With just 10 minutes remaining, Orlando City found themselves in a dire spot. Down a pair of goals on home turf, and in the midst of a frustrating run to open the season, the Lions were in need of some positive vibes as they looked to build some momentum from a win over the New York Red Bulls last time out.
What came next was much more than just a dose of positivity. To manager Jason Kreis, it felt like some sort of miracle.
“To go two goals down is devastating,” Kreis said. “To come back from that, you feel like you’ve been to hell and come back out into heaven.”
“We were all shouting at each other and screaming, looking up at the clock at 80 minutes and we were still believing we could do it,” added forward Dom Dwyer, who drew a penalty and scored the game-winner. “It shows the character of this group. We were very, very proud of each other tonight.”
Sunday was a rollercoaster day for the Lions, who entered the match on the heels of the club’s first victory of the season. The three matches prior? Largely disappointing and completely frustrating, as the new-look Lions struggled through injuries and chemistry issues to grab just one point from three matches.
Like the rest of the club’s season, Sunday produced a lackluster start for Orlando City. All of the momentum from last week’s 4-3 thriller against the Red Bulls was squandered as Diego Valeri scored a penalty kick before finding Bill Tuiloma to open a 2-0 Timbers lead.
In the 80th, it was rookie Chris Mueller who pulled the Lions within one. A Sacha Kljestan penalty kick leveled the match two minutes later. In the 87th, it was Dwyer, whose weaving effort sent the home crowd into delirium as the Lions came all the way back in stunning fashion.
“I feel like this week was similar to last week in many ways. Incredible work rate from the guys, incredible that they stick together, incredible that they come back from two goals down,” Kreis said. “The effort and all of those things were fantastic. I still think we have a long way to go, a lot of improvement to make, so we cannot let this result take us to a place where we start to feel comfortable. We have to improve.
“I think it’s emotional for me because I care so deeply, and I think if you go through the locker room and ask the players, I think they feel the same way. I think we want to win in the absolute worst way and we’ve all worked incredibly hard to pit the team together from the starting work to the organization week in week out every single day, we put our heart and soul into it.”
As Kreis says, the team now needs to put its heart and soul into getting to a place where two-goal comebacks and thrilling seven-goal victories aren’t the norm. The veteran head coach says there are front-to-back improvements that need to be made as the club still looks disjointed from top to bottom.
Part of that will be fixed in the near future when Oriol Rosell joins the lineup after battling injuries to start the season. The rest will come as chemistry builds, Kreis hopes.
The head coach insists he sees the signs. He sees a team that has the talent and makeup to make a push. Now, it’s about using Sunday as a springboard towards actually making it happen.
“I feel like we need to bundle up all of the positivity from the performance, and we need to remember that and put it in our pocket because that can be really useful as the season goes along,” Kreis said. “But we also need to be humble and know that we need to improve. We need to make some improvements.
“Lot of work to be done, but we have to be happy that we have two wins in a row. That’s what it takes. It takes winning streaks in this league to make the playoffs.”