It was ugly. It was forgettable. And it was a vital point that moved Orlando City (5-6-13, 28 points) into playoff position for the first time in months.
The Lions grinded out a 0-0 draw against the Colorado Rapids (11-3-10, 43 points) in a physical match at Dick's Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, CO. The Rapids had the better chances all night, but forced Joe Bendik to make just one save as Orlando City impressed on defense.
Neither team was able to register much on offense in the early going. Cyle Larin appeared to tweak something just minutes into the game and looked a step slow at times. Meanwhile, Mikey Ambrose played well in his first team debut, stepping in to fill Luke Boden's shoes at left back.
Orlando City controlled possession in the first half, thought the Rapids had several dangerous scoring opportunities. A couple enticing crosses failed to find their mark and the Lions were forced into some emergency defending as they managed to keep Colorado off the board.
Most of City's first half highlights took place on the defensive end, as the center back pairing of José Aja and David Mateos looked promising in their first start together.
Antonio Nocerino was able to find Brek Shea for a header in the box that would prove to be Orlando's best opportunity of the opening half hour. Shea had a couple opportunities to beat Howard, with another effort from 10 yards out easily smothered by his USMNT teammate.
Sebastian Le Toux managed to get in behind the Orlando City defense and chip one past Bendik just before halftime, but he was correctly ruled offside and both teams headed to the locker room without a goal.
Colorado began the second half on the front foot and started to force the issue offensively as the Rapids searched for a match winner. Shkëlzen Gashi nearly beat Joe Bendik to the far post, before his lofting ball was tipped off the post by Antonio Nocerino.
The 28-year-old Albanian was everywhere for the Rapids, coming off a Euros appearance and Golden Boot-winning season in the Swiss Super League. He teed up Kevin Doyle for a dangerous chance near the hour mark, which the Irish international sent just wide of Bendik's net.
Minutes later, Doyle was fouled by David Mateos on a breakaway outside the box, leaving the Dick's Sporting Goods Park crowd howling for a red card. But the Lions managed to weather the storm and began to ease themselves back into the scoreless affair with 15 minute left to play.
Kaká rifled a shot from distance and Cyle Larin found himself in on goal during Orlando's best offensive spell of the night. While neither opportunity forced Howard to make any World Cup-level heroics, the sustained attacking pressure gave the Lions a chance to breath. The Lions' last good chance came from second-half sub Tony Rocha, who ripped a shot just wide of the left post in the late stages.
Orlando City looked to be the more threatening side in the final minutes on the counter, but the Lions were content to kill the game off as they picked up another crucial road point under Jason Kreis. If the New York Red Bulls can knock off D.C. United in the Atlantic Cup tomorrow, then Orlando will stand alone in the Eastern Conference's final playoff spot.