Orlando City spiraled out of the playoffs Sunday night, courtesy of a 2-0 defeat to CF Montreal at Stade Saputo. The Lions played better than I thought they would, but couldn’t get the job done north of the border. Here are my five takeaways from OCSC’s final game of the 2022 season.
A Well-Officiated Affair
I’ll get this one out of the way up top. While a loss stings, Orlando can have no complaints about the way the game was called. Ismail Elfath was a tad trigger happy with the yellow cards in the first half of the game, but other than that, he and his team were excellent. They saw through a couple different instances of Montreal players making more out of contact than necessary to try to win penalties, and Elfath did well to keep a lid on things in the second half when tensions threatened to boil over and get out of hand. While the penalty being awarded hurt and put the game out of the Lions’ reach, it too was the correct call. In a season where Orlando has had plenty of games with cause to bemoan officiating, last night’s match in Montreal was not one of them.
All Montreal in the Early Going
As expected in front of a ravenous Stade Saputo crowd, Montreal came flying out of the gates. The hosts had almost all of the ball and were pressing hard on the few occasions they didn’t. The Lions barely had a sniff of the ball inside the opening 15 minutes, and while Montreal’s early dominance only led to one shot, there was plenty of reason to be concerned that we might be about to witness another showing of OCSC being completely bereft of intensity. Fortunately, that proved to not be the case, as Orlando grew into the game around the 20-minute mark, and acquitted itself fairly respectably from that point onward, aside from one very important aspect.
Quiet Night for the Goalkeepers
There’s no getting around the fact that neither goalkeeper had much to do on the night. Of the 11 shots that Montreal took, only two were put on target, and both were goals (although one came from the penalty spot). The Lions have to be disappointed that they weren’t able to trouble James Pantemis. The first time he had to really do anything with the ball in open play came 87 minutes into the match when he fell on a ball that was pinging around in the box. Considering our friends at Mount Royal Soccer highlighted goalkeeping as a potential area of weakness for the hosts, OCSC’s inability to test Pantemis was extremely disappointing.
Missed Chances Prove Costly
It wasn’t like Orlando didn’t have dangerous chances either. Prior to Ismael Kone’s goal, Orlando probably had the three best chances of the game, all of which came in the first half. First, Ercan Kara got in behind the defense and shot over the bar when he had Ruan open in the box to square the ball to. Ivan Angulo’s chance from the edge of the area 10 minutes later wasn’t quite as clear cut, but it still came from a position where he should be hitting the target. By the time Antonio Carlos volleyed a great opportunity over the bar from a free kick in first-half stoppage time, it absolutely felt like the missed chances would cost Orlando before the night was over. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what happened, as the visitors were unable to generate any looks of similar danger in the second half while Montreal converted its best chance of the game.
Substitutes Unable to Provide a Spark
There have been multiple instances of substitutes impressing for Orlando City this year. From Tesho Akindele’s late goals to Benji Michel’s heroics in the U.S. Open Cup, fresh legs have been capable of changing games when the Lions needed goals. Sadly, that wasn’t the case Sunday night. Oscar Pareja had to change something after going behind 68 minutes into the game, but the introductions of Benji Michel and Jake Mulraney in the 77th minute, and Tesho and Michael Halliday with three minutes to play, did not bring the needed boost. It may feel harsh to pick on Mulraney, given he had to take on Angulo’s duty of marshaling Alistair Johnston, but three touches in 20 minutes for an attacking player when chasing a one-goal deficit just didn’t cut it. None of the four substitutes made much of an impact, and Orlando’s last shot of the night came in the 77th minute. Not great.
To close things out, Orlando gave a better go of it than I was expecting against one of the hottest teams in the league. The Lions had the three best chances of the game until the opening goal, but a familiar lack of finishing and inability to get shots on target let them down. If even one of those chances gets put away, then who knows what happens, but ultimately Montreal was clinical and Orlando wasn’t. The result hurts, but you can’t really say that it wasn’t the right one.