CITRUS BOWL — The game already was destined to have late-game drama. Controversial officiating only added to that.
Kevin Molino scored two minutes into stoppage time to give the Lions a 2-1 lead, but video replay showed the midfielder bringing the ball down with his upper-left arm before striking the ball past Bobby Shuttleworth.
Baldomero Toledo whistled an apparent hand ball moments after on Orlando City’s Servando Carrasco, and that paved the way for Lee Nguyen to bury the equalizing penalty kick as the New England Revolution and Orlando City finished with a 2-2 draw on Sunday in front of 36,048 at the Citrus Bowl.
“Another eventful one,” Orlando coach Adrian Heath said. “You think you won the game in the end, and [New England] probably thought it would have been an injustice for them, but when you score that late, obviously you think you won the game. I can’t fault the players for their efforts in the second half. Played with a lot of passion.”
It didn’t take long for the Lions to score, as Júlio Baptista drew a penalty kick 15 seconds into the game when Je-Vaughn Watson clipped the Brazilian. Ricardo Kaká scored the penalty kick to give Orlando the 1-0 lead.
But the lead was short-lived when Chris Tierney’s cross glanced off Gershon Koffie, which found Teal Bunbury to strike from close range to level the score in the 37th minute.
After a lackluster first half, the dynamic of the game changed radically for the Lions (2-1-3, 9 points) when Cyle Larin and Molino were brought into the game for Adrian Winter and Carlos Rivas.
Heath shifted to a 4-2-2-2 formation, deploying Larin and Baptista higher up with Kaká and Molino behind the strikers to create chances. It worked. Within the last five minutes of play, Orlando had several scoring chances, whereas few were created in the first half.
Heath shed some light on the second-half performance from the Lions.
“We’ll see. It could be a good option for us moving forward,” the Orlando coach added. “I think one of the things [Baptista] showed us today was he’s over his old warrior injuries, and I thought he was a threat first half. The strange thing was in the first half when we had possession in [New England’s] half of the field, I thought we looked dangerous.
“We just didn’t keep it enough and I thought we played on the back foot too much in the first half considering the start we got, getting a goal in the first minute and I thought we’d go on from there and we didn’t … But credit to them. They played some good football. In the second half, I have to be honest, I thought we were going to win the game.”
Orlando City outshot New England 15-11 with most of its shots coming in the latter stage of the game.
Winter made his fifth-consecutive start for the Lions. Rivas started at left wing instead of Molino, who was named to the bench.
Kevin Alston was named to the Orlando City starting lineup for the first time this season. It was also the right back’s first game against his former club.
The Lions embark on a two-week road trip, which takes them to Red Bull Arena for a match against the New York Red Bulls on Sunday. Orlando will face the Revolution again on April 30 at Gillette Stadium.
Orlando City is back home on May 6 when they host the Red Bulls at 7 p.m.