Orlando City and LAFC share the spoils in race for MLS Play Offs

Orlando City and Los Angeles Football Club played out an entertaining 2-2 draw at Exploria Stadium on Saturday night as the race to the end of season MLS play offs heated up.

A weakened LAFC took the field minus seven players who were away on International duty and without key talisman Carlos Vela who was nursing a hamstring. The Western Conference leaders and favorites for the Supporters Shield didn’t look too affected by their missing teammates and they opening the scoring in the 12th minute when Adrien Pérez, making his first start, lashed home a loose ball after the Lion’s defence failed to clear.

The men in purple bounced back immediately as straight from the kick off Cristian Higuita spotted Nani’s run down the left side of the penalty box and the former Portuguese international neatly chipped the ball over LAFC’s goalkeeper Tyler Miller to level things up.

Things got even better for the home side in the 20th minute as they took a 2-1 lead when Benji Michel slotted home a low cross from Ruan but a couple of disallowed goals, one for each side, just after half time would prove a huge talking point.

In the 51st minute, Pérez again had the ball in the Orlando net but it was ruled out for offside and even after video review it was impossible to tell. Normally, the benefit of the doubt would go to the attacking team but in this case the assistant referee had flagged for offside and there was nothing to suggest he had made a “clear and obvious” error in chalking off the goal.

It was Orlando’s turn to feel scorned in the 56th minute when Uri Rosell fired home but referee Alan Kelly had already blown for a foul on Miller by Michel. It was a tough call as it looked like Miller was the one who leapt into Michel as he punched the ball clear and on such decisions games can turn.

So it proved as the Lion’s saw three points slip away in the 78th minute when Diego Rossi play a clever one-two with Adama Diomande to outstrip the home defence and he slipped the ball past oncoming Orlando keeper Brian Rowe to make it 2-2.

Both sides then pushed for a dramatic winner and tensions increased in the 86th minute as Miller caught an Orlando corner and then proceeded to carry it to the edge of his box looking to get rid of it early to launch a counter attack. Inexplicably, the 26 year old from New Jersey then appeared to take the ball out of his penalty area before quickly bringing it back in as both Kelly and his assistant missed the hand-ball offense. Whether Orlando would have made the most of any free kick that might have been awarded is open to debate but that and the disallowed goal proved a talking point after the game for Orlando Head Coach James O’Connor.

“When the officials go back and have a look at it, I think they’ll be disappointed with their performance,” O’Connor said. “I’m gonna keep control and I’ll let [the referees] answer the question, but when you see how the guys fought, you come away with immense pride for the players and the whole football club.”

When asked about how he felt about the game O’Connor continued “I can’t describe it. It’s so far past disappointment, I can’t even begin to tell you. I thought our performance was excellent. When you look at how good LAFC are, you look at how we managed the game and you look at the problems we caused them, on another night we would have won the game.”

Orlando now sits in 9th place in the Eastern Conference on 35 points, 4 points behind a play off spot with just four games remaining. The Lions close out a two-game home stand when they host New England Revolution on Saturday, September 14 at Exploria Stadium. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. ET.

Lineups/Substitutions:

Orlando City SC – GK Brian Rowe; D Kyle Smith, Robin Jansson, Lamine Sané, Ruan; M Uri Rosell, Cristian Higuita (Chris Mueller 73’), Dillon Powers; F Nani ©, Dom Dwyer (Santiago Patiño 67’), Benji Michel (Robinho 87’)

Substitutes Not Used: GK Adam Grinwis; D Alex De John, Shane O’Neill; M Sacha Kljestan

Los Angeles FC – GK Tyler Miller; D Jordan Harvey ©, Eddie Segura, Tristan Blackmon, Steven Beitashour; M Latif Blessing, Diego Rossi, Lee Nguyen; F Josh Perez (Mohamed El-Munir 69’), Adama Diomande, Adrien Pérez (Danilo Silva 57’)

Substitutes Not Used: GK Pablo Sisniega; D Dejan Jakovic; M Alejandro Guido 

Attendance: 22,371

More photos at www.FloridaLeisurePhotography.com

 

 

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