It was a sterling effort from Orlando City on Sunday night as the club fought its way to a scoreless draw against the Chicago Fire. The Lions received two questionable red cards and were reduced to nine men for a majority of the second half. However, they were able to frustrate the Fire attack and earn a well-deserved point.
This was one of those matches supporters will remember all season long and was, thus far, one of the best defensive showings of the season.
Here are five takeaways from Sunday night’s match.
The fact that City earned a point from this match is incredible. The team was one man down since the 26th minute and two men down for the final 25 minutes. With the two clubs entering the match side-by-side in the Eastern Conference table, this match was significant.
The Fire were going to be a handful for City coming into this match offensively as they feature one of the top attacking units in Major League Soccer.
Nemanja Nikolic, the current MLS golden boot leader, was a player the Lions shut down in terms of quality chances. The Yugoslavian-born Hungarian international was limited to a few low percentage shots and was never really able to get in behind the defense like he has displayed at times this season.
As the match progressed, the Fire were forced to try their luck from outside the 18 but failed to hit the target. However, in the final 10 minutes of the match, City was fortunate that the crossbar kept out two potential game-winning goals.
The nine-man side did what it could to keep the match scoreless and the back line of Scott Sutter, Jonathan Spector, Léo Pereira, and Victor “PC” Giro did a fantastic job.
Both red cards could have easily been yellow cards or fouls with no cautions needed. The choice to send off both players by referee Ted Unkel was indeed controversial and shows the continued lack of consistency in referee performances in MLS.
Rafael Ramos’ challenge appeared to be accidental and did not warrant the sending off he received. Antonio Nocerino’s was certainly a late and potentially dangerous foul but did not appear to be intentionally malicious and, under the circumstances, a yellow could have easily sufficed, particularly after the harshness of the earlier Ramos red.
Will Johnson was Everywhere
Will Johnson was the Man of the Match, in this writer's opinion. He turned in a fantastic performance with his work rate. The midfielder got back and helped defensively while helping disrupt the Fire’s build-up play in the midfield. He continues to be a dynamite player for City.
Bendik Ties Career-High in Shutouts
Joe Bendik now has five clean sheets this season, which ties his career high that was set last season. With plenty of matches remaining this season, it seems like a sure bet that Bendik will set a new personal best that could be even reach beyond 10 shutouts if the Lions can continue to emphasize team defending.
The City goalkeeper did an excellent job communicating with his defenders on Sunday and played an integral role in the draw. Bendik finished with six saves on the night.
Those are the things that stood out to me. What did you see? Let us know in the comments section below.