What was seconds away from being a storybook ending and a welcome celebration for a community badly in need of one turned into just another game, and just another draw. The Lions remain unbeaten at home but that will be little consolation after a 2-2 draw against a San Jose Earthquakes team that hadn't scored a goal in its last three competitive matches.
And the fact that both of those goals came in 85th minute or later, and both followed Orlando City goals won't make anyone feel any better about it. It's two more dropped points in a season filled with them. And this one hurts more than most because the city of Orlando was a few mere ticks away from happiness.
"Obviously bitterly disappointed with the way that it's finished," Head Coach Adrian Heath said after the match. "I don't think I ever wanted to win a game of football more in my life than tonight for the obvious reasons. The players are absolutely distraught in there and I feel for them. They worked really, really hard."
A huge, emotional Camping World Stadium crowd of 37,194 saw a 94th-minute goal from Shea Salinas ruin what was nearly a much-needed win -- the club's MLS-leading eighth. Orlando City and San Jose have met twice and neither game produced a winner.
Orlando City players collapsed in frustration and exhaustion as referee Robert Sibiga blew the whistle for full time just seconds after Salinas had equalized in the fourth of what was to be at least three minutes of stoppage time. It came minutes after Julio Baptista scored what could have been the goal of the season and one of the biggest in Orlando City history -- for non-soccer reasons.
The night began with a huge ovation for the first responders and an emotional National Anthem, sung by a crowd that somehow managed to stripe the stadium in rainbow colors with just a few days notice. The Pulse shooting victims' names were displayed on the giant video screen and advertising boards. And then there was a soccer game.
All four goals were scored in the second half as Orlando City (3-3-8) and San Jose (5-4-6) traded salvos at the death of a hard-fought game that neither side wanted to lose.
The action picked up after a scoreless first half. Shortly after the restart, Victor Bernardez and Seb Hines picked up separate bookings. The latter set up a moment of silence in the 49th minute (actually in the 50th) for the victims of the Pulse nightclub tragedy. Hines will miss next weekend's match against Toronto FC due to yellow card accumulation.
Nothing came of the free kick, and moments later, Cyle Larin was in alone on goal down the right side of the box, but his shot hit a sliding David Bingham in the 52nd minute. One minute later, Kevin Molino was nearly in on goal alone off a great entry ball from Adrian Winter but the Trinidadian's first touch was a tad heavy and the Earthquakes' keeper collected.
In the 56th minute, Orlando fashioned two chances. Off a corner scramble, Servando Carrasco's volley was stopped by a diving Bingham. Seconds later, Kevin Alston tried his luck from distance but didn't get enough power on his drive and Bingham comfortably collected.
The Earthquakes then put Simon Dawkins in on goal but Joe Bendik made a big save in the 61st minute. Before the throw-in, San Jose brought on Shea Salinas for Alberto Quintero and Adrian Heath countered with Julio Baptista, withdrawing Luke Boden and moving Brek Shea to left back.
Moments later, Cyle Larin earned a corner with his hustle to force Bernardez into an error at the end line. Hines sent a header toward goal on the scramble that Bingham tipped over for a second corner. Hines did better with his second bite of the apple, driving a powerful header just under the bar off Winter's inch-perfect corner cross, giving the Lions a 1-0 lead in the 66th minute.
Immediately after the goal, the Earthquakes got on the front foot. Bendik was forced into a diving save on a shot that changed directions in the 68th. Salinas was left wide open at the back post on a corner and knocked his header just over in the 72nd.
Larin nearly got in alone on Bingham in the 74th but appeared to be held, although the referee had a good look and no foul was given, and the goalkeeper reached the ball first as a result. Orlando again created a chance to put the game away with a Molino breakaway in the 83rd but a perfect saving tackle from behind by Marvell Wynne barely poked the ball off of his foot to deny the opportunity.
San Jose Head Coach Dominic Kinnear praised the play as a big moment in the game.
"One thing we know about Marvell is that he's really fast," said Kinnear. "For Marvell to make up the ground and put pressure on him to put him into not getting a goal, that's huge. Because at two-nothing the climb is a little bigger than it was for one-nothing. Sometimes Marvell's last-ditch defending is excellent and it was really important for us at that particular time."
There's no understating the play by Wynne, because two minutes later, second-half sub Chad Barrett tied the score with a header. Salinas ran inside of Barrett, confusing the defense and leaving Tommy Redding with two attacking players to defend on a cross. The cross fell perfectly onto Barrett's head for the goal.
Just when the game appeared headed to a 1-1 draw, Heath brought on Carlos Rivas and the Colombian helped deliver a magic moment. Rivas sent in a perfect cross for Baptista and Molino that the Brazilian chested. He let the ball take a bounce to gather himself and then volleyed spectacularly with power through Bingham to send the crowd into a frenzy in the 91st minute.
It should have been the game winner. It almost was.
But the euphoria wasn't to last. Salinas then broke hearts in the fourth minute of injury time when Carrasco's clearing attempt bounced right to the San Jose attacker for the tying goal.
"We got done in by a little bit of lack of concentration on a couple of occasions," Heath said. "But I thought we'd done enough to win the game."
After the midweek U.S. Open Cup match at Jacksonville, Adrian Heath opened with a back four of Luke Boden, Hines, Redding and Alston, meaning three of the four defenders were playing their second game in four days. Cristian Higuita returned from his yellow card suspension to line up with Carrasco in the defensive midfield, with an attacking midfield of (left to right) Brek Shea, Molino, and Winter beneath lone striker Larin in the 4-2-3-1.
San Jose countered with the traditional 4-4-2.
The Lions fashioned the game's first good scoring chance when Kevin Molino earned an early free kick. Servando Carrasco fizzed the free kick just over the bar from about 20 yards out.
Two minutes later, Kevin Molino coughed up the ball and conceded a kick from the right wing, which was sent in by Matias Perez Garcia, but it was nodded well wide by Quincy Amarikwa. San Jose came close again three minutes after that when Amarikwa's cross slipped momentarily out of Joe Bendik's hands but the keeper recovered before the Quakes could pounce.
In the 13th, Molino had a free header at the back post off a Luke Boden corner but seemed to misplay the ball and it sailed harmlessly wide. Carrasco's try from above the box in the 15th minute sailed as well.
Simon Dawkins found pockets of space throughout the opening half and had San Jose's best chance of the first period when Garcia found him in the middle of the box. Dawkins sent a one-time shot just inches wide of the right post in the 21st minute.
Molino had an eventful first half, getting a shot blocked in the 27th minute after Brek Shea's long ball fell for Cyle Larin but the Canadian had a defender draped on his back and laid off for the Trinidadian.
Seb Hines should have done better with a free header off a Boden corner in the 31st but his shot was over despite a lack of pressure from any Earthquakes player. Five minutes later, Shea sent Adrian Winter in on goalkeeper David Bingham but the Swiss winger's shot sailed well high of the target.
Molino then earned yellow cards on counter attacks against San Jose's Shaun Francis and Fatai Alashe in a two-minute span in the 37th and 39th minutes but Orlando couldn't take advantage of the free kicks from distance.
San Jose fashioned the last good chance of the opening 45 minutes off a Garcia free kick that found its way to Alberto Quintero above the box. The Panamanian sent his volley over Joe Bendik's goal and the teams went to the locker room with a 0-0 stalemate.
"It's been a difficult evening for everything," Heath said after the game. "The mood in the stadium and even the music that was playing. Everything was a little bit different. Probably for me it was the most emotional evening I've had in football."
Now Orlando City will need to regroup for Toronto next week. The Lions haven't done well against the Reds so far in MLS and it's unknown if either Kaká (thigh) or Darwin Ceren (ankle) will be back. Rafael Ramos did return to the bench tonight and may have come on had there been a stoppage before the Barrett goal. But once that happened, Heath opted to put Rivas on to try for the win. It almost worked.