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Orlando City SC (12-14-8, 44 points) closed out its historic inaugural Major League Soccer (MLS) season in the City of Brotherly Love earlier today. The Lions fell just shy of becoming the third ever expansion team to qualify for the playoffs in its first campaign, losing 1-0 to the Philadelphia Union (10-17-7, 37 points) before 17,309 fans at PPL Park.
Orlando controlled nearly 60 percent of the possession and created 10 shots, but Philadelphia midfielder Sebastien Le Toux’s penalty five minutes before halftime separated both sides through 90 minutes, despite another late surge to secure three points from the Lions.
Despite missing the postseason, the team accomplished several significant milestones in its inaugural season in MLS.
City’s five game winning streak leading up to Sunday’s contest propelled the squad to having the best campaign for an expansion team since 2009, finishing ahead of five other clubs and tying the highest win mark for an expansion team since 1998 with 12.
In addition, Orlando City’s average of 32,847 fans per home game, the highest for an expansion team in league history, drew over a half million fans to the Orlando Citrus Bowl throughout the year – making Orlando City the fastest team in MLS history to reach that mark.
Lastly, forward Cyle Larin’s 17 goals set a new rookie single-season scoring record, capping off a noteworthy first season for the Lions.
“I thought we started the game slow and after having a word at halftime, I thought we showed a bit more in the second half. We played a bit more like we have been of late, showed a lot more determination, enthusiasm and desire. But, I’m disappointed we’ve finished the way that we have. We’re better than the performance we put out this evening,” said head coach Adrian Heath. “But, we’ve had a great last month to the season. There’s been some really pleasing stuff and also some things we have to get better at. That’s what the offseason is for – to try and improve and make sure we’re above the red line next year. I can’t applaude and thank our fans enough. They’ve been incredible. There were about 80 plus waiting for us at our hotel last night. And, as I told the players, that’s who you play for – the people who spend hard-earned money to watch you play football.”
5’ City Goalkeeper Josh Ford, who was making his first career start in MLS, looked confident in the opening minutes, making back-to-back saves in difficult circumstances.
14’ With his back to goal in Orlando’s half, rookie forward Cyle Larin employed a bit of trickery to skip past two defenders – driving deep into Philadelphia’s defensive third before being brought down on the edge of the area.
16’ Carlos Rivas’ ensuing free-kick curled wide of the target.
19’ C.J. Sapong came close to volleying a strong effort into the back of the net, but another strong save from Ford pushed the ball off the crossbar.
33’ With the first half winding down, Orlando City continued to maintain the advantage in possession (53-47), as the Lions probed for the game’s opening goal.
36’ Aurélien Collin came close to giving the Lions the lead, heading Kaká’s corner into the back of the net. However, Seb Hines was called for a foul after challenging Philadelphia goalkeeper Andre Blake for the ball during the play.
40’ However, five minutes before the break Sebastien Le Toux gave the home side the lead, finishing a penalty into the upper right corner. The Union were awarded the penalty after Cristian Higuita and Le Toux collided in the box.
45 (+1) At the end of the first half, Le Toux’s finish made the difference as the Lions went into the break down 1-0.
61’ With pushing for the win, Heath made a change early in the second half, bringing on Rafael Ramos for Adrian Winter, pushing Brek Shea further up the field.
65’ Higuita was brought down on the edge of the box, resulting in a dangerous free-kick for the Lions. Kaká attempted to slip Shea in behind during the set-piece but hit it just a bit too long for the winger.
67’ Moments after being introduced, Ramos floated a precise ball into the box, finding Larin on the back-post. The striker attempted to head it back to Kaká who was bursting into the six, but the Philadelphia defense managed to clear away the danger.
75’ Heath used his second substitution of the game, bringing on Pedro Ribeiro for Shea – adding another striker to the mix.
78’ Shortly after coming on to the pitch, Ribeiro provided the best chance for the Lions, turning and firing from six yards away. The Brazilian’s powerful strike forced a difficult close-ranged save from Blake.
86’ Wth the game winding down, Orlando City received its 10th red card of the season when Higuita was controversially shown a second yellow, reducing the Lions to 10 men.
90 (+2) The Lions inaugural MLS season came to a close, with the team finishing just shy of becoming the third expansion team in league history to make the playoffs.
Orlando City SC – GK Josh Ford, Luke Boden, Aurelien Collin, Seb Hines, Brek Shea (Pedro Ribeiro 75’), M Darwin Cerén , Cristian Higuita, Carlos Rivas, Adrian Winter (Rafael Ramos 62’), Kaká, F Cyle Larin,
Unused Subs: GK Trey Mitchell, D David Mateos, M Eric Avila, Lewis Neal, Servando Carrasco
Philadelphia Union – GK Andre Blake, D Raymon Gaddis, Ethan White, Richie Marquez, Fabinho (Warren Creavelle 86’), M Vincent Nogueira, Michael Lahoud, Eric Ayuk Mbu (Fernando Aristeguieta 67’), Tranquillo Barnetta, Sebastien Le Toux, C.J. Sapong
Unused Subs: GK John McCarthy, M Brian Carroll, Cristian Maidana, F Conor Casey, Andrew Wenger