Back in the days when the team played at Camping World Stadium, the men in purple had a Week 6 match-up against the New England Revolution. The Lions had won two, drawn two, and lost one on the young season, and were looking to rebound from a 2-1 loss to the Philadelphia Union the previous week.
The good guys trotted out a lineup that saw Joe Bendik start in goal, with Kevin Alston, Tommy Redding, Seb Hines, and Brek Shea on the back line; Darwin Ceren and Antonio Nocerino in the holding midfield positions; Adrian Winter, Kaká, and Carlos Rivas in the attacking midfield; and Julio Baptista leading the line.
Things got off to a rather quick start. Je-Vaughn Watson fouled Julio Baptista in the penalty area and Baldomero Toledo (more on him later) rightly pointed to the spot. Kaká stepped up and calmly fired the ball down the middle to give Orlando a 1-0 lead in only the second minute of play.
The Lions might have been able to double their advantage before a quarter of an hour had been played, but Rivas was brought down by Gershon Koffie, snuffing out a promising counter attack and resulting in a yellow card for the offender. Rivas, Kaká, and Ceren all had attempts either off target or saved in the following minutes, and Orlando’s profligacy in front of goal came back to bite the team in a bad way.
On 37 minutes, Chris Tierney managed to get down the left flank and put a cross into the box. Koffie got his head to it and, while he didn’t direct the ball towards goal, it did fall right at Teal Bunbury’s feet, who made no mistake in smashing it home into the roof of the net.
It very easily could have gotten worse for the Lions shortly after, and only a smart play from Hines to drop back and make a goal line clearance prevented the Revolution from taking the lead. Thanks in large part to his intervention, the teams went into the half tied at 1-1.
Aside from a deluge of Revolution corners, things were markedly quieter in the opening minutes of the second half. The biggest problem for the Lions was turnovers. Several players on the team (looking at you, Nocerino) seemed determined to either pass or give the ball away to their opponents, and the team’s passing accuracy of 65% in the attacking half was...not good. The most consistent thing about much of the second half was the physical nature of the game — the teams committed 27 fouls between them and the game was lacking a cohesive rhythm because of them.
Things started to go better for Orlando after Adrian Heath brought on Cyle Larin and Kevin Molino in the 61st minute, Larin nearly scored three minutes after coming on, and Kaká in particular was finding a lot of joy down the left wing. Still, after several attempts from guys wearing purple shirts were either blocked or saved, it started to look more and more like the game was destined to end 1-1. Then, on 92 minutes, with two of the three minutes of added time played, all sorts of hell broke loose.
First, an Orlando long throw from the right wing found Molino in the box. The Trinidadian brought the ball down and fired it home. There was plenty of controversy about the presumptive winner, as the ball certainly touched his arm on the way down. While it wasn’t the most egregious non-call I’ve ever seen, I wouldn’t have felt too aggrieved had a handball been given.
A mere minute later, Lee Nguyen made to cross the ball into the box, and it struck Servando Carrasco around what appeared to be the outer part of his collarbone. Unfortunately, our old friend(?) Baldomero went to his whistle and pointed to the spot. Most Orlando fans (rather fairly) seemed to feel that this was quite the miscarriage of justice, and the phrase “makeup call” was bandied about more than hangover cures on New Year’s Day. You can hear what the broadcasters thought of Baldomero’s decision on this clip:
Still, what’s done was done. Nguyen slotted home the resulting spot kick, and the game finished in a 2-2 draw with a healthy portion of frustration for most parties involved.
The stats for the day read New England with 51% possession to Orlando’s 49%, the Revolution with 20 shots and six on target, the Lions with 15 shots and six on target, and 77% passing accuracy for the visitors compared to Orlando’s 74%. We here at The Mane Land awarded Kevin Molino the Man of the Match award with a grade of 8. Other high performers were Baptista’s 7.5 and Bendik, Hines, and Larin, who each received a 7. You can find the full player grades rundown here.
Well, that’ll do it for today. Hopefully this whole pandemic business doesn’t last too much longer, but if it does this probably isn’t the last one of these you’ll see. Be sure to let me know what you thought of it in the comments and feel free to share any of your memories from a deeply frustrating match. Until next time!