On a hot and sweaty night in the Citrus Bowl, Philadelphia Union earned a 0-0 draw with Orlando City SC.
In a vacuum, this would normally be a good result, but with Philly’s current place in the table it can only be considered a disappointment. That’s especially true in light of the second half, where Philadelphia generated a string of gilt-edged chances to take the lead, only for Orlando goalkeeper Tally Hall, or the Union’s own miscues, to keep them off the board.
Concerned with containing Kaka, the Union opened the game with Brian Carroll and Michael Lahoud paired in the defensive midfield. While this formation has failed to yield dividends in the past, in this game it proved very effective. By clogging the area where Kaka likes to receive passes, then pressing him as soon as the ball found his feet, the Union made it difficult for the Brazilian to find his one real offensive weapon, Cyle Larin. The result was a quiet first half, with Orlando held at bay, but giving up few opportunities for counterattacks.
The other feature of the early going was Allan Chapman’s forgiving style of refereeing, which is to say he was letting both teams play with real physicality. The Union intuited this quickly, and won the physical battle for the most part. In particular, the Orlando City defenders could not contain CJ Sapong. Conor Donovan was injured in a challenge with Sapong, who put several other Orlando players on the floor throughout the half, almost all in legal duels.
The Union did have some chances. In the 6th minute, after the collision that injured Donovan, Cristian Maidana put in a decent free kick from deep, but it was taken out of the air by Hall. The best chance came in the 21st minute when a good entry pass from Tranquillo Barnetta, making his first MLS start, played Sebastien Le Toux into the Orlando box on the left side. Le Toux squared his hips to shoot. He might have crossed instead, but his shot did not miss by much, beating Hall but rebounding off the back post.
Kaka and Larin connected for the first and only time in the half on 30 minutes, resulting in Orlando’s only shot on goal in the game, but John McCarthy did well and held the ball. Orlando had a bit more of the ball around the Union box as the half went into five minutes of injury time, but had only a wayward Darwin Ceren shot to show for it, and the teams went into the half goalless.
Orlando opened the half with more aggression, and using its wide players better, but the game soon settled into the same quiet pattern as the first half. In the 51st, however, a good free kick from the Orlando right found Larin at the back post. He should have scored but put his header over the bar. Then, starting on the hour, the game came to life with a string of chances for the Union, and one for Orlando.
For the first, Le Toux found Sapong in the box. His left-footed shot was from a somewhat tight angle, and saved by Hall. Next, a great break saw Le Toux with another good entry pass for Maidana on his left foot. But instead of shooting first time, he dithered and cut back, and Hall was there to block. That led to Orlando’s best chance of the game, as they raced up the other end and sent a cross through the six yard box just ahead of a stretching Larin. Had he made contact, it was a certain goal.
Orlando seemed sparked to life, but the chances kept coming for the Union. A great cross from Carroll nearly found Sapong at the back post, but was just cut out for a corner. An honestly incredible throw out of his box by McCarthy lead Le Toux on a break; he galloped into the Orlando box and laid a ball on a platter for Maidana, who inexplicably did not stretch for the ball, allowing it to roll through untouched. It was easily the best chance of the night, and Maidana’s decision not to lunge for the ball was baffling.
But there were more: In the 81st, substitute Fernando Aristeguieta cut back to Maidana after another good break. This time, Chaco put his laces through it and forced an excellent reaction save from Hall, earning a corner. In the 87th, a Maidana free kick found Richie Marquez, who sent in a bullet header, but Hall was there again. A minute later, another Union free kick was poorly cleared and Marquez poked the ball to Sapong, but his shot on the turn went wide. And finally, as the clock ticked into injury time, a Union corner led to a shot from Aristeguieta but—this being the Philadelphia Union—the shot hit Steven Vitoria and deflected away.
That’s how it would end, with Orlando increasingly happy to get anything from the game. In another season, a game like this would be encouraging. The Union were dangerous on the break, and tight defensively. But considering the Union’s position in the table, it can only be considered more dropped points.
John McCarthy, Fabinho, Richie Marquez, Steven Vitoria, Ray Gaddis, Brian Carroll, Michael Lahoud (Warren Creavalle, 79), Sebastien Le Toux (Fernando Aristeguieta, 79), Tranquillo Barnetta (Eric Ayuk, 60), Cristian Maidana, CJ Sapong
Tally Hall, Luke Boden, Conor Donovan (Tommy Redding, 14), Aurélien Collin, Corey Ashe, Cristian Higuita, Servando Carrasco (Adrian Winter, 72), Lewis Neal (Carlos Rivas, 65), Kaká, Darwin Cerén, Cyle Larin
ORL — Luke Boden (Unsporting Behavior) — 66
|Philadelphia Union||Orlando City|
|4||Shots on Target||1|
|5||Shots off Target||4|
|61.9%||Duels Won %||38.1%|