Orlando City bounced back not once but twice against the New England Revolution on Saturday, overcoming a 3-1 halftime deficit to earn a 3-3 draw at Exploria Stadium. Here are three takeaways from the match:
Dwyer finds footing with header
Designated player Dom Dwyer carried an 11-game scoring drought into Saturday’s match against New England. The striker hadn’t been wanting for opportunities, coming inches away from netting goals against San Jose and Atlanta.
Dwyer finally broke through in 47th minute of Saturday’s match with assistance from Nani. In the box, Dwyer crouched to flick a deft header off a cross from the captain, sending the ball arcing over the keeper’s head.
— Orlando City SC (@OrlandoCitySC) September 15, 2019
The striker has scored six goals this season after recording 13 last season. He netted three in the opening five games of the season for Orlando City, then fell into a scoring slump exacerbated by several weeks off due to an injury.
If Dwyer can score more often, it could make a big impact for the Lions during the final three matches of the season.
Sané remains a rock
For the second consecutive week, Orlando City showed its ability to bounce back from an early deficit, led by Nani’s attacking prowess. But the wild nature of the second half tested the Orlando City defense, which was often left vulnerable as the Lions pushed forward to hunt for goals.
After the score leveled out again in the second half, the nature of the game completely changed, opening up from end to end as both teams charged through the open field in transition. An edge of desperation tinged both sides since they needed a win, not just a draw, to preserve their playoff hopes.
“We had nothing to lose, I think that’s why maybe we played better,” Sané said. “I think the second half we gave everything because we know what we want. Nobody was thinking about the result, just go and try to come back.”
Throughout the half, Sané was the defensive difference maker for Orlando City. The centerback locked down Cristian Penilla throughout long periods of helter skelter transition.
More than once, Sané made up ground while tracking back to stop breakaways just as players crashed into the box, sliding through clearances or forcing attackers to slow down and peel off to set up a play.
Sané has been a vocal and physical leader for the defense, balancing out the burly aggression of Robin Jansson with finesse and speed. Saturday’s draw showcased the impact he has on the defense.
Lions drop in table
This game was touted as the biggest match of the season for a reason — it represented a critical six-point swing that could somewhat make or break the team’s fight for its first playoff berth.
According to FiveThirtyEight, the Lions now have a nine% chance of making the playoffs, dropping eight percentage points following the draw. That was aided by the success of the team previously directly below the Lions in the standings. The Chicago Fire delivered a 4-0 rout of FC Dallas, leapfrogging over Orlando City to take the No. 9 spot in the Eastern Conference.
Perhaps the only positive result of the day for Orlando City was the Montreal loss to FC Cincinnati. Montreal stayed in the No. 8 slot, but it is now tied with Chicago with 37 points apiece. The Lions continue to nip at the heels of both teams.
The draw caused a simple shift in the mentality of the team’s playoff push — the Lions no longer entirely control their fate. With a win, the Lions would have edged Montreal and pulled within a point of New England, allowing the team to feel in control as it looked to make up that small margin.
Orlando City still needs to win its remaining games, but the Lions also have to hope for a series of losses from the three teams directly above them to have a shot of making the postseason.
O’Connor said the team remains eager to fight for its spot. The Lions’ odds are slim, but they’re not out yet.