Orlando City go toe-to-toe against LAFC, but lament dropped points in draw

ORLANDO, Fla. – Orlando City head coach James O’Connor couldn’t find the words in expressing the disappointment he felt about the calls on the night following Saturday’s 2-2 draw against LAFC.

The Lions believed they were on the verge of three points, but two flashpoint moments may have altered the outcome, O’Connor felt.

“Words can’t describe it,” O’Connor said on not getting three pivotal points. “It’s so far past disappointment, I can’t even begin to tell you. So, I got to keep control, and I’m going to let them decide. I’ll let them answer the questions. You see the guys fall and given really everything like that, you come away with immense pride for the players and the whole football club.”

LAFC took an early lead, but Orlando showed they were up for the occasion, with Nani tying up the match immediately off the kickoff following Adrien Perez's opener.

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"From our standpoint, I thought the reaction was excellent," O'Connor explained. "I thought the finish was very composed and a great piece of skill and then also after that I thought we had a little period where we played some really good football. I think the second goal was obviously a great piece of play that we were very pleased with, so as I said there’s a load of positives for us to be able to point to and look at and take away from tonight’s performance.”

But in the 56th minute, with Orlando City leading 2-1, Uri Rosell scored what would have been Orlando’s third goal, but referee Alan Kelly whistled a foul on Benji Michel for obstructing LAFC goalkeeper Tyler Miller.

Then in the 86th minute, after LAFC tied the match, Miller appeared to leave the box with the ball in his hands, which saw O’Connor heavily appeal the no-call free kick.

“I think when the officials maybe go back and have a look at it, I think [they will] perhaps be a little bit disappointed with their performance. I thought our performance was excellent, I thought the guys had given everything,” O'Connor said.

Needing a win to keep pace in the Audi 2019 MLS Cup Playoffs race in the Eastern Conference since they sit below the playoff line, the Lions had a good opportunity for that, even against the runaway Supporters' Shield leaders. Both teams were missing starters due to international duty, with Orlando losing leading scorer Tesho Akindele for the night as he was with Canada. But LAFC were missing seven players on national team duty, plus MLS MVP frontrunner Carlos Vela sat out a second straight game as he deals with a hamstring injury.

Midfielder Cristian Higuita, who made his first start since June 1 after returning from injury, said Saturday’s result showed Orlando could compete against the league leaders.

“We’re sad for not getting the result and not reaching our objective,” said Higuita. “But we’re also very happy because the way that we played against the best team in the league.”


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