SANFORD, Fla. — After three games of frustration, Orlando City goalkeeper Brian Rowe got a glimpse of what the Lions could do when all of their preseason work was put into practice.
Orlando City conceded six goals – a good chunk of them headscratchers – through the team’s first three games of the season. The Lions kept a clean sheet in their fourth match of the season, a 1-0 win over the New York Red Bulls, and Rowe said the victory “took some of the weight off” a tough start to the season.
“I think getting that first win, getting that shutout, especially on the road, after a less-than-ideal, kind of a little frustrating, start, I think it just puts it a little more at ease, you know?” Rowe said.
“We’re still so early in the season. So many games left to play, but it’s always good getting that first performance, putting a whole game together where you feel like, ‘Alright, that’s what we’ve been working towards. That’s what we’ve been working on.’”
Rowe had some help against the Red Bulls. Midfielder Carlos Ascues came through with an acrobatic goal line clearance after Daniel Royer nearly headed home a free kick from Marc Rzatkowski. The header beat Rowe, but Ascues kept the Lions from conceding and preserved the team’s first victory of the season.
“I definitely owe him a drink,” Rowe said with a laugh.
Rowe called Saturday’s performance a group effort and referred to his own performance during the team’s first four games “solid.”
“At the end of the day, I’m just trying to give us the best opportunity to win and trying to keep the ball out of the back of the net,” Rowe said. “I’m glad we finally, as a team, got rewarded this weekend with a shutout. I think we’ve been deserving one for a while. It was a team shutout. Defensively, we looked really good. Guys were digging in, fighting. I’m glad, after all our hard work, we finally got rewarded.”
Even after a 3-1 loss to the Montreal Impact, a match where Rowe faced 11 shots on target, City coach James O’Connor was confident in his starting goalkeeper. Rowe was brought in during preseason training when Orlando City already had three goalkeepers signed.
He had a career-high eight saves against the Impact. Rowe leads MLS with 17 saves and has faced more shots (24) than any other goalkeeper in the league.
“I think he’s made some big saves in big moments,” O’Connor said in the week leading up to the match against the Red Bulls.
Rowe said after the win, the expectations have been raised. Orlando City (1-1-2, 5 points) hosts D.C. United (2-0-1, 7 points) at 6:30 p.m. Sunday. The game will air nationally on FS1.
“Coming here, I think James has done a fantastic job just establishing a culture, an identity, a work ethic, kind of a standard that he expects when we step on the field each week,” Rowe said. “I think we were all very proud of the performance we put together and I think that’s our new standard and what we expect out of our guys week-in and week-out.”
Rowe said he doesn’t think the team should make drastic changes to its preparation.
“Approach it the same way we’ve been approaching every other game,” Rowe said. “You don’t want to add any extra pressure, anything else extra on top of it. Of course, it’s a good team that’s coming in here. They’re coming into our stadium where we don’t have a win yet, so I think we want to give our fans something to be excited about. National television, of course, helps just put this team and kind of what we’re working on, hopefully, on the map.”