HARRISON, N.J. — Orlando City’s long, disappointing season came to an end on Sunday.
Instead of building off a 2-1 victory over Columbus Crew SC, the Lions fell 1-0 to the New York Red Bulls in front of an announced crowd of 20,024 on Sunday at Red Bull Arena. With the win, the Red Bulls clinched the MLS Supporters’ Shield, edging Atlanta United.
It was the sixth time in eight matches Orlando City failed to score a goal.
When coach James O’Connor was asked if he was glad to finally close the 2018 season, he responded, “I am, to be honest with you.
“I think, today, I mean, credit to Red Bulls, I want to congratulate them, obviously going on and doing what they’ve done. From our standpoint, I thought first half, we were in the game. I thought we caused them some problems. Going into the second half, then, we hope we can carry it on. Unfortunately, we give away a soft goal.
“For the vision that we have and what’s going to come and the implementation of change. … I think that’s something that we’re certainly ready for.”
The Red Bulls had a chance to take the lead in the first half after earning a penalty kick in the 14th minute. Midfielder Derrick Etienne Jr. stepped up to take the penalty kick, but his shot was denied by Orlando City goalkeeper Adam Grinwis.
The Lions managed some decent chances in the first half. Orlando City’s best shot at an opening goal came in the 42nd minute. Centerback Shane O’Neill brought the ball up the pitch and fired a shot from distance, forcing Red Bulls goalkeeper Luis Robles into a save.
Right back Scott Sutter headed the rebound to rookie winger Chris Mueller, but the youngster couldn’t get his header on frame.
The two sides went into the break scoreless, but the Red Bulls wouldn’t be denied in the second half.
Etienne made up for his poor penalty kick with a brilliant individual effort to give the Red Bulls the lead in the second half. He dribbled into the penalty area, shook O’Neill with a move and then beat Grinwis to give New York a 1-0 advantage in the 53rd minute.
The goal came minutes after Orlando City failed to capitalize on a counterattack – striker Dom Dwyer was offside in the penalty area after Mueller elected to cross the ball to Dwyer instead of shooting after a good through ball from midfielder Sacha Kljestan.
For a moment in the 64th minute, it looked like Orlando City found an equalizer. Dwyer headed home a cross from midfielder Yoshimar Yotún, but Dwyer was deemed offside and the goal was waved off. Dwyer also had a chance in the 66th minute but put a shot wide off a good ball in from left winger Mohamed El-Munir.
“It difficult to put into words,” Sutter said trying to sum up Orlando City’s season. “Just bitterly disappointed. It’s been a tough one, no doubt about that. I can’t really defend it, especially going into the season with so much hope. Not living up to that has been tough. Not really much we can do now. Kind of move on, plan for next season I guess and work harder next year.”
With the victory, the Red Bulls got a chance to celebrate winning the Supporters’ Shield on their home field. In addition to beating the Lions, it helped Atlanta United lost 4-1 to Toronto FC amid all of the other Decision Day games. At one point near the end of the match, the Toronto versus Atlanta scoreline was shown on the videoboard and supporters at Red Bull Arena started chanting “TFC! TFC!”
Orlando City, on the other hand, is left searching for answers after a fourth consecutive season without playoff soccer. New coach James O’Connor coached 17 league matches – exactly half a season – and went 2-12-3 at the helm.
“I’ve got the utmost belief in myself,” O’Connor said. “I’ve got a very clear idea of how I want to play. A very clear idea of the type of character that I want. A very clear idea the mentality that’s needed. I think, for me, we need to sit down, we need to speak to players individually. We need to go through a lot. I’m confident that we’re going to be able to get what we want, for sure.”