Daryl Dike beats Aaron Long to score in the first half. (Matt Stamey-USA TODAY Sports)
ORLANDO – The Red Bulls’ quest of scoring four goals in three consecutive matches fell just a bit short Saturday evening.
Only by three goals.
And with it they suffered a 3-1 defeat to Orlando City SC in the rain at Exploria Stadium.
Orlando (8-2-5, 29 points) extended its unbeaten streak to nine games while the Red Bulls (6-7-2, 20) mini-win streak was snapped at two matches.
“It’s really hard to break them down,” said midfielder Florian Valot, who scored the Red Bulls’ lone goal. “We tried a couple times to get behind, but we faced a really good Orlando team. I think we should have tried a little bit harder. We brought a lot of energy in the second half and try to create chances, but we were missing that little something today.”
Added center back Tim Parker: “Losing 3-1 is never something that you want to look at in positive light, but I don’t think that there was too much wrong on the day. I think there was little spurts of times and minutes that maybe there was a little bit of lack of focus.”
The hosts drew first blood in the 24th minute when Daryl Dike beat center back Aaron Long in the air and headed home a right-wing cross from Kyle Smith.
Two minutes later, Chris Mueller raced in alone on goalkeeper David Jensen, who produced a kick save.
“Credit to Oscar [Pareja, head coach] and his team,” interim head coach Bradley Carnell said. “He’s got them well-oiled at the moment. We took a while to get up to speed with all of that, … [I] just felt that we fell a little bit short in certain moments with the physical cues, and it was no surprise.”
Five minutes into the second half, Orlando extended its lead to 2-0 as Junior Urso tallied on a breakaway. Urso latched onto a feed by Mueller at midfield and was off to the races toward Jensen. Urso pushed off Jason Pendant before scoring inside the penalty area.
“I have to take responsibility for it because I think I need to foul Mueller right away, to get our team back behind the ball,” Valot said. “I think we had our chances and they had theres and they put theirs in the back of the net. But we’re going to have our revenge in two weeks so I’m really looking forward to it.”
The Red Bulls received a 54th-minute gift on some lackadaisical play by Orlando City. Valot intercepted a horrendous clearance by Kamal Miller that he shuffled off to Daniel Royer. The ball bounced off Royer’s leg and hit Lions defender Rodrigo Schlegel. An alert and onrushing Valot slotted the ball home from the middle of the box past goalkeeper Pedro Gallese to cut the margin to 2-1.
Mueller had another opportunity to celebrate a goal, but after a great run he lofted his shot over the goal in the 76th minute.
Gallese came up big in the 80th minute as he made a diving save on a blast by second-half substitute Mark Rzatkowski.
Five minutes into stoppage time, it appeared Antonio Carlos had scored off a 2-on-1 break to up the lead to 3-1, but an assistant referee ruled that the goal was nullified due to offside. After Video Assistant Referee review, it was declared a goal in the 97th minute. A minute later the game was whistled over.