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Flashback Friday: Lions Rally for Late Draw vs. Revs

Let’s revisit a pulsating match during the Lions’ inaugural MLS season.

New England at Orlando City Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

Another week of no Orlando City games means another week of me diving into the archives and taking a look at an eventful match in the club’s history. Today we revisit a game that took place all the way back in the club’s inaugural Major League Soccer season. Let’s dive in.

The date was May 8, 2015 and Orlando City had a home game against the New England Revolution. It had been a bit of a rocky road for the Lions in their first season in the top flight of American soccer and after eight weeks of play the team’s record stood at two wins, four losses, and two draws. With Orlando returning to the Citrus Bowl against a Revolution side that was the reigning Eastern Conference champion and had just won three on the bounce, there was a sense that the men in purple would take whatever they could get.

The Lions trotted out a lineup with Donovan Ricketts in goal; a back line of Rafa Ramos, Aurelien Collin, Seb Hines, and Luke Boden; Darwin Ceren and Amobi Okugo in the defensive midfield; Eric Avila, Kaká, and Brek Shea in the attacking midfield; and Cyle Larin up top. New England meanwhile, had Bobby Shuttleworth in goal; Chris Tierney, Andrew Farrell, Jermaine Jones, and London Woodberry at the back; Scott Caldwell, Andy Dorman, Teal Bunbury, Juan Aguedelo, and Lee Nguyen in midfield; and Charlie Davies leading the line.

Things unfortunately did not start well for the good guys. Orlando was under quite a bit of pressure to start the game and very much on the back foot. The passing accuracy wasn’t there and the Lions struggled to get out of their own half. While the team was able to make it through the first quarter of an hour, disaster struck soon after. A loose touch in midfield from Okugo allowed Davies an attacking opportunity at the top of the 18-yard box. While Hines did reasonably well to shepherd him away from just barreling down main street, Davies simply took the ball to the right and blasted it low past Ricketts to give the Revs a 1-0 lead.

Things were largely quiet for the 15-20 minutes after the Davies goal. Each team had a couple chances and Orlando in particular failed to make the most of some good ones. The Lions settled well after conceding early, and started putting a lot of crosses into the Revolution box. Shea and Hines were both guilty of missing good headed chances, and —much like recent times — Orlando’s struggles in front of goal eventually came back to haunt the team. With that said, the men in purple made it to halftime without conceding further though, although a shot by Nguyen came very close to doubling the Revolution’s advantage.

At halftime Okugo was yanked in favor of Cristian Higuita, and while things were a bit disjointed for OCSC starting the second half, the team settled fairly quickly and really should have equalized a little over 10 minutes after the restart. On 56 minutes, Boden played a ball into the box to a completely unmarked Avila, and as long as the midfielder put the ball on frame it was probably 1-1 and game on. Unfortunately, his volley was too high and the chance went wanting.

Still, the team was showing some much-needed signs of life and Hines and Kaká both came close before the situation went from bad to worse for Orlando. With about 20 minutes left a long diagonal ball was played over the top of the defense, intended for Kelyn Rowe. Ramos looked well placed to head the ball away and deal with the danger, but instead the youngster tried to chest the ball back to Ricketts only for it to land right in the path of Rowe., who rounded Ricketts and put the ball in the back of the net to give the Revs a 2-0 lead.

Carlos Rivas subbed on for Avila in the 74th minute and things started to get very interesting shortly afterward. Following a throw-in in the attacking half, the ball found its way to Ramos, who put in an excellent cross that Larin sent into the back of the net via a thumping header. That meant Orlando had finally broken a 253 minute goalless streak and was also back in the game.

Bryan Rochez subbed on for Larin six minutes later and immediately had a shot that just rose over the bar. Things only heated up from there, with Orlando continuing to put threatening crosses into the box, but as the 90th minute arrived it didn’t look like the Lions would be able to put another one in the back of the net. Looks ended up being deceiving though, because Boden played a ball in from the left wing and Collin rose above his man and thundered a header against the crossbar which bounced down and into the net. OCSC was suddenly level at 2-2 and all three points were for the taking.

Collin had been pushing higher and higher up the pitch as time wound down and it seemed like merely an attacking tactic by Adrian Heath. In truth, Collin was freelancing and making his coach nervous, but it paid off in the end.

“I have to be honest at one stage I wasn’t too pleased. That’s the way Aurélien is, he wears his heart on his sleeves. He decided he wanted to go up there and try to make something happen. At 2-1, desperate measures and desperate actions,” Heath said. “All in all I want him to play center half, not center-forward but I can understand it.”

However, the game ended with the scoreline at 2-2. While a winner would have been nice, a point was hard to argue with after gift-wrapping two goals to the Revolution at home, and the result both prevented a three-game losing streak and broke a goalless streak. We here at The Mane Land named Collin the Man of the Match with a rating of 8, while Boden received a 7.5 and Ceren and Larin each received a 7. You can also find our site’s recap here.

That’ll do it for this week’s look into the past. Hopefully we’ll be able to talk about some current games soon! In the meantime be sure to leave any memories of this particular match in the comments, and I’ll see you again soon.