We’ll never really know what might have happened if card-happy Ted Unkel wouldn’t have sent Rafael Ramos off barely 25 minutes into last night’s match between Orlando City and the Chicago Fire. Neither team was really getting much in the way of clear-cut chances in the early, feeling-out process of the game. Chicago may have had the better start possession-wise, but there were some warning bells the other direction as well, with Carlos Rivas finding space in the attacking third.
But the card came out for Ramos in the first half and Antonio Nocerino after halftime, and the Lions were forced to defend resolutely to earn the best 0-0 draw a team can reasonably expect. Orlando City stayed organized and vigilant and forced the Fire to try to break down the defense through patience and creativity, and Chicago mustered plenty of the former but precious little of the latter.
Still, up two men, you’d reasonably expect a team to find a breakthrough just by sheer relentlessness, but aside from a couple of kind crossbars in stoppage time, Joe Bendik’s night in goal was reasonably comfortable, thanks to the efforts of (left to right) PC, Leo Pereira, Jonathan Spector, and Scott Sutter. And let’s not forget Cristian Higuita, Will Johnson, Nocerino (prior to his red card), Cyle Larin, Kaká, Servando Carrasco, Rivas, and Giles Barnes. Everyone contributed and it was awesome to see a group of players show such commitment to one another and a crowd of supporters who would not abandon the team when the prospects of a result seemed hopeless.
We hope these images convey some of the emotion inside Orlando City Stadium for what was potentially a key moment that the Lions can build on as they move forward through the 2017 season. Please enjoy our photo gallery from the match.