After going down 2-0 just after halftime, Orlando City battled back from the brink of their 5th defeat in a row as they pulled out a 2-2 draw just minutes before the final whistle. An own goal by Tah Anunga off a Nani corner in the third minute of stoppage time got the Lions their first result since September 4th.
“Tonight, we saw the heart of our players, the commitment that they have with the club, and with ourselves,” said head coach Oscar Pareja after the match. “It is a very important point against a good rival, and we take it very proudly. Related to the game, I felt we have the initiative the whole game. We did not want to give it up. This is the way we do it, this is the way we play, and the boys were faithful to do their ways. They used to defend very low, and, and they’re very effective in the counters and obviously we lost them and in the second goal. But the whole game, we have that initiative that just made me feel that the players are intact, and we will keep fighting. We will have another much in two, three days, but today is important for us.”
The uphill climb for the Lions started early in the match as just 10 minutes into the contest, Sebas Mendez fouled Anibal Godoy in the box away from goal, leading to a penalty. Nashville’s Designated Player Hany Mukhtar took the spot kick, but it was originally saved by Orlando keeper Pedro Gallese. However, the rebound fell right to the German midfielder, who put it away to give his side the early advantage.
Following that early goal, Nashville fell into a deep lying defense, making it very difficult to break down for Orlando. Compounded into that defensive shape was the lack of quality in passes and lack of aggressiveness in runs towards goal. The first half came and went with the Lions hardly having a sniff of goal.
As Orlando looked to change the narrative in the second half, it was instead Nashville scoring a buffer goal early on. As midfielder Randall Leal got onto a counter attack driving down the Lions backline, the two centerbacks parted down the middle, allowing Leal to strike a wide open shot from distance, beating Gallese and giving the home side a doubled up advantage.
With an uphill climb now even further, Oscar Pareja changed up the attack in bringing on Nani and Benji Michel, which almost immediately changed the momentum towards the visitors.
In the 74th minute, Orlando finally got a break as a ball from Antonio Carlos found Daryl Dike in the box. As the striker turned towards goal, he was taken down in the area by Jack Maher, earning a penalty. Dike immediately grabbed the ball, taking matters into his own hands. The striker decisively struck the penalty towards the left, beating Joe Willis to get Orlando on the board.
Orlando would find their equalizer late into stoppage time. A Nani corner found Benji Michel in the box, who was marked by Tah Anunga. Anunga headed the ball into the back of the net, tying the game for the Lions.
“We’ve left the field with a sour taste in our mouth and then, after the New England game, I think we competed very well,” Daryl Dike said. “And we walked out of the game, even though we had not gotten any points, thinking, ‘Okay, this is when we start changing.’ Even after going down, we still knew that we were going to get a result, that we were gonna change things.”
11′ – Hany Mukhtar (NSH)
59′ – Randall Leal, assisted by Dax McCarty (NSH)
76′ – Daryl Dike, PK (ORL)
90’+3 – Own Goal (ORL)
The Lions return home on Saturday in a pivotal Eastern Conference matchup against 3rd place D.C. United. The match will be broadcast on Fox35+ and on LionNation.
How the Lions lined up
Orlando City XI: Pedro Gallese; Joao Moutinho (Emmanuel Mas, 90’+2), Rodrigo Schlegel, Antonio Carlos, Ruan (Kyle Smith, 90’+2); Sebas Mendez(Tesho Akindele, 83′), Jr. Urso, Mauricio Pereyra, Silvester van der Water (Benji Michel, 57′), Alexander Alvarado (Nani, 66′); Daryl Dike (Tesho Akindele, 78′)
Substitutes: Mason Stajduhar, Rio Hope-Gund, Raul Aguilera, Jordan Bender
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