Stop us if you’ve heard this one before.
The Philadelphia Union controlled the first 35 minutes but failed to connect on any number of their golden scoring opportunities. Then, fittingly, Orlando City SC scores two goals seven minutes apart and rides them and their goalie to a 2-0 victory on Friday night in front of 16,032 fans at Talen Energy Stadium.
Union fans know this script. The nationally televised audience on ESPN was treated to what has epitomized this season, and well, pretty much any other season since the organization’s debut in 2010.
Fans got so frustrated with the inability to finish that they started a “Let’s Go Flyers” chant in the final 15 minutes of the game.
“Orlando is not a better team than us,” midfielder Haris Medunjanin said. “We gave up two goals from nowhere in the first half, and then we had to chase the game. We had chances but if you don’t score, it’s difficult to win.”
Correction: It’s impossible.
Through five games, the Union have three goals.
“It was a night that we talked about breaking out as a team with the attack,” Union coach Jim Curtin said. “I thought we started the game well in the first 15 minutes. It was a disappointing night. … It’s not from a lack of effort. The guys emptied the tank, but it’s just a struggle for us right now to score.”
While Orlando (3-2-1) notched its third straight victory and climbed into a tie for third place with 10 points in the Eastern Conference, the Union remained in eighth place and their winless skid was extended to four games.
The Philadelphia Union knew they’d get their chances against a leaky Orlando City defense, which had allowed 10 goals in five games, and came out swinging. However, the attack either failed to convert or Orlando goalie Joe Bendik came up with one of his countless big saves. They fired off 10 shots in each half.
After dictating play for the majority of the first half, momentum shifted in the 38th minute when Dominic Dwyer scored the game’s first goal. Sacha Kljestan led Dwyer, who was onside by inches, into the box where he touched it past Union goalie Andre Blake for the 1-0 lead.
Orlando was forced to rally from three- and two-goal deficits in the final 20 minutes to win each of its last two games, but no late-game heroics were needed this time as seized a 2-0 cushion on a brilliant individual effort by rookie Chris Mueller.
Trailed by Matthew Real, the midfielder dribbled from the sideline to the middle before attacking the box. Defender Jack Elliott got his foot on the ball but Mueller fought through it and was rewarded with his second goal of the year.
“We can’t give away goals that easy,” Medunjanin said. “If they beat us with a nice attack and fantastic shot, then we can congratulate them. To give them those kinds of easy goals at this level is not good.”
From there, it was the Bendik show. He made diving glove saves on David Accam, Fabrice-Jean Picault, and Alejandro Bedoya and finished with six saves.
“Bendik was good. He was sharp on the evening,” Curtin said. “He had a few big saves, early especially. I think we are the kind of team that when we get the first goal there is more confidence. He made a few great saves early on and late and it made it a frustrating night in front of our fans.”
Other times, the Union were their own worst enemy.
CJ Sapong muscled off a volley with a defender on him and his back to the goal but it trickled over the crossbar in the 15th minute. Sapong then found a streaking Accam, who remains without a goal this season, with a step on his defender inside the 18 but the striker hit the outside of the net in the 26th minute. On another sequence, Sapong fanned on a cross from Accam, and then Picault flubbed his shot 15 yards from the goal.
The second half had its moments as the Union sniffed chance after chance, but it got the same maddening result.
“I still have confidence in the group and we have quality players on the field,” Curtin said. “We created a lot of chances and it was not a night (Union goalie Andre Blake) has to make 15 saves. We were still creating chances but the ball is just not going in the net.”