It took some time for Orlando City. The first few weeks were admittedly rocky due to a combination of injuries, chemistry issues, and calamity. For a while, there were questions about what the Lions had built and what it would take to get it to click.
Over the past few weeks, that doubt has all but disappeared as the Lions have looked like a legitimate contender. Throughout a four-game winning streak, the Lions have scored at will while being led by what might just be one of the league’s more dynamic attacks.
On Saturday, all pieces of that attack were on point, leading the way in Orlando’s 3-2 win over the San Jose Earthquakes. Veteran additions like Sacha Kljestan and Justin Meram made their presence felt. Rookie Chris Mueller continued his tear. Dom Dwyer did what Dom Dwyer always does.
It was a special day for Dwyer in particular, whose 69th minute finish proved to be the game-winner thanks to a furious Earthquakes comeback in the final moments. It wasn’t just a game-winner, though. It was also a milestone goal, Dwyer’s 100th as a professional.
“It’s been a fun week building up to this,” Dwyer said. “There was never a doubt in my mind that it was going to come tonight. It was meant to be. It’s as special occasion. It was nice to have my family here and to have my son on the field afterwards. It’s a special day.
“Dom has been such a good role model and has given me so much advice as a player,” Mueller said of Dwyer’s milestone finish. “I was glad to be on the field for that moment. I’ve only known him for a little bit but I’m proud of him for that, for sure.”
The duo of Dwyer and Mueller have become quite the pairing with the rookie rapidly finding his place in the Orlando City lineup. Mueller scored the first goal of the day, weaving his way past his defender before firing a shot over a sliding Andrew Tarbell for the second-minute opener.
But it was Mueller’s play on the second goal that was most impressive. In a position where he easily could have shot himself, Mueller opted to slide a pass to Kljestan, leaving a no-doubt finish for the veteran midfielder.
Kljestan says you can see why Mueller led the NCAA in goals at Wisconsin last season, and you can see exactly why he’s such a good complementary piece to Dwyer atop the Orlando attack. The two know how to score goals, but they also know how and when to do the little things to help create them.
“Everything has impressed me,” Dwyer said of Mueller. “I’m not really surprised to be honest. I saw it in the first few days he trained with us. I went up to him and said that I think we can play together, and I really meant it. I think he’s a very talented kid. He’s very smart and he’s not just a goalscorer. He brings people into the play. You saw today with the extremely unselfish effort playing Sacha in, and it was the right choice… I think we have a special one with us.
“It’s 100 percent a goal if you pass that ball,” Mueller said of the play. I probably could have scored, but the chance, if I give it to Sacha, he scores every time.”
While Jason Kreis is pleased with how his side has developed over the current four-game win streak, he still has his gripes, naturally. While one of those wins was a clean sheet, the other three have seen Orlando concede seven goals, far too many for any team, even one that scores as much as the Lions.
Kreis says he can’t completely toss away a poor 20 minutes to close the match and, going into next week’s clash with the Colorado Rapids, he expects a more complete performance from a team that seems to have it all figured out on one side of the ball.
“Another night I think the fans got their money’s worth, another night where the coach gets some grey hairs.,” Kreis said. “Really really pleased with the four wins in a row. Really, really pleased with three wins in a row at home. We’re moving in a very positive direction. That’s the good news. The bad news is we still have a ways to go. If you look at it one way, it’s good that we know that, that we know we need to get better. ”
“We made a lot of changes in the offseason and it took us awhile to get used to each other,” Dwyer said. “It took us a few games to hit our rhythm, but we’re hitting our stride now. We feel confident and we’re staying at the same level right now. We’re going to continue to work hard, try and keep this running and get another result next week in Colorado.”