When a team is struggling, every bounce matters and Orlando City isn’t getting any of them. The Lions (10-8-8, 38 points) scored their third own goal in the last five games and squandered yet another penalty kick in a 2-1 loss to the New England Revolution (19-4-5, 62 points) at Gillette Stadium. Adam Buksa’s early goal was canceled out by Daryl Dike, but a cross from Tajon Buchanan hit Rodrigo Schlegel’s leg and went in to provide the winning margin.
The Orlando losing streak grew to four straight matches and the Lions have still never won in New England (0-5-1). The loss could have become a draw had Nani scored on a penalty kick attempt late in the second half but he tried to go down the middle and Matt Turner was able to stop his movement to the right and get a shoulder on it.
“It’s painful to say that after playing a good game, we’re still leaving with disappointment in not getting the result,” Orlando City Head Coach Oscar Pareja said after the match. “We did not want to come here and put eight or nine players in behind, but we wanted to come and fight our game.”
Pareja started Pedro Gallese in goal behind a back line of Joao Moutinho, Robin Jansson, Schlegel, and Ruan with Antonio Carlos suspended. Sebas Mendez returned to the central midfield alongside Junior Urso for the first time since July 17. Andres Perea and Mauricio Pereyra facilitated the attack forward to Benji Michel and Dike with team captain Nani on the bench.
It didn’t take long for New England to take the lead. After an opening spell of both teams playing it around the midfield, looking for an opening, the Revs struck first. A ball played down the left side found Gustavo Bou, who was left all alone when Ruan slipped on the artificial turf. Bou sent in a perfect cross for Buksa to tap home in the ninth minute to make it 1-0.
New England is lethal when scoring first and improved to 15-0-2 on the season when scoring the game’s first goal.
The Revs should have doubled the lead five minutes later. The ball came to DeJuan Jones down the left flank and Gallese came out of his goal to cut down his angle, but the New England fullback found Buksa in front with a quick pass and the forward skied his shot with the net completely empty.
Orlando withstood the Revs’ efforts at a second goal and equalized. Pereyra found Dike on the right. The Lions’ forward out-muscled his college teammate, Henry Kessler, then smashed a shot too hot for Matt Turner to handle, making it 1-1 in the 18th minute. It was Pereyra’s 10th assist on the season, tying a team single-season record shared by Nani, Yoshimar Yotún, and Kaká. As secondary assists are now counted, it’s important to note that seven of Pereyra’s 10 have been primary assists.
“It’s just like a position that I like to be in and, you know, Henry and I — obviously him and I are buddies and he’s a good defender,” Dike said. “For that moment I guess I just got the better of him and then I just kind of stick it in the back of the net. It was a good battle. I love competing with him. I think it’s always a pleasure and an honor to be able to fight against top players like that.”
The Lions had a couple of opportunities in the attack after that, with Dike trying to play in Pereyra first and then Michel, but neither teammate made a run, so those opportunities evaporated without incident. Dike also had a chance off a good cutback pass from Ruan in the 24th minute but he couldn’t hit the ball cleanly and it squirted well off to the right of goal. Three minutes later, Pereyra’s service on a set piece bounced to Perea, who sent a shot on target but Turner made a sprawling save to keep the game tied.
That was an important save, because the Revs regained the lead in the 35th minute. Buchanan made a couple of dazzling moves to free himself up on the right and sent in a cross that hit Schlegel and bounced in for an own goal. Buksa had given the Orlando defender two huge shoves just before the ball was crossed but those went uncalled and the hosts took a 2-1 lead.
That was the last good look for either side and the hosts took their one-goal lead to the locker room.
New England finished the half with more shots (5-3) but Orlando got more on target (2-1). The Revs held more possession (59.3%-40.7%) and were more accurate passers (84.1%-80.5%), while Orlando got the half’s only corner.
The teams traded a couple of half-chances in the opening minutes of the second half and Orlando fashioned the first good look. Moutinho sent in a great cross into the area for Perea, who had a free header but he missed badly and sent it well off target in the 63rd minute. Six minutes later, Urso had his shot from the top of the area deflected by a defender. It fell for Moutinho but the Portuguese left back badly misfired and sent a weak shot well wide of the target.
Pareja sent Nani, Silvester van der Water, and Tesho Akindele on to try to go for the equalizer and the opportunity came when Dike was fouled in the area by Andrew Farrell with a quarter of an hour to go. Nani took the spot kick and tried to go down the middle. Turner started to dive to his right but stopped himself, and was crouched on the ground. He managed to throw a shoulder up to deflect the penalty out of harm’s way. The Lions continue to fail miserably from the spot, regardless of who takes them.
1-888-TURNER-THE-WALL pic.twitter.com/mali0DEha2— x - New England Revolution (@NERevolution) September 26, 2021
Whether it’s been Nani, Pereyra, or Akindele, penalties have not been a good source of offense for the Lions in 2021.
“It is my responsibility,” Pareja said after the match about who can take penalties. “(The players) work (at penalties) because it’s part of our training. And then that selection is my responsibility. I’m the head coach and I take that.”
Van der Water had a late chance blocked by a defender and nobody could get on a set piece pinging around in the area late, allowing the Revs to hang on for the 2-1 win.
Shots finished even at 13-13 but Orlando got more on target (3-1) and ended up as the more accurate passing team (83.8%-83.5%). The Revs held more possession (54.1%-45.9%) and won more corners (4-3).
“We’ve got to look at ourselves,” Dike said. “Obviously, we don’t want to concede. Obviously, we don’t want to give them chances. We’ve got to look at the chances we created for ourselves. Are we playing our principles? Are we playing the way Oscar wants us to play and enjoying our freedom? I think at some points in the game we were able to do that. We were able to be the imposing factor and play our game, and impose ourselves on the other team.
“I think, in other games recently, we might not have been able to, and it’s just another step in the right direction. I think, even though we lost, even though we want a better result, I think it’s a step that we need to do.”
The Lions’ schedule becomes more congested now with a trip to Nashville coming up on Wednesday and a visit from D.C. United to Exploria Stadium next Saturday. Orlando City will be without Robin Jansson Wednesday due to a suspension for yellow card accumulation after he took one tonight.