Early on this season when Orlando City played the New York Red Bulls, the Lions managed to grind out a 1-0 away win thanks to a Sacha Kljestan goal in the 73rd minute.
This time around, it was the Red Bulls that pulled out the 1-0 away win thanks to a 32nd-minute goal from Brian White, and three Orlando shots that careened off the post, crossbar, and back of goalkeeper Luis Robles
“Obviously, very disappointed,” said Orlando coach James O’Connor following the match, “I think in the first 35 minutes, we were off. We looked a little bit flat, it took us a while to get going. But the last 10 minutes of the second half, we started to feel like we were coming into it more. The second half, I think we absolutely bossed the game and completely dominated. Hit the woodwork three times and had some chances. We’re unlucky not to get anything out of the game, but it’s obviously very frustrating when you have a game and especially when you have the ball bouncing off the crossbar and off the post, the bounce of the ball didn’t happen for us tonight.”
It was one of those nights that nothing seemed to fall for the Lions, as they ended up having 18 shots taken and four on target, but each one hitting the frame of goal or Robles’ hands. The team did everything but put the ball in the back of the net and ultimately, that goal from the Red Bulls that trickled over the line was the difference.
Despite the result, O’Connor was proud of his team’s commitment to striving to win, especially the shift of focus from the first to the second half.
The Lions went from having just five shots taken in the first half to 13 in the second, with all of their on-target attempts coming in the final 45 as well. Orlando held almost 70% possession and dominated almost every part of the ball and almost every statistical category, which is something that O’Connor was pleased to see.
“I think at halftime we just spoke that we need to press upon them our game and play at our tempo and move the ball quicker,” said O’Connor. “I think second half we started to move the ball and we started to open them up and create some opportunities. I think first half it was a case of trying to deal with their style. It’s obviously very effective, but for us, it was a case of manage their style, manage the areas that they want to play and then make sure that we come out and we play in the areas that we want to.
“I think second half we did that, we moved the ball better, we started to create some chances and should’ve gotten something out of the game.”
Outside of just the tactical shift from the first to the second half, O’Connor praised his team’s effort to put their bodies on the line to work for a point. From the beginning of the half to the final whistle, players were putting everything they had left out on the pitch, something that was not lost on O’Connor.
“Guys are on the floor, exhausted, having thrown everything out there, trying to get something from the game,” O’Connor said. “I think in a situation like that it’s very frustrating for everybody because we can all see the second half, we’ve tried and tried and tried, and it didn’t really happen for us. But all in all, I can’t fault the players too much for the level of commitment that they’ve shown tonight.”
Orlando will have another chance to put that commitment and effort on display this weekend when they’re back in action, traveling to New England to take on the surging Revolution. Next time, however, they look to take home a true victory, rather than just a moral one.
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