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Orlando City’s losing skid reaches 6

Posted on Thursday, June 14, 2018 at 6:00 pm

Lions can atone Wednesday, next Saturday

By Ken Jackson
Sports Editor

Orlando City, the soccer team that tied an inordinate number of matches in past seasons, unintentionally trading three points for victories for one point for ties, hasn’t seen a draw in over a dozen matches.

In the month of May, when the Lions were rattling off six straight MLS victories, that was a good thing. But in the last three weeks it’s been a horrible thing, as Orlando City is now mired in an other-side-of-the-spectrum six-game losing skid. But streaks are club records.

The misery continued Wednesday in Montreal as Orlando City SC (6-8-1, 19 points) fell 3-0 to the Montreal Impact (5-11-0, 15 points), who were 11th place in the 12-team Eastern Conference heading into the match.

“I hope [the level of urgency] is sky high. It doesn’t get more urgent for me. We’ve made that very clear,” Lions head coach Jason Kreis said. “We did not go into this game saying this was just a regular season game. We told our players this was a massive match and we one thousand percent need three points. We don’t get it. We deal with it. We need to respond the right way.”

That response can come Wednesday in a Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup match in Washington against D.C. United. The match closes a five-game road trip; the Lions return to Orlando City Stadium on June 23 against Montreal.

“We have a massive Open Cup game a week from tonight, which we need to win,” Kreis said.

Orlando City produced a starting lineup as healthy as it’s been in weeks. Jonathan Spector made his first MLS start since April 8, and forward Dom Dwyer made his first start since May 13.

The Lions got behind early; Cristian Higuita was called for a trip in the penalty area in the fifth minute, and Ignacio Piatti buried the penalty kick.

“I’m exasperated that it’s another game where another critical decision goes against us. I vehemently disagreed with the call,” Kreis said after the match. “The reality is with so many things happening in so many games in a row, it’s really hard to come back from that and keep a quality mindset.”

Orlando possessed but could muster quality scoring chances the rest of the half and went to halftime trailing 1-0.

Montreal made it 2-0 in the 55th minute when Daniel Lovitz fired a cross into the box that bounced off defender Amro Tarek and went in for an own goal. Piatti scored again in stoppage time.

The Lions got several good opportunities at goal in the second half, including an attempted bicycle kick by Dwyer and a shot just wide of the post by Josue Colmán. Uri Rosell’s shot in the 78th minute deflected off Stefano Pinho in front of the goal, but Montreal goalkeeper Evan Bush was able to keep it out.

“It’s a difficult situation in that Dom’s absence clearly hurt us. We had Spector playing his first game, Tarek off with international duty and back, and we’ve had different players with different ideas in there,” Kreis said.

Spector said he was “fine” physically in his first match back, but not fine with the result.

“It’s irrelevant if we don’t get the three points,” he said. “We’re frustrated with each loss but we take it one game at a time and we’ll still do that. “We’ve been unable to convert the chances we’ve created, we haven’t gotten the results.”

Midfielder Uri Rossell said putting in the work in training and not getting results is leading to frustration.

“We have to score, right? We’re doing good things, but in the end we have to do something and I don’t know what it is,” he said. “It’s hard to accept that you’re exhausted and give everything and get no reward.

“We have a great team, it’s important that we stick together during this and keep going.”

That game came off a 5-2 loss in Vancouver against the Whitecaps (6-5-5, 23 points) at BC Place.

Sacha Kljestan scored his third goal of the season; he slotted it inside the far post in the 64th minute. Dwyer scored his seventh goal of the season on the final touch of the game. Chris Mueller and Josué Colmán were credited with assists.

The Lions were reduced to 10 men when Mohamed El-Munir was shown a second yellow card in the 58th minute.

“I think we need to continue to look at ourselves, look at the areas that we need improvement on,” Kreis said following that game. “We’re doing so many good things from 18 to 18 but it’s about scoring the goals now. At the moment you can’t play 90 percent well. You forget about the 10 percent. For me, that’s the difference right now.

“Again, another night where we start off the game and we’re just dictating things, bossing things on their field, and then we give the ball away one time in the middle of the field, we’re disorganized and they go right down the field and score the very first chance that they have. Maybe that’s what we need to be focused on, is the 10 percent.”

The lone piece of good news for the Lions during this stretch is that they have moved on in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. By virtue of a 3-0 win over Miami FC of the fourth-tier National Premier Soccer League, the Lions get to face DC United in Washington on Wednesday. Pinho, Dillon Powers and Victor “PC” Giro scored in the win that, true to his word, Kreis started a strong lineup, including Spector, Rossell and midfielder Sacha Kljestan.

It’s the final match of the team’s five-game sojourn around the country that’s gone from New York City to Miami to Vancouver to Montreal to Washington, D.C.