Orlando City’s unbeaten streak reached double digits after a 0-0 draw with Atlanta United in Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Orlando’s roster was missing many of its usual faces, but the Lions were still able to bring a point back home. Goalkeepers Brian Rowe and Brad Guzan both came up with big saves for their teams to keep the game scoreless all night long. It was Orlando City’s third clean sheet of the season and also only the third time Orlando wasn’t able to put one in the back of the net.
These are the biggest takeaways from Orlando’s road performance.
Brian Rowe Fills In Nicely
In his first appearance for Orlando this year, Rowe was tasked with filling in for Pedro Gallese after his call-up to the Peruvian National Team. He did fairly well, coming up with a big save in the 18th minute to deny Miles Robinson’s header on a corner and then seeing the first half out after a dangerous counter attack. He came up big again in the 70th minute to make sure the Lions got a clean sheet.
There was some nervousness with his distribution and a scary moment with an errant pass from Robin Jansson in the second half, but it’s clear that Orlando won’t be in dire straits with Gallese gone.
The Depleted Roster Held Its Own
With so many players injured or on international duty during this congested slate of games, yesterday’s starting lineup only featured four players with more than 600 minutes this MLS regular season. Regardless, the squad played with the same confidence and tenacity as the usual starters. The Lions did well to challenge Atlanta United in the air and maintain the protagonist mindset Head Coach Oscar Pareja has worked hard to cultivate for the club. It wasn’t a spectacular performance by any means, but the Lions were far from passive in this one.
Different Lions, Same Kind of Hunting
Pareja has earned plenty of praise this season for his rotation of players this season and last night’s game was a good example why. Even though the lineup didn’t include the regulars, the game plan offensively didn’t change all too much. Right back Kyle Smith did well yet again, whipping dangerous crosses in to Daryl Dike and nearly leading to a goal if not for heroics from Guzan. Pareja has built the team like a machine with a clear way of attacking that allows him to plug in players without causing much disruption, as seen by Andres Perea’s strong outing in a role similar to the injured Mauricio Pereyra.
These tactics, paired with the injection of creative players like Nani and Chris Mueller in the second half, nearly let the Lions head back to Orlando with all three points. The Lions lacked a finishing touch, but did hit the woodwork twice and forced Guzan to make six saves.
The Defense Stands Strong
On paper, it’s hard to look at the past few results and think the Lions are missing three of their usual starters on the back line. Jansson, Rodrigo Schlegel, Kamal Miller, and Smith all did well to stop Atlanta from scoring and snapping their unbeaten streak. Atlanta’s current squad isn’t exactly an offensive powerhouse, but it’s never easy going on the road and then leaving with your head held high as a defense. Center backs Alex De John and Antonio Carlos both came on for fresher legs to prevent any second-half collapses like the last time the two teams met. It really feels like Orlando can put out a strong defensive performance no matter who is out there. Even as banged up as it is, the defense has still yet to allow multiple goals in a match during this 10-game run.
A Draw Now for More Later
Given the lineup, yesterday’s draw is absolutely a positive result for Orlando City. That’s not a knock against the players who started. Robinho and Joey DeZart both had good chances to score and Perea is really coming into his own as a Lion. But I strongly believe that if Orlando had its usual starters then it would have won the game. That almost seems crazy to think about considering it was a road trip to Atlanta, but that’s just how much things have changed this season under Pareja. Orlando is one of the best teams in the league and that shift in mentality can make draws feel like missed points for fans, especially considering Orlando could have placed first in MLS today if yesterday’s results went differently.
My point is that while being in a Supporters Shield race is exciting, don’t get too caught up in what could have been. The Lions may have dropped a spot to fourth in the Eastern Conference, but they carry this streak and a point on the road back to Exploria Stadium to take on the Columbus Crew this Saturday.
That’s what I gathered from last night’s draw. What about you? Let me know in the comments below about what stood out most to you.