Bedlam at the Bowl.
Yesterday, Orlando City pulled a draw from the closing jaws of defeat, scoring two goals in the last 30 seconds or so of the match. Yeah, I can't fully comprehend what happened either. Needless to say, there's a lot of stuff from the game we can talk about.
So, let's just dive right into our five takeaways from the match:
Stop me if you've heard this story before. Orlando City, coming into a new season at the Citrus Bowl, sells out the place for the home opener. Orlando starts off the game looking great and passing well, but adversity hits, giving up a goal in the first half as well as going down to 10 men after a straight red card. The Lions try to battle back, but they can't seem to buy a goal. After some subs from Head Coach Adrian Heath, the team makes a push to score a goal and finally do so in the dying moments of the game. That's the script from the 2015 season opener and it's pretty much a copy/paste job for 2016. Some things change, others stay the same. Let's just hope Orlando improves after this one.
PRO Inconsistencies Strike Again .
The last game of Orlando's 2015 season, Chris Penso was the referee. The man gave six, yes, six yellow cards on 22 fouls to the Lions alone. Yesterday, he came to Orlando and looked like he hadn't lost a step.
To quote our own Gavin Ewbank from that game last year, "The ref was bad. I'm bad. You're bad. We're all bad."
The reason he was so bad wasn't all because of the red card to Darwin Cerén or the penalty called against Seb Hines, or the 23 fouls he called on both teams. It was his inconsistency as a ref. He set the tone in the game by letting both teams play through contact, then, all of a sudden, he changes his mind and starts calling every little foul, even giving cards when just a few minutes before, no card would have been shown. While Penso didn't have a terrible game overall, there's still things to fix if you're PRO.
No Kaká = No Creativity
Only hours before the game, it was announced that team captain Kaká would miss the game and possibly others with a thigh strain. This forced Brek Shea, who spent most of preseason as a fullback, up to the attacking midfield and put Luke Boden behind him. The lack of creativity in the final third was evident without Kaká being on the pitch and, despite the 14 shots on goal, Orlando had to rely on two very late goals just to pull out the draw. Heath said in his post-game presser that Kaká had a "tear" but did mention that he may be involved in the game coming up this Friday against Chicago.
Result Hides the Issues
While the team pulled out a miraculous result, there's still some problems that the Lions need to work on before this Friday. Communication on the back line was an issue on RSL's second goal, coming from poor marking from Rafael Ramos. The lack of a finishing touch from the strike force of Shea, Larin, and Molino, despite multiple opportunities. Capitalizing on chances, like the 12 corner kicks or the 1-on-1 chances against Nick Rimando, which need to find the back of the net. Expect Adrian Heath to make these things a point in training all this coming week.
Props To The Fans
It's tough to convince fans to come to a game against Real Salt Lake, one of the worst teams in the West last year. Even harder is to try to sell out the Citrus Bowl. Somehow, Orlando City and the fans were able to pack the house yesterday and brought energy in the stands when there was not much on the field. Despite a few thousand leaving before the miracle happened, the support was effective for the boys on the field and helped them push through to the end. Both Heath and Shea pointed out after the game that the fans kept them going even during the toughest moments of the match, when there was precious little to cheer about.
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Well, that's one game down. Now on to Chicago on Friday.