The narrative of Orlando City’s season did a 180.
From the first match of the season, the Lions had a habit of living dangerously. They conceded the first goal, but managed to battle back over and over. During their six match win streak, Orlando City constantly managed to erase deficits.
Those days, at least for now, are over. And frustration is starting to set in.
The Lions were on the front foot for most of Saturday’s match against the slumping Chicago Fire, but did little with their chances – especially in the second half. Two strikes from distance, one off a free kick early in the match, gave the Fire all they needed to leave Orlando City Stadium with a 2-1 victory over the suddenly-wilting Lions (6-5-1, 19 points).
“I certainly can’t remember a night where I felt like we were more dominant,” Orlando City head coach Jason Kreis said. “With this club, maybe with any club, to be honest. So you walk out of this night thinking about how cruel this game can be. How cruel this job can be and trying to grasp at the positives, for sure, but I’m just really, really frustrated right now.”
Before Kreis, citing frustration, apologized during his post-match press conference for any “snide” comments.
Orlando City finished the match with 60.2 percent possession, 90.4 percent passing accuracy and 20 shots, five of which were on target.
“I think the players know in their hearts that we were by far the better team,” Kreis said. “You don’t hear me say that very often, but tonight I will tell you there was only one team that was pushing things tonight and the other one was just there to try to pick up a draw or try to catch something on the break.
“Ugly. Ugly in my opinion.”
The loss was Orlando City’s third consecutive 2-1 defeat after the club put together a franchise-best six match winning streak.
After the match was over – and when a “Do Not Throw Objects” sign was shown on the video board – the announced crowd of 25,288 booed.
Cristian Higuita was a bright spot in the match for Orlando City. The midfielder, who was known for his defensive prowess, facilitated the Lions’ offense with striker Dom Dwyer out again due to injury. Higuita’s goal in the 28th minute leveled the match at a goal apiece, and he was active in the attack until he was subbed off in the 83rd minute.
Higuita voiced his frustration after the match, too.
“Just look at my face,” Higuita said through a translator, his face stoic. “A lot of sadness for not getting the result. We played well but we weren’t able to finish our chances.”
The Fire struck first with a goal off a free kick by Aleksandar Katai in the 12th minute. Alan Gordon scored the match-winner with a goal from distance in the 82nd minute.
“I don’t know,” said midfielder Sacha Kljestan. “Just got to put away our chances. Tonight was played pretty well. They scored two, really, wonder-goals that you’d think teams aren’t going to score like that against you every week.”
Kljestan was involved in an odd situation at the end of the match. He was kicked in the face in the 89th minute by Mo Adams in the penalty area, and Adams was sent off with a straight red. Kljestan fouled Adams first though and was given a yellow card, and the Fire were given possession.
“They called the foul on me, so that’s why,” Kljestan said.
It was a match that included a bunch of players who haven’t seen many minutes for the Lions. Right back Will Johnson was so sick Kreis said he didn’t even want the veteran player in the locker room. Centerback Lamine Sané – who Kreis thought would be able to go Saturday – was in too much pain to play after picking up a knock earlier this week in training.
Amro Tarek and Yoshi Yotún are gone for international duty.
This left Orlando City with a starting XI that included Tony Rocha at centerback, RJ Allen back in at right back, and Chris Schuler at centerback.
Kreis said Schuler played the entire second half with a broken arm.
“We had so many chances,” Allen said. “We created so many opportunities. At the end of the day, we left them hanging around and we got punished for it. We definitely need to learn from it. Take the negatives from this and move forward.”
Next, Orlando City travels to Yankee Stadium to face NYCFC in the first of four consecutive road matches.
May 26, 2018; Orlando, FL, USA; An Orlando City fan chants while marching to Orlando City Stadium before the game against the Chicago Fire. Mandatory Credit: Matt Stamey-USA TODAY Sports