Billed as one of the biggest games in club history, Orlando City could not find a way to live up to the expectations, as they fell in the semifinals of the US Open Cup to Atlanta United, 2-0 on Tuesday night at Exploria Stadium.
“Obviously very disappointed to get beat,” head coach James O’Connor said after the match. “I think when you look at the first half, I just said to the guys there, we didn’t play anywhere near to our capacity. I think the occasion seemed to get to us. Second half our intent was a lot better, we were camped in their half, but we needed more quality.”
The first half consisted of equal chances for both sides. In the 19th minute, Orlando’s Dom Dwyer was fed a perfect ball into the box by Nani but his strike went sailing high and wide. This was the Lions best chance of the first half, with their four total shots in the half.
Atlanta, meanwhile, converted on one of their 12 total first-half shots in the 37th minute, when Eric Remedi struck one from outside the box. The initial shot was parried wide by Adam Grinwis but Remedi made a second run into the box and Julian Gressel picked him out, beating Grinwis for the opening goal of the game.
Coming into the second half, Orlando had yet another good chance on goal when Sacha Kljestan took his chance in the 53rd minute, but the shot once again went high.
As the Lions continued to push, subbing on Chris Mueller and Benji Michel, Atlanta began to sit back a bit and work to counter. Orlando earned set-piece opportunities and created shots on goal, but couldn’t break down the Atlanta defense.
Orlando looked to push more numbers forward, subbing out Joao Moutinho in favor of Alex De John, to move to a 3 back-formation, but just seconds after changing the shape of the defense, Atlanta added a second.
Newly signed American international Emerson Hyndman found himself open in the box and when Franco Escobar crossed in the ball, it was a simple tap in for Hyndman to double the lead for the away side.
By this point, Atlanta was very much set back in a defensive shape that Orlando could not, no matter how often they tried, break down. After a lengthy seven minutes of stoppage time, the final whistle blew and Orlando’s cup run came to an end.
Up next for Orlando
The Lions head up to Canada to take on Toronto FC in a crucial playoff matchup at 7:30 p.m. at BMO Field.
37′ ATL – Eric Remedi (Gressel)
78′ ATL – Emerson Hyndman (Escobar, Remedi)
How the Lions lined up
Orlando City XI: Adam Grinwis; Joao Moutinho (Alex De John 78′), Robin Jansson, Lamine Sané, Ruan; Sacha Kljestan (Benji Michel 58′), Will Johnson, Sebas Mendez; Nani, Tesho Akindele, Dom Dwyer (Chris Mueller 58’)
Orlando City Bench: Brian Rowe, Uri Rosell, Dillon Powers, Shane O’Neill
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