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Philadelphia Union 1 – 1 Orlando City Lions: Match Report

Photo: Courtesy of Philadelphia Union

Look for player ratings and photo essays of both the game and the fan weekend over the next couple of days.

On an overcast evening in Central Florida, the Union battled to 1–1 draw with the 2011 USL Champion Orlando City Lions at the Florida Citrus Bowl.

It was a heartbreak of a finish for the Union and their fans who had traveled to Orlando, who saw Danny Califf’s 27th minute header canceled out in the second minute of added time when Max Griffin settled at the top of the box and powered a shot beyond Chase Harrison to send the crowd into euphoria. Clearly in preseason mode, the Union made 11 substitutes in total—Keon Daniel, Nazir Khalfan, and Lionard Pajoy, who had just joined the Union in camp, were not among them. Nevertheless in terms of the of the day, it was a just result for Orlando City, who made eight substitutions of their own, and dominated much of the second half chasing the eventual equalizer. Were it not for some poor finishing, excellent goalkeeping—and an astonishing goal line clearance from Michael Farfan—that equalizer would have come sooner.

First half

Played before 5,968 fans in the massive college football stadium, Orlando City, mindful of their 1–0 win over the Union a year ago in another preseason friendly, looked up for a fight from the opening whistle. They picked up the first of their five cautions inside of two minutes when a reckless sliding tackle from Anthony Pulis on Jack McInerney earned him an early spot in the referee’s notebook. Gabriel Gomez quickly emerged to be the driving force for the Union midfield as the newly-signed Panamanian international spread the ball well to Freddy Adu on the right, and a makeshift midfielder in Jack McInerney on the left.

Despite the Union controlling proceedings for large parts of the first half, it was Orlando City that carved out the best early chances. The Union defense, clearly on instruction to experiment with different shapes and formations across the backline, lacked the characteristic sharpness of 2011 and Orlando City would have been ahead in the 5th minute were it not for the heroics, and quick reflexes, of goalkeeper Zac MacMath. Having pounced on a miss-hit Union clearance from Carlos Valdes, Orlando City fired a shot well wide that took a powerful deflection off of Porfirio Lopez, forcing a strong reaction save from MacMath.

Up front, Freddy Adu’s inch perfect cross for Jack McInerney had the USMNT U-23 international careening in on goal. Having trouble controlling the ball on the springy pitch, McInerney elected to try his luck from distance and his effort flew over the bar. Danny Mwanga did well to check into the midfield and showed strong back-to-goal skills in sending Adu, and then Josue Martinez, into space.

The Union appeared to be building towards an opener but, in the 22nd minute, it was MacMath who again had to save the day for the Union. Another poor clearance gave Orlando City time and space to race into the Union box and a Sheanon Williams sliding challenge was late. The referee was correct to point to the spot and John Rooney, the younger brother of Wayne Rooney and former New York Red Bull, stood over the ball. Rooney struck his chance well, but MacMath was quick on the occasion, flying low to his right to beat away the penalty only to be cleaned out by the onrushing Charlie Campbell, who earned a caution for his reckless effort.

Five minutes later, the Union would finally break through. A quick counter sprang  Danny Mwanga, reacting quickest to a ball from Gabriel Gomez. After pushing the ball past goalkeeper Miguel Gallardo 20 yards from goal, the Orlando City shot stopper hacked down Mwanga. With the crowd holding their breath, the referee displayed leniency in only showing yellow to the Orlando keeper. With Gomez now over the ball for the free kick, the Union threw numbers into the Orlando City box and Union captain Danny Califf rose highest to power an unstoppable header beyond Gallardo to give the Union a 1–0 lead.

The goal helped to settle the visitors and Gomez, and center midfield partner Brian Carroll, began to knock the ball around and maintain possession for the Union. But, defensive uncertainty nearly gave Orlando City new life as Dennis Chin slipped through the heart of the Union defense. MacMath was again up to the task as he flew off his line to deny Chin on the breakaway.

On the stroke of halftime, the Union squandered a gilt-edged chance to take a two goal lead when another Gomez delivery put Josue Martinez in on the Orlando goal alone. Like MacMath at the other end, Gallardo managed some one-on-one heroics of his own. While the Union will have been the happiest with the scoreline at the half, both sides were left to rue a string of missed opportunities.

Second half

The second half saw wholesale changes for the Union with nine players entering the game, leaving only Valdes and Lopez as the center-back pairing, though they too would be substituted in the 64thminute to complete the full changeover. Draft picks Chandler Hoffman, Greg Jordan and Raymon Gaddis all featured, as did supplemental pick Antoine Hoppenot and homegrown newcomer Jimmy McLaughlin.

Center midfield pairing Roger Torres and Amobi Okugo, the sudden veterans of the young squad now on the pitch, were tasked with holding down the fort with Orlando City feeling that the contest was still theirs for the taking. Okugo was quickly called on to make a saving tackle, Lopez being called on to do the same not long after. With Orlando City controlling the run of play, the Union almost got the dagger needed to put the match to bed in the 58th minute when Michael Farfan cut into the center of the midfield and released Chandler Hoffman in on replacement Orlando keeper Sean Kelley. Hoffman’s first touch took him wider than he would have wanted and, while he managed to get power behind his shot, his effort lacked placement, with Kelley receiving the blast square in the face.

The introduction of Greg Jordan for Carlos Valdes, and Zach Pfeffer for Porfirio Lopez, in the 64th minute caused a reshuffling of the lineup, with Jordan and Michael Farfan moving to centerback. With Orlando electing to make their own changes throughout the second half, the match fell into a choppy, disorganized kick-about with neither team gaining a clear advantage or carving out clear chances for themselves.

The last of their substitutions finally on the pitch, Orlando City was the quicker to rediscover their shape as the match moved towards its conclusion. Substitute Orlando striker Adama, listed as a defender, should have equalized in the 84th minute after rounding both Raymon Gaddis and goalkeeper Chase Harrison. An empty net begging, Adama’s casual touch was cleared off the line by Michael Farfan, who had raced back to toe the ball to safety, bringing forth a hearty groan from the expectant home supporters.

But with Orlando City finding ample space in the final third against the Union’s makeshift backline, the last 10 minutes were one-way traffic for the home team. It was Griffin who finally found the equalizer, pouncing on a bouncing ball at the top of the box and firing low beyond the outstretched finger tips of Harrison. And it was fair reward for Orlando’s effort all night, especially given their dominant showing in the second half.

Scoring Summary:

PHI – Danny Califf (Gabriel Gomez) 27

OC – Max Griffin  (Phillipe Borde ) 93

Philadelphia Union – Zac MacMath (Chase Harrison 46), Sheanon Williams (Raymon Gaddis 46), Carlos Valdes (Greg Jordan 65), Danny Califf (Gabriel Farfan 46), Porfiro Lopez (Zach Pfeffer 65), Freddy Adu (Jimmy McLaughlin 46), Gabriel Gomez (Roger Torres 46), Brian Carroll (Amobi Okugo 46), Jack McInerney (Michael Farfan 46), Josue Martinez (Chandler Hoffman 46), Danny Mwanga (Antoine Hoppenot 46)

Orlando City – Miguel Gallardo (Sean Kelley 46), Jerome Mechack (Erik Ustruck 67), Rob Valentino (Kieron Bernard 67), Logan Emory, Luke Boden, Kevin Molino (Phillip Borde 81), James O’Connor (Don Smart 60), Anthony Pulis, Charlie Campbell (Adama 60), John Rooney (Ian Fuller 70), Dennis Chin (Max Griffin 60)

Misconduct Summary:

OC – Anthony Pulis (Caution) 2
OC – Charlie Campbell (Caution) 22
OC – Miguel Gallardo (Caution) 25
OC – Luke Boden (Caution) 62
PHI – Gabriel Farfan (Caution) 75
OC – Kieron Bernard (Caution) 88

Attendance: 5,968


  1. now that I know our backline consisted Gaddis, Jordan, Marfan, and Pfeffer during the second half, I’d say this was a all in all good game with such a makeshift line.

  2. Disappointed to hear that Marfan didn’t start. Hope that changes for the regular season.

  3. Your match report could use lineups, sub times and formation details. Also, how bout a first kick countdown somewhere on your homepage?

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