After allowing a goal in the opening five minutes of the match, Orlando City battled from behind to secure a 2-2 draw on the road Sunday in Philadelphia.
With a 1-0 deficit in the opening minutes, the Lions fell into a defensive formation for the first two thirds of action. But that changed in the 67th minute when Nani found forward Dom Dwyer for his first goal since May.
The drive started when Benji Michel stormed up the right flank, blazing past defender Kai Wagner, who eventually tackled him to the ground for a penalty. Nani stepped up to take the free kick and curled it into the box for Dwyer, who spun in midair to flick the ball with the back of his head.
The goal evened the score, helping the team press the restart button after battling on defense for the opening two-thirds of the game. In the first half, Philadelphia took the opportunity to strike before Orlando City even had a chance to touch the ball. In the fourth minute, midfielder Fafa Picault cut inside and served a curling ball through the box, where midfielder Marco Fabián redirected the ball just past the reach of goalkeeper Brian Rowe.
With a 1-0 deficit in the opening minutes, Orlando City was under pressure defensively. The Lions weathered seven shots and forced Rowe to make two saves. O’Connor shifted his team into a 4-3-3 structure in an attempt to balance his team out, saying that they “just needed to get a foothold” to slow down the offensive rhythm from the Union.
That foothold ultimately came in the second half, when Nani subbed in to provide a vital spark for the Orlando attack. After setting up Dwyer’s equalizer, Nani whipped in a corner kick in the 81st minute. Chris Mueller dove to head the ball, which rebounded off the post and the keeper’s hands before finally falling to Santiago Patiño’s feet, where he slotted it into the net.
The goal was Patiño’s first in the MLS, and his very first touch of the game, coming only seconds after he was subbed in for Dwyer.
Although the go-ahead goal gave Orlando the 2-1 advantage, the Union continued to attack heavily in transition, taking 14 more shots in the second half. In the 90th minute, the team piled players into the box on the counter, setting up leading goal-scorer Kacper Przybylko to slot home the final equalizer.
Philadelphia continued to hammer the backline in stoppage time, forcing Rowe to make a point-saving block with his left hand when a Union forward took a point-blank unmarked shot in the box. Despite the pressure, Orlando held on to salvage a draw on the road against the top team in the conference.
“We made it really difficult for ourselves being a goal down after four minutes, but after that … I thought the guys showed tremendous character,” head coach James O’Connor said. “We’re really pleased with the grit that was shown today.”
Orlando City now returns home for a two-day turnaround before facing New York City FC on Wednesday in the quarterfinals of the Open Cup.