If Orlando City still has any realistic shot at making the playoffs this season, those chances have slimmed out quite a bit.
After falling behind a goal in the first half, the Lions fought back to earn a point thanks to a 67th-minute equalizer by Giles Barnes, as Orlando City drew the Columbus Crew, 1-1, in front of another sold-out crowd of 25,527 at Orlando City Stadium, as the Lions fell to 0-9-2 this season when conceding first.
“From my point of view it’s a result that we didn’t want, of course,” Head Coach Jason Kreis said after the match. “We wanted three points in the worst possible way, but the performance was very good. Frankly, I think we deserved to win this game.”
Without Kaká, who started in The Wall and played drums with the fans during the first half, Orlando City (8-10-7, 31 points) held advantages in possession (55.3 percent), passing (85 percent), and shots (20 total, seven on target), but couldn’t put away enough chances to take down a Crew side (11-12-3, 36 points) that now has just one win in their last nine matches away from home.
Lalas Abubakar silenced the home supporters in the 35th minute when he finished off a free kick service from Waylon Francis to make it a 1-0 game.
For Orlando City, it was the same story on a different night. The opportunities were there, and the Lions kept pressing forward and getting the ball into dangerous spaces, but they just couldn’t put away any of their chances.
In the ninth minute, Barnes got his head on a free kick and flicked it wide. Carlos Rivas skipped a free kick into Zack Steffen in the 17th minute; Barnes collected the rebound in the box and fired another shot high and wide. Rivas finished with three shots, Barnes had five, and Dom Dwyer, who came on as a sub in the 63rd minute for Antonio Nocerino, rattled off three of his own, almost immediately providing a jolt of energy into both the team and the stadium.
“We added Dom, obviously, to help this team now, but he’s a long-term solution as well,” Kreis said. “He brought some fantastic energy tonight, took two really good strikes that the goalkeeper made saves on, and you can see that when he brings that kind of energy it can really help our group.”
Four minutes after Dwyer, face mask and all, came on, Barnes scored the equalizing goal. Cristian Higuita, who came on in the 32nd minute for an injured Will Johnson, found Barnes with a through ball in the box and the Jamaican forward hit a shot that bounced off of both posts before landing in the goal.
Columbus was knocked down to 10-men in the 77th minute after Harrison Afful threw an elbow into the face of Yoshimar Yotun after charging in from behind for a ball. The referee didn’t make an immediate decision, and after a few moments of deliberation with the Video Assistant Referee, looked at video review to confirm the call, showing Afful a straight red for the foul.
But even with the man advantage, Orlando couldn’t find the go-ahead goal.
Dwyer was repeatedly throwing himself at goal as the Lions continued to pressure the bunkering Columbus defense, and Barnes had himself an opportunity but headed a cross right into Steffen.
Time is running out for Orlando, which now has nine games left this season and welcomes the Vancouver Whitecaps to town next Saturday before going on the road for a grueling four-game trip.
“I still think this group is good enough. Everybody else out there can believe that we’re dead, but we’re not,” Kreis said. “We don’t believe that we’re dead. We think that we still have every chance to push forward and reach our objective.”