Orlando City started its game against the Chicago Fire on a Saturday, and ended it on a Sunday in a 1-1 draw in front of an announced crowd of 28,921 that was considerably smaller by the end of this blustery night.
Coming off of a disastrous game against Toronto FC last week, the Lions' returned home to host the Fire on Saturday night. With over three hours of delays mixed in, Orlando City (7-12-8, 29 points) moved back into a playoff spot, thanks to an own-goal from Chicago's Eric Gehrig, after falling behind midway through the first half.
Wins are better, but a draw's a draw, and any points at this point of the season help.
After an hour and 50 minute delay due to heavy rain and lightning in the area, the game finally kicked off at 9:20 p.m. ET. In all, the match started off as a game that was delayed for almost two hours in the pouring rain, with Orlando struggling to put together any consistent passing attacks.
Chicago (7-13-6, 27 points) was quick to "Fire" off the first big chance of the game. Darwin Ceren's turnover in the midfield gave David Accam a shot on Tally Hall, which he put wide to clear the Lions of any danger. Less than two minutes later, Cyle Larin blasted a low shot just left of the target from outside the penalty area.
The two teams continued playing in the heavy rain until 18 minutes in, when lightning struck again in the area, causing a second delay, this time in the middle of the game. It would go on to last an hour and seven minutes.
When the teams finally resumed play, Chicago got on the board in the 30th minute on a pure hustle goal from Accam. Saving the ball from crossing the touchline, he broke his way back toward the middle of the box, beating right back Corey Ashe, before firing a tough-angle shot to the right of Hall for the score.
Two minutes after Luke Boden picked up a yellow card in the 32nd minute, Gehrig nearly doubled the Fire's lead when he snapped a low, hard header at Hall, who was able to push it away for a corner. That was Gehrig's last shot on goal of the half.
Three minutes later, Gehrig would get his next shot on goal -- albeit the wrong goal -- when Lewis Neal's cross into the box from the right side bounced off of his shoulder and into the goal to level things at 1-1. Originally awarded to Cyle Larin, the goal was quickly changed to an own-goal -- the third the Fire have given up against Orlando City this season, oddly enough.
The goal ended Orlando City's scoreless drought at 373 minutes, dating all the back to Boden's goal at Toronto on Aug. 5. The streak of Orlando City players not scoring still goes on, however.
Orlando City had a chance to take the lead before the half when Larin's pass across goal left a sitter for Neal in front of the net, with the right winger pulling out a Chris Wondolowski-like effort and sailing the ball over the goal.
The second half included more action, but fewer goals -- none to be exact.
A great counter-attack up the field, consisting of passes from Cristian Higuita to Darwin Ceren to Carlos Rivas, left Kaká with a golden opportunity in the middle of the penalty area. But the Designated Player missed wide right on the shot. Later, in the, the 81st minute, Larin made a video game to shake free and set up Rivas with another great chance, but his shot knocked off the outside of the woodwork.
Ceren blasted a shot from distance over the bar in stoppage time that would have saved Orlando City the two points, but the Lions settled for draw, as they also moved over Montreal in the Eastern Conference standings to put themselves above the red line with eight games remaining.
"Obviously bitterly disappointed we haven't won with the quality chances that we created this evening," said Head Coach Adrian Heath. "Their front four are very dynamic and athletic so you're always susceptible to getting beat on the counter-attack. I thought we managed it on the whole quite well."
Tactically, Heath started Corey Ashe at right back in place of the suspended Rafael Ramos and Rivas started at left wing, shifting Lewis Neal to the right for suspended right wing Adrian Winter. The moves worked out well, with Orlando City dominating possession (62.7%-37.3%).
The team will have a week to regroup before heading back out on the road, when they'll take on the New England Revolution next Saturday at Gillette Stadium without Kaká, Larin, and Ceren, who will all be off on international duty.