After a dream run to the MLS is Back Tournament final, Orlando City came up just short of the trophy as the Portland Timbers managed to secure a 2-1 win on Tuesday night over the Lions.
“Today, we’re not happy,” head coach Oscar Pareja said after the match. “We’re going to suffer tonight because we are in pain because we wanted to win the tournament. But tomorrow, we have to tie our boots again, put them on, and prepare for the game against Miami. You just keep going, keep going, keep going, keep going, we’re prepared to ride the roller coaster that this game creates on our journey, we’re good. The good thing is that we have a group who has the willingness to accept what is coming and keep improving, that I’m sure. But the competition doesn’t stop, we continue with it.”
Despite holding over 60% of the possession through the game and connecting on 89% of their passes, it was set pieces that undid the Lions on the night as Portland’s centrebacks Larrys Mabiala and Dario Zuparic notched both goals for the Timbers, one off a free-kick and one from a corner.
“We were aware tonight of the game plan,” Pareja said. “Portland depends on a lot of plays and we work hard on that part. I think things didn’t bounce in our way. We made a couple of mistakes, but the team was prepared and these boys work hard on that part, Sometimes you win games on those actions, sometimes you lose games like that and you have to accept it and improve it, even when you win it.”
The Lions conceded the first goal in the 27th minute but managed to pull it back level just before the half. Nani managed a cross into the box, which was knocked down to Mauricio Pereyra by Portland’s Eryk Williamson. Pereyra managed to toe-poke the ball past Steve Clark and pull the game level in the 39th minute.
Throughout the second half, Orlando tried to break down Portland’s defensive shape, but could not get any good chances going. Pedro Gallese was forced into a number of good saves down the stretch, but just after back-to-back stops, Portland scored their second off a corner that bounced around in front of goal, eventually finding Zuparic on the doorstep to tap in.
Orlando began pushing numbers forward late in the match, but Portland’s defense held firm. Kyle Smith had a chance in stoppage time, but couldn’t keep his shot down enough.
The final whistle blew with Orlando not managing a shot on target in the second half.
“I hope to our fans, to all the people who trust us from the first day, that they are proud of us, because, from today, we just be better,” Nani said in the postgame press conference. “To every team in MLS now, who will face us, they know they will face a strong team. And we will be the respect there on the field. And this is what we learn, what we know now, and we need to continue with our confidence and continue to improve our game.”
Orlando now moves on to prepare for the restart of the regular season when they travel down to take on Inter Miami, Saturday, August 22nd at 8 p.m.
27′ – Larrys Mabiala, assisted by Diego Valeri (POR)
39′ – Mauricio Pereyra (ORL)
66′ – Dario Zuparic, assisted by Jeremy Ebobisse and Eryk Williamson (POR)
Here’s how the Lions lined up
Orlando City XI (4-2-3-1): Pedro Gallese; João Moutinho, Antonio Carlos, Robin Jansson, Ruan (Kyle Smith, 87′); Chris Mueller (Benji Michel, 71′), Uri Rosell (Santiago Patiño, 79′), Sebastián Méndez (Junior Urso, 71′), Mauricio Pereyra, Nani; Tesho Akindele (Daryl Dike, 79′)
Bench: Alex DeJohn, Kamal Miller, Andres Perea, Brian Rowe, Joey Dezart, Robinho
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