It was a wasteful night for Orlando City at Exploria Stadium. Despite dominating the stat sheet, the Lions (1-1-1, 4 points) couldn’t find the goals to beat an FC Cincinnati (1-2-0, 3 points) team that had not scored entering the match and fell 2-1 at home. It was FC Cincinnati’s first win in the series.
Brandon Vazquez’s brace accounted for the first two goals Orlando allowed this season and they were enough to offset Junior Urso’s first-half goal for the Lions. At the other end, goalkeeper Alec Kann made several big saves to help his team win its first match of the year.
“Difficult accepting that we didn’t get a result tonight,” Head Coach Oscar Pareja said after the match. “Obviously you can’t hide that feeling, especially after the effort that the boys (gave) during the game. The boys tried from every single angle in the first half and the second half and we were not effective putting the ball in the back of the net. This is the game. You get points when you score goals.”
Pareja made just two lineup changes from last Saturday at Chicago. Pedro Gallese took up his customary spot in goal behind a back line of Joao Moutinho, Robin Jansson — returning from suspension — Antonio Carlos, and Ruan. Cesar Araujo and Urso started in central midfield behind an attacking midfield line of Alexandre Pato, Mauricio Pereyra, and Facundo Torres. Designated Player striker Ercan Kara got his first MLS start at the top of the formation.
Orlando City controlled much of the first half but Cincinnati looked dangerous in transition. Vazquez sliced a shot across the front of goal that skipped just wide of the far post in the eighth minute.
The Lions got their first opportunity in the 10th minute when Carlos played a ball to Ruan over the top down the right side. The fullback sent in a cross for Kara that was flicked toward goal but the shot was blocked by a defender.
Yuya Kubo skied a shot well over the frame in the 12th minute but Cincinnati found an opener a minute later. Alvas Powell sent a ball across the midfield that found its way to Luciano Acosta. The midfielder slipped Vazquez in behind the defense and he beat Gallese 1-v-1 to make it 1-0 in the 13th minute. It was Cincinnati’s first goal of the season and the first conceded by Orlando in 2022.
The Lions got back on the front foot but the visitors dug in deep and made it difficult. Torres shook loose on the left in the 16th minute but he was at a severe angle and his shot was wide. A minute later, Torres sent in a great cross that Pato got his head onto but Kann made his first outstanding save of the game. It wasn’t his last.
Nope! Not today!— Major League Soccer (@MLS) March 13, 2022
Pato nearly finds the equalizer, but Kann comes up with the big save. pic.twitter.com/WHVicL1CQq
In the 22nd minute, Pato found Kara in front and Kann made an outstanding save on the Orlando DP’s header. Two minutes later, Moutinho got to the end line and sent in a dangerous cross at the top of the six. Kara was sandwiched between two defenders and couldn’t redirect it in. He was down for a moment grabbing his leg, but was able to continue.
Carlos sent a header on frame on a set piece in the 26th minute but Kann again made a great save to keep the Lions off the board.
Orlando’s equalizer came in the 42nd minute. Torres sent a cross in from the left and Urso headed it into the left bottom corner of the net to make it 1-1.
That was the last scoring chance of the half and the teams went to the locker room knotted up.
Orlando City had more possession (65.7%-34.3%), better passing accuracy (82.5%-72.5%), and had more corners (3-1), shots (8-4), and shots on target (5-1).
The Lions came out of the locker room strong, winning an early corner. The ball pinged around off the set piece and someone in the scrum sent a looping shot toward the back post that missed wide.
Vazquez nearly scored his second goal in the 51st minute off a Cincinnati corner. A cross in from the flag found Vazquez, who nodded it toward the lower left corner of the goal. Gallese was able to get across and keep it out. A foul prevented the visitors from getting a rebound opportunity.
But just two minutes later, Vazquez completed his brace. A ball down the left side found Dominique Badji. Ruan did well to run the forward down but rather than play safely he went in for a shoulder-to-shoulder challenge and was knocked down. That allowed Badji to cross in for an easy Vazquez header, making it 2-1 in the 53rd minute.
The visitors nearly put the game away in the 58th. A set piece from distance was headed back across the area. Kubo had a free run at it but sent his header wide of goal.
Orlando settled back into the match and controlled most of the second half the way it had done in the first, but Cincinnati stayed compact defensively and fouled every time Orlando beat someone to minimize the Lions’ attacking threat.
Pereyra went for goal from distance in the 60th minute but missed the target badly. Pato fizzed a shot just over the bar from roughly the same spot in the 62nd.
The Lions got caught up the field in the 64th minute and Vazquez nearly completed his hat trick. He tracked down a ball, splitting the Orlando center backs and Gallese was well out of his net. The goalkeeper came out and made himself big, but Vazquez got his shot through. Luckily, the shot sliced wide.
Benji Michel came on for Araujo and was active in the match but wasn’t able to turn the tide. He won a couple of corners but the service was poor and the Lions wasted the set pieces. Pato sent Michel down the right with a beautiful pass in the 83rd but the winger smashed his shot into the outside netting.
Carlos got his head to a corner kick cross in the 85th and once again Kann made a sparkling save to keep preserve his team’s lead. The rebound fell behind the onrushing Michel at the back post and Cincinnati was able to clear.
A couple of poor Ruan crosses late in the match wasted some potential opportunities to equalize. The right back sent the first one weakly into the side netting from just inside the right edge of the penalty area in the 88th minute. He overcooked one out for a goal kick from the wing in the 91st.
In between, substitute Sebas Mendez and Jansson were able to keep the deficit at just one goal by making vital sliding blocks to break up a Cincinnati counter.
The best chance to equalize came in the fourth minute of stoppage time. A cross into the box deflected to an oncoming Pereyra. It was on his weaker left foot and the midfielder sent his shot high and wide left on yet another wasted opportunity.
The whistle blew just shy of the five minutes of stoppage indicated, despite the fact that Kann was booked for time wasting during the added minutes.
FC Cincinnati led on the scoreboard despite Orlando City’s advantages in shots (17-9), shots on target (6-3), possession (69.4%-30.6%), corners (7-2), and passing accuracy (84.6%-63.1%).
The Lions continue to send a high percentage of shots off target or get them blocked — a trend that has been a problem through three matches so far.
“I would like to have that answer,” Pareja said of his team’s wasted opportunities in front of goal. “I think in this game, when you are in the last 20 or 30 yards, when you’re getting closer, everything is tighter, and you have to have composure, for sure. You have to have the talent and the quality. And sometimes you have to be lucky too. There are things to work on for sure.”
“I feel like we played a very good game. Even though they executed their game plan really well, and they were good on the counters,” Moutinho said. “They had a few balls in behind and they really hurt us when they had a chance. And that’s what football is all about, I guess. But yeah. Very disappointed. I feel like we should have won the game.”
“I do really want to remark (on) the character that the boys had today,” Pareja said. “Unfortunately we couldn’t get the result but I saw this team fighting all the time and that’s the spirit that we want to have with this team.”
The Lions head out on the road for the next two matches, starting with a Saturday afternoon tilt at the L.A. Galaxy next Wednesday.