Orlando City is still looking for the answer to its May woes.
The Lions (3-6-3, 12 points) dropped their third consecutive match, falling 2-1 to the Seattle Sounders (7-1-4, 25 points) at CenturyLink Field.
Orlando City coach James O’Connor deployed a completely different starting XI from the lineup that took the pitch Sunday against Atlanta United at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Most of the players who started the match at CenturyLink Field were players who hadn’t seen many – or, in the case of midfielder Dillon Powers, any – minutes for the Lions this season.
The lineup instead featured youngsters like Homegrown forward Benji Michel, SuperDraft pick Santiago Patiño and young designated player Josué Colmán. Players like left back Danilo Acosta and right back Kyle Smith, who aren’t regular starters, were also in the starting XI. Even goalkeeper Greg Ranjitsingh got his first start of the season.
“I think this is a very intimidating atmosphere, so I think, for us, we were intentional about trying to have a look at the younger guys and test them in a very intimidating atmosphere,” O’Connor told Pro Soccer USA. “And, also, give some of the other guys some rest, because it’s a long trip all the way across and all the way back with another game on Sunday.”
Designated player Nani, who club officials said is dealing with calf inflammation, missed his second consecutive match — both at stadiums featuring artificial turf. The injury is not considered severe and he could return for the Lion’s next game.
“Any team is going to miss Nani,” O’Connor said. “When you look at his quality, that’s there for everybody to see. He’s obviously been outstanding in the games that he’s played and scored goals and created goals.”
For the second match in a row, O’Connor lauded his team’s effort and said the Lions were unfortunate not to pick up points.
Orlando City got its first goal since April 27 thanks to second-year forward Chris Mueller. The Wisconsin grad send a left-footed shot into the bottom right corner of the goal in the 75th minute, giving the Lions hope after they fell behind 2-0.
“Fantastic goal,” O’Connor said. “Great piece of skill and great finish.”
He added, “I think, overall, tonight, we lacked the final piece. The killer instinct. I think we had a decent amount of possession going into some good areas and then we just needed somebody to unlock the door.”
The Sounders struck first, despite some decent play from the Lions to open the game. Raúl Ruidíaz finished a sequence of one-touch passes with a tap-in in the 19th minute to give the Sounders the 1-0 lead. The sequence got started thanks to Brad Smith, who ultimately sent a cross into the six-yard box for the assist on Ruidíaz’s goal.
Seattle nearly doubled its lead in the first minute of first half stoppage time. Smith sent another in another cross, this time for an unmarked Jordan Morris, whose header from just outside the six-yard box bounced over the crossbar.
Orlando City took four shots in the first half, but none of them were on target. The Lions had some decent spells of possession in Seattle’s half, but often those sequences ended with a back pass, instead of a cross into the penalty area. Twice, a sequence ended with a shot from distance from defensive midfielder Uri Rosell.
The Sounders got their second goal in the 68th minute. Handwalla Bwana put a ball from Nicolás Lodeiro into the back of the net. There was some controversy attached Seattle’s second goal. Play was stopped for nearly four minutes while referee David Gantar spoke with video assistant referee Daniel Radford.
Gantar eventually went to the monitor to review the sequence for a potential hand ball, but the goal ultimately stood.
The Lions looked far more threatening in the second half, particularly after Mueller and striker Dom Dwyer entered the match. Orlando City finished the contest with 10 shots.
Orlando City returns home to host expansion side FC Cincinnati on Sunday.
“The pressure always comes from within,” O’Connor said. “We’re desperate to try to win. I think, especially at home, I think in front of our supporters, it’s a game we’re looking forward to. Some may say ‘pressure,’ I’m looking forward to it with great anticipation. I love playing at home. I love playing in front of our supporters.”