ORLANDO, Fla. (FNN SPORTS) – The Orlando City Lions returned to a nearly sold-out Orlando City Stadium to face off against the struggling Chicago Fire Saturday evening. Chicago has six losses for the season (3-6-2) while Orlando has six wins (6-4-1). While Chicago needed the win, both teams entered with a chip on their shoulder: Orlando wanted to counter its last two losses–the devastating home loss to Atlanta United FC and road loss against Toronto FC last week with a fresh win.
As an added bonus, a win Saturday would make history for the Orlando City Soccer Club as a whole: today is only the third time in all of the club’s history in which both the male and female teams had matches against teams from the same city, and the club has never had a simultaneous win in those instances, and the Lions began their match with a chance at that Saturday. Earlier that afternoon, the Pride wiped the floor with the Chicago Red Stars, beating them 5-2.
This game promised to be an eyeful given the absence of Orlando’s more beloved players. Dom Dwyer, Scott Sutter and Jonathan Spector were out with injuries, and Yoshimar Yotun (Peru) and Amro Tarek (Egypt) returned to their home nation’s teams for World Cup warm-up friendly matches.
Orlando wasted no time putting pressure on Chicago’s goal, but in the tenth minute, Josue Colman had a close one: he attempted a shot on goal, but the ball veered just to the right of the goal.
In the 11th minute, Orlando got its first yellow card courtesy of Mohamed El-Munir, earning Chicago the penalty kick. Sure enough, Chicago’s Aleksander Katai got the goal, putting Chicago on the board first with a score of 1-0.
In the 28th minute, Orlando’s Cristian Higuita nailed the equalizing goal with a swift left cross, assisted by Chris Mueller, making the socre 1-1.
In the 40th minute, Orlando’s Chris Shuler knocked into Chicago’s Aleksander Katai as Katai carried the ball, earning Shuler a yellow card. Shuler was trying to steal the ball, but the collision was a hard one. The penalty was inevitable.
In the 44th minute, Orlando had another close one. On the corner kick, Oriol (Uri) Rosell headed it in, but Chicago goalie Patrick McLain blocked it.
Both teams seemed to come alive after the half. Orlando’s offensive efforts intensified while Chicago’s already effective defense intensified. Within the first ten minutes of the second half, between Kljestan and Colman, Orlando’s three shots were all very close calls, but Chicago goalie McLain kept Chicago stingy, blocking every last one.
In the 59th minute, Orlando’s Mueller and Chicago’s Jonathan Campbell collided while Mueller was running the ball towards the goal, causing Mueller to fall. The play went under review. After the review, no penalty was issued and the ball was ruled in Orlando’s possession.
In the 64th minute, Uri Rosell was issued a yellow card. In the 69th minute, Mueller was issued a yellow card in his battle for the ball.
For much of the second half both sides were stingy. Orlando goalie Joe Bendik blocked every shot he could, while Chicago effectively swarmed any Lion who had the ball.
However, the game took a turn in the 82nd minute. Chicago Fire’s Alan Gordon scored their second goal, making the score 2-1, and Orlando City subbed PC in for Josue Colman.
In the 84th minute, Orlando subbed in Richie Laryea for Cristian Higuita and Chicago subbed in Grant Lillard for Diego Campos.
In the final minutes of the game, emotions ran high as Kljestan was given a yellow card and Chicago Fire player kicked him in the face–and wasn’t penalized. Orlando never recovered enough to at least equalize, despite a whopping five minutes of stoppage time.
Orlando City head coach Jason Kreis expressed his frustration during the postgame press conference. “There was only one team tonight. I’m disappointed in tonight’s game…We’re trying to grasp at the positives for sure…but I’m very disappointed in the referee tonight. Very disappointed.” He further expressed that the players are definitely of the caliber to win and that they dominated. As a footnote on his way out, he dropped a bombshell: Chris Shuler, who played all 90+ minutes, had broken his arm in the first half, but chose to continue playing.
The Lions start a long road stretch next week and don’t return home to Orlando until June 23 to face Montreal at 7:30pm.
Mellissa Thomas is Editor for Florida National News. | firstname.lastname@example.org