KISSIMMEE, Fla. - Orlando City SC drew Major League Soccer side Toronto F.C. 1-1 on Saturday, February 22, at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. After conceding an early penalty kick, the Lions equalized late in the match to continue their undefeated streak against MLS sides so far in the Walt Disney Pro Soccer Classic.
“I thought that we were the better side after the first 15-20 minutes,” said Head Coach Adrian Heath after the 1-1 draw. “On a different night, if we take half of our chances, then we would’ve won the game comfortably. Our passing was a bit sloppy in the first half, but I think we began dictating things as we got into a rhythm.”
For their second Pro Soccer Classic match, Toronto and Orlando played in a regular season atmosphere as the City supporter groups packed the stands behind the goal and sang continuously for 90 minutes.
Despite the fact that star players such as Julio Cesar and Michael Bradley were not included in the starting line-up, the Canadian side looked sharp in the opening 15 minutes.
To begin the game, Toronto displayed their attacking prowess through near-chances that had the City fans in attendance on the edge of their seats. For the majority of those attacks, the Orlando backline did well to clear the danger away. Rusin and Valentino were instrumental in those clearances and maintained their solid partnership that has been slowly forming through only three games played together.
However in the 13th minute, things would take a turn for the worse for OCSC when trial defender No. 25 was whistled for a foul away from the ball inside the Lions’ penalty area. The call from the referee caused a bit of confusion as several players were unsure about where the foul had occurred.
Nevertheless, Midfielder Kyle Bekker took his chance well and gave Toronto a 1-0 lead from 12 yards away. Shortly afterwards, the Reds would create another near-chance, but Goalkeeper Miguel Gallardo has been in good form so far this preseason and made another quality save to keep the score-line at 1-0.
After the close chance for Toronto, City would begin stringing passes together, and attacking Midfielder Darwin Ceren created a dangerous chance that went just over the crossbar.
Ceren and Molino switched positions from the previous match against the Union, as Molino moved over to the right and Ceren started in the hole.
After a slow start, Molino would also become increasingly active in the final third, leading to a few more quality opportunities from Orlando. In an effort to get more involved, the Trinidadian began drifting inside and coordinated two powerful efforts that kept Toronto Goalkeeper Joe Bendik on his toes.
Molino’s presence in the center of the park would also lead to chances for his fellow attackers as the Midfielder gifted newly added player Corey Hertzog with a golden opportunity in the 31st minute that saw the Forward strike it over the bar.
“I thought (Kevin) Molino and (Darwin) Ceren were the best two players on the field for both teams tonight, so that bodes well for the future,” added Heath.
For the remainder of the first-half, both sides would continue to work out the preseason blues as the two clubs struggled to maintain continuous possession.
To begin the second half, both Nelsen and Heath made several changes to their lineups. Dennis Chin, Carl Woszczynski and trial player Jordan Cyrus entered for Anthony Pulis, Trial player No. 25 and Goalkeeper Miguel Gallardo. In light of the changes, Hertzog was placed on the right-side, and Molino and Chin moved to the high positions.
The series of changes for Toronto included U.S. Men’s National Team player and former A.S. Roma Midfielder, Michael Bradley.
Orlando kicked off the second half in much better fashion when the local club created their best opportunity of the night in the 48th minute. After a multitude of deflections, Molino found himself in a fortuitous position when the ball landed at his feet in the six-yard-box. However the midfielder’s strike was a bit too casual and Bendik was able to make a brilliant foot-save.
Local player Dennis Chin made an immediate impact upon entering the match against Philadelphia and would do so again against the Reds. In the 51st minute, the speedy striker drove past the Toronto defense and had good look at the goal but was unable to slot his effort by Bendik.
Two minutes later, Chin would get in behind once again, combine with Hertzog inside the area, but the former Whitecaps’ final ball was hit a bit too long for any of the Orlando attacking players.
City were the more dominant side, in terms of time on the ball, throughout the second half but Toronto were extremely organized defensively. Not needing to go forward in search of another goal, the Reds held solid defensive lines as City continued to work the ball around the pitch with hopes of finding an opening.
In the 75th minute, that elusive opening would finally present itself when Molino was able to slip Chin in behind the Toronto defense. Chin only had the goalkeeper to beat but pulled his effort just wide of the far post.
Shortly afterwards, Heath brought on trial player Dan Jackson to provide more attacking firepower for Orlando. The striker would do just that as he, Molino and Chin forced Toronto to make numerous last-ditch clearances in the final 10 minutes.
In the 88th minute, Jackson’s contribution would finally pay dividends when the forward’s curling effort was deflected for a corner. Da Luz’s ensuing corner kick was whipped in to the back-post and trial player Mark Howard was there to nod it into the back of the net, finishing the match at 1-1.
Orlando City’s next match will take place on Wednesday, February 26, against Columbus Crew. Kick-off is set for 6:00 p.m. and tickets for the match start at just $20.
For more information, visit www.orlandocitysc.com