Orlando City was up a goal and a man late in the match but conceded a late penalty and drew the Portland Timbers 1-1 at Providence Park. Junior Urso gave the Lions a second-half lead but Cristhian Paredes equalized from the spot after being fouled in the box by Andres Perea. Orlando (2-1-2, 8 points) were minutes away from three huge road points but Portland (1-1-3, 6 points) took advantage of the mistake.
The Lions remained unbeaten on the road (1-0-2) but have lost some valuable points on controversial plays in the two draws. Orlando took four of a possible six points from their back-to-back west coast trips.
“Our boys had a great plan that we worked during the week against a good team in a difficult place,” Head Coach Oscar Pareja said after the match. “They executed the way we imagined it. They obviously feel that they deserve much more. Collectively, it was a terrific effort.”
Pareja was forced to juggle his lineup due to international call-ups. Mason Stajduhar started in place of Pedro Gallese in goal, behind the usual starting back line of Joao Moutinho, Robin Jansson, Antonio Carlos, and Ruan. Cesar Araujo and Junior Urso were in central midfield behind an attacking line of Benji Michel, Mauricio Pereyra, and Tesho Akindele, with Alexandre Pato up top.
The first half was cagey with the teams probing for an opening and playing mostly between the two penalty areas. A few crosses were sent in but there weren’t many opportunities to get onto them.
The first shot on goal came off of Pato’s foot in the 13th minute but it took a slight deflection and was no trouble for Portland goalkeeper Aljaz Ivacic. Three minutes later, Urso fizzed a ball into the area that the Timbers were able to cut out before Pato could get to it. Michel nearly got in behind in the 18th minute but he took a touch that was a bit heavy and by the time he got back to the ball, the goalkeeper had come out to smother it.
Pereyra was fouled by Diego Chara — a common theme throughout the first half — giving Orlando a free kick in a dangerous spot. Unfortunately, Pato hit his shot into the wall and Ruan made a mess of his attempt to recycle the ball into the area.
The most dangerous chance in the first half came Portland’s way in the 30th minute. A low, hard cross through the area eluded Stajduhar and Paredes was crashing the net at the far post. But the cross had so much pace on it that Paredes was unable to direct his header toward the gaping net in front of him and it squirted wide
Urso sent a low drive from outside the area on target in the 43rd minute but it was never a problem for Ivacic.
The half started to get a little chippier toward the end of the half. Referee Marco DeOliveira could have booked Chara for his three fouls on Pereyra, but didn’t. And tempers flared between Araujo and Dairon Asprilla along the sideline but nothing came of it.
An uneventful first half came to a scoreless conclusion. Portland held more possession (57.8%-42.2%), won more corners (4-2), and was more accurate in the passing game (86.3%-82.2%). Each team fired five shots toward goal but Orlando got more on target (2-0), although not much troubled either keeper.
The Lions responded well after halftime, getting the ball into the final third and looking for an opener. Pereyra fired a shot right at the goalkeeper shortly after the restart. And not long after that, Orlando finally found a way through the traffic in front of Portland’s goal.
Pato tried to play in Ruan on the right side but his pass was deflected back to him by the defense. He then picked out a late run by Urso and sent him in behind the defense. Urso tapped it past Ivacic to make it 1-0 in the 52nd minute.
Pato ➡️ Junior Urso— Major League Soccer (@MLS) March 27, 2022
The Brazilian connection puts @OrlandoCitySC in front! pic.twitter.com/Jq3w7qvWzP
Carlos made a couple of big plays at the back to keep Orlando in front. Akindele gave the Lions a chance to double the lead from near the end line on the right, flicking the ball out in front of goal in the 59th minute. No Lions were crashing the net and it allowed the Timbers to clear.
Portland subbed on Sebastian Blanco to try to get back into the game and the dynamic attacking midfielder made a difference, particularly in transition. He put a shot on target that Stajduhar saved in the 64th and he missed a drive toward the right post wide a few minutes later.
Pereyra was stretchered off with an injury in the 73rd minute and Rodrigo Schlegel subbed on to try to give the Lions more stability in response to the Blanco sub. The Argentinian responded with a huge block from a shot at the top of the area on one of his first touches.
Things looked good for Orlando when Pato made a slick move in traffic and Josecarlos Van Rankin pulled him back, drawing his second yellow card in the 76th.
Disaster struck three minutes later, as Perea got a piece of Paredes just inside the top of the area at the same time Carlos was knocking the ball away. A penalty was given and 10-man Portland had their lifeline.
DeOliveira waited so long to make a decision that Paredes slammed the ground angrily. Then DeOliveira signaled for the penalty. He appeared to be in conversation with Video Assistant Referee Edvin Jurisevic, but the referee never went to take a look at it. Paredes then hit his shot right down the middle and Stajduhar couldn’t leave a foot in to deflect it.
Paredes ties it from the spot!— Major League Soccer (@MLS) March 27, 2022
Final ten minutes coming up on ESPN. pic.twitter.com/E9xvYDugFE
“The penalty went down the middle. I went to the side. It is what it is,” Stajduhar said.
The Lions came close to being able to retake the lead in the 83rd minute off a corner kick as the ball skipped tantalizingly toward Urso at the back post but a defender arrived just before the Bear could get on on the ball.
The Lions got a couple of half chances after that but couldn’t get a clean shot at the target, settling for a point after some nervy moments on defense deep in stoppage time.
The Timbers held more possession (52.2%-47.8%), attempted more shots (12-11), won more corners (5-4), and passed more accurately (84.3%-83.6%) but Orlando got more shots on target (4-3).
“I felt that we lost some shape in the middle” Pareja said of the middle part of the second half. They were risking with some good players. We had the opportunity to close the game earlier. There were moments when we had control of the ball but we did not have control of the game. The first half I thought we had control of both.”
“A little frustrated because obviously there was a real chance to actually win that game and take three points on the road,” Stajduhar. “Also a little satisfied that we did everything well and, you know, one moment could turn it the other way.”
The Lions will face their third consecutive Western Conference opponent next Saturday when LAFC visits Exploria Stadium.