Orlando City is still searching for answers.
During the Lions’ first home match in nearly a month, the story remained the same for the club. Orlando City conceded first and never recovered.
The club fired coach Jason Kreis after loss No. 6 during the current losing streak, but on a stormy Saturday in front of an announced crowd of 23,498, not much changed with interim coach Bobby Murphy at the helm.
The Lions (6-9-1, 19 points) lost 2-0 to the Montreal Impact, dropping their seventh consecutive match in league play and extending a club-record losing streak. It was Orlando City’s second match this week after playing D.C. United on Wednesday in a U.S. Open Cup game that went into extra time and was decided in the Lions’ favor on penalty kicks.
Orlando City came out flat after playing 120 minutes in the middle of the week.
“I want to apologize to the fans who came out tonight,” Murphy said. “The team selection falls on me and I chose a group that went out there and we weren’t good enough tonight.
“The energy was not there in the first half. For the first 45 minutes, the energy wasn’t there. It was the same group of players that came out to start the second half who were much livelier. You can call it whatever you want to, energy, effort. Bottom line, whatever it was, it wasn’t good enough.”
Since Philadelphia got a 4-0 win over the Vancouver Whitecaps on Saturday, the Lions are now out of the playoff picture and sit in seventh place in the MLS Eastern Conference table.
Centerback Lamine Sané put Orlando City behind early when he headed a cross from Montreal forward Matteo Mancosu into his own net in the 13th minute. The ball skipped by the outstretched arms of goalkeeper Joe Bendik and for the 14th time this season, the Lions were down 1-0 early.
“It’s a fluke and a really bad way to start the game,” Lions team captain Jonathan Spector said. “Too many times we’ve given up early goals in games because of poor defending or whatever it might be and then tonight it was just a bit of a fluke and I guess when it rains, it pours.”
After the first goal, the Impact were content to stay compact and force Orlando City to try to break them down. The Lions never could and finished the match with just one shot on target (eight shots total), despite 54.2 percent of the possession.
Montreal’s Ignacio Piatti put another goal on the scoresheet for the Impact in the 84th minute. The goal was waved off at first, but then was upheld after video review.
“They’re down, for sure,” Murphy said of the team. “They’re disappointed. The challenge is, you know, all the feel-good stuff we talked about in the last three days, coming off the victory and stuff, now you can’t abandon that stuff. Now my having to hold them accountable is even more important.
“There’s nowhere to hide in this. It’s not good right now, but it doesn’t have to stay that way. That’s a choice. We’ve just got to keep going and go back to work. For as long as they’ll employ me, I’ll keep pushing them and holding them accountable and try to get the best out of them.”
After a mostly-uninspired first half, Orlando City played with a sense of urgency after rookie attacker Chris Mueller was subbed on in the 64th minute. Centerback Amro Tarek came off and Orlando City abandoned its new three-man back line in favor of the 4-2-3-1 it had gone with for weeks.
The change in shape meant central attacking midfielder Sacha Kljestan dropped next to holding midfielder Uri Rosell.
It wasn’t enough for Orlando City to overcome a dismal first half that included no shots on goal despite controlling 55.6 percent of the possession.
Orlando City returns to action next Saturday with a match against rival Atlanta United at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.