After taking a lead off a penalty kick by Nani deep in the second half, Orlando City ceded a last-minute goal and settled for a draw on the road in Minnesota. Here are three things we learned from the match:
Late-game goals continue to haunt Lions
For the second consecutive week, Orlando City shocked its opponent on the road by taking a second-half lead only to let it slip in the waning minutes of play.
On the road last week in Toronto, Benji Michel roared off the bench to net a goal in transition to give the team a 1-0 lead, only to have a free kick several minutes later level the score.
In Minnesota, a similar scene played out — Orlando City secured a lead, defended its goal into the 90th minute and then let an errant ricochet on a throw-in lead to a goal.
In both situations, Lions James O’Connor could only describe the goals with one word — ”cheap.”
These late goals often color the otherwise positive result of clinching a draw on the road against a strong opponent. O’Connor and goalkeeper Brian Rowe both described the team as “gutted” following the match.
As the team stares down the final stretch of the season, its ability to defend until the final whistle could make the difference between whether the Lions earn their first playoff berth.
“It’s tough because the whole game we were defending everything,” Orlando City defender Kamal Miller said. “When one thing happens like that and we actually concede from it, it’s very tough to put a finger on what exactly happened. It’s been too many games now where we’ve had the three points secured, we’ve worked so hard, and then to just throw it away like that is tough.”
Early called off goal offers opportunity to reset
In recent weeks, Orlando City has begun to solve an issue that it previously faced throughout the summer — ceding goals in the opening minutes of play, then trying to claw back into the game.
In Minnesota, it looked as if Orlando City was going to have the same problem when the Loons appeared to break through with a goal in the eighth minute. After a minute of confusion, however, the referee called off the goal for off-sides.
Miller said that the moment shook up the Orlando City defense, giving it a chance to reset after Minnesota came “flying out” to open the match.
Although Orlando City didn’t fully right itself, still struggling to claim possession or threaten in the Minnesota defending third, the defense still woke up enough to keep a clean sheet until halftime.
“The first half wasn’t a great half for us, but we did a great job making it to half time and keeping it 0-0,” Rowe said. “We made adjustments, and I thought we came out a lot better.”
Heath remains unbeaten against his former team
Saturday night marked the third meeting between the Lions and former head coach Adrian Heath, and for the third time, Heath escaped the scrape without suffering a loss. Previously, Heath’s Loons had won two games against Orlando City — one on the road and one at home.
Heading into the game, Heath addressed his emotions surrounding the matchup, saying that it’s “always personal” when he faces Orlando City.
“It’s never just another game when it’s your old team,” Heath said. “Orlando City will never, ever, ever be just another game to me because I put too much into [building that franchise]. … It’s a chapter from my life I’ll never forget.”
Although the Lions weren’t able to clinch the win in Minnesota, the team took points off Heath for the first time with the draw. Heading into the final minutes, with Orlando City leading by a goal, Heath voiced his frustration at the prospect of losing despite his team’s on-ball dominance.
“The thought of maybe coming out of the game with nothing was unthinkable, really,” Heath said during his postgame news conference.
The result left both teams feeling disappointed.