With the regular season edging closer to the end, playoff implications were on the line for the Lions on Saturday night.
Playing without several key international players, Orlando City managed to muster a 2-2 draw against league-leaders Los Angeles FC at Exploria Stadium.
Here are three things from Saturday’s match against LAFC.
Controversial officiating, again, played a part during two instances in the second half for Orlando City.
First in the 56th minute, when Oriol Rosell looked to have scored and increased Orlando’s lead to 3-1 after firing a volley into the net, but head referee Alan Kelly whistled a foul on Benji Michel for obstructing goalkeeper Tyler Miller.
In the 86th minute, Miller appeared to leave the box with the ball in hand, but this time it was James O’Connor who was on the sideline appealing to the fourth official on the no-call free-kick.
“I think when the officials maybe go back and have a look at it I think they’ll perhaps be a little bit disappointed with their performance,” O’Connor said shortly in his opening statement. “Our performance I thought was excellent, I thought the guys gave everything. When you look at how good LAFC is, you look at how we managed the game and you look at the problems we caused them and on another night we would’ve won the game.”
Higuita’s clinical final passes
Cristian Higuita played a key role in both Orlando City goals on Saturday against LAFC.
The veteran midfielder, who’s recently returned from a hamstring injury, helped set-up Nani’s equalizer in the 13th minute, before connecting with Ruan with a perfectly weighted ball to set up Michel’s go-ahead goal in the 20th minute.
Higuita only played 74 minutes for his first start for the Lions since June 1, but left O’Connor impressed with his performance.
“For us, it was an interesting sort of decision as we looked at it,” said O’Connor. “We wanted to try to get him up a little bit higher and I thought he did a good job of doing that. I thought he was given some good momentum by the support from Ruan, also from Uri [Rosell] and Dillon [Powers].”
“I thought the middle at times was very, very good and I thought his execution was good,” O’Connor added. “We had some lovely passages tonight, it’s just bitterly disappointing that we haven’t got three points, that’s the kicker for us.”
Ruan shows fighting spirit
Ruan was listed as questionable heading into Saturday’s game.
The right-back missed Orlando’s last four games because of a hamstring injury but made his return against LAFC where he played the complete game and recorded an assist.
The kicker, however, was the Brazilian admitted he wasn’t playing to his full potential despite an impressive performance.
“To be honest, I’m not at my 100%,” said Ruan after the game. “Everything that I showed on the field tonight was how much of a warrior and a fighter that I am and now it’s just to keep improving as well.”
Goal summary vs. LAFC
12′ – Adrien Perez (Los Angeles FC)
13′ – Nani (Orlando City)
20′ – Benji Michel, assisted by Ruan and Cristian Higuita (Orlando City)
78′ – Diego Rossi, assisted by Adama Diomande (Los Angeles FC)
How the Lions lined up
Orlando City XI: Brian Rowe; Kyle Smith, Robin Jansson, Lamine Sané, Ruan; Oriol Rosell, Cristian Higuita (Chris Mueller, 74′), Dillon Powers; Nani (c), Benji Michel (Robinho, 87′), Dom Dwyer (Santiago Patiño, 67′).
Orlando Bench: Adam Grinwis, Alex De John, Shane O’Neill, Sacha Kljestan.
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