Orlando City 0, Philadelphia 0 | MLS Match Recap
ORLANDO, Fla. -- After figuring in three games each with a combined 32 goals, Orlando City and Philadelphia Union turned over a new leaf with a goal-less draw at the Citrus Bowl, doing neither team’s playoff chances any real good.
The closest thing to a break in the stalemate was Sebastien Le Toux’s 21st-minute shot that came back off the woodwork for the Union, while home goalkeeper Tally Hall made three important stops in the closing stages.
Orlando’s best moment came with a 52nd-minute Cyle Larin header just over the bar from Luke Boden’s right-wing free-kick. But otherwise it was a quiet night for the potential Rookie of the Year, who is still stuck on a record-equaling 11 goals for the season.
For the injury-hit Lions – already without Kevin Molino, Brek Shea, Tony Cascio, Harrison Heath and Seb Hines – there was more bad news. Debut-making rookie Conor Donovan hobbled off early with a serious-looking knee problem, and even the return of skipper Kaká failed to inspire the team to anything more than sporadic attacks.
After three straight defeats, Philadelphia were happy just to stop the bleeding. Still, a new-look midfield, with Tranquillo Barnetta making his first league start, and Michael Lahoud returning after injury alongside Cristian Maidana, showed signs of greater poise.
Orlando have been the league’s ultimate Jekyll and Hyde team in their last three outings, going 3-5, 5-2 and 0-4 in alternating two losses with a win. Meanwhile Union head coach Jim Curtin revamped his defense in a bid to end their three-loss streak, recalling centerbacks Richard Marquez and Steven Vitoria.
There was also a long-awaited return from injury for Lahoud in midfield, as well as plenty of snap in the visitors’ tackles early on.
With Hines a late scratch with an injury, City gave Donovan his league debut. But the second-round SuperDraft pick lasted just 10 minutes before twisting his knee badly in a challenge with C.J. Sapong, to be replaced by another centerback debutant, Tommy Redding, who had only just been recalled from a loan spell at USL Wilmington.
Philadelphia’s patient build-up play produced the best chance of the early going. That's when Barnetta slotted the perfect pass between two defenders for Le Toux to out-flank the defense and send a shot across goal that had Hall beaten, but rebounded to safety off the far post in the 21st minute.
Orlando’s first look at goal didn’t arrive until eight minutes later, when Kaká’s astute pass found Larin on the edge of the penalty area for a first-timer that went straight at keeper John McCarthy.
It was a difficult night for the big Canadian striker, who was bidding to pass Damani Ralph’s rookie record from the 2003 season. He came close to getting on the end of a Carlos Rivas cross with 20 minutes to go, but it was ultimately a frustrating 90 minutes for the No.1 SuperDraft pick.
Hall was the much busier of the two keepers in the second half, blocking a close-range Sapong shot in the 61st, minute and doing even better to deny a wide open Maidana from a quick Philly break on 69 minutes.
The Lions introduced left winger Rivas and new Swiss signing Adrian Winter on the right in a bid to raise the tempo in the closing stages. But Maidana almost made them pay on an 81st-minute counter-attack, with his 20-yard effort needing to be pushed over the bar by Hall.
Orlando’s keeper had one more important save to make three minutes from time, reacting quickly to parry a close-range header from substitute Ethan White, and his defense able to scramble the rebound away.
City must now gear up for the long trip to Seattle next Sunday, while Philadelphia return home for a visit from Chicago, also on August 16.