Photo: Frank Fimmano

Photo: Frank Fimmano

Union fall to Orlando City SC 2-1 for first loss of the season

The Philadelphia Union suffered their first loss of the 2017 season as they fell to Orlando City SC 2-1. This was the Union’s first visit to OCSC’s new home, Orlando City Stadium.

Union starting XI: Blake; Rosenberry, Onyewu, Marquez, Fabinho; D. Jones, Medunjanin; Herbers, Bedoya, Pontius; Sapong

Orlando City Starting XI: Bendik; Johnson, Spector, Aja, Toia; Nocerino, Carrasco; Perez-Garcia, Barnes; Rivas, Larin.

The only change Union head coach Jim Curtin made to his lineup from the week before is replacing the injured Jay Simpson (rib injury) with C.J. Sapong. Ilsinho was available on the bench for the first time this season, but Fabian Herbers stayed in the starting XI at right wing.

With Kaka, Orlando City’s superstar CAM, out with a hamstring injury, the Lions opted to go with an empty bucket formation, a 4-2-2-2 with the 2 fullbacks playing high. Giles Barnes took Kaka’s place in OCSC’s starting XI.

The first half was all Orlando City. The press resulting from the empty bucket was effective, with the Union unable to get either Haris Medunjanin or Derrick Jones involved in the game as much as they would have liked. Keegan Rosenberry and Fabinho were forced to stay back and the Union struggled to get chances.

Oguchi Onyewu gave the Union a scare in the 20th minute when he headed a ball back that hit the crossbar to just miss getting an own goal. The team had another scare 3 minutes later when Andre Blake fell awkwardly when making a save off Antonio Nocerino; Blake required medical attention. Fortunately, he was back up after a couple of minutes.

Orlando City finally got on the board in the 39th minute. Jonathan Spector played a ball in from midfield to Carlos Rivas, who was just outside the 18-yard box. Rivas got behind the Union defenders, getting a clear look at Larin running toward the goal in the 6-yard box. It was an easy tap-in for Larin to give Orlando City the 1-0 lead.

The boys in blue looked better in the second half; the Union finally started beating the press and allowing Rosenberry and Fabinho to get higher up the field. The U got on the scoreboard in the 52nd minute on a nice sequence that ended up with a Sapong goal. Herbers was taking the ball down the right-hand side when he played it into the box. Alejandro Bedoya got a touch on it with his foot and the ball bounced up to Sapong, who was able to get his head on it and make a nice finish to tie the game at 1-1.

Sapong-OCSC

C.J. Sapong scores in the 52′

The goal seemed to energize the Union for the next 10 minutes. Ilsinho came in for Herbers in the 61st minute and immediately showed his deft footwork with the ball, but Orlando City started getting the momentum back. Finally, Cyle Larin broke the deadlock with his second goal in the 73rd minute. Matias Perez Garcia passed the ball to Larin, who was running down the center of the field. Larin ran past Onyewu and Fabinho and made a perfect strike to net the ball and give the Lions a 2-1 lead.

Curtin attempted to inject more offense by replacing Jones with Roland Alberg in the 77th minute, but he failed to make an impact. OCSC went in time-wasting mode, and the Union were unable to get anything going until stoppage time. The Union almost stole a point at the death of the match when Ilsinho bounced a shot off the inside of the right post, but the ball did not go into the goal. A few seconds later, Fafa Picualt put the ball on Bedoya’s head just outside the goal, but OCSC’s goalkeeper Joe Bendik made a great save to preserve the win for the Lions.

This loss means the Union are 0-1-2 for the month of March as they have next week off for the FIFA international dates. Bedoya will be part of the US Men’s National Team as resume the hexagonal in their quest for a World Cup berth. They will try to end the winless streak on April 8 when they go back on the road to take on D.C. United.