It certainly wasn’t the result Orlando City needed in a crucial match against the New England Revolution, but the Lions put up a strong fight and gave the home fans plenty of excitement. It was my first MLS game this season after making the trek from Tampa and my throat is sore from screaming in probably one of the most fun games I’ve ever been to.
But that’s enough about me, let’s get to everything we learned from the 3-3 draw and what it means for Orlando moving forward.
Lions’ Fate Out of Their Claws
Orlando City desperately needed a win to help close the gap in the playoff race and the team is still four points out from the final playoff spot with only three games remaining. Although not officially eliminated from contention, the Lions no longer control their own destiny and will need plenty of results to swing their way on top of winning all remaining games. The rest of the schedule is relatively easy for Orlando, but the Revolution only need six points from four remaining games to keep the Lions out of the postseason yet again. Even if the Revolution struggle — a real possibility with Real Salt Lake, the Portland Timbers, New York City FC, and Atlanta United in their way — the Montreal Impact and Chicago Fire can still do well enough to stay ahead of Orlando on the table.
Orlando’s Offense Shows Its Fangs
The Lions fielded possibly their best offensive unit possible with Tesho Akindele, Dom Dwyer, Nani, and Mauricio Pereyra all starting in the match. The group did well together, putting up three goals for the first time since early June and the offense was a threat all night long. Pereyra had an assist in his return to the lineup, Dwyer became the club’s all-time leading goal scorer after netting his 45th goal (USL and MLS combined) in his 50th MLS start for Orlando, and Nani had a brace and an assist. After scoring five goals in the last two games, it does feel like the attack is coming together too little too late for 2019, but the future looks bright for this team.
The Defense is Showing Cracks
On the other side of the coin, Orlando’s defense struggled in the match and allowed three goals in one half. The Lions have now allowed eight goals in three games, a surprising trend considering this defense is one shutout away from setting a club record of eight in a season. Sure, one goal was an own goal and another was a strange chip that found its way into the net, but it was far from Brian Rowe’s, Robin Jansson’s, or Lamine Sané’s best performances. It’s nice seeing Jannson and Sané starting as a pair yet again but things need to improve in the remaining games to help get the defense straightened out before 2020.
Nani is a Bona fide Designated Player
Nani’s performance last night gave Orlando City fans a taste of what a true Designated Player can bring to a team. The 32-year-old connected with a corner kick to give the Lions their first goal of the night, delivered the cross on Dwyer’s goal to help kick start the offense after halftime, and then scored his best goal in MLS so far with the equalizer. It was his third brace in MLS and he is primed to be the first Orlando City player to lead the team in both goals (12) and assists (nine), having already broken the team’s record for goals plus assists in one season.
Orlando Will Not Go Quietly Into the Night
With only one home game left, the Lions will not have a winning home record for the second straight season. Maybe Exploria Stadium is cursed as the Lions were dominant at home in their first three matches, but this team has a bad habit of folding over and dying when trailing as it has only won twice this season when going down early.
After the Revs scored their third goal in the 41st minute to go up 3-1 before the half, that suffocating feeling that Orlando was already down for the count took hold. Instead, the Lions roared back into the match with two goals within 10 minutes and it genuinely felt like they could pull off a thrilling comeback. They nearly did multiple times but couldn’t get the ball in the net. Regardless, it was nice seeing the Lions fight for their lives last night and hopefully they will show that same fight in the last three games to give Orlando fans some joy from a tough season.
It was a disappointing result, but the Lions gave a convincing performance even though the playoffs are likely out of reach. It’s not time to turn attention to the next season, but there is plenty to look forward from in the future.
What did you take away from the match? Did the result only leave you frustrated or were there some positive things you saw in the high-scoring affair? Let us know in the comments below and make sure to check back for more Orlando soccer coverage. Vamos Orlando!