ORLANDO, Fla. — Missed chances continue to haunt Orlando City.
The Lions were nothing if not haunted on Friday by their star designated player’s penalty kick that was saved. Haunted by the ball that was cleared off the line. Haunted by the opportunities headed for the back of the net only to be turned away by a goalkeeper who was on fire.
The Lions kept LA Galaxy goalkeeper David Bingham under siege, especially in the second half, but none of their 19 shots found the back of the net as Orlando City fell 1-0 to an LA Galaxy side that was playing without superstar Zlatan Ibrahimović in front of an announced home crowd of 24,712.
Orlando City controlled 64.5 percent of the possession in the second half of the match and took 13 shots, four of which were on target. After the match, two words were part of almost every answer coach James O’Connor had for reporters.
“Incredibly frustrating,” he said.
“Before the game, if you were to say this is what we’re going to have, the logical solution would be, 19 shots, seven on target, you would think, ‘Oh we’re probably going to get at least a goal, maybe a couple more. I think that’s where it becomes incredibly frustrating.”
Bingham finished the match with six saves to help the Galaxy snap their four-match losing streak.
“We wanted to win that game really badly,” said forward Chris Mueller. “Felt like it was really important at home to get the three points. We threw everything we could at them. It’s really frustrating not to come away with the win. But we’ve just got to keep moving forward, right? We’ve got to focus on the next game. This one stings and hopefully it’s the springboard for what’s to come.”
For the seventh time in eight home matches, Orlando City conceded the first goal. The Lions conceded despite controlling the early parts of the match.
“I think when you concede like that and you force yourself to have a steely determination to come back and fight through it… I think statistically, if you can get the first goal, it normally makes it a little bit easier. Your confidence rises, you’ve got something to hang on to,” O’Connor said.
Galaxy midfielder Jonathan dos Santos played a long ball to right back Rolf Feltscher. Orlando City left back João Moutinho didn’t step up to put pressure on Feltscher, which left Mueller to track back and try to deflect Feltscher’s cross. He didn’t, and Feltscher sent a cross into the six-yard box. It was knocked away by City centerback Robin Jansson right to Dos Santos.
He smashed a shot from outside the penalty area past goalkeeper Brian Rowe to give the Galaxy a 1-0 lead in the 19th minute. It was LA’s only shot on target for the match.
Orlando City had many opportunities to level the match. The best one came and went after midfielder Sebas Méndez won a penalty kick. Nani, who leads in Orlando City in goals, stepped up to take it in the 31st minute, but for the second week in a row, his attempt was saved. He went right and goalkeeper Bingham guessed correctly to deny him and the Lions had no chance to score off a rebound.
Orlando City took six shots, three on target in the first half. LA’s only shot of the first half was Dos Santos’ goal.
The Lions had chances to level the match in the second half, too. Midfielder Sacha Kljestan – who had just entered the match in the 67th minute to replace Cristian Higuita – played the ball into the penalty area off a short corner. Right back Kyle Smith managed to nudge the ball toward an open goal, but LA’s Perry Kitchen cleared it off the line.
The Lions turned up the intensity with Kljestan on the pitch — he created two chances in 23 minutes — but the team came away empty-handed.
“The players have thrown everything at LA to try to get something out of the game,” O’Connor said. “It’s just unfortunate that we didn’t get anything and incredibly frustrating because we want to win games, especially at home.”
Kljestan was O’Connor’s second substitution of the match. The first was Smith, who came on for striker Tesho Akindele with the Lions trailing 1-0 relatively early in the second half. With Smith on the pitch, Ruan moved into more of a winger role, similar to when former City left back Mohamed El-Munir was used as a winger last season.
O’Connor has opted for forwards when making substitutions in other matches, but the Lions were without star striker Dom Dwyer, who was suspended. He’s come off the bench a few times this season, and when he’s started, O’Connor has been able to reach for Mueller or Akindele.
Orlando City faces the Montreal Impact on the road on June 1.
“It’s just tough,” Mueller said. “You’ve got to find a way to get results, right? That’s what this business is driven by and we’ve got to find a way to get the job done. That’s going to get done by reacting positively. Sticking together as a group. We believe in the group. I believe in everybody in the locker room and I think great things are to come.”