Orlando City faced a must win situation on Saturday, facing the 5th place Columbus Crew, but the result was a 1-1 draw. It wasn’t the result they needed.
“From my point of view it’s a result we didn’t want, of course. We wanted three points in the worst possible way,” Lions head coach Jason Kreis said. “But the performance I thought was very good. It was a 10 or 15-minute spell in the first half where I felt we dropped a little bit with our level but the other 75 minutes I thought we were very good – on top of them. Frankly, I think we deserved to win this game.”
In a night where the sold out crowd (Attendance: 25,527) and the debut of key new pieces Yoshimar Yotún and Dom Dwyer made their Orlando City Stadium debuts, the Lions could not get the win it needed to boost them up from the 8th slot in the standings.
With all of that said, it was still a thrilling match. Orlando had a total of 19 shots in the match compared to Columbus’ 4. The lions managed 7 shots on target with several near misses wide and above the crossbar. Giles Barnes managed to convert a Christian Higuita pass into a goal. Barnes’ shot looked like a game of pinball as his cross shot hit the inside of the left post and ricochet into the net.
That was the game tying shot. Columbus rookie Lalas Abubakar managed to head in a goal to start the scoring of the match in the 35th minute. Abubakar, the fifth selection from last year’s draft, struck off a free kick by Waylon Francis.
With the support of captain Kaká in The Wall banging the drums with the supporters while serving a one-game suspension for a red card in the previous match – the Lions nearly found the opening goal several times in the first half. Shots from Will Johnson, Barnes and Yotún challenged Columbus goalkeeper Zack Steffen. Yotún looked comfortable on the ball, finding teammates with pinpoint long balls and quick short passes and showed great hustle on defense.
Coach Kreis inserted much anticipated striker Dom Dwyer (with mask shielding his face) in the 63rd minute, and the team immediately had a boost of energy. Barnes scored four minutes later to equalize the game.
In the 77th minute, Columbus was reduced to 10 men after Harrison Afful was shown a straight red card for violent conduct following Video Review.
Again, City turned up the pressure on Columbus in search of the game-winning goal and came within inches of it several times over the final 20 minutes. Dwyer looked like he would score every time he touched the ball – two of his three shots hit the target – and he nearly scored twice in stoppage time.
Despite the draw, Orlando City refuses to give up hope to make the playoffs. Jason Kreis’ statement says it all.
“Listen. We know what everybody thinks. That’s fine. That’s absolutely fine because we also know what we think. We believe.”
The Lions host Vancouver Whitecaps FC on Saturday, Aug. 26, at 7:30 p.m. ET, before embarking on a four-game road trip to New England, D.C., Atlanta and Portland.