SANFORD, Fla. — Despite trailing NYCFC 2-0 at halftime, Orlando City goalkeeper Brian Rowe and his teammates believed the Lions could mount a comeback.
He felt the Lions were the better side, despite the Pigeons’ advantage. Still, it was a rough first half.
“As a goalkeeper, it’s always tough when you don’t have any saves and you get two goals scored against you and you don’t have much to contribute,” Rowe said. “But, felt good in the second half that I was able to make a couple plays to keep us in it and give us an opportunity to at least get that tie and push for the win.”
The Lions regrouped and managed to earn a 2-2 draw, but before forward Tesho Akindele’s match-tying goal, Rowe had to come up big.
The Pigeons nearly put the match out of reach in the 70th minute. NYCFC had an opportunity to counter-attack after a free kick, and Alexandru Mitrita – who’d already assisted on a goal in the first half – found Maxi Moralez running free.
Moralez had midfielder Will Johnson closing in, but he was still able to get a shot off from just outside the penalty area with nobody in front of him but Rowe.
Rowe turned away the shot, and NYCFC’s advantage stayed one goal.
Akindele tied the match at two goals apiece five minutes later.
“I was thinking, ‘Man … he has a lot of time on this,’” Rowe said with a laugh before Monday’s training session, recalling what was going through his mind before Moralez’s shot. “A lot of space. I knew he was going to be coming down. In those instances, you’re just trying to find a good angle and just stay big and just not go down early. Not give him a look.
“I think he had so much time to think about it, I think he was waiting for me to lean or guess one way. I was trying to stand up for as long as I could. Fortunate enough, he put it in a spot that I was able to make a save. I think that’s one as a goalkeeper that you want to make, especially when you have the momentum and you’re pushing to get that tie, to kind of keep your team in it and keep the guys fighting.”
Rowe said the Lions’ ability to come back from two goals down, despite being a new group playing its home opener, was a testament to the team’s strong mentality.
“To have two goals go against you, especially one right before half, to go down two-nothing, kind against the flow of the game… it’s one, if you’ve got a weaker team mentality, it’s one that can just put you out,” Rowe said. “I think we showed, as a team, a lot of resolve to come back in the second half and continue to fight back.”
The Lions take on the Chicago Fire at 1 p.m. on Saturday at SeatGeek Stadium (formerly Toyota Park).
“For me, personally, it’s about playing the same game I have been,” he said. “Just making the right decisions. Trying to keep my team in it, as I can. Just trying to maintain that level. I’m not going to win the game for the guys. I just have to play within my game and kind of be there as a leader, as well as someone with experience.
“As a group, of course you always want to score the first goal. I think if we focus on defending and not conceding, I think it’s going to put us in a great spot. We’ve got enough talent up top to put away goals and get results for us.”
Centerback Lamine Sané wasn’t present for the media portion of Monday’s training session. Pro Soccer USA has reached out to the club for an update on the centerback.
Right back Ruan (quad) was training with the team during media availability on Monday.
A club spokesman confirmed goalkeeper Adam Grinwis has cleared concussion protocol.
Mueller makes MLS Team of the Week
Second-year forward Chris Mueller was named to the MLS Team of the Week bench Monday afternoon. Mueller created five chances in Saturday’s game and scored a goal in the 59th minute to spark Orlando City’s comeback.