Orlando City head coach Adrian Heath is not the vengeful type.
But considering their recent results in the first half of two home-and-home sets over a four-game stretch, some payback would be a nice change of pace.
It started on April 17 when the New England Revolution used a stoppage time penalty kick to steal a point in Orlando. It continued the following week in New York.
Despite leading for over an hour after Cyle Larin’s third-minute goal, the Red Bulls’ potent attack – Heath calls it one of the best in MLS – exploded for three goals in ten minutes to capture the three points. City pulled one back in the waning minutes, but was unable to find the equalizer.
The Lions were in danger of dropping points yet again on Saturday in New England, but the team’s resilience shone through. They fought back from two one-goal deficits as Heath again turned to young Designated Player Carlos Rivas and veteran newcomer Júlio Baptista to spark the attack.
The two immediately changed the game when they entered in the 81st minute, and it was Baptista’s clever feed to Larin that started the rush that tied the game. After countless powerful strikes, it was a simple touch that gave Rivas his first career MLS goal and the Lions and much needed point on the road
“I asked the players for a reaction from the performance against New York,” Heath said. “I thought we got that.”
It’s hardly a rare occurrence that City scores in the final seconds – they’ve been doing it ever since their first MLS game last season – but this team has a new edge to it.
“I think that this group hangs on in there and dig in and keep going and we have a bit more quality to actually hurt teams when we do get opportunities,” Heath said.
The options coming off the bench have been a huge compliment to the attacking threats in the starting XI all season. Adrian Winter came on and scored a miraculous tying goal in the fifth minute of stoppage time in the season opener and Kevin Molino entered the first game against New England and scored the go-ahead goal in stoppage time, so it’s no surprise that Rivas and Baptista have found roles as go-to goal getters.
But as fun as these late-game goals are for fans, they’re nothing but stress for the Gaffer.
“I hope not,” Heath said when asked if the late-game drama is in the team’s DNA. “I hope we can win the game comfortably beforehand.”
When they last faced the Red Bulls, the reigning Supporters Shield champs were on the bottom of the table and struggling to score. Since then, though, New York has scored seven goals in two games – most recently in a 4-0 shellacking of then-first-place FC Dallas.
So are the Lions looking for revenge against the Red Bulls? Not according to Heath.
“It’s going to be a big game for us. We’ve proved that we can compete with them. I’m looking forward to the game on Friday.”