Orlando City’s playoff chances are either dead or the vital signs are so faint as to be undetectable after a 3-3 draw against the sixth-place New England Revolution. The Lions (7-14-2, 23 points) rallied from 2-0 and 3-2 deficit against the Revs (7-7-8, 29 points) as Orlando City remains unbeaten at home against New England (2-0-3).
Dom Dwyer and a Matt Turner own goal got the Lions back into the game after sloppy play allowed Juan Agudelo and Cristian Penilla to stake the Revs to an early lead, but a back line that leaked all night did so one too many times, allowing second-half sub Teal Bunbury to put the Revs back on top. Scott Sutter got the last word with a header goal off a set piece in the third minute of stoppage time to pull Orlando level.
“Obviously delighted to get a point, especially so late in the game,” Head Coach James O’Connor said after the match. “Massive, massive thank you to the supporters tonight because I think they really helped us to come back in the game and get that point.”
O’Connor made only one change from the lineup that lost at the Galaxy last weekend, subbing out Chris Schuler in central defense for Shane O’Neill, who returned from his red card suspension.
Although Orlando City looked sharp from the opening whistle, it was New England that scored early off a routine play. Just a regular throw-in was flicked softly toward goal by Juan Agudelo and somehow Earl Edwards Jr. completely whiffed on keeping it out. It was by far the softest goal Edwards has allowed in his MLS career and one that he’ll definitely want back.
After the goal, the Lions became too deliberate and even though they held some possession, they weren’t very threatening. New England, meanwhile, was content to allow possession and press for opportunities. Edwards was forced to come off his line and make a big save on Diego Fagundez in the 16th after the latter split the defense with a good run and Cristian Penilla found him with the pass.
New England doubled the lead in the 19th minute when Scott Sutter opted to play a square ball to a well-covered Shane O’Neill instead of trying to turn or passing back to Edwards. O’Neill had virtually no chance as Caicedo arrived at the same time as the ball. He poked it away and it allowed Penilla to break in and scored uncontested on Edwards to make it 2-0.
Fagundez had a chance to make it 3-0 in the 23rd minute, dancing past the Orlando back line and firing a shot that Edwards saved.
City tried to regroup thereafter and got a few opportunities. In the 25th minute a Yoshimar Yotún free kick found O’Neill but his header went just wide of the net. Two minutes later, Dwyer got in behind the defense but tried to go near post and Matt Turner made the save. PC got into the area in the 29th minute but his shot was blocked by the defense.
Those missed opportunities looked like they’d immediately bite the Lions as the Revs shredded the back line again in the 30th minute and Scott Caldwell got around Edwards but saw Amro Tarek save his effort off the line at the last second.
Six minutes later, Edwards had a second major mistake in the game, passing the ball directly to Fagundez but Cristian Higuita tracked back and somehow dispossessed the Revolution attacker without conceding a penalty.
Sacha Kljestan went down on an ugly challenge from behind by Brandon Bye in the 37th minute. Bye was booked for the infraction but Kljestan had to sub out minutes later for Josué Colmán.
Just before the break the Lions pulled a goal back. Yotún sent Tony Rocha up the left flank and Rocha’s cross picked out Dwyer in front of goal. Dom played it first time and sent it over Turner to make it 2-1 in the 45th minute for his 10th goal of the season.
“It was huge,” O’Connor said of the timely goal. “Really well played ball for him from Tony but I think Dom’s finish is excellent and that gave us a lot of hope.”
“It gave us a little bit of confidence knowing we only needed one goal and we were right back in it,” Rocha said.
Shots were even at the end of the first half at 6-6 (5-2 on target for New England). The Lions held 72% possession and held a passing percentage advantage (86%-69%).
“We really felt at halftime that we could go on and win the game,” said O’Connor.
Orlando City came out aggressively after the break and earned the first decent look at goal. Higuita found Rocha in the box and the midfielder turned and fired just wide, hitting the outside netting in the 51st minute. Six minutes later, Dwyer forced a diving save from Turner on a shot through traffic. A minute later, Colmán fired a shot into the the box that Turner spilled but it fell just a bit wide for Dwyer to get onto it and slam home.
New England continued to try countering whenever possible, with Fagundez fizzing a shot just over the bar in the 61st.
Orlando nearly sprung Dwyer in behind in the 66th minute but the flag went up on a very close play and the whistle blew. You’d expect the assistant referee to keep the flag down on close plays these days and let video review sort out any problems but in this case the flag went up right away despite replay showing the play was extremely close.
Penilla fired a shot through traffic off a corner kick in the 69th minute that took a deflection but Edwards was able to track it through the forest of players and make a diving save.
The Lions finally leveled the game in the 71st minute. Yotún delivered a free kick into the box that Tarek headed off the left post. The ball skipped back across the front of goal and Turner knocked it into the net with his hand. The goal was given to Tarek with an assist to Yotún but it’s hard to imagine it won’t be changed to an own goal. If it sticks, it’ll be Tarek’s first MLS goal.
With the game tied, Brad Friedel sent Bunbury into the game for Caldwell in the 74th minute and the move paid dividends almost immediately. Bunbury got on the ball on the right side and roasted Tarek, getting in behind and slotting in the Revs’ third goal of the night in the 76th minute.
“It has to stop,” O’Connor said about the defensive issues of his team, which has given up seven goals in two matches. “You can’t score three goals again and we get a tie this week. You have to stop. You can’t give goals away like that. We’re 2-0 down in the blink of an eye. When you’re giving up the goals that we are giving up — it’s not like teams are having to work for the goals. I’m waiting for a game where a team is so generous and gives us the type of goals that we’re giving teams, and I look forward to when that happens.”
Two minutes later, Penilla rang one off the crossbar as he nearly put the game to bed. The Lions looked a bit shook after the third New England goal and it nearly cost them a fourth. It turned out to be a costly miss for Penilla.
The Revs kept looking more likely to score a fourth than Orlando to score a third, earning another quick corner kick after Penilla’s miss. Agudelo shot wide in the 83rd minute as New England tried to put the game away.
But the Lions stuck around and regained their composure. Yotún found Stefano Pinho in the 89th minute but the Brazilian headed it well over the bar. Four minutes of stoppage time loomed for Orlando to take something from the game.
The Lions left it late, but the goal finally came in the 93rd minute. Pinho earned a set piece out to the right and Yotún once again provided superb delivery, finding Sutter for the game-tying header. It honestly looked like a stoppable shot for Turner but he made a mess of it and it found the net to make it 3-3.
“It’s good that we got a point so late,” Sutter said. “Obviously we’re all disappointed because we wanted more from the game.”
On the restart after the goal, Dwyer was booked for a foul away from the ball — one of several fouls away from the ball on the night (making one wonder if Hilario Grajeda would have seen fouls actually on the ball) — and a fracas broke out at midfield. In the wake of a lot of pushing and shoving, Grajeda went to video review and sent off Yotún, who appeared to shove Jalil Anibaba. The replay doesn’t show much, but Yotún will miss next week’s match at D.C. as a result of the decision.
One would hope Grajeda had a different angle than that on which to base such a decision.
After it was all sorted out, neither team got a look at goal and the game finished knotted up at three apiece.
The Lions finished with 65% of the possession but were out-shot 14-13 (7-6 on target). Orlando held an 84%-73% edge in passing accuracy.
“I think the movement was very good. Tonight I thought Yoshi’s delivery was excellent,” O’Connor said. “I think we can still play better than that. We need to be braver...You score six goals in two games and you pick up a point?”
- Higuita made his 87th appearance for Orlando City to pass Cyle Larin for the most in the club’s MLS history.
- O’Connor said after the match that Kljestan will be evaluated after getting his knee and ankle rolled up on the harsh challenge by Bye.
- O’Connor also said Yotún was a question mark for the second half after getting fouled several times in the first half.
- The Lions committed only 11 fouls but saw three yellow cards and a red, while New England committed 23 fouls and saw only one yellow.
The Lions visit D.C. United at Audi Field next Sunday at 8 p.m.