BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. — Orlando City coach James O’Connor had a few words to describe Saturday’s result against the Chicago Fire.
After the match, he called it “unacceptable” during his on-field interview. He told reporters after the match the result was “disappointing” and “annoying.”
Orlando City recorded a 1-1 draw with a 10-man Chicago Fire side, coming away with a point on a cold, rain-soaked Saturday afternoon at SeatGeek Stadium. O’Connor’s words were a reaction to the Lions’ late match performance. Instead of the battling back to earn a point, as Orlando City did last weekend, it surrendered a late goal, turning what would have been its first road win since the end of April into a draw.
“It’s just very, very annoying for all of us,” O’Connor said. “When you put yourself in a position like that to go and win the game, you’ve worked as hard as you have to go and win the game, you should finish it off and win the game. I’m really disappointed for the players, because they’ve worked exceptionally hard, and yet we’ve been caught by a couple bad decisions on our behalf, we end up losing two points.
“It’s very, very frustrating.”
Fire forward CJ Sapong tied the match in the fifth minute of second half stoppage time with a header off a cross from Przemyslaw Frankowski. At that point, the Fire were down to 10 men and desperately searching for an equalizer after Orlando City took the lead early in the second half.
O’Connor said Orlando City needed to do a better job keeping the ball in the Fire’s half, especially since the Lions were a man up for the majority of the second half.
“Obviously, very poor play,” O’Connor said. “I mean, I think we have the opportunity to keep the ball in their half. We don’t, it come down and it just gets dumped into the box and we have somebody free, he heads it and it goes in. It’s really poor play from us to allow that to happen. There’s 20, 30 seconds left. I just think our understanding of… when we’re playing against 10 men, we need to do a better job of keep in the ball and playing in their half.
“We allowed them to have sporadic attacks. They’re trying to dump it into the box. Well, if we did a better job of keeping it in their half, they’re not anywhere near our goal. It’s hugely disappointing because I feel as if the players had worked exceptionally hard throughout the game. It’s disappointing to come away with the point because at that time of the game, you’re hopefully going to keep all three.”
Orlando City got off to an inauspicious start.
The Fire had two golden chances in the first half go begging. Nemanja Nikolic, a double-digit goal scorer from last season, was set up twice in front of the goal. The first time came early in the match, and he couldn’t get his foot on a cross from Djordje Mihailovic. The second time, Nikolic didn’t put his shot on frame. Those two chances came in the first 20 minutes of the match.
Overall, the Fire didn’t take advantage of the chances given to them by Orlando City in the first half, and the Lions struggled to generate chances. Orlando City only managed one shot, courtesy of star striker Dom Dwyer, but it was easily saved by Fire goalkeeper David Ousted.
The Lions got off to a dream start in the second half. For the second time this season, Orlando City’s two star designated players linked up to create a goal. Nani played a ball for Dwyer, and while the Fire’s centerbacks were content to let the ball roll to Ousted, Dwyer pounced. He chipped Outsted to give Orlando City a 1-0 advantage in the 47th minute.
“Obviously, my job is to score goals,” Dwyer said. “Our team needs that and I was happy to get the first one out the way for the year. Obviously, we’re disappointed we didn’t get the full three points, but there’s a lot of positives to take from today.
“You see that 89 minutes, or maybe 92 minutes, we were fantastic. If we finish off the game right, I think we come away from all three points and [we’re] very happy. I think we’ve just got to work on our game management a little bit. Obviously try to kill the game off. You’re always going to be disappointed when you concede that late.”
The Fire finished the match with more possession (59.5 percent to 40.5 percent) and more shots (seven to two). The Lions put two shots on target and the Fire managed to put three shots on frame.
Orlando City played roughly the final 25 minutes of the matchup a man up after Fire left back Jorge Corrales was shown a straight red. Corrales brought down Orlando City right back Ruan, who looked to be in on goal after catching up with a through ball from Nani.
Orlando City (0-0-2, 2 points) returns to Orlando City Stadium next week for a match against the Montreal Impact. Kickoff is at 4 p.m.