LOS ANGELES — It certainly wasn’t the result new Orlando City coach James O’Connor wanted in his debut.
There were flashes of what could be a strong Orlando City team sometime soon, but in the end, the Lions continued their slide.
Orlando City (6-11-1, 19 points) lost its ninth consecutive match, falling 4-1 to LAFC Saturday night in front of a sold-out announced crowd of 22,000 at Banc of California Stadium.
After his first match at the helm of Orlando City, O’Connor said the difference between the Lions and LAFC – at least Saturday night – was confidence.
“There were some lovely passages,” O’Connor said. “I thought we created some wonderful opportunities and if you look at the amount of saves their keeper made, you look at the shots, the chances created, I thought that was really positive.
“Equally, we gave them too many opportunities. It was a pretty open game. We didn’t intend it to be that we. [LAFC] obviously [has] tremendously quality and they’re playing with a lot of confidence. I think, when you look at it, it became pretty evident that you’ve got one team that’s full of confidence and one team that’s really lacking confidence.”
LAFC opened the scoring thanks to a goal from June MLS Player of the Month Adama Diomande. Orlando City centerback Amro Tarek tried to clear a cross from Latif Blessing and instead sent it to the feet of LAFC midfielder Mark-Anthony Kaye.
Kaye played the ball to Diomande, who smashed it home in the 28th minute.
The whole sequence got started after Orlando City goalkeeper Joe Bendik punched away a header from Blessing. The ball bounced near the end line after the punch, and Blessing managed to gather it.
Blessing got a goal of his own in the 32nd minute. His finish at the back post off a cross from midfielder Aaron Kovar put LAFC up 2-0.
LAFC went on its first half scoring tear after centerback Jonathan Spector left the match with a hamstring injury in the 25th minute. Chris Schuler – who is still playing with a cast on his left arm after he broke it playing against the Chicago Fire – came in on place of the injured captain.
“It’s far from ideal,” O’Connor said. “That’s obviously really disappointing for us, to lose Jonathan so early on. We’d love to see how he is.”
Orlando City didn’t go away quietly. Midfielder Sacha Kljestan in the second half managed to get out on the break and fire a shot past LAFC goalkeeper Tyler Miller, giving Orlando City hope in the 59th minute of the match.
It was Orlando City’s first goal in league play since June 9 against the Vancouver Whitecaps.
“I think in the attack, we created enough chances tonight,” Kljestan said. “I think on another night, we probably bury three of them.
“We created more than enough chances to be in this game tonight.”
The second half was full of chances for Orlando City. In the 72nd minute, it looked like striker Dom Dwyer leveled the match at two goals apiece, but winger Justin Meram was called offside in the buildup to the goal. Meram received the ball from Kljestan and played it to Dwyer, who put the ball in the back of the net.
Officials were not obligated to answer a question regarding the sequence because the goal was called back by VAR.
“If that had gone in, I think definitely it makes a bit of a difference,” O’Connor said. “We could get after it. I think our reaction to that needs to be better. Needs to be a lot stronger.”
Minutes later, Dwyer had another chance in front of the goal, but his shot was saved by Miller. Miller was steady in goal all night. He had eight saves and repeatedly turned away Orlando City’s best chances.
LAFC quickly took advantage after that, scoring goals in the 82nd and 84th minutes. Diomande secured a brace by barely getting a shot over the line after a scrum in front of the goal following a corner kick. Diego Rossi put the exclamation point on the match two minutes later.
“Our mentality and our resolve needs to be stronger. We can point to it. We could say, ‘Was it offside, was it not offside,’ but I think it became very evident then that the mentality needs to be a lot stronger.”
Orlando City takes on Toronto FC on July 14 at home next.
“We need to strengthen our mentality,” O’Connor said. “The only way out of a situation like this is to fight. We need to actually group together and we need to fight.”