Orlando City managed a 0-0 draw with the Houston Dynamo on Saturday at home. It wasn’t the win the Lions have been desperate for, but the team showed more effort than in a 4-0 loss to the Chicago Fire in the previous week. Here are three takeaways from the match:
1. Grinwis shines
Saturday night was about third-choice goalkeeper Adam Grinwis getting his first MLS start.
Goalkeepers Joe Bendik – the starter entering the season – and Earl Edwards Jr. both have struggled this season. There have been solid games from Bendik and Edwards, sure, but they’ve had their fair share of errors and have been repeatedly let down by a porous defense. Both have given up at least two goals per game this season.
Grinwis stepped on the pitch and delivered Orlando City’s second clean sheet of the season. He had three saves, including stopping a one-on-one with Dynamo forward Dynamo forward Romell Quioto.
“Coming out, there was some nerves of course,” he said. “I think during warm-ups even, I was feeling it. But by the time the whistle blew, it’s the same game I’ve been playing since I was six years old, it’s just a bigger stage. It’s a stage I’ve dreamed about playing in front of, so I was just happy to be there.”
Since he arrived mid-season, coach James O’Connor has said players are going to get looks. He’s also said those who excel in training will be the ones in the starting XI.
“He showed good composure in the game, so I’m really, really pleased,” O’Connor said. “He’s a fantastic young man. He’s got an outstanding attitude, outstanding character and really deserved this opportunity tonight. He’s worked extremely hard since we’ve been here, so I’m really pleased that he’s been able to go and get a clean sheet in his debut.”
Grinwis made it clear he was grateful for the opportunity to start. He added he’s not thinking about potential future starts. Not yet, anyway.
“Well I knew what I signed up for this year,” he said. “I had options you know, opportunities to be No. 1 in the USL. I’ve been in the USL the last few years and it’s always been my dream to be a starter in MLS. I know when MLS comes calling, you don’t say no because you never know when they’re going to come calling again.
“So, when I got the chance to be number three, I knew what I was fighting against. We have three fantastic other goalkeepers here, two of which had fantastic seasons last year. I expected to come in and work and get better. And this season, those guys have pushed me and brought me to levels that I didn’t really know I could get to.”
2. Stronger defense
Of course, Grinwis was helped by an Orlando City defense that contained a potent Dynamo counterattack. The Lions’ back line – which for the first time since early April looked like what was likely the first-choice back line when this team was built – was helped by the defensive midfield pairing.
Carlos Ascues and Uri Rosell were great against the Dynamo.
“I think when you look at how [the Dynamo] play, they’ve got a lot of speed in the wide areas so I thought they were very disciplined in stopping their counterattack,” O’Connor said. “I think [Houston’s] biggest threat is the two wide players coming at pace. So, I thought [Ascues and Rosell] did a fantastic job of helping the team nullify their threats.”
Ascues, in particular, was great at pressuring whichever Dynamo player happened to have the ball. Plus, the two midfielders were great with their distribution and created a combined five chances.
Their strong play clearly took the pressure off Orlando City’s back line.
“I think Carlos did a lot of unselfish work for the team tonight, as did Uri,” Orlando City captain Jonathan Spector said.
“The way [the Dynamo] played, keeping three players high, it’s difficult. Especially with the pace that they have. And I think having Carlos and Uri in front of us doing that dirty work enabled Lamine [Sané] and I to drop off a little bit more for anything that was played in behind. So, I think credit to them, the hard work they put in doesn’t go unnoticed.”
3. Increased effort
Overall, Saturday’s effort was better than what the Lions showed against the Chicago Fire. It wasn’t pretty – the touches in the final third weren’t there, which is troublesome – but it was enough to earn a point.
Orlando City’s inability to score (zero goals in three games) must be addressed, but at least the team showed an unambiguous desire to win.
“I think that we showed that we are still determined and want to fight for one another, for the fans,” Spector said.
He added, “It’s a statement of where we’re at. We know the picture isn’t exactly rosy, in terms of where we are at in the table and in the playoffs, but it’s a statement of what it means for us as players to be part of it and keep it going for the end of the year.”