Lions drop international friendly, 1-0
Published: Sunday, July 29, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, July 31, 2012 11:07
Clinching its second league title in as many seasons with a 4-0 win Friday night over Charleston Battery, Orlando City Soccer was set to play their third game in four nights — an international friendly against Stoke City F.C. of the English Premier League on Saturday.
Despite dominating possession and registering more shots on goal than their visiting opponents, the Lions dropped their anticipated international match, 1-0. Wasted opportunities came back to defeat Orlando City, dropping its record against international competition to 1-4-0 — the sole win coming last year against Newcastle United.
“We wanted to show how American soccer has progressed and how we play here in Orlando. I think we showed that because they didn’t get many chances,” forward Dennis Chin said. “We just couldn’t convert, and it proves that when you play at a high level, it takes one shot to win.”
Stoke City made good on one of the few chances it did get, though, with the game’s only goal coming at the 45-minute mark when forward Jon Walters scored on an assist from Premier League veteran Peter Crouch in the final seconds of first-half stoppage time.
Playing 160 minutes in three days, former UCF soccer player Matt Luzunaris came in for Chin with 30 minutes remaining in the game. There were no open opportunities for Luzunaris to even the score as Stoke City clogged the box whenever the former Knight gained possession.
Although the match meant nothing in terms of Orlando City’s place atop the United Soccer League PRO standings, it was still a physical matchup. That physicality came to a peak when Stoke City’s Glenn Whelan was ejected from the game after receiving a red card for unsportsmanlike conduct.
“Any time you play a friendly, you aren’t playing for anything, but it’s more for pride, for your fans and team, especially when you’re at home,” Luzunaris said. “When a big team comes in like that, at the caliber that they play at, you always want to prove a point. Not only prove a point to players in the USL, but prove a point to the MLS and to the rest of the leagues that we aren’t a team to be messed with.”
Luzunaris wasn’t the only person mentioning Orlando City’s candidacy as an MLS-expansion team. The announced crowd of 10,441 at the Florida Citrus Bowl impressed the visitors from across the pond.
“They aren’t a third division team, are they? They were fantastic. Really impressed with them,” Stoke City manager Tony Pulis said. “The big thing for Orlando is to get in the MLS, and I think the city itself will thrive and the football club will thrive together.
“I think they’ll get full houses [in] this great southern city. I think they deserve it.”