Yesterday was a wild day on the pitch at the Citrus Bowl, and the match started with fireworks from "The Beast" and ended with a pretty ugly scene between home fans and visiting players. The 2 - 2 draw was really exciting, but the questionable officiating made fans of both teams feel like they had been robbed of a victory at the end of the match.
- Julio Batista - "The Beast" got his first start for Orlando City, and he wasted no time making an impact. Fourteen seconds into the first half he drew a foul inside the 18-yard box in front of the Rev goal when two New England players took him down. That allowed Kaka to step up and convert on the earliest PK goal in the history of MLS.
- "Super Joe" Bendik - The Orlando City keeper had a great match. He was called on to make far more saves than he should have had to because Orlando City played such poor defense that it reminded me of the start of the 2015 season. Bendik is proving to have a very aggressive goaltending style, and when he chooses to come out of the goal to make a play on the ball, he almost always makes the right decision on the ball. It really makes it fun to watch him play.
- Kevin Molino - There was some controversy around Molino's stoppage-time goal at the end of the match. All the same, Molino and Cyle Larin added a great spark to the match when they came in at about the 60-minute mark.
- Duel Masters - Orlando City won the battle of duels (or 50/50 balls), winning 52 of them compared to New England's 37 duels won. All the same, the game appeared to be played very sloppily for long stretches, which brings us to the Bad from the match.
- The Wall - I think the Supporters Section gets stronger every week. It seems like they've now grown to two ranks of drummers instead of one, and they are on point from the opening kickoff to the final whistle, prompting the rest of the crowd to provide more energy to the players on the pitch, and making the Citrus Bowl an intimidating place for opponents to visit.
- Sloppy Play - Orlando City was very sloppy throughout the match. The passing accuracy was an anemic 75% (very poor by Orlando City standards) which allowed the Revs to lead both in passing accuracy and possession percentage.
- Adrian Winter - I'm not sure what was ailing Winter yesterday. He is normally one of the best play creators and spark plugs that helps to drive the Orlando City offense. But yesterday he just seemed to be in a funk, so much so that Coach Heath replaced him at the 60-minute mark.
- Defesive Back Line - Calling the defense that Orlando City played yesterday Swiss Cheese would be giving the club too much credit. From the second to the 45th minute in the first half, it seemed that New England had the ball down in front of Joe Bendik's goal and was firing shots. It was very frustrating to watch, and it was thanks to Bendik's skillful and aggressive goal keeping that they only managed to find the back of the net once before halftime.
- Horrid Officiating - Referee Baldolero Toledo didn't have his best match for sure. There were questionable calls and non-calls all match, but the mistakes were magnified in stoppage time at the end of the match. On the Orlando City goal in the 93rd minute, replays showed that Molino was fouled in the box by the Revs Gershon Koffie, and Molino also committed a quite obvious "hand of God" handball before scoring the goal that put Orlando City ahead. Neither the foul by Koffie nor the handball by Molino were called or seemingly even noticed by any of the officials. Then in the 94th minute, late substitute Servando Carrasco was struck in the chest just above the Orlando City crest on his uniform, blocking a kick by Lee Nguyen. Replays clearly show the ball struck off the front of Carrasco's chest, but the referee called it a handball, and after some debate among the crew whether Carrasco had been inside the 18-yard box or outside the area, Toledo awarded the Revs a PK, which Nguyen converted to draw the visitors level once again.
- Poor Sportsmanship - There were several examples of this throughout the match. In the 56th minute, Antonio Nocerino was shown yellow after he said something to the referee. A Revs player had gone down in what looked like an overdramatic dive and Toledo awarded a foul and free kick. Nocerino ran over and said something either to referee Toledo or to the Revs player, and the yellow card flashed out with extreme prejudice. This could be a difference between how much argument MLS refs will accept from players compared to European refs, but it was not good to see Nocerino get a yellow for losing his cool. Then after the Nguyen PK in stoppage time, some in the Citrus Bowl crowd showed poor sportsmanship by throwing open water bottles and open beer cans down onto the pitch, clearly trying to pelt some of the Revs players with debris during their celebration. And the Revs players also demonstrated poor sportsmanship by then egging the crowd on and taunting them to throw more debris. I think there should be some repercussions both for the bottle throwers and the players--perhaps fines or bans for the fans that threw objects and red card suspensions for the players that taunted the crowd to throw more objects. Even the two coaches showed poor sportsmanship, getting into a shouting match over the tossed objects after the final whistle.
While the game ended in a very exciting fashion, I think the result of a draw was probably deserved, although I believe it probably should have been a 1 - 1 draw instead of the 2 - 2, since the handball should have negated Orlando City's second goal, and the misjudged handball called against Carrasco would have disallowed the PK that gave New England it's second goal.
What about you? What are your thoughts from the match? Who do you think performed really well and who do you think screwed up in the match? What was the ugliest moment for you as a fan of the game? Let me know in the comments below.