Orlando City dropped all three points and dropped out of a tie for the last playoff spot by losing to Toronto last night. On the whole, the defense seemed to play better as a unit than they had earlier in the season, but two lapses in form and a mistake by a young player were all that Toronto's aggressive counter-attacking squad needed to put the game away.
- Cyle Larin - Larin added to his team-leading scoring total by scoring the equalizer in the 56th minute. His header kissed off the right-side goalpost behind keeper Alex Bono and went in for the only Orlando City score on the night.
- Joe Bendik - Wow. Bendik deserves a much better defense than Orlando City is giving him this season. "Super" Joe had the crowd chanting his name several times throughout the match as he made a number of impressive saves, including a point-blank header from sub Jozy Altidore in the 66th minute that looked like it was going to find the back of the net. Bendik added five saves to his total for the season on the night.
- Missed Opportunities - There were times I felt like I was watching a raw expansion team again last night. Cyle Larin and Kevin Molino have had success this season because they have gained confidence in striking the ball on the first touch, but they and other players on the team spent way too much time dithering and dancing on the ball trying to decide what to do instead of shooting. Toronto's speedy and skilled defense deserves credit for adding to the hesitancy, to be sure, and all of Orlando City's shot attempts were either errant or turned away except the lone goal by Larin, but Orlando City squandered several opportunities to even take a shot. There were also times when Orlando City failed to get numbers ahead in the attack when there were golden opportunities.
The 66th minute save by Bendik (mentioned above) started one such opportunity. The rebound from Bendik's save landed at Kaka's feet, and in a burst of speed the Orlando City Captain dribbled the ball all the way to the top of the Toronto box at the other end of the pitch. But Cyle Larin was the only teammate who had kept pace with the Captain, and he was not in a good position to permit Kaka to make a pass attempt to continue the attack. As Kaka slowed and circled to regroup, a trio of Toronto players closed in and took the ball off his feet, ending any opportunity Orlando City had to turn it into a scoring attempt.
- Tommy Redding - I love the young home-grown defender, but his youth and inexperience were exposed last night. In past games, his raw athleticism and instinctive reactions have helped him recover, but Toronto has both talent and wily opportunism in spades. In the seventh minute, Sebastian Giovinco and Tosaint Ricketts combined to take advantage of young Redding. Sensing a chance for a quick throw-in, Giovinco found Ricketts, who had kept running and got beyond Tommy Redding when the ball came in from the touch line. Redding tried to close on Ricketts, but he lost his footing and face planted in a cloud of little rubber pellets on the turf surface of Camping World Stadium to leave Ricketts with a one-on-one opportunity against keeper Joe Bendik that the Toronto striker was able to put home for the early goal to take the lead.
Then in the 86th minute, Redding got caught ball watching. Sebastian Giovinco drew all the attention of the defenders as he dribbled the ball into the attacking half of the pitch, including Tommy Redding, who turned his back on and drifted away from the ever dangerous Jozy Altidore. Right on cue, Giovinco found the unmarked Altidore as he ran toward the top of the box, and then the USMNT striker had enough time to weave his way around a diving Joe Bendik in order to find the back of a wide-open, unguarded net for Toronto's second goal on the night.
- Officiating - When the home team loses, there's no referee that ever has a good game in the eyes of the fans. And this case is no exception. I think Chris Penso and his crew deserve a little criticism on the night. For one thing, the TV angles I have seen of Altidore's goal make it look like the Toronto man was a step or two offside when Giovinco kicked the ball to pass it to him. For another, I thought the yellow card calls against both Seb Hines and David Mateos were poor ones. In his 57th minute booking, Hines clearly struck all ball, and a spinning Giovinco tripped over Seb's planted foot to fall to the turf. Penso's 82nd minute call against Mateos was almost as poor, as Mateos again struck the ball and not the player, with Toronto's Jonathan Osario diving over Mateos to the turf to avoid contact. The technicality of the rule about the player showing the studs on his cleats is the only possible justification for a call, but Osario's reaction of leaping up and immediately calling for a card clearly shows he was never hit by Mateos and certainly suffered no contact with anything other than the carpet.
- Wild Shots - Orlando City didn't take as many shots as they should have, and some of the ones they did take were very poor attempts. In the first half, Cyle Larin had a man beat racing into box on the left side of the goal. When he got an opening to strike, he inexplicably struck with his right foot, curling the ball away from the near side of the net and harmlessly into the first five rows of the grandstands. Save the fancy outside-of-your-foot trick shots for the training ground, lad. Until you can do it every time when you are being closely marked by a defender, follow the laws of physics and shoot with your left foot from that position to send the ball back toward the center of the goal. Another wildly errant shot in the first half came from Nocerino, whose value to the team over the last few matches has been much better in terms of passing and possession than in trying to score. His shot went wildly to the right of goal and harmlessly into the crowd.
- Cheap Turnovers - The team had a number of lazy passes on the night that resulted in turning the ball over to a Toronto team that is as aggressive and opportunistic as they are talented. Luke Boden gave the ball away several times with weak, lazy passes to teammates that were intercepted and gobbled up by opposing players. And after a late substitution, Servando Carrasco had at least one scary, lazy pass back to Joe Bendik that looked in danger of getting pounced upon for another cheap scoring opportunity by Toronto.
- More Injuries - Antonio Nocerino and Seb Hines both appeared to leave the match with injury. At one point in the second half, Nocerino went down on a non-contact turn, and when he stood he waved to the sidelines and continued, looking a little gimpy. A few minutes later he was taken off for Servando Carrasco. Then late in the match Seb Hines went down in a heap in front of Joe Bendik's goal, and he had to be immediately replaced by David Mateos. With another tough match looming on Sunday, fans have to hope that these injuries don't stretch the lineup too much thinner.
What were your thoughts on the match? Whom did you think had a great game? As you look at the team now, whom do you think Coach Kreis needs to put on his list of players to protect for the expansion draft, and who do you hope we won't see in an OCSC uniform again in 2017? Let me know in the comments below!