The unbeaten streak that began with a 4-0 win over the LA Galaxy is now up to four games and Orlando City has climbed back into the thick of the playoff chase after last night's 3-2 comeback win over the Fire at Toyota Park. The Lions showed more resiliency than ever before, coming back from two separate deficits and finishing the game strong. Late goals are becoming a thing for City, so you'd better stock up on your heart medication. Or alcohol. One of those.
You can say Orlando got lucky, and maybe that's fair, but back when the Lions first met D.C. United, they dominated the match and still somehow lost in stoppage time. That is to say that sometimes the law of averages does work out. But also, City simply played hard last night and made things happen, even when things were going against them. Two own-goals against doesn't happen very often, especially off of the same player, but if Orlando hadn't been threatening and pressuring, those own-goals would never have happened.
All that said, let's get to my five takeaways from this match:
Orlando City is Going to Miss Cyle Larin
Although it took him awhile to get his first touch and even longer to affect the game, Cyle Larin again came up huge for Orlando City. His laser from 25 yards out evened the game and set the stage for the Lions' dramatic late comeback. His run into the box led to Adailton's second own-goal, as Carlos Rivas spied him churning toward goal and tried to slot in a pass for him.
Larin now leaves for World Cup qualifying with the Canadian Men's National Team and will miss the D.C. United match on June 14 and the U.S. Open Cup match at Charleston on June 17. He should be back with the club in time for the trip to Montreal on June 20, but it remains to be seen if Adrian Heath will use him or give him rest after the travel.
The No. 1 pick in the 2015 MLS SuperDraft will also likely be gone for CONCACAF Gold Cup duty in July, so the Lions are losing their most reliable scorer from everywhere except the penalty spot. His five goals have all come in the run of play and he's drawn key fouls and penalties with his runs and hold-up play. It will be interesting to see how Heath handles Larin's absence.
The Force is Strong with Pedro
Not sure how he does it, but for the second time this season Pedro Ribeiro made an opponent score on his own team. At Houston in Week 2 he used the power of his mind (OK, some hustle too) to force Tyler Deric into punching the ball into his own net. Last night in Chicago, Pedro was at it again, muscling into the area on a rebound and forcing Adailton to deflect the ball into his own net.
When Ribeiro isn't cracking home goals off the post from distance, as he did last week against Columbus, he just uses the power of the Force to make the other team do the scoring for him. Hey, everyone needs their own thing. That can be Pedro's thing. Seriously though, the dude is super strong and works hard, and that combination often makes good things happen.
Possession Isn't Everything
Orlando City dominated possession once again, holding the ball for 63.1% of the game to just 36.9% for Chicago, but the Fire looked more than comfortable sitting back and hitting the Lions on the counter with their speed. And they did. David Accam's goal was fueled by a speedy counter and Aurelien Collin was the last man back to break up two other Fire breaks with vital challenges.
Despite not having nearly as much of the ball, Chicago fired 19 shots to Orlando's 11, and got six of them on target. Tally Hall stopped four of those, including a late header that nearly deflected up and over him from close range.
Collin Shows his Value
Aurelien Collin returned to the lineup after missing a few games with a hamstring strain and immediately showed his value, snuffing out multiple one-on-one attacks with crucial challenges, winning headers in the air and leading the back line by example. The Frenchman broke up two plays as the last man back late in the first half to keep Orlando in the game.
Sure, sometimes Collin finds himself afoul of the referee (he was booked again last night), but you WANT him on that wall. You NEED him on that wall. Sorry. Please don't order the code red on me.
Things Inchy Might Not Have Said at Halftime
"In between the goals, I thought we were far and away the better team in terms of football this evening," said Head Coach Adrian Heath after the match. "I feel as though the group is coming together a little bit more, there's a little bit more camaraderie in the group. It's a really happy dressing room. I told them ‘Nothing comes easy. Anything that's worth fighting for is hard.' They dug in tonight and they were excellent. I thought there were some really good performances."
Heath may not have said such things at the break. The Lions were uncharacteristically careless with the ball in the first half and were out-shot 11-4 in the opening 45 minutes. Even Kaká had some unusually off-target passes and crosses. Whatever Heath said at halftime worked beautifully, as the Lions were much better after the break, despite giving up a counter-attack goal 12 minutes into the second half.