Orlando City SC and the Portland Timbers are undoubtedly two of the most confounding teams after the first month of the 2018 MLS season, and that statement rings even truer following the two side’s five-goal thriller at Orlando City Stadium on Sunday.
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Orlando came out on top, erasing a 2-0 deficit during a seven-minute barrage inside the game’s final 10 minutes, but neither side put forth a strong enough 90-minute performance to give any indication they’re trending upward. Dom Dwyer scored the game-winning goal, his third of the young season, in the 87th minute.
Five minutes earlier, Sacha Kljestan made it 2-2 from the penalty spot after Dwyer won the penalty — in shall we say, controversial fashion — just two minutes after rookie Chris Mueller bagged his first MLS goal to halve the Lions’ deficit.
Here’s the good news for Portland: for roughly an hour, they completely dominated and controlled in a proactive manner — that’s to say, pressing and possession.
Here’s the bad news for Portland: head coach Giovanni Savarese made a pair of subs in the ensuing seven minutes that changed everything good his side had done for 60 minutes — Lawrence Olum (defensive midfielder/center back) and Dairon Asprilla (winger), for Cristhian Paredes (box-to-box midfielder) and Samuel Armenteros (forward). It was extremely negative and immediately gave away Portland’s stranglehold on the game.
Those first 60 minutes also highlighted just how badly Orlando are missing an influential midfielder capable of dictating tempo, circulating possession and driving forward. It wasn’t until Portland essentially conceding two-thirds of the field before Kljestan and Yoshi Yotun began to combine anywhere near the final third.
Uri Rosell is yet to make his debut in purple, and he should solve a lot of Orlando’s midfield problems and allow Kljestan the freedom he needs to do all of the above. Until he returns from injury, though, expect a couple-few more Jekyl-and-Hyde performances from Jason Kreis’s side.