The momentum from Orlando City’s first league win in two months didn’t carry over into U.S. Open Cup play.
The Lions went into Talen Energy Stadium Wednesday night looking for their first berth in the semifinals of the U.S. Open Cup as an MLS club and came out sluggish, conceded early and never found an equalizer.
Orlando City’s U.S. Open Cup run came to an end thanks to the Philadelphia Union, who defeated the Lions 1-0 in Chester, Pa.
“Bitterly disappointed, to be honest with you,” Lions coach James O’Connor said in a phone interview with Pro Soccer USA. “I think the intensity of our play was something that wasn’t near the level we’d expect. I think that was something that was very evident.
“The one thing I’ll never do is make excuses. I think we should have enough to play on Saturday [and on] Wednesday.”
Alejandro Bedoya opened the scoring for the Union in the fourth minute, smashing home a rebound off a header from Fafa Picault, which was saved by Orlando City goalkeeper Earl Edwards Jr. Picault’s header came off a cross from Harris Medunjanin after a short corner.
Philadelphia created some more chances throughout the first half, but more often than not, Orlando City’s back line turned the Union away. Edwards came up with some big saves – including on a shot from close range by Union midfielder Bořek Dočkal– to keep the Union from adding to their lead.
Orlando City played a match on Saturday and some players – like Yoshi Yotún and Tony Rocha – were left out of the starting XI against Philadelphia. Centerback Shane O’Neill made his debut for Orlando City, but there was a surprise in terms of players left out of Wednesday’s 18.
Winger Justin Meram, who also wasn’t in the 18 against Toronto FC, was nowhere to be found in Orlando City’s lineup against the Union.
When Pro Soccer USA asked O’Connor whether Meram would play Saturday at Columbus, the coach said he is not sure and will be reviewing the roster ahead of the match against the Crew. O’Connor then shifted to addressing Yotún’s status.
The coach said Yotún came down with an illness and he’ll be assessed ahead of this weekend’s match against Columbus.
Orlando City’s attack, which put seven shots on target against TFC, lacked teeth against the Union. The Lions created a few chances, but most of Orlando City’s best opportunities ended with shots that didn’t do much to challenge Union goalkeeper Andre Blake.
Striker Dom Dwyer was held in check on Wednesday. After scoring a goal and putting four shots on target on Saturday, Dwyer was quiet against the Union.
“I think it was pretty evident that we had too many that didn’t have the same energy level,” O’Connor said. “We had some that did and did hustle and kept trying and kept pushing through. I think it was evident, especially in the first half, our energy in comparison to the weekend, there was a stark contrast in our energy for both games.”
O’Connor praised Sacha Kljestan and Will Johnson – two Lions who played on Saturday – for bringing a strong mentality.
He added Wednesday’s match gave him a lot to assess and added the Lions “didn’t do enough to get going” against the Union.
“Tonight is a great example for me of you learn more … than you do on a night when you win,” O’Connor said.
“As a coach, I need to take responsibility. Looking at that, I should have made more changes. I think that’s the biggest thing. I should have utilized a little bit more of my experience and made more changes to make sure we had more energy. That’s something that’s the most glaring thing I look at.
“We had some half-chances and a couple of half-breaks.”
Orlando City ended Wednesday’s match with four shots on target. One of the Lions’ best opportunities to tie the match came in the 82nd minute. A solid counterattack came to an end with a cross from Stéfano Pinho that found the foot of Kljestan, but the attacking midfielder’s shot was weak and right at Blake.
The Union also controlled 54 percent of the possession in Wednesday’s match. They continually pressure Orlando City and put nine shots on target.
The Lions return to MLS action Saturday against the Columbus Crew at MAPFRE Stadium.
An earlier version of this article stated Justin Meram was sidelined due to an illness. Orlando City has since clarified coach James O’Connor was referring to Yoshimar Yotun when he spoke about the illness.