For the fourth time in six matches, Orlando City fell behind but rallied to win. After conceding a Corey Baird goal just 12 minutes into a battle with Real Salt Lake at Orlando City Stadium, the Lions got second-half goals from Dom Dwyer, Lamine Sané, and Yoshimar Yotún to win a club-record sixth straight game since joining Major League Soccer.
Orlando City (6-2-1, 19 points) improved to 2-0-2 in the all-time series with RSL (3-5-1, 10 points), having won the last two in a row. The announced attendance of 23,258 saw the Lions climb to within a point of second-place New York City FC in the Eastern Conference standings with a game in hand.
“Another afternoon or evening that I’m really, really pleased with the players’ mentality and their character,” Head Coach Jason Kreis said after the game. “It says a lot that we can continue to come back from difficult situations. Being a goal down in the first half after I thought we started so incredibly brightly was difficult for the guys. And I think the beginning of the second half there were some difficulties again but we continued to push, we continued to believe, we continued to stay together and we get the result I think in the end we deserved.”
Amro Tarek was fitted with a face mask this week to protect his broken nose but he was not in the team’s starting lineup, after sustaining a lower body injury in training on Saturday. Chris Schuler made his Orlando City debut — against his old team — alongside Sané on the back line, giving Orlando its fifth different center back combination on the season. The rest of the starting XI was the same as last weekend at Colorado, and the only change on the bench was PC in for Josué Colmán, who was pulled out of the 18 after an undisclosed violation of team rules in the locker room before the game, according to Kreis.
Real started the game brightly, working in an early cross and pressing high up the pitch, creating some nervous moments for the Orlando City defense. At the same time, Orlando was able to create some near chances but couldn’t quite put them away as the wet ball skipped off feet in front of goal.
Yotún found Chris Mueller in space in the seventh minute, and the rookie made mincemeat of left back Pablo Ruiz, working his way into the box before crossing the ball for Justin Meram. Meram was beaten in the air by Justen Glad, but the ball fell perfectly for Yotún, who blasted just wide.
RSL was able to get on the board first in the 12th minute when Damir Kreilach played a through ball that allowed Baird to get in behind Sané. The French-Senegalese defender stuck out a foot but it was inches out of reach and he could not match Baird’s pace. Goalkeeper Joe Bendik was late in recognizing the danger, allowing the RSL forward space to chip the ball into the wide-open goal and give the visitors a 1-0 lead.
Orlando responded to the goal with an attack of its own, quickly winning a corner after the restart. The Lions took the set piece quickly and Sacha Kljestan drove into the box and crossed a ball for Dwyer, who mishit his shot then got a second opportunity and saw his second chance beat Nick Rimando, but it was cleared off the line by Brooks Lennon.
Yotún then found Dwyer in the box in the 15th minute. He laid it off for Kljestan, but the shot was well over the bar.
The Lions kept pressing, with Dwyer again whiffing at a pass at his feet. The ball continued on for Will Johnson, who fired his shot straight at Rimando for the easy save in the 18th minute. Joao Plata tested Bendik on the break from 25 yards out with a powerful, swerving shot that Orlando’s keeper fought off and then collected before it could cross the line for a corner just moments later.
Meram’s best opportunity came in the 24th minute when he found himself alone just inside the left edge of the penalty area. He had time to line up his shot but then blasted it just inches wide of the near post.
Ruiz fired over the bar on a good free kick opportunity in the 26th minute, after Baird was brought down from behind by Mohamed El-Munir. Real nearly doubled its lead six minutes later when El-Munir appeared to be fouled near midfield — but when nothing was called, the visitors were able to break two-on-two against the Lions’ center backs. Baird ended up on the right side with the ball from Jefferson Savarino and he beat Bendik with his shot but it found the far post and stayed out.
Much of the remainder of the first half was played in the middle of the park, with Orlando on the attack but breaking down through sloppy passes that were either poorly weighted or behind their intended targets.
The visitors took their 1-0 advantage to the locker room despite owning just 37% of the possession and being out-shot, 10-8. Real Salt Lake did get five of its eight shots on frame compared to Orlando’s two, which was largely the difference in the opening half.
RSL came out of the break looking to put the game to bed, and Albert Rusnak’s blast off the post in the 49th minute was inches from doing so. Rusnak faked to his right, then cut left to create space from Schuler and fired his shot off the woodwork. Two minutes later, Savarino’s header off a Kyle Beckerman pass was well saved by Bendik, conceding just a corner.
“We know that they’re good on the counter attack but a lot of the chances came from angles or from distance so I thought overall it was a pretty good night,” Bendik said of his defense.
After that opening flurry to start the second period, the Lions started getting more of the game, but continued to lack the quality in the final third they’d shown throughout the first half. Meram had a shot deflected out for a corner in the 56th minute and Kljestan fired wide off a quickly taken free kick a minute later. A dangerous corner kick cross from Yotún needed just a touch in the 59th but it sailed harmlessly through the six-yard box.
The Lions finally broke through in the 60th minute, but it was off another opportunity that was nearly wasted. Kljestan got forward and had an opportunity to shoot but instead tried to cross for Dwyer and his pass was blocked. But the acting captain regained possession and lifted a ball to the back post that Dwyer nodded home to tie the score. That’s six goals in six matches played on the year for Dom.
Kljestan has either scored a goal or assisted on one in every game of the Lions’ six-game win streak.
RSL nearly pulled the goal right back. Plata’s cross cleared Schuler by inches and fell onto Baird’s foot. The Real Salt Lake forward settled it with a deft first touch and blasted a shot that forced a sliding kick save from Bendik. It was a huge stop in the 62nd minute, because the Lions took the lead seconds later. Yotún’s corner kick cross found Sané’s head, and the defender powered his first MLS goal past Rimando to make it 2-1 in the 63rd minute.
“I’m very happy for the team. For us it was a glad day, particularly for me, it was a first goal and it helped,” Sané said when asked about his goal.
The goal by Sané gave Orlando City six consecutive games scoring more than one goal, which is another club record since joining MLS. The overall record is seven by the USL Lions in 2014. Yotún earned his fifth assist on the year by delivering a perfect ball.
Orlando City wasn’t done, controlling the ball and the play, against the young RSL side. Shortly after Mueller was subbed out for Stefano Pinho after cramping up, the Lions put the game away. Kljestan sent Dwyer down the left in the 78th minute and Dom saw his shot saved by a diving Rimando. The ball fell perfectly for the onrushing Yotún, who smashed it into the gaping net to make it 3-1.
A few substitutions didn’t change much. Real Salt Lake seemed to lose its energy after the third Orlando goal and in fact the Lions had a couple of half chances, with Uri Rosell firing over the bar on one occasion and forcing a Rimando save on another shot.
Bendik saw very little attack from the visitors over the final 10 minutes, plus four more minutes of injury time. The whistle finally blew and Orlando held all three points yet again.
“As a coach you’d probably much prefer not having to come back so many times — not to be suffering the first goal in so many matches — but at the end of the day it doesn’t matter. It’s about 90 minutes,” Kreis said. “Over the 90 minutes our guys continued to work and stay together and get the result. I think we deserved that result and we got it.”
“Our power is a good character and in the second half we did the job to win this game,” Sané said.
The Lions finished with 53% of the possession, allowing more of the ball to RSL after the second goal, but staying organized and allowing very little room in the defensive third. Orlando out-shot the visitors, 19-16 (but 7-9 on target), passing at an 84% rate to RSL’s 81%.
The Lions return to the pitch next Sunday when first-place Atlanta United visits at 6 p.m. ET.