With a bit of a depleted roster heading into Saturday’s match against the New York Red Bulls, Orlando City struggled to play against the pressing of the home side throughout the match, falling 2-1 at Red Bull Arena, snapping the Lions’ six-game unbeaten streak and first loss of the season.
Homegrown defender Michael Halliday got his first start for Orlando at wing back, with the Lions deploying a 3-5-1-1 formation in the first half. Centerback Rodrigo Schlegel missed the match today due to a personal matter, which he had to return home to deal with, according to a team spokesperson.
“Two different halves for us,” head coach Oscar Pareja said after the match. “The first one, we didn’t feel comfortable with the way we shaped, check the team and I think the players felt that we didn’t look organized and that New York took the initiative. I think in that part, we take responsibility, because the heart of the players was always in the field, especially in the second half, when they tried to push in different ways just to have that goal that can level the game.”
Pareja added: “Better second half when we started having better connections and we looked more like us, but definitely difficult week for us, on many things, because of the absences and players that are supposed to be here but are not. The boys that were in the field, they show the heart and now, probably we could deserve more at the end but, New York did a good job along the game and I think it’s fair.”
Early in the match, Orlando struggled playing through the Red Bull’s high pressing and barely made it past midfield for the first 15 minutes. This led to a number of chances, including a dangerous free kick in the seventh minute, which forced Pedro Gallese into early action.
Orlando continued to struggle in the first half to just get out of their own half, often turning the ball over in midfield. One ball did break for them in the 32nd minute after Junior Urso and Tesho Akindele combined to set up a chance, but the shot was right at Red Bulls keeper Carlos Coronel.
The Lions would hold on to head into the halftime break still down a goal. Coming out of the locker room, Oscar Pareja made some adjustments to his team, taking out playmaker Mauricio Pereyra and bringing in winger Benji Michel.
The sub did help alleviate some of the pressure, but unfortunately for the Lions, the Red Bulls would add a second in the 60th minute. Christian Casseres scored a direct free kick over the wall and past Gallese to double the home side’s lead.
Orlando would continue to look better in the second half, bringing in Silvester van der Water and Joao Moutinho in the 63rd minute to help with the attack.
As the Lions continued to build, it wasn’t until late in the match that they finally found an opener. After a ball played in by Kyle Smith found Akindele, the forward laid it off for van der Water to take on his right and fire past Coronel to pull one back for the visitors.
van der Water had another chance, this time to level the match, in the 89th minute, but the winger skied his effort over goal.
Orlando was unable to find that second goal through stoppage time and the final whistle blew.
The Lions will have a few weeks off for the international break before taking on Toronto FC on June 19. The venue has yet to be determined, but will not be open to fans. The game will be televised locally on FOX 35 Plus and Lion Nation TV.
35′ – Caden Clark, assisted by Patryk Klimala (RBNY)
60′ – Cristian Cásseres Jr (RNBY)
84′ – Silvester van der Water, assisted by Tesho Akindele and Kyle Smith (ORL)
How the Lions lined up
Orlando City XI: Pedro Gallese; Michael Halliday (Joao Moutinho, 63′), Robin Jansson, Antonio Carlos, Kyle Smith; Sebastian Mendez (Silvester van der Water, 63′), Junior Urso, Andres Perea, Mauricio Pereyra (Benji Michel, 45′), Chris Mueller; Tesho Akindele
Substitutes: Brandon Austin, Rio Hope-Gund, Joey DeZart, David Loera, Alexander Alvarado, Matheus Aias.
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