Orlando City-Fire Preview
Orlando City's season opener began like many of its 2018 matches, with the club finding itself facing a daunting deficit. In a possible sign that maybe things will play out differently in 2019, one of Orlando's newest players provided a spark to help the club secure a point.
Chicago also received encouraging performances from some of its newest members and despite losing its first game, is feeling optimistic heading into Saturday's home opener with the Lions.
Orlando had little to cheer about last season, surrendering an MLS record 74 goals while netting just 43 of its own to tie for the fewest scored in the Eastern Conference. The club appeared to pick up right where it left off last Saturday, trailing 2-0 after one half to New York City FC, but came to life after the break and pulled out a 2-all draw.
"I think when you look at the balance of play and the way the first half went, we felt that we didn't deserve to be 2-nil down. But we were 2-nil down," coach James O'Connor said. "We said 'You either sit and feel sorry for yourself or you go out and you keep believing and you keep pushing and you keep doing the things that we're talking about.'"
Chris Mueller got Orlando on the board with a 59th-minute goal and the tide really turned 10 minutes later when Dom Dwyer and Nani entered. Five minutes after stepping on the field, Nani, a designated player acquired from Portugal on Feb. 18, passed to Dwyer, who fed Tesho Akindele for an easy tap-in to tie things up.
"It was a very positive game for our team," said Nani, who is hopeful to start following another full week of training. "We have to continue to work hard as we have been doing."
Chicago, the only club to finish ahead of Orlando in the East last season, is also pleased with how it played last weekend despite losing 2-1 to the Galaxy in Los Angeles.
The Fire outshot the Galaxy 17-13, finished with a 44-35 advantage in duels won and a 55-45 edge in possession percentage.
"If we play like this, I think we are going to have a lot of good games and wins and we are going to be successful again," coach Veljko Paunovic said. "I am very happy with the performance. I want to encourage our players to continue believing in what we are doing because they are actually doing great and be patient."
Three players new to the Fire made immediate impacts. David Ousted played well in goal, Przemyslaw Frankowski shined on the attack and C.J. Sapong opened the scoring in the 49th minute just seven days after being acquired from Philadelphia.
"I think the newcomers fit in the philosophy," Paunovic said, "in the spirit that we have and in the way we want to play soccer."
The Fire had no trouble in their last two home matches with Orlando, winning each 4-0. They swept the season series a year ago and have yielded just one goal in the last four meetings.
Updated March 8, 2019