When Orlando City was struggling to start the season, Jason Kreis said to judge the Lions on where they end up when the dust settles. With his team now cruising through a long-term winning streak, Kreis’ message remains the exact same.
The Lions took down their fifth consecutive opponent on Sunday via 2-1 win over the Colorado Rapids that ranks among their more scrappy efforts. After conceding an early goal, the Lions came from behind thanks to goals from Cristian Higuita and Yoshi Yotun, erasing a deficit to seal a hard-fought road win.
Throughout the run, Orlando City has taken down impressive opposition. It began with a rollercoaster win over the New York Red Bulls and a come from behind thriller against the Portland Timbers. Then came a more concise win over the Philadelphia Union before another shootout against Sporting KC.
“It’s important that we keep our feet on the ground,” Kreis said. “It’s very, very important that we remember who we are. It’s very, very important that we weren’t believing people over the first few matches when they said how bad we were. It’s important that we don’t listen to the hype now.
“We continue doing what we do and, if we do that, I would think there would be much more success to come. ”
For the first 30 or so minutes on Sunday, it didn’t look like Orlando would find much success. Dominique Badji opened the scoring in the 26th minute, capping a strong start for a Rapids team that jumped out well against a visiting Lions group.
Through the last 10 minutes of the first half, the Lions showed glimpses, and they build on those glimpses en route to a comeback. It was the type of response that Kreis wants and expects from a team that keeps finding itself in need of big-time goals.
“I thought we started out poor again, to be honest,” Kreis said. “I thought our energy level was lacking. I thought it took us a bit to get into that game but, once we sorted things out, we got there and I was really pleased with the effort and performance as well as the general players. We played well. It just took us a little while to get there.”
While an opening goal from Higuita was among the bigger surprises, the defense’s second half effort was perhaps the biggest. Throughout this run, the Lions have leaked goals in bunches but been able to outscore their way to victory. After Badji’s opener, the defense shut it down through one of their more impressive halves of soccer.
It did come right on down to the end, though, as Mohamed El-Munir made a game-saving tackle late to preserve the fifth straight win.
“We are defenders. If we’re not doing that, no one will do it,” El-Munir said. “I have to go, no matter what. Whether it’s to open the game or this ball, from where I see it, there may be no chance, but who knows? God’s plan.”
“Another pretty strong night for us defensively,” Kreis added. “If you erase the first however many minutes before we got going, after that, the group was compact, connected and played well.”
If Orlando wants to keep this streak going, they’ll need to do it against tough opponents over the next few weeks. Up first is a home match against Real Salt Lake before facing off with the East’s big dogs in Atlanta United and Toronto FC. Those two matches, in particular, will be major tests for a Lions team that is now looking like the group many expected.
At some point, the streak will end and, at some point, the Lions will go through another rough patch. However, this current run has been an important confidence boost to an Orlando team still learning about itself every week.
“I think we’re doing very well,” Higuita said. “We just won our fifth consecutive game. We just need to keep working hard, calm down, relax and just keep moving forward.”