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Orlando City SC faced English Premier League side Stoke City FC for the first time since the clubs played in a friendly 2012 and since a formal affiliation was announced in May of this year. City fell 2-1 to the Potters Wednesday in front of a crowd of 3,472 at Titan Soccer Complex, the playing home of the Club’s Orlando City B team in the USL.
“I am pleased with the overall effort. I thought the guys stayed together. It’s a learning experience for us. I think they grasped some of the things we’re trying to do tactically,” said Head Coach Jason Kreis, who led the Lions in a game for the first time. “We did a couple of things well. We created enough goalscoring chances in the game. But at the end of the day we lost the match. We need to be critical of ourselves and try to improve in those areas.”
Kreis fielded a team largely comprised of First Team starters, including Cristian Higuita, Darwin Cerén, Kevin Molino and former Stoke City player Brek Shea. Goalkeeper Earl Edwards, Jr. and winger Carlos Rivas also started the match, along with OCB midfielder Tony Rocha. Kreis then made several changes at halftime to give valuable game time to debutant José Aja and 2016 MLS SuperDraft first-round picks Richie Laryea and Hadji Barry.
Orlando started the game brightly and Jack Butland, coming back from injury, was called into action in the fifth minute saving a weak effort from Carlos Rivas after the Orlando striker found three yards of empty space behind the Potters defence. Ex-Potter Brek Shea then went close to breaking the deadlock in the 15th minute but his rasping his shot flew narrowly over the crossbar.
As expected, Stoke then took control of the game for large portions of the first half and their best chance of the half fell to an unlikely goal threat in the form of Marc Muniesa. He timed his run into the area to perfection to meet Bojan’s cross from the right but somehow Seb Hines managed to block his thunderously struck half-volley.
Mame Diouf opened the scoring three minutes into the second half as he gave the visitors the lead. Bojan sent Johnson away down the right-hand side and when he fired in a low cross, Diouf supplied the finish – albeit at the second attempt.
Orlando looked to respond almost immediately. Richie Laryea sent over a cross from the left and Rivas fired wide with the goal at his mercy.
The home side did pull level in the 55th minute as Barry converted from close range from Servando Carrasco’s quickly-taken free-kick. The Guinean forward, finally showing the reason why the club had signed him, received the quick free kick from Carrasco and made a dashing run across the edge of the box, dribbling around several defenders before firing a left-footed shot into the back of the net.
A moment of magic from Bojan then restored the visitors’ lead in the 64th minute with a superb curled left-footed shot beyond the reach of Edwards from 25 yards out.
It proved to be Bojan’s last contribution as Stoke Head Coach Mark Hughes rang the changes before play re-started with the Spaniard being joined on the bench by Johnson and Diouf with Joselu, Peter Crouch and Phil Bardsley joining the action.
In the dying moments Stoke almost extended their lead twice as Muniesa was just inches away from getting on the end of a teasing cross from the right by Adam, while his fellow countryman Joselu was denied by a superb Edwards block.
Overall, the match was an entertaining one and it gave Kreis his first chance to view the squad in real time action since beginning his work with the team on Monday, following his arrival on July 19.
The Lions return to Camping World Stadium on Sunday, July 31, when they host the New England Revolution. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. ET.