Orlando City nearly had a big three points that would’ve had the Lions tied for second in the East, but couldn’t hold onto a 2-0 lead in the final 10 minutes. The 2-2 draw with the New England Revolution is another disappointment as the 2021 MLS regular season winds down.
Here are my five takeaways from the game.
Orlando City Must Take Advantage of First-Half Chances
The Lions have dominated the first half in the last two games against Montreal and New England but have only had a single goal in each match to show for it. They could’ve put the game away in both matches before the break, but have gone into the locker room with only a 1-0 lead.
Had the Lions scored multiple goals in their dominating first-half performances, they likely would’ve come away with six points instead of two. Instead, the team left both games with disappointing draws.
Much Better Second-Half Start
While the draw against New England was disappointing, there were some positives to take away. After dominating CF Montreal in the first half Wednesday night, the Lions came out of halftime flat, as they did in the previous match against Cincinnati. Montreal dominated the first 15 minutes of the second period and the Lions were fortunate not to be down a goal.
The team had a similar first half against New England but came out much better after the break. The Revolution had some chances, but didn’t control the game the way Montreal did. While some of that might’ve been New England’s weakened team — though the Revs did sub on Designated Players Carles Gil and Adam Buksa at the half — Orlando City looked much more lively than its previous two games at the start of the second period.
Daryl Dike Continues to Prove Himself as Penalty Taker
Orlando City has had trouble finding a reliable penalty taker the last couple of years. Nani was the go-to player until recently, but has missed multiple big penalties. However, recently Daryl Dike has been the guy to take spot kicks.
After a strong conversion against Nashville, Dike stepped up to the spot again against New England. He seemed hesitant as the ball initially passed from Chris Mueller to Mauricio Pereyra, but it eventually ended up with the big striker. It was a perfect penalty into the corner, once again proving that Dike should take all of Orlando City’s penalties.
New England Subs Made a Difference
The New England Revolution came into this game with a rotated team after clinching the Supporters Shield Saturday night. Gustavo Bou, Tajon Buchanan, DeJuan Jones, Adam Buksa, and Carles Gil all started on the bench. However, the five players came on in the second half and made a difference.
The game changed in the 64th minute when Buchanan, Jones, and Bou all entered. After taking some time to get into the game, New England started to take control. Buksa ended up with a brace and was close to a hat trick inside the last 10 minutes. The assists also came from the subs, with Bou, Jones, and Gil recording one each.
What we can take away from this is that Orlando City should’ve taken advantage of the weakened starting lineup, as the Revs’ regular lineup is likely the best in the league. If the Lions end up finishing fourth or fifth, that could be important as they would have to travel to New England should they advance to the conference semifinals.
Nani Ends Goal Drought
For Orlando City to be at its best, team captain and Designated Player Nani must be a threat. He was one on Sunday night, scoring the Lions’ first goal off a cross by Joao Moutinho. That header was Nani’s first goal after 10 matches without one dating back to Aug. 7 against FC Cincinnati — more than two months ago. He also drew the penalty that allowed Dike to score the second goal. He made two key passes and sent some dangerous crosses into the area, often having his way down the left side against AJ DeLaGarza.
In the past two seasons, Nani’s production has dropped down the season’s final stretch. That is understandable to some extent. In 2019, he was completing his second consecutive season without a break. Last year, there was significant fixture congestion after the pandemic stoppage as MLS crammed in a condensed season from the summer onward.
Still, the criticism of his fading down the stretch is rooted in fact. If Nani can finish the 2021 season strong after tonight’s performance and continue to help the Lions score goals, Orlando City is more likely to clinch its second straight playoff appearance.
That’s what I took away from Orlando City’s 2-2 draw with the New England Revolution. Let us know what stood out to you in the comments below.