Not all 2-2 draws are created equal. Even when both come out of late-game blown leads. Yes, there was disappointment after Pedro Ribeiro's 89th-minute strike allowed Orlando City to salvage a 2-2 draw against Columbus Crew SC on Saturday night at the Citrus Bowl. But the context is totally different than a week earlier at home when the Chicago Fire did the same thing to force the same result. This felt a lot more positive for the Black & Gold.
Here are six of my immediate takeaways from an up and down evening in central Florida. Share yours in the comments below.
Red didn't mean dead
In the 16th-minute with Crew SC already leading 1-0 on an early Tony Tchani goal, a corner kick for the Lions was sent to the far post, where Steve Clark was not able to cleanly punch the ball away. Instead, it fell to the feet of Kaka, who was unmarked in the chaos, who put the ball on net. Michael Parkhurst, who was defending the far post, was right where he was supposed to be, standing with his arms down at his sides. The ball bounced off his arm and out of the goal mouth, and referee Silviu Petrescu signaled for a penalty kick and pulled out a red card for Parkhurst.
The game was never the same again. For the second time in two games, we did not get to see Orlando City and Columbus battle it out 11-v-11, as Crew SC had to play a man down for 75 minutes. It seemed like a win was an impossibility after Kaka put away the resulting spot kick (I almost wrote in my OCSC breakdown that the Lions led the league in PKs. Guess what? They still do).
I was impressed with the approach after the red card. Gregg Berhalter immediately pulled Federico Higuain in favor of center back Emanuel Pogatetz, and I thought, "Is this team seriously going to try to bunker for 70 minutes?" But they didn't. Columbus was firmly out-possessed, but it didn't feel like they were constantly chasing the game. They still made some smart forays forward and continued a pass-first approach.
When taken in context, I thought it was the best away performance of the season for the Black & Gold. To take a lead and be in a position to win, and then to come away with some sort of points, was a positive result all things considered.
And about that red card...It seems to have stirred up a lot of controversy, due to the fact Parkhurst was positioned exactly as he should be. What's he supposed to do when his arm is at a natural position at his side? I get the argument, but Parkhurst pops his right side forward, as if to push the ball away, and I believe that motion forces Petrescu to show red. That movement changes the situation from the ball playing Parkhurst, to Parkhurst playing the ball. Or at least it looks that way. Petrescu did not maintain control of a physical game very well throughout the night, but for this decision I do not fault him.
Watch the play...How is an official supposed to look at Parkhurst's apparent pushing away of the ball and in a split second decision not determine he denied an obvious goal-scoring opportunity? If Parkhurst only moves his feet and not his lower body, I say no red card, but based on his movement...
Kei Kamara is a beast
We already kind of knew this, but that was all I could think after he headed the ball into the net for a 2-1 lead. It's exactly what I wrote in my notes.
All he has done is produced this year, and to still find a way to do so in that scenario just showed how incredible he has been.
It seemed like one of those moments where he was angry — and he was most certainly feisty on Saturday night — and just took it out in the best way possible. His attitude all evening was obvious. I thought he was lucky not to see a yellow card after mocking the referee at one point, and his celebration directed toward the Orlando City supporters told you everything you needed to know.
Orlando City was kind of what we expected
I wrote entering the game that OCSC was very similar to Columbus in the possession-based attack and quality passing. But the Lions had not been very efficient. It was more of the same on Saturday, and Columbus certainly benefited in a situation where they couldn't match Orlando City's numbers.
Cyle Larin had some impressive moments but misfired on some opportunities. If he can shake off those rookie moments and polish off his finishing, he won't be long for MLS.
OCSC needed 24 shots to get nine on frame (and one of those was a penalty kick) and to get two goals (again, one from the spot).
Part of that was Steve Clark's play. He made seven saves, and some of them were huge, including a 37th-minute stop on Kaka and a 48th-minute stop on Carlos Rivas.
Columbus limited Ramos
One of the major reasons for Orlando City's improved play in the time since the two sides' last meeting at MAPFRE Stadium has been that Rafael Ramos really made noise in the purple attack. But on Saturday he was limited to only a few moments of influence.
That was huge. Had he been a bigger part going forward for OCSC, it could have stretched a short-handed Crew SC. Instead, he was hushed; he may have gotten to play for a full 90 minutes this time, but wasn't a major factor. And Orlando City's crossing game was off the mark, sending in a whopping 36 crosses but connecting on only 28 percent of those.
Not to mention, Tchani's goal victimized Ramos, who got isolated one on one with the bigger Columbus midfielder on his header goal and never had a chance to win the aerial battle.
Is it time to worry about polishing off games?
I'm really not sure how to feel after allowing an 89th-minute goal. A week ago there was no question — it was a dismal failure for Columbus to let a 2-0 lead over Chicago get away. This week was a totally different set of circumstances, but it still has to be a little worrisome that a lead was lost late.
The task of taking a lead, let alone holding on to it with 10 men, is monumental, but Crew SC had every opportunity to take three points. In that case, the defense should have been finding a way to clear the ball away from the box. Ribeiro's game-winner came on a ball Waylon Francis should have collected and steered away, but his first touch was bad. Instead of clearing the ball, it bounced to Orlando City, and Ribeiro had tons of space because Pogatetz had initially reacted based on the assumption that Francis would take care of things.
I'm not going to lose sleep over allowing a late goal after playing that long with 10-men, but it is a sort of tipping point. If it happens again, it's time to really question what's going on. Only time will tell which was a bigger factor Saturday night — a red card or the Black & Gold's poise late in the game.
Organic roots of a rivalry
There's been a lot of talk recently about rivalries in MLS, and about things often being manufactured for marketing purposes, especially with so many teams that only have a few years of history (or less). But on Saturday night I felt like I was watching the roots of a rivalry finding ground organically.
For starters, the fanbases (at least the ones plugged in online) do not appear to like each other much. On the field, this was a physical battle with questionable officiating, which may hurt the product in the moment but can contribute to animosity between teams. There were cards galore and controversy. There were two teams who both felt like they should have won and didn't.
Those are the types of things that lead to ongoing tension and banter between the clubs' communities, even beyond game week.
Add to that the first game had a violent tackle that led to a red card for its own dose of controversy, and there's a whole lot to chew on.
Even the players seemed to get caught up in it. There was Kamara's goal celebration directed at OCSC supporters, and Tchani got on Twitter after the game to talk about the Orlando City fans.
Unlucky and disappointed last night but way to fight until the end with a man down. Man those fans were reckless but the next #Philly— IG: tonytchani23 (@TonyTchani23) May 31, 2015
It was a close, physical game and now both sides feel like they were hard done by what went down. Circle August 1 on your calendars. The third and final regular-season meeting between these two should be fun.