Orlando City's Lamine Sane gives the thumbs-up to fans after scoring a goal against Real Salt Lake during the second half of an MLS soccer match, Sunday, May 6, 2018, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
There was some drama – there’s been plenty of on-field drama during this win streak for Orlando City – but the outcome Sunday evening was the same as the Lions’ previous five matches.
Orlando City started slow and gave up a goal. The Lions lacked quality in the final third during the first half. The back line had to adjust after another injury to a key player.
None of that mattered.
Orlando City scored three goals in the second half and a virtuoso performance from Joe Bendik kept visiting Real Salt Lake from finding the back off the net during the final 45 minutes as the Lions won their sixth consecutive match 3-1 over RSL.
The win sets a club record for consecutive MLS victories.
“For me, the opening 15 minutes was really, really bright,” coach Jason Kreis said. “It reminded me a lot of the first 15 minutes of our last home game [against the San Jose Earthquakes]. But we don’t take the chance that I think really rewards ourselves and puts us in a great spot to have our foot very much forward.
“To allow the counter-attacking goal against us, I think, really hurt. It took us a bit to come back from that, but the guys continued to believe, continued to push.”
Centerback Amro Tarek missed his first start of the 2018 season due to a lower body injury, which led to Chris Schuler making his Orlando City debut.
The Lions scored two goals in three minutes to erase an early 1-0 deficit – just another comeback for Orlando City in a season filled with them. Dom Dwyer headed home a cross from Sacha Kljestan in the 60th minute and center back Lamine Sane followed suit in the 63rd minute with a header of his own off corner kick of Yoshi Yotún.
Early in the second half, Bendik got some help from the woodwork as a shot from RSL midfielder Albert Rusnák went off the post. Bendik kept battling to keep Real Salt Lake off the board in the second half, and his teammates rewarded him with goals.
“As a coach, you probably much prefer not to be having to come back so many times, not to be suffering the first goal in so many matches, but at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter,” Kreis said. “It’s about 90 minutes. Over the 90 minutes, our guys continued to work and stay together and get the result.
“I think we deserved that result, and we got it.”
In between Dwyer’s goal and Sané’s score, Bendik had to come off his line to kick away a golden opportunity for RSL’s Corey Baird.
“They were important saves to make,” Bendik said. “I think, overall, they weren’t overly difficult. We knew that we wanted to come out in the second half and try to get a goal and continue to put them under pressure and I think we did that.”
Yotún put the finishing touch on the scoring in the 78th minute, crushing a rebound into the back of the net.
“We’ve been showing great character,” Dwyer said. “It’s unfortunate that we keep going down in these games. It’s very positive that we’re not fazed and we’re coming back with no problem. I think we controlled the game at the end. We secured the result well. Joe made some fantastic saves and it was a good, solid team performance.”
Real Salt Lake opened the scoring in the 12th minute. Sané tried to control a ball played forward by Damir Kreilach and mis-hit, which gave Barid a chance to pounce. Baird fired a shot past Bendik and put Real Salt Lake ahead early.
Next, the Lions (6-2-1, 19 points) take on Atlanta United (7-1-1, 22 points). The Five Stripes are on an unbeaten run of their own and haven’t lost in eight matches since dropping their season opener.
“It’s going to be an awesome, awesome opportunity for us,” Bendik said.