Yesterday's match was filled with goodness, a share of stinko, and then some just plain ugly. But the major thing for the team is that we got a result and added to our season-long point total. This made it an overall positive day. Certainly it wasn't without its challenges, and it produced some more challenges that will carry over into the next match, but we'll get to that later.
The major good coming out of this match is that Orlando City continued their impressive record against Western Conference opponents this season. The Lions have posted victories against Houston, Portland, and the LA Galaxy, and they've now drawn with San Jose, leaving Vancouver as the only loss to a Western Conference opponent. That's half the Western Conference opposition and they're sitting at 3 - 1 - 1 so far. I think most fans would find that positive, if told before the season that the West would be the tougher conference and that their expansion team would have more wins than draws or losses against them at the halfway point of those matchups. Now we'll just have to see if they can match or improve on that throughout the rest of the season.
A second good thing coming out of the match was the general level of play by a young team that was without their biggest defensive star in Aurelien Collin, who is still out with a hamstring injury. San Jose was very motivated to try to get a win, especially with Chris Wondolowki having a chance to score his 100th career MLS goal in the match. You had to know that the team was hoping that would happen in front of home fans so that they could celebrate together with the player and the squad.
A third good thing was the solid play at goalkeeper by Tally Hall. It's been clear all season that Coach would not rush Tally into service until he was fully match fit, and now we're seeing that extra rest and early season caution pay off in some excellent play. As a younger player, Tally is both more active moving about in the area and more vocal in calling out to direct traffic with his defenders than Ricketts. Donovan is more the stoic "impassable wall" that commands and receives the respect of his teammates and opponents through his sheer presence and experience. On the other hand, Tally is more brash and eager to add more accomplishments to his already impressive career achievements. I'm very glad we brought Ricketts into the team for his locker room leadership and championship experience. And I'm thrilled we have Tally now on the team as the keeper who can set the bar for all the Orlando City netminders that will stand between the pipes for many years to come. You can cue the Dennis Haysbert voice when I say, "With Tally, we're in good hands."
There were two bad things that jumped out last night in the match. The first was the Red Hot Chili Peppers impersonation that Orlando City seemed to be putting on. The lads were not consistent on the buildup and they lost possession more often than we'd like to see; meanwhile the only soundtrack that seemed to fit with the action on the pitch was the 1991 RHCP hit, "Give it Away." Fortunately for Orlando City, San Jose was not able to build up much of a consistent attack either. And while the Earthquakes wound up winning the possession battle and greatly outnumbered Orlando City on corners (7 - 1), neither team managed to put a shot in the net except from the penalty spot.
Also appearing in the bad column were some poor decisions by the lads. Several times, sitting in the comfort of a bar with the benefit of multiple TV camera angles, I was able to see where our lads passed the ball to the wrong side or missed a completely open teammate that was in great position to take a shot. Whassamattathem not seeing the same thing? It sounds like I'm being very unreasonable and I am--the thing is they did such a great job last match out against LA that I'm guilty of expecting them to perform that way every match and while my heart says we should, my brain reminds me that a young team is going to go through cycles of brilliance and then follow that up with a more pedestrian outing from time to time.
But if I have to point to the worst individual decision, it was Darwin Ceren's needless mugging in our area that led to Wondolowski's penalty kick goal. Ceren had fallen down, and then getting up he rushed over and left his feet, bowling into and plowing over the San Jose attacker when he was at such an angle that he had no chance of taking a shot on goal. To Ceren's credit, he didn't whine or argue the call, he simply gave himself the double face palm. Earlier in the season we saw young Rafael Ramos grow and learn after making a mistake that cost the team dearly against Columbus. I am confident that Darwin Ceren will also grow from this and make a better decision next time. It's certainly possible to take down an opponent in front of your own goal and not draw a foul for it--we've seen that happen both for and against Orlando City a number of times this season. So those fans who like hard-charging physical football don't have to give up on seeing that from our lads, and I agree it's a necessary part of the game to make opponents realize they can't just push our team around and get away with it.
Well, there was only one real spot of ugly last night, and that was marked by a pair of black shorts and a yellow shirt. Yes, I'm talking about referee Allen Chapman. Dude just had a horrible night in terms of making poor calls. The ugliest and most egregious of those, of course, was the red card issued to Brek Shea. The play was not even worthy of a yellow since Shea was reaching for the ball with his feet before the San Jose player ran in front of him. If anything, it should have been a yellow card on the opposing player for being stupid enough to run in front of a player sliding for the ball.
What makes the red card against Shea so bad, of course, is that it means he'll have to miss the home match against Columbus on Saturday. That will make the task even more difficult, especially since Orlando City desperately want to avenge the lopsided defeat in Columbus from a few weeks ago. If there's any bright side to it at all, Brek Shea has played more minutes than anyone on the team so far (if you also count his 2015 International matches and the length of time he played against Ponte Preta in the friendly). So he's due a break, and the way he plays it seems unlikely that he'd volunteer to sit out a match.
And there were a few other blown calls as well. On the sequence before Darwin Ceren was called for the penalty that awarded San Jose their PK try, both Kaka and Cyle Larin were brought down in the area in front of the San Jose goal and no fouls were called. As blatant as Ceren's foul was, those other two missed calls against our lads were just as flagrant and just as deserving a second PK try for Orlando City.
The Viewing Party
Last night I continued my personal tour of the City Pubs. I was down at Johnny's Fillin Station (or more accurately as I posted on twitter, Johnny's Other Side) for last night's match. Since it was a holiday weekend the place wasn't packed, but there was a nice turnout of Orlando City fans in purple, including a family with a baby that was already outfitted in Orlando City onesies--yes, folks they are good parents: they already have the tot in home and away kits.
Johnny's is known for having great burgers and I had the bacon cheddar bleu burger with tater tots. Boy was that good! To wash it down I had Blue Moon Belgian White or two. The Other Side is a nice evening venue for watching matches with the covered outdoor seating and array of TVs overhead. Remember when there's an away match support the pubs that support the team. There are City Pub partners all over the metro area, so find one and head out to watch the next home match with friends.
So what were your takeaways from last night's match? Who shone for the squad and who did you think had a rough outing? Let me know in the comments and on social media! Vamos Orlando!