Orlando City striker Dom Dwyer celebrates with teammates after the Lions' win over the New York Red Bulls Saturday at Orlando City Stadium. (Reinhold Matay/USA Today Sports)
At long last, Orlando City’s attack came alive.
After scoring two goals in their first three matches with various players out, the Lions – bolstered by the return of star striker Dom Dwyer – electrified an announced home crowd of 23,257 with 4-3 victory Saturday over the New York Red Bulls.
Three Lions scored, and Scott Sutter’s screamer – which took a deflection off midfielder Josué Colmán, who ended up being credited with the goal – from just outside the box in the 86th minute gave Orlando City the victory, but Dwyer led the way for the Lions.
Dwyer netted a brace in his return, scoring a goal in each half and lifting Orlando City’s previously-dormant attack. The first was a header off a corner kick from midfielder Yoshi Yotún to level the match at two goals apiece in the 27th minute.
Red Bulls goalkeeper Luis Robles was calling for goalkeeper interference on the goal. He and Dwyer were pretty tangled up before Dwyer used the back of his head while falling to score the goal.
“I could have had three [goals],” Dwyer said after the match. “That would have been nice.”
In the 48th minute, he snuck into the penalty area unmarked and smashed home a throw-in from Mohamed El-Munir. The goal put the Lions up 3-2. At that point, it was the first lead Orlando City held all season.
Dwyer came off in the 64th minute for rookie Chris Mueller.
“I was a bit disappointed I had to come off early,” Dwyer said. “Legs just gave up on me a bit. Cramped up towards the end. Not towards the end, really. Start of the second half. We’re very pleased with that result. Great performance. Obviously, we don’t want to concede three, but if we score four, I’m fine with that.”
The Red Bulls, who are preparing for the first leg of their CONCACAF Champions League semifinal against Chivas de Guadalajara, played without striker Bradley Wright-Phillips until the 75th minute of the match. They didn’t go away quietly, either.
New York dominated the first 12 minutes of the match and it looked like it might be a rough day for Orlando City.
Florian Valot’s header put the Red Bulls on the board in the seventh minute. Derrick Etienne beat Joe Bendik from the top of the box to put the Red Bulls up 2-1 in the second half. Aaron Long’s header in the 83rd minute equalized the match and it appeared all the offensive fireworks might still result in just one point for the Lions until Orlando City’s late game winner.
Despite some defensive lapses, the Lions continued to battle back. Mohamed El-Munir was frequently tested, and exposed a few times, on the left side of the defense. The new center back pairing of Amro Tarek and Lamine Sané had mixed results, but both made big plays throughout the match.
“For me, it’s not necessarily a back four situation,” Kreis said. “It’s a back 11 situation that was disjointed in the opening parts of the match.
“That’s Lamine’s second appearance with us. Three out of the four backs are brand new players in 2018. There’s a lot of reasons why that’s happening. And yes, I think you gain some stability when you plug in our captain and our captain and probably our most vocal leader and organizer in [center back Jonathan] Spector.”
It was the first home match for midfielder Sacha Kljestan. He wore the captain’s armband for the Lions with Spector (concussion) out. Kljestan notched two assists against his former club, including a secondary assist on Orlando City’s first goal of the match.
His solid through ball found Justin Meram, who easily found an unmarked Will Johnson inside the six-yard box. Johnson tapped the ball in to get Orlando City on the board in the 15th minute.
“I didn’t expect a 4-3 game,” Kljestan said. “Those don’t come around very often. I’m glad we came out on the winning side. Despite them rotating a lot of their team and resting guys for Champions League, they came out hot and they came to play and I think we started a little bit slow and it took us some time to grow into the game. I’m really happy we got the win.”
Man of the match: Dom Dwyer
Dwyer was the the best player on the pitch and he didn’t even play the whole match. His brace led the way for Lions, and it’s clear his offensive capabilities will be needed moving forward.