Colorado Rapids forward Dominique Badji (14) defends as Orlando City SC defender Amro Tarek (3) passes the ball in the second half at Dick's Sporting Goods Park. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
COMMERCE CITY, Colo. — At this point in the season, no one can accuse Orlando City of not being able to mount a comeback.
The Lions conceded first – after scoring first in back-to-back matches for the first time this season – but didn’t wilt in the face of pressure from the Colorado Rapids. A golazo from Cristian Higuita and a penalty kick from Yoshimar Yotún gave the Lions what they needed to leave Colorado with three points as Orlando City downed the Rapids 2-1 on Sunday in front of an announced crowd of 15,702.
Higuita’s right-footed strike from the top of the penalty area leveled the match at a goal apiece in the 52nd minute. Coach Jason Kreis said he thought about pulling Higuita early because he was “under the weather” for most of the week.
“I know I’ve done really well these last couple of games, but honestly, it’s been my teammates,” Higuita said through a translator. “They’re the ones with me day-in and day-out and helping me out at training, helping me be a better player. I wouldn’t say it’s about me, it’s about my team.”
Higuita was subbed off in the 67th minute for Uri Rosell.
Yotún stepped up to take a penalty in the 77th minute, but the opportunity was set up by a gorgeous backheel from winger Justin Meram after Yotún intercepted a pass from Rapids goalkeeper Zac MacMath. Yotún was going for the ball after Meram’s pass and was taken down in the penalty area.
Yotún sent MacMath the wrong way and converted the penalty kick. The goal ended up being the match-winner.
Orlando City’s back line held on in the face of a relentless attack from the Rapids in the closing minutes. Left back Mohamed El-Munir kept the score at 2-1 with a tackle after a through ball found midfielder Dillon Serna in stoppage time.
Things ended in the Lions’ favor, but the start of the match had Kreis worried.
“I thought we started out poor again, to be honest,” he said. “I thought the energy level was lacking. I think it took us a bit to get into that game and to sort things out. Once we got there, I was really pleased, both with the effort and performance, as well as the general play.
“I thought we played well. It just took us a little bit longer than I would have liked to get there.”
Colorado’s Dominque Badji opened the scoring in the 26th minute. Orlando city Center back Lamine Sané clearly thought Badji was offside and couldn’t recover as Badji found the back of the net for his fifth goal of the season.
“We did good,” El-Munir said. “First half, we had an issue because we couldn’t breathe. That’s how we [gave up] the goal. We tried to go up. These kinds of mistakes happen when you are tired and you don’t have oxygen. You can’t breathe, you can’t think.
“The last 15 minutes of the first half, we started to relax. We started to get used to the weather.”
The 1-0 score line held throughout the first half, even though the Lions generated a few chances before the halftime whistle.
“For me, the guys really sort of showed us what needed to be done in the closing 10 minutes of the first half,” Kreis said. “Once we started to be a little more aggressive with our play, aggressive with our defensive choices, to step higher up the field, I think that put us in a good place.”
Orlando City returns home next weekend to face Real Salt Lake.
With Sunday’s win, the Lions are riding a five-match win streak, which ties their longest MLS win streak in club history.
“It’s important that we keep our feet on the ground,” Kreis said. “It’s very, very important that we remember who we are. It’s very, very important that we remember that [we] weren’t believing … over the first three matches when they all wanted to say how bad we are. How bad we were. It’s important that we don’t listen to the hype now.
“We continue doing what we do and if we do that, I would think there would be much more success to come.”