The Union lost 2-1 at Orlando City on Thursday, after facing a thunderstorm delay for the second straight game — this time for just under an hour before the game kicked off.
Benji Michel scored in the 10th minute and Andrés Perea scored in the 59th for Orlando, before Kacper Przybylko pulled a goal back for the Union (6-4-5, 23 points) in the 68th. The Union played some spirited soccer late, but couldn’t find a tying goal.
Here are some observations on the game.
Olivier Mbaizo does a lot of great things to boost the Union’s attack. He made a great play on Przybylko’s goal for example, serving up an inch-perfect cross that Przybylko slammed in with a great shot.
But on the defensive end, Mbaizo got roasted on Orlando’s opening goal, standing still as Michel ran behind him. Union goalkeeper Matt Freese, starting in his return from a red card suspension, had no chance to stop the low shot.
Mbaizo was caught out of position two minutes later when Mauricio Pereyra got open in the middle of the 18-yard box and Mbaizo had to race over to defend. Fortunately for the Union, Pereyra shot wide.
Mbaizo has been one of the Union’s best players this year, but that moment was a big lapse. And he had some nervous moments at other times in the game.
ESPN analyst Alejandro Moreno, one of the Union’s original players, gave Mbaizo some sound advice early in the second half of the national TV broadcast.
“Everything seems a little rushed right now for Mbaizo, in that he’s trying to do five different things at the same time,” Moreno said. “Settle down, complete a pass, then complete a second one, get some confidence, build some momentum, and then do the things that come naturally to you.”
Mbaizo wouldn’t have been able to hear the message from the announcers’ booth, but the assist showed what Moreno was looking for.
Top starting midfield
Jim Curtin was finally able to deploy all four of his top midfielders in a game: Dániel Gazdag at the top of the diamond, Jamiro Monteiro on the left, Alejandro Bedoya on the right, and José Andréz Martínez at the base. It took a little while for the chemistry to click, and by the time it did Orlando (7-3-4, 25 points) had scored. But the Union created five chances to Orlando’s three in the first half, and held a 6-2 advantage in shots.
The quartet lasted until the 69th minute, when Leon Flach replaced Gazdag.
Not Freese’s fault
The early goal was unsightly, but as mentioned above, it wasn’t Freese’s fault. Nor was the second goal. The Union left Orlando star Nani shockingly unmarked on the right side for a cross that he sent to Perea, who slammed a header into the top corner of the net from close range.
Jakob Glesnes was also too lax in marking Perea. And a moment later, Glesnes backed off Nani to let him shoot from range, and got lucky the shot went high.
Sullivan shows promise
Quinn Sullivan replaced Sergio Santos in the 69th minute, and delivered a nice spark off the bench. Playing in a right-sided attacking role, he put three shots on target — including one in the final seconds of stoppage time that was blocked on the goal line by Kyle Smith.