BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. — Orlando City left the Midwest with one point after a 1-1 draw with the Chicago Fire on Saturday at SeatGeek Stadium. Here are three takeaways from the match:
1. Disappointing result
For the second week in a row, Orlando City came away with a point in a match during which, late in the game, something went wrong.
Against NYCFC, it was the no-call on a potential handball in the penalty area. Against the Fire, it was the Lions giving the ball back late via an offside call and allowing a last-second equalizer.
Instead of starting the season with six points, the Lions (0-0-2) have just two.
A point on the road is nothing for the Lions to scoff at – Orlando City didn’t get a single draw on the road last season and had lost 14 consecutive road matches in league play entering Saturday’s match, dating back to last season.
Still, breaking that skid with a victory was possible. Orlando City held a 1-0 lead in miserable conditions on the road and coach James O’Connor said the Lions should have maintained it.
“I felt as if, you know, second half, we were on the onset,” O’Connor said. “[Brazilian right back] Ruan started to cause them problems, so I felt as if we were going to be able to go and finish the game off. Really, we should have. It’s a lack of understanding of the piece at the end, we paid dearly for it.”
O’Connor called the draw “unacceptable” in his post-match television comments.
Playing the “what-if” game is dangerous for Orlando City. There were several “what-if” games last season, several close calls and Orlando City was on the wrong side of most of them after a decent start to the season.
This year, the Lions need to close out games.
2. Dwyer, Nani key
Once again, Orlando City designated players Dom Dwyer and Nani linked up to provide a spark.
Nani, while wearing the captain’s armband, got an assist – his second in two matches – with a pass to Dom Dwyer. Sure, there was some miscommunication between the Fire centerback Johan Kappelhof and goalkeeper David Ousted, but Dwyer was able to pounce and give Orlando City the lead in the second half.
Dwyer and Nani appear to be on the same page early and Orlando City is reaping the rewards. Production out of designated players is a necessity in MLS, and so far, Orlando City is getting that out of two of its stars.
Nani said he’s looking to foster strong relationships with all of his new teammates.
When asked about linking up with Dwyer, Nani added, “Of course, we play close to each other. We play more at the front. It’s normal to be more [connected] to him on the goals, on the assists, but the relationship is the same with everyone and it’s very nice.”
Dwyer and Nani staying healthy and on the same page will be integral to Orlando City’ success.
3. About that equalizer
Like last season, the Lions conceding a goal comes down to more than “the goalkeeper should have made a save.”
Centerback Shane O’Neill — who led the Lions with five tackles and was otherwise solid against the Fire — had his arms outstretched toward CJ Sapong while the forward went up for what would end up being the match-tying header. Watching O’Neill, it looks like he was tracking the ball when it was kicked by Przemyslaw Frankowski, but the ball curved toward Sapong and O’Neill wasn’t in position to make a play on it.
Brian Rowe had his shortcomings against the Fire. The veteran goalkeeper’s distribution leaves something to be desired, for instance. But making a save on a header placed with power toward the bottom corner of the goal is a tall ask for anyone.
Plus, the ball bounced before finding the back of the net.
It’s not as simple as who should have made a save or even if Rowe was in position to make a save. There’s a buildup that must be accounted for. Sapong was behind centerback Alex De John and in front of O’Neill. Right back Ruan had his own man to take care of.
To top it all off, none of this would have been an issue had the Lions held on to the ball for about 20 more seconds.
“It’s really poor play from us to allow that to happen,” O’Connor said.