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In its first road match of the season, Orlando City SC fell 2-0 to Columbus Crew SC on Saturday at MAPFRE Stadium. Scott Sutter made his Lions debut and Tommy Redding made his first Major League Soccer (MLS) appearance of 2017.
“Disappointed to suffer our first loss in our first away game but a lot of positives from my point of view,” Lions Head Coach Jason Kreis said. “I thought we created the right amount of chances. I thought we got into their half pretty well into some really good spots. I thought we lacked a little bit of sharpness, though, in the final third, which is difficult. It’s our third game of the season [so] it’s not too surprising to say that we weren’t deadly and real sharp in the attacking third of the field when we have to combine and make plays. That’s pretty typical so I’m not surprised by it and I’m not too disturbed by it. Obviously disappointed that we don’t get the result but I think we got a lot of positives that we are moving forward with.”
The Lions came out with the same starting XI that earned them a 2-1 win against Philadelphia in their last game on March 18 and with the same back-line that earned a clean sheet victory on Opening Day. Columbus opened the scoring in controversial fashion in the 13th minute as Carlos Rivas was disposed around 30 yards from the home penalty box in what looked like a blatant push by Artur. Match referee Jose Carlos Rivero waved play on and Artur then played a long ball to release Justin Meram behind the Orlando defence who finished low to the right hand side.
Orlando had a couple of opportunities to level the score before the half as Rivas had a long range shot comfortably saved by Zack Steffen in the Columbus goal on 20 minutes and Donny Toia’s first-time volley from the edge of the area, in the 32nd minute, were the highlights of the first half for the visitors.
City came out and started the second half the better of the two sides. The Lions really should have leveled things up in the 51st minute as some clever interchange play by Servando Carrasco and Giles Barnes released Cyle Larin who chose to square the ball onto the on rushing Will Johnson instead of shooting himself. Johnson’s effort hit the side netting and went out for a goal kick.
Orlando continued to dominate possession but lacked any real cutting edge and were made to pay in the 77th minute when they went 2-0 down. A careless ball by substitute Cristian Higuita, on for Carrasco, gave possession to Federico Higuain on the half way line and he fed Meram on the right hand side. The 28 year old Iraq international then cut into the box and fired home from 12 yards despite two desperate challenges form Orlando defenders.
Columbus then nearly added to the scoreline in the 84th minute as a corner was headed out straight to Finnish international Jukka Raitala who fired a superbly timed volley just over the crossbar. Orlando then created a couple of half chances as the game came to its conclusion but the home team looked solid in defence to take the three points.
The match saw Sutter make his Lions debut coming on in the 71st minute for Matías Pérez García. Sutter signed with City on March 3. Redding also played his first match of the season after returning from the U.S. U-20 national team’s first ever CONCACAF U-20 Championship title.
Crew SC Sporting Director and Head Coach Gregg Berhalter was happy with his team’s defensive performance following the match.
“Last week we had to control the game offensively, and this week we had to control the game defensively,” Berhalter said. “They had more of the ball in the second half, but very few clear chances, and it was our excellent shape and movement that prevented that.”
The Lions return to the City Beautiful on Sunday, April 9, when they host the New York Red Bulls. Kickoff is set for 4 p.m. ET at Orlando City Stadium. The match will be nationally televised on ESPN.
Orlando City SC – GK Joe Bendik, D Donny Toia, Jonathan Spector, José Aja (Tommy Redding 43’), Ⓒ Will Johnson, M Antonio Nocerino, Servando Carrasco (Cristian Higuita 62’), Giles Barnes, Matías Pérez García (Scott Sutter 71’), F Carlos Rivas, Cyle Larin
Substitutes Not Used: GK Josh Saunders, M Richie Laryea, PC, F Hadji Barry
Columbus Crew SC – GK Zack Steffen, D Harrison Afful, Nicolai Naess, Alex Crognale, Jukka Raitala, M Federico Higuaín, Justin Meram, Ethan Finlay (Niko Hansen 86’), Ⓒ Wil Trapp, Artur (Mohammed Abu 90+3’), F Ola Kamara (Adam Jahn 89’)
Substitutes Not Used: GK Brad Stuver, D Waylon Francis, Josh Williams, M Héctor Jimenez