Orlando City needed their highest-scoring game since last August to defeat the Colorado Rapids, 4-3, on a rainy night at Orlando City Stadium Saturday night, finding goals from Chris Mueller and Nani in the final 10 minutes to come from behind and grab all three points in the most thrilling match of the season for the Lions to this point.
Here are my three takeaways from the match.
1) To start Chris Mueller, or to not start Chris Mueller
It’s become almost controversial to pick either side in the debate at this point, and after being a topic of discussion throughout the week following his stellar efforts in the 2-1 loss to D.C. United, Chris Mueller once again showed what he brings to the field for Orlando City.
Mueller came into the match with the Lions trailing 3-2, looking lethargic, and lacking any signs of urgency. Then Mueller came on in the 80th minute and, again, sparked life into the team and provided:
- A goal less than 90 seconds on the field
- 12 touches
- 9 passes (only one incomplete pass)
- 1 key pass
- One shot (the goal)
James O’Connor said at training this past week that to start him or bring him off the bench would come down to the situation, and after this one he said a lot of the same thing, saying after the match, “we just felt that there was potential for Chris to be able to come off the bench and impact the game like he has. And when you have a weapon like that and you look at the way the game may go or may not go, the big decision for us is do we start him? The easy thing for us to do is start Chris tonight. Everyone would have expected [that], including him, to start the game. But when we looked at it we thought we had to be brave and we needed to maybe follow what our gut instinct was and bring him off the bench.”
You would love to start him, and so would I, but O’Connor is in a tough spot here. Mueller’s not the same 90-minute player as he is a 20-30-minute player, but that doesn’t take away from his ability or potential. That’s two weeks in a row now that Orlando has needed a late spark off the bench, and in each week being able to bring on Mueller to provide that has been huge for Orlando, and if he’s not there then who can live up to that role?
2) Nani finally opens his Orlando City account
Nani has been making an impact for the Lions since Week 1, but Saturday night he finally opened his account in MLS, scoring two goals — including the game-winner on a penalty kick in the 89th minute — and picking up another assist on Mueller’s goal to help lead Orlando to victory.
- 59 touches
- 81 percent accuracy on 42 passes
- Two key passes
- Two goals
- One assist
- One interception
As a leader, he’s been just as impactful for the Lions. Nani’s success was going to be a major key for Orlando this season, and so far he’s come through and has been worth every penny the club is paying him.
3) Staying undefeated against Colorado
Thanks to their comeback efforts, the Lions remain unbeaten against Colorado in five all-time MLS meetings now since 2015, improving their record to 4-0-1 (3-0-0 in Orlando). A first-half injury to Carlos Ascues forced O’Connor to make some important tactical changes that hurt Orlando in the second half, but bringing on Mueller changed the game and brought Orlando City back into the lead, keeping the streak alive, and more important it grabbed the Lions all three points to push them back above the playoff line on eight points through six matches. It’s early, but those things still matter.
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