Orlando City (7-18-4, 25 points) continued a couple of trends tonight after drawing against the Houston Dynamo (8-13-8, 32 points), 0-0, in front of 23,723 fans in Orlando City Stadium. No Orlando City player has ever scored a goal against a Texas team in MLS — the lone goal for Orlando was a Tyler Deric own goal against Houston in a 1-0 Orlando City win in 2015. Orlando has now also failed to score in three straight games dating back to Sept. 1 off of Scott Sutter’s 91st-minute equalizer against the Philadelphia Union.
The Lions did break their losing streak, snapping it at just two, although this now makes one win in the last 20 matches for Orlando (1-16-3). The Lions also managed just their second clean sheet of the season, and the first since April 13 — a 2-0 win over the Union.
“I think there were some lovely passages of play,” Orlando City Head Coach James O’Connor said. “I think the intensity was better. I think the final third just eluded us today. I thought we had some half-decent chances. I thought we were the better team tonight. Obviously, some positives, keeping the clean sheet gives us a strong foundation to hopefully go on and build from.”
The starting XI that came out was one that former head coach Jason Kreis wished he had, but injuries forced him to go different routes. The back four was the ideal first choice since the off-season, with Mohamed El-Munir and Sutter as fullbacks and Jonathan Spector and Lamine Sané — who made his first start since June 30 — as center backs. This forced Carlos Ascues to move into a defensive midfield role, partnering with Uri Rosell.
The biggest surprise was in net. Joe Bendik was on the bench, but instead of Earl Edwards taking the starting role, Adam Grinwis made his first ever MLS start. Edwards was out of the 18 due to a “coaches decision.” Grinwis had a great debut, picking up a clean sheet, making three total saves, and was a key part in helping the Lions earn a point.
“There were some nerves, definitely,” Grinwis said. “Once the whistle blew it was the same game that I’ve always played. I’ve played on this field a lot of times. I’ve actually had my debut with Saint Louis FC last year in a 0-0 draw against OCB so it was kind of cool to come back here and make my MLS debut and have a similar result.”
The first exciting part of the match came in the 15th minute. Grinwis received a ball off a Dynamo player and took his time controlling it outside the box as Romell Quioto closed in on him. Grinwis got back into the box and fell on it. Quioto kicked it away, then put the ball into the back of the net. It was originally ruled a goal on the field, but the decision got reversed after a video review and Grinwis was lucky to still have his clean sheet.
“I felt like I got on top of it and all of a sudden it squeaked out,” said Grinwis. “I was confused because I thought I had control of it. I really wasn’t concerned about it. Obviously, it’s a nervy moment and I’m sorry for everyone else that had to go through that with me but that would’ve been a real black eye on the debut so I’m really happy that justice was served on that one.”
In the 24th minute, the Lions connected on a good bit of passing that brought Orlando City from inside its own third into an attacking area, before a turnover ended the threat. Houston went on the counter and Spector made a perfect tackle on Quioto just outside the 18. However, referee Baldomero Toledo called a foul and gave Spector a yellow for added measure. On the free kick, Quioto hit the ball right into the wall.
In the 31st, the Lions had their best scoring chance of the half. Rosell popped a ball over the top for Ascues, who cut it back for Sacha Kljestan. Sacha hit it toward the net, forcing a diving save from Joe Willis.
Towards the end of the half, the Lions had a few chances. Yoshimar Yotún played a good through ball to Kljestan, who slid but didn’t make good connection on it. El-Munir played a good ball in to Dom Dwyer, but the striker’s header went over the bar. In the 41st minute, Will Johnson tried a shot from distance that forced Willis to make a diving save. Two minutes later, Yoshi, from the right wing, put a great ball in but Dwyer could not control it.
The first half ended with no goals. Orlando looked comfortable for much of the half and had a few good passing spells. When Houston got the ball, the Dynamo were quick to counter and almost caught the Lions a few times. Orlando had more possession (54%-46%), shots (6-4), shots on target (3-1), and corners (2-1), but continuously stalled in the final third. The play was good in non-threatening areas, yet when Orlando got into scoring positions the play became too slow and too predictable, combined with a poor half from Dwyer.
“I think tonight we had a lot of good passages of play and we did trouble their back four,” said Spector. “Maybe just the final decision or the final ball was lacking a little bit of quality but at times we were able to cut through them from back-to-front.”
The second half started the same way as the first ended, but even fewer chances were created from each team. The ball was played largely in the middle of the field and neither team was able to break into the attacking areas. Houston sat back and defended, then went on the counter. Orlando held possession, built the play up, but was still too slow into the final third.
The best chance for Houston in the game came in the 58th minute. Quioto made a good run and got one-on-one with Grinwis. The ‘keeper stayed big, closed down the angle, and made a one-handed save. Houston got the ball back and shot toward the open net as Grinwis ran back into position but Spector was there to make the save with a diving header.
Orlando’s first shot on target in the second half came in the 70th minute. Yotún put an out-swinging corner right to Dwyer on the top of the six-yard box. It was a powerful redirect, but the header went right into the hands of Willis. The Yoshi-Dwyer connection was attempted again three minutes later. Yotún hit a ball over the top of Houston’s defense but it was too powerful, and Dwyer couldn’t bring it down.
The last 15 minutes of the game, Houston finally started get into the attack. The Dynamo had a couple of corners, but the Lions were able to defend them. Just after the 80th minute, Orlando had three corners in a row but was unable to get any shots off from them.
In the 90th minute it looked – for a moment – like the Cardiac Cats were back. Stefano Pinho played a great ball to Yoshi that started a counter. The Peruvian got down the field, cut inside, and passed it back to Pinho. The Brazilian took a shot right at the Houston defender, though, and the chance was over.
“The positive is the clean sheet,” O’Connor said. “That’s the second this year and it’s nice to get that and it gives a platform to hopefully spring from. I think that the movement in the midfield was good and we created some openings. On another night I think we get maybe a few decisions that maybe, I don’t want to say too much, but I think on another night we get little more luck. And equally the decision making in the final third can we just get the last bit off quality to go finish it off.”
The match ended goalless but Orlando City led in almost every statistical category. The Lions finished with more shots on target (4-3), passes (446-376), possession (54%-46%), and corners (7-4). Orlando also had a very impressive passing accuracy percentage of 88%, but the team struggled once when it entered the final third of the field.
Orlando City has next week off and then plays again on Oct. 6 against FC Dallas in Toyota Stadium.