Well. That one got a little out of hand, now didn’t it? A healthily rotated Orlando City side got blasted 5-1 by the Philadelphia Union up in Pennsylvania, bringing an end to a five-game winning streak for the Lions. While the result isn’t all that surprising, it was still a difficult one to watch, so kudos to you if you stuck with it for the full 90 minutes. What follows are my five takeaways from a tough night on the road.
Papi Rings the Changes
As expected after a Wednesday victory in the U.S. Open Cup and with two important home games looming, Oscar Pareja was not shy about rotating his team and getting guys some rest. The exact manner of the rotation was a bit surprising in places though. One of the bigger surprises was Mason Stajduhar stepping in for Pedro Gallese in goal, as El Pulpo wasn’t even on the bench. The other changes were Wilder Cartagena, Andres Perea, Nicholas Gioacchini and Benji Michel all named to the starting lineup as Papi seemed to be prioritizing next week’s games rather than a road match against the first-place team in the East.
End-to-End Stuff Early
Orlando wasn’t without some opportunities as the game started. The Lions worked a good set piece just a couple minutes into the game, but Antonio Carlos missed a bicycle kick and nothing came of it. After 10 minutes, Mauricio Pererya fired a fierce drive towards goal after Andre Blake punched a Jake Mulraney cross, but it was blocked on its way through. After a quarter of an hour Michel was as close as you can get to getting onto a through ball that would have put him in on goal, only for the Union to take the ball down the other end and put it in the net courtesy of Julian Carranza. While that goal was disallowed for offside, it was a warning sign of things to come, and one that Orlando unfortunately didn’t heed.
Another Facial in Philly
Fans still fuming about the elbow Rodrigo Schlegel took to the face from Kacper Przybylko last year at Subaru Park — which wasn’t called — must have had a case of deja vu Saturday night when Jose Martinez threw a headbutt at Wilder Cartagena early in the match. As it was behind the play, it’s understandable that the referee didn’t see it. The play supposedly went through the review process with the video assistant referee in the booth but nothing was given to Martinez. As the camera angle available via the broadcast came from behind, the only logical explanation for there not being a straight red is that the back of Martinez’s head blocks out video evidence of contact being made. However, just the attempt of a head butt should have drawn...something.
The hot-headed Martinez is no stranger to suspension, but got nothing for it, nor for a reckless, clumsy, from-behind challenge moments later on Andres Perea in transition. It’s fair to say that Orlando had a better chance of taking something from the game had the Lions been up a man for 70+ minutes and it stings that this has happened on two straight trips to Philly. Perhaps the league needs to mandate a few more camera angles at Subaru Park.
Slim First-Half Margins
As mentioned in the above section, Benji was oh so close to getting in behind the defense with a chance to go 1-on-1 with the goalkeeper, but it was not to be. The Union’s opening goal was a result of similarly skinny margins as an Olivier Mbaizo shot deflected off Joao Moutinho and just over a leaping Mason Stajduhar at the far post. It looked like Mason might have had time to maybe take a couple steps before jumping to try and save, but as crazy as the carom was, it would be tough to nitpick too much. Stajduhar did get a leg on Mikael Uhre’s goal but it just wasn’t enough to keep it out of the net. Just like that, the Lions found themselves 2-0 down going into the half and things were not about to improve after the break.
When it Rains it Pours
Once the first two goals happened in quick succession, there was always a danger of things getting out of hand. It was imperative that Orlando come out of halftime, start well, and get some sort of foothold in the game to prevent things from really getting out of hand. Initially things looked to be going well in that direction, as OCSC started the half with plenty of energy and made inroads in Philly’s final third. Unfortunately, the Union were awarded a rather soft penalty just eight minutes after the restart, and once Daniel Gazdag dispatched it, the risk of a blowout became very real. That specter came to fruition once Alejandro Bedoya’s diving header found the back of the net, although a rocket from Perea made the scoreline slightly more palatable...until Jack Elliott got another with two minutes to play. The Union have been racking up big scorelines on most teams they play these days, and unfortunately for Orlando it was no different on Saturday night.
This result absolutely stings. It’s tough to go from as high a high as the cup final victory on Wednesday to getting bashed 5-1. But at a point in the season when matches are coming thick and fast, you have to prioritize some over others. This just happened to be one that wasn’t as high on the totem pole, and as long as the Lions can go get the results this week, I can accept that. Onward and upward, and vamos Orlando.