Orlando City

Union suffer 1st loss of season to Cyle Larin, Orlando City

Union suffer 1st loss of season to Cyle Larin, Orlando City

BOX SCORE

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Cyle Larin scored twice, including the game-winner in the 73rd minute, and Orlando City won its second straight to open the season 2-1 over the Union on Saturday.

With the score tied at one with 15 minutes left, Larin found his way behind the middle of the Union defense thanks to a streaking pass from Carlos Rivas and beat goalkeeper Andre Blake for the game-winner. The forward has accounted for all three Orlando City goals this season.

After Larin gave Orlando City (2-0-0) the lead in the 39th minute, C.J. Sapong found the back of the net with a header to tie the score in the 52nd minute. The Union (0-1-2) had a final opportunity to tie it in the 93rd minute, but Alejandro Bedoya's header was denied by Joe Bendik.

The Union are winless in their last 10 matches dating back to last season.

Orlando, whose March 11 game against New England was postponed due to extreme cold, was playing its first game without injured captain Kaka. Kaka injured his hamstring in the season opener with New York City FC.

Union-Orlando City 5 Things: Bracing for the Kaka-less Lions

Union-Orlando City 5 Things: Bracing for the Kaka-less Lions

Union at Orlando City SC 
Saturday 7:30 p.m., The Comcast Network

After two straight draws to start the 2017 season, the undefeated and winless Union (0-0-2) hit the road to face an Orlando City SC (1-0-0) team that will be missing one of the league's marquee players. 

Here are five things to know:

1. Striker status
After starting striker Jay Simpson scored 11 minutes into his home debut last week, he was forced to the locker room with an injury -- and then to the hospital after he frighteningly began coughing up blood. 

Luckily for the Union, head coach Jim Curtin says the injury -- a bruised lung -- doesn't appear to be serious. But considering he hasn't practiced most of the week, it seems doubtful he'll play in Orlando.

"He's a tough kid," Curtin said. "He probably had another goal or two in him, so that was disappointing. But injuries are part of the game and he'll have to recover now."

The Union are fortunate to have a more-than-serviceable replacement in C.J. Sapong, who came in for Simpson and scored the game-tying goal in last week's 2-2 draw with reigning MLS Cup finalist Toronto FC. 

"I'm happy with where C.J. is," Curtin said. "We know what he's all about. He'll fight for the Union badge, he'll give everything he has every day in training, whether he's starting or coming off the bench."

2. No Kaka
Just like Simpson, Orlando City SC star Kaka exited in the 11th minute of his home debut two weeks ago. But his situation is more serious as the Brazilian midfielder will miss a few weeks with a hamstring injury.

It's naturally a tough blow for Orlando but the Lions have an interesting option to replace him in Giles Barnes, a proven MLS player who assisted on Orlando's only goal in their season-opening 1-0 win over New York City FC. 

"He brings an element of speed," Curtin said. "He's a dynamic player, dangerous. And he's at a new club so he's looking to impress his head coach."

Midfielder Matias Perez Garcia will likely also see an expanded role with Kaka out, teaming with Barnes, Carlos Rivas and 2015 Rookie of the Year Cyle Larin in a dangerous four-man attacking front.

"Cycle is a great presence," Curtin said. "Twelve yards in, he's as good of a finisher as we have in our league."

3. No Mickey Mouse environment
Due to a weird scheduling quirk, the Lions will play their second straight game in their sparkling new stadium without having yet to leave Orlando. That's because their scheduled game in New England last week was postponed due to extreme cold.

It's hard to know if having a week off will hurt their momentum or if staying home will prove to be an ideal start to their 2017 campaign. Either way, Curtin is expecting a daunting atmosphere in Orlando -- even if the team is excited to get away from the cold.

"Everyone thinks about Disney and thinks it's a happy, smiley, kid-friendly place," the Union coach said. "I can tell you the Orlando fans are an intimidating group -- nothing Mickey Mouse about their group of supporters, that's for sure. 

"It's one of the few places where I get a police escort in and out of the building, I'll just put it that way. The police officers are actually very friendly, which is good."

4. Keep an eye on
Joe Bendik:
Aside from Larin and maybe new center back Jonathan Spector, no one was better in Orlando's opener than Bendik, who made a few sparkling saves, including the top one of the week. Between him and Union standout Andre Blake, we could be looking at a game with a few highlight-reel stops.

Derrick Jones: The 20-year-old defensive midfielder has had a terrific start to the season in his first two MLS games. But this will be another stiff test for Jones, who Curtin said is drawing praise from around the league, including coaches and execs from Toronto. "He's an exciting player in a position where I think the work sometimes goes unnoticed," Curtin said. "He's doing it in a way where a lot of people are taking notice in a position that maybe isn't the most glamorous."

5. This and that
• After missing the first two games with a hamstring injury, Ilsinho is expected to be available to make his season debut. He'd likely come off the bench with Fabian Herbers cementing his role on the right wing.

• Both of the Union's previous two games in Orlando have ended in draws but Philly leads the all-time series, 2-1-2. 

• Dating back to last season, the Union are winless in their last nine regular-season matches.

• Sarpong's goal last week was his fourth off the bench for the Union. Only four Union players have ever scored more off the bench with former super-sub Antoine Hoppenot leading the way with seven.

Union fall to Orlando City, but virtually lock up playoff spot

ap-chris-pontius-union.jpg
Associated Press

Union fall to Orlando City, but virtually lock up playoff spot

BOX SCORE

CHESTER, Pa. -- Coming home after a near month-long road trip, the Union had hope that rest, mixed with home-field advantage, could push them out of a five-game winless slump and into the postseason.

Instead, Carlos Rivas happened.

The Orlando City forward broke the game open in the second half, as the visitors stunned the sloppy Union, 2-0, on Sunday at Talen Energy Stadium.

“Disappointing performance from everyone, from the staff to the players,” said Union manager Jim Curtin. “We let our fans down in a big way. Today we had a great opportunity.”

But despite the lackluster effort and lost opportunity, the Union have reason to celebrate. With the Chicago Fire's 2-1 victory over the New England Revolution on Sunday, the Union have effectively, but not officially earned a playoff spot. The Union have three points and a double-digit goal differential tiebreaker over the Revs heading into the final match of the season.

“It doesn’t feel like an accomplishment because it’s not 100-percent yet,” Curtin said. “At the same time, we put ourselves in a good position with tiebreakers.”

Winless in their last six games, the Union face the New York Red Bulls at home next Sunday in a game that will solidify the team's playoff seeding. If the Revs don't make up a plus-12 goal differential in a win and Union loss, the Union will land as either the fifth or sixth seed.

“We have to improve on everything,” said Union veteran Chris Pontius. “To a man, if we’re holding each other accountable, it wasn’t good enough tonight in a pressure situation. It’s a game that we should win at home. We just weren’t good enough tonight.”

But the Union's hope for a clean playoff berth fell apart in the 59th minute, when a Fabinho turnover in the midfield saw Rivas streaking into Union territory unimpeded. As Rivas tore into the box, Andre Blake came out aggressively which allowed the Orlando City player to loft a slow trickle shot over the goalkeeper and on net.

“He did make a big touch and I got out there, got a piece of it,” Blake said. “It bounced back, hit him and it went back toward the goal. It was just tough. I would say he had a bit of luck, but it happens sometimes.”

In an attempt at a miracle save, Keegan Rosenberry booted the ball but found only net for the Union own goal and 1-0 Orlando City advantage.

“Hopefully after tonight’s performance all the guys get a wake-up call from here on forward,” Blake said. “We have to pull up our sleeves and do better.”

Julio Baptista added the insurance goal in stoppage time for the 2-0 win.

The Union’s best chance of the match game in the 67th minute, when a deflected cross from Fabian Herbers popped high into the air. Aggressively playing the jump ball, Pontius got a strong header off that was saved away at point-blank range from Joe Bendik.

“We can’t be this team that’s wobbling into the playoffs,” Pontius said. “You want to be hitting your stride. We have to put together a good performance next weekend.”