It’s tough to look at the positives, but we created a ton of clear-cut chances. —RSL head coach Mike Petke
ORLANDO, Fla.— Corey Baird’s chip over Joe Bendik put Real Salt Lake ahead on the road after just 12 minutes, and the team had multiple opportunities to build on that lead. But RSL couldn’t capitalize on those chances and Orlando City scored three goals in an 18-minute span in the second half to come back and win 3-1 in front of an announced crowd of 23,258 at Orlando City Stadium.
While holding its early lead, Real Salt Lake beat Bendik twice only to hit the post, and the defense wilted in the second half as the club dropped its second straight game and remained winless on the road (0-4-1). The loss dropped RSL to ninth in the Western Conference table at 3-5-1.
“It’s tough to look at the positives, but we created a ton of clear-cut chances,” RSL head coach Mike Petke said after the match. “The guys did close to exactly what we wanted when we talked about the game plan. I thought we got behind them quite a bit. And I thought the possession in the midfield was very good, leading to chances.”
Real started the game brightly, pressing high up the pitch and creating some nervous moments for the Orlando City defense, with former RSL defender Chris Schuler making his debut for his new club in place of injured Jonathan Spector and Amro Tarek. That good spell to begin the game paid off in the 12th minute, when Damir Kreilach played a ball in for Baird, who slipped in behind Orlando center back Lamine Sané. Bendik came off his line, but Baird lofted the ball over the goalkeeper and into the empty net.
Orlando City responded to the goal by stepping up its attack. Brooks Lennon cleared a Dom Dwyer shot off the line in the 14th minute. A moment later, Yoshimar Yotún found Dwyer in the box. The striker laid it off for Sacha Kljestan, but his shot was well over the bar. Former RSL midfielder Will Johnson fired straight at Nick Rimando moments later.
As the hosts pressed for an equalizer, Real Salt Lake looked for opportunities on counterattacks and had some success in the buildup but could not find a second goal. Pablo Ruiz fired a free kick over the bar from 25 yards out in the 26th minute. Eight minutes later, a takeaway in the midfield gave RSL a two-on-two break, and Jefferson Savarino found Baird streaking into the right side of the penalty area. His shot beat Bendik but caromed off the far post.
Much of the remainder of the first half was played in the middle of the park, with Orlando on the attack but breaking down through sloppy passes that were poorly weighted or behind their intended targets. When the Lions did get into the box, Justen Glad and Nick Besler did well to snuff out the danger. Real took its 1-0 advantage to the locker room despite owning just 37 percent of the possession and being outshot 10-8.
The second half began much like the first, with RSL pouring forward and finding space in the final third. Albert Rusnak sent a shot off the post just four minutes after the restart. Two minutes later, Savarino forced Bendik into a save and both Kreilach and Baird had opportunities but couldn’t beat Bendik.
That proved costly in the 60th minute when Kljestan found Dwyer with a cross and the striker nodded home to tie the game at one. Orlando City took the lead three minutes later when Sané got a free header off a Yotún corner kick and made it 2-1. Orlando kept coming, scoring an insurance goal in the 78th minute when Dwyer got free down the left. His shot was saved by a diving Rimando, but the veteran goalkeeper could only push it into the path of Yotún, who smashed it into the net to effectively end the match as Orlando City won its sixth straight game.
“I thought we were walking away with points here up until their first goal,” Petke said. “They won, what, five in a row coming into this? You don’t win five in a row in this league unless you have some quality and unless you have smart players and some experience. They hung in there, down 1-0 for a while and then they took their opportunities.”
“I think we’re headed in the right direction,” Baird said. “We’re playing a lot better soccer than we were at the beginning of the season.”
Real Salt Lake will return to action at Rio Tinto on Saturday when D.C. United visits.