off a corner in the 80th minute. Substitute Ibrahim Sunusi flicked home a near-post cross from Mihailovic to make it 4-2 and effectively end things.
Perea was sent off three minutes later trying to commit a tactical foul in transition. Rather than seeing yellow, Perea was shown a straight red by Vazquez for denial of a goal-scoring opportunity although the play was on Montreal’s attacking right and Carlos was charging down the center of the pitch. The center back appeared to be in position to potentially make a play, but Orlando finished out the match with just nine men.
Mihailovic sent the ensuing free kick just inches wide of the far post.
Michel had a final chance to pull one back for the Lions but hit a weak shot right at the goalkeeper from the left side in the 90th minute.
Montreal finished with more shots (15-7), shots on goal (7-3), corner kicks (9-0), and possession (59.7%-40.3%), and was the more accurate passing team (92.5%-84.8%).
“We can use it as an excuse of saying that we’re playing at first with 10 and nine and ejections and other things, but I didn’t like the way we were playing with 11 either,” Pareja said. “So, after that we played actually better. We cannot lose our mind. It’s something that’s happened to many teams in the league and this is our journey. We’re not we’re not going to lose our heads, for sure. We have to review and obviously try to see how can we find a way to be back (to) the team that we are. And definitely things need to be done and changes (need to be made). This needs to be evaluated for sure. It’s part of our job, and I take that responsibility.”
The Lions hit the road next for a pivotal Sunday afternoon match against the Philadelphia Union at 4 p.m.