Saturday's match day festivities started well, but went downhill from there. The good news is that the part of the day we could control over at the Lion's Teeth Tailgate Tent went very well. The steaks and Texas toast we prepared, as well as the fantastic baked potatoes that our friends John-Paul and Marion brought, were huge hits. I prepared over three pounds of steak for the tailgate, thinking that there might be some left to take home after the match and use for lunches next week. But within about an hour of taking the steaks off the grill, the only thing left on the plate was some of the steak juices. All the rest of it was inside the happy bellies of the eight people that were enjoying our tailgate with us.
Ominous Sign One: Rain Delay
About the time we were finishing up our food, we realized that the meteorologists still have no clue what they are doing. The day started with a 10% chance of rain, but by 6:15 pm it was pretty clear we would have 100% chance of stormy and rainy weather at the Citrus Bowl. Come on weather people--figure this out. So we dumped out coals, put away supplies, and started preparing to move to the stadium. A few minutes later we were in the Citrus Bowl and under the superstructure just minutes before the heavens opened and the rain fell like Niagra Falls for a while. This delayed the match by 30 minutes until 8:00 pm because it pushed back warm-ups for both the teams. Unfortunately, the extra 30 minutes of cramming weren't enough to help the lads in purple once the match began.
Ominous Sign Two: Referees from Clown College
Once the match got under way, it was once again clear that the match referee was a graduate of whatever clown college diploma mill MLS has been using to certify their officials this season. Calls were consistently biased during the match in favor of FC Dallas and against Orlando City.
As an example, during the first half of the match, every time FC Dallas had a corner kick on the north end, the crafty Mauro Diaz placed the ball a good foot inside the corner arc and not on the line as the rules state he should do. The fraudulent and incompetent referee failed to verify or enforce the rules, so Mauro Diaz continued cheating, following the advice of sports legends like Dale Earnhardt and Bill Parcells, who both said, "If you're not cheating, you ain't trying hard enough!"
Ominous Sign Three: First Half Injury
In the 41st minute, Orlando City was once again visited by the Angel of Injury. This time it was Sean St. Ledger who had to leave the match with what sounded like a dislocated shoulder according to the post-match comments I caught on the radio as we were waiting to get out of the parking lot. I'm not sure what the team needs to do to break this cycle. Moses was told to have all the Israelites put blood on the lintel of their doorway to have the Angel of Death pass over them when they were enslaved in Egypt. Maybe Orlando City needs to rub grass stains on the lintel leading into and out of the training facilities and home side locker room at the stadium.
Ominous Sign Four: PK Surrendered in 45th
The rules is the rules and they say that a foul by the defending team in the area before their own goal is a PK for the attacking team. We've benefited from that rule during the season, and last night at the end of the first half we suffered from it. I think the call was a good one, since Cristian Higuita appeared to hook Castillo's right leg when viewed on video replay. One can argue if the contact was enough to bring the FC Dallas player down, but the Hollywood stunt doubles that FC Dallas ownership have employed to teach pratfall techniques to their players are really paying dividends.
Ominous Sign Five: Offside Goal and PK Sent into Orbit
Orlando City had chances during the match. But there were a number of times I was disappointed in our players for over-thinking and waiting for "perfect opportunities," especially in the second half when they were attacking the north goal where I sit. I'm not sure why--perhaps it's youth and inexperience--but I see a hesitancy to take first-touch strikes on the ball by many of our players. Like every action sport, opportunities in soccer are fleeting and last a mere heartbeat or less often times. Players need to be attentive and recognize those opportunities when they open and not have to think what they want to do but merely strike instinctively like a cobra reacting to the twitchy movement of prey. When the ball flies or rolls to the foot of a player in purple with defenders spread two or three yards apart framing a view of the goal, that ball should be struck at the frame as hard and fast and forcefully as possible. Do not think about passing or moving to line up a better shot. Just shoot. Just score.
There was an offside call against Pedro Ribeiro that has been much debated. At this point I have only seen the play live and on the stadium replay, and in my initial view I thought it was a good call by a half step. Many on social media and those watching on TV say that at the moment the ball was passed forward it looked like Ribeiro was actually onside. So clearly it was such a close call that it was debatable.
Later, Orlando City earned a PK and Carlos Rivas, who scored on three PKs in a single match earlier in the season, kicked the ball into the mouth of an alligator watching the night sky in Lake Lorna Doone. It was truly a spectacular miss on the PK attempt, and it was simply indicative of the kind of match Orlando City had endured since the opening whistle.
Ominous Sign Six: Outhustled for 90 Minutes
We can complain about poor referees, simulation, and bending the rules, but the fact is that Orlando City were outplayed last night. FC Dallas were the team that hustled to the ball more aggressively, attacked more effectively, and showed more determination throughout the match. Both teams were missing multiple players--Dallas had five players out for Gold Cup play while we were missing Kaka for the red card, Brek Shea for injury, and fan favorites Cyle Larin and Darwin Ceren for Gold Cup play.
I thought Coach Heath put it very succinctly and honestly in post-match comments last night. "Our players just did not play well enough to win," he said. I'm not sure if the final score line would have been the same, but in my assessment, I think the team that deserved the result took the points last night.
I'm a bit disappointed today, but the good news is that we have two chances to shake off that loss this week. The first is with the International Friendly against West Bromwich Albion on Wednesday and the second is against the New York Red Bulls next Saturday. Hopefully the results will be better from both of those matches so we can put this awful experience behind us and start cleansing the bad taste it has left in our collective mouths. Vamos Orlando! Let's go City!