All three points would have been the preferred result, especially based on the balance of play in the early going. NYCFC adjusted well though, and Orlando was probably missing a couple players that would have made all the difference in unlocking the Pigeons’ defense more than just the one time.
Orlando Started Well
The Lions began the game very well. Andres Perea was released inside of one minute of play, but could only fire his shot into the side netting. After that the Lions were pretty darn good for the opening half hour of the game. They controlled possession well, had several excellent passing sequences, and created several chances. The pressure paid off in the 18th minute when Chris Mueller was able to open the scoring with a very well taken header. Unfortunately, the Lions weren’t able to finish another. They weren’t able to create a ton of chances for the rest of the game but the ones they did get went wanting.
Ruan Impactful in Return
Ruan made his return to the starting lineup after not playing in OCSC’s last two matches, and he certainly made his presence felt, especially early. He completely skinned Gudmundur Thórarinsson on the right wing and put the ball perfectly on Mueller’s head for Orlando’s goal. While his offensive impact faded along with the rest of his teammates as the game went on, he displayed his incredible speed several times when tracking back and beating NYCFC players to dangerous balls. Kyle Smith was an able deputy in his absence, but the Brazilian just brings a different element to this team when he’s in the lineup, and that was on display last night.
Young Midfielders Show Well
Joey DeZart and Perea got the starts in the heart of midfield, and for the most part they played pretty well. In the first half hour they were especially good, working hard to disrupt NYCFC when the visitors had the ball, and being smart and tenacious in possession. Perea was especially good at pressing the Pigeons and caused several turnovers while DeZart used his larger frame to good effect when holding up the ball and maintaining possession during challenges by opposing players. They faded as the game went on, however, and the team’s play descended into general sloppiness. Still, they both looked like they belonged for the most part, and put in hard-working shifts.
Rowe’s Big Night
Brian Rowe...wow. He was the Man of the Match in this game, and it wasn’t particularly close. He made seven saves on the night, with three of them being of the spectacular variety. His stops in the 64th and 83rd minutes were simply as good as you’ll see, and on a night when Orlando was sloppy for the majority of the game the Lions needed him to come up big, he did. Rowe made his 100th start in Major League Soccer and he may have turned in his best performance in an Orlando shirt. Aside from his shot stopping he had safe hands when claiming crosses, commanded his box well, and distributed the ball well to his outfield players. He was absolutely excellent last night, and having a backup goalkeeper of his quality and professionalism is invaluable. I’ll be drinking many drinks in his honor.
Sloppy Night for Orlando
As mentioned before, Orlando was sloppy after starting the game well and it was the team’s undoing. After the initial half hour of mostly good play, it ranged from inconsistent to mediocre for the rest of the night. The passing became less crisp, Orlando was far less secure with the ball, and only managed two shots in the second half — a Nani free kick that was well saved by Sean Johnson, and a long-range effort from Kamal Miller. It’s true that the good guys were missing some important pieces in this game though.
In particular, Uri Rosell and Mauricio Pereyra likely would have been extremely helpful in maintaining possession, creating chances, and helping the overall fluidity of Orlando’s play. After NYCFC made adjustments during the first half hydration break, the Lions looked slightly bereft of ideas, and were simply unable to maintain their early level of play. Based on the opening 30 minutes this was a game the team should have won, and the manner in which the match ended up playing out was frustrating.
All in all though, a point is a point. The good guys’ unbeaten streak remains intact, and considering that Joao Moutinho, Rosell, Pereyra, Tesho Akindele, Benji Michel, Sebas Mendez, and Pedro Gallese were all unavailable, getting a point against one of the better teams in the East is ultimately a good thing. I’ll take the time again to spout off about how damn good Rowe was, but hopefully it won’t take a repeat performance from him to get a result against the New York Red Bulls on Sunday.