Orlando City’s third game in seven days started out OK. In fact, the Lions were in control for the bulk of the match, but a second-half spell of mistakes turned a potential win into a 3-1 loss at Exploria Stadium. The Lions (6-5-3, 21 points) got a goal from Ercan Kara late in first-half stoppage time and had opportunities to add a second but then a series of giveaways and an uncharacteristically soft goal conceded by Pedro Gallese allowed FC Dallas (7-3-4, 25 points) to run away with it.
Paul Arriola and Franco Jara also scored in a three-minute span and Arriola added a second goal shortly after that, as the Lions continue to struggle against Dallas. Orlando City fell to just 1-4-2 and scored only its third goal in the all-time series.
“Until they scored the first goal, I thought we had a very good game,” Orlando City Head Coach Oscar Pareja said after the match. “And then lack of concentration, a couple plays. The first one we had the ball and then we gave it away. Something that Dallas knows how to do is just counter and have players up front that are dynamic. We conceded that equalizer that hurt us and our reaction was not right and we conceded a second goal as well.”
With a couple of regular starters suspended and others needing rest, Pareja’s lineup included Gallese behind a back line of Joao Moutinho, Robin Jansson, Kyle Smith, and Ruan. Sebas Mendez took over in central midfield for the suspended Cesar Araujo with Andres Perea as his partner behind an attacking midfield line of Junior Urso, Mauricio Pereyra, and Jake Mulraney, with Kara up top.
Orlando City came out like a team playing its third game in a week. Movement was slow and deliberate and players’ first touch sometimes left a lot to be desired. But despite that, the team did well to keep the ball for spells of possession, although it wasn’t until late in the half that those spells produced shots and quality scoring chances.
The Lions had an early opportunity when Mulraney sent a header toward the back post to an open Urso but the pass was too far off line.
The first Dallas shot came from long range in the eighth minute, when Alan Velasco sent a shot over the bar. Arriola fired a shot right at Gallese in the 16th minute, as the USMNT forward was threatening throughout the game with his movement off the ball.
The Lions had a good chance to get something going on a free kick in the 23rd minute. Pereyra sent in a good ball that was just inches over Jansson’s head.
Arriola did well to smash a shot from the right in the 26th minute that Gallese parried away.
Late in the half, the Lions strung together a number of set pieces but weren’t doing much with them. A recycled ball into the area found Jansson, who flicked a header toward goal but hit teammate Urso with it in the 44th minute. Seconds later, Pereyra had a good opportunity. From the top of the box, he sent a shot on target that goalkeeper Maarten Paes palmed over the bar.
The breakthrough came deep in first-half stoppage time. The Lions had a corner kick cleared and Mendez was first to the loose ball. He was bundled over from behind to set up a free kick from the left. Pereyra sent in a good ball toward the near post for Kara. The Designated Player got his head on it and popped it up and over Paes’ outstretched hand and into the net near the back post to make it 1-0. It was Kara’s fourth goal of the year and his third in the last five games in all competitions. The goal also produced Pereyra’s team-leading sixth assist on the season.
The goal was effectively the last play of the half. Orlando went to the break up a goal. Dallas held a slim lead in possession (50.3%-49.7%), while Orlando fired more shots (5-4), with each team getting two on target. The Lions had more corners (5-0), while the visitors passed more accurately (86.6%-84%).
Orlando City had a chance to double the lead just after the restart. Ruan took the ball down the right and found Perea in the box in the 47th minute but the midfielder hit his shot into the outside netting. Two minutes later the Lions had a good flurry in front of goal but couldn’t get a shot to go. Jansson and Kara each had an effort blocked in the sequence.
FC Dallas had a good spell shortly after that, earning some set pieces in the attacking end. The only decent look for Dallas during that time was a shot wide of goal by Facundo Quignon in the 56th minute.
Three minutes later, Kara nearly pulled off the spectacular. The big forward had his back to goal and went for the bicycle kick in the box. He didn’t get a lot on his shot but it bounced right in front of goal and needed a good save by Paes to keep it out.
Orlando continued to get forward and win fouls but couldn’t do much with its set pieces. However, the wheels came off for the Lions starting in the 67th minute. Perea had a terrible giveaway at midfield that sent Dallas into the attack. A ball across the top of the box from second-half sub Jara wasn’t dealt with by Ruan and found its way to Arriola, who beat Gallese to tie the match.
“I feel like we were comfortable enough,” Mulraney said. “I can’t remember them having many big chances before the first goal.”
Arriola then nearly put Dallas in front in the 69th. Another giveaway — this time in the attacking third — again sent the visitors on the attack. The ball ended up on the left again and was crossed in for Arriola, who timed his run well but his deflection went off target.
But a minute later Dallas took the lead anyway. Jara timed his run well and Smith was unable to step in front in time to put him offside. As a result, Jara got well behind the back line and flicked the ball over Gallese and just barely inside the far post to make it 2-1. The play was reviewed upstairs but the Lions just kept Jara onside.
“He was going in behind a lot more (than other players),” Smith said of Jara’s introduction to the game. “I tried to hold the line. I thought he was offside and then I just tried to get back, and fair to him. It was a good finish.”
The Lions should have leveled the game in the 78th minute. Substitute Alexandre Pato sent in a fantastic corner kick cross to Kara at the back post. The big forward got his head to it at the post but somehow sent his shot just wide.
Seconds later, Gallese made a huge save. Kara lost the ball in the attacking third and Dallas came forward. The ball ended up on Ferreira’s foot and he sent a curling shot toward the far post but Gallese got a hand to it and knocked it away.
Arriola put the game away in the 84th minute. The Lions did nothing with a free kick from the right side and Dallas regained possession, working it upfield. Arriola ended up with the ball on the left side of the box and sent in a tough-angle shot that Gallese would normally save, but it squirted through him and inside the far post to effectively seal the Lions’ fate.
Dallas finished with a tad more possession (50.9%-49.1%) and slightly better passing accuracy (86%-84.1%), while Orlando had more shots (15-13) and corners (7-3). Dallas got more attempts on target, however (6-3). That lack of precision in front of goal and a short spell of giveaways ultimately killed the Lions in this one.
Nobody used the team playing its third game in seven days as an excuse for this result.
“We’re all getting professional recovery and we’re all professionals,” Smith said. “I just think we have to learn from the experience and take something from this.”
“I mean, look, it’s no excuse. We’re professionals,” Mulraney said. “You know, we look after each other well. We look after our own bodies well.”
The Lions are still wasting too many scoring chances that can put teams away and the team is dropping too many points at home. Orlando is just 3-4-0 at home after losing three games combined at Exploria Stadium across the previous two seasons.
“At this point in the season we have given away results at home where we normally are very strong, with games that we have played way better than many others,” Pareja said. “We walk off in defeat and frustration. It is a concern, for sure. I think it’s something that we’ll analyze.”
Orlando City finally gets a rest but will have to sit with the feeling of this loss for a couple of weeks. The Lions are off until June 15, when they travel to Gillette Stadium to face the New England Revolution.