Resiliency. It’s a word that epitomizes Orlando City’s most recent performance against the Chicago Fire after a 26th-minute red card to Rafael Ramos and a 66th-minute red card to Antonio Nocerino forced the Lions to dig deep and defend for their lives for almost 70 minutes of action.
"When you feel like everything is against you, it kind of rallies you in a way and unites you,” Orlando City’s Will Johnson said after the match. “So our group understood. We work on that in training; we have worked on that in training numbers down and what that exercise is and how we manage that. We were prepared well. Like I said, you feel united and the support of the fans was also pretty special. They understood the situation and how big that point was going to be and they pushed us towards it."
Johnson was one of the rallying forces behind the team after Ramos received his marching orders from Ted Unkel, which people very much questioned on social media. Not only did he shift back to Ramos’ fullback spot on the pitch for the rest of the first half, but he made an instant impact on the back line. After moving back to midfield after halftime, he again did an incredible job defensively to help hold the line for Orlando.
“Again, asking him to switch positions, he hasn’t played right back for a very long time now,” Head Coach Jason Kreis said on Johnson’s performance. “He just went in there and as you said, he did anything and everything that it took tonight to lead this team to a result. He wasn’t the only one. I think everybody that played in this match tonight showed what they’re willing to give to this team and to this community and this club.”
This was very much a game in which, despite the adversity, the team showed an unwillingness to break and a resolve that it had been lacking a bit during the recent six-match winless run that ended last week. Having a whole team defensive performance like the one against Chicago could be just what the team needs as it heads into the summer schedule.
The togetherness that Kreis is always talking about with his team was the most evident on Sunday. Defending together as a team, weathering the onslaught of Chicago’s attack, and somehow grinding out a point from the unlikeliest of circumstances can truly bolster this team mentally after a rough month of May.
“We’ve had our struggles over the last month defensively and the fact that we can defend with only eight field players for as long as we did against a full squad shows that we’re capable of defending if we’re all committed to doing it,” Kreis said. “I hope that’s the biggest takeaway tonight is that we have a real renewed resolve about what we’re trying to do and how we’re trying to do it.”