3 things we learned from Orlando City’s 1-1 draw with Montreal

Orlando Sentinel
Orlando Sentinel
Lions player Daryl Dike (18) looks from the ground at the referee to see if they make a call during the Montreal-Orlando City match at Exploria Stadium on Wednesday. Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel

Orlando City surged ahead to a one-goal lead but ultimately settled for a 1-1 draw with Montreal on Wednesday. Here are three things we learned from the match:

Slow second-half pattern

In the first half of Wednesday’s match, the Lions looked poised for a blowout.

Montreal didn’t even manage a shot in the first half. Meanwhile, Orlando City poured on pressure, opening with 4 corner kicks in the first 15 minutes and peppering 8 chances into the box. But after earning a 1-goal lead off Chris Mueller’s score in the 45th minute, the Lions came out of halftime flat from the locker room for the second game in a row.

They have struggled to match their first-half intensity in the opening 10-15 minutes of the second half. On Wednesday, Montreal surged back to take quick advantage of the sluggishness at the top of the half to earn the equalizer.

Even when Orlando City doesn’t cede a goal, these slow starts are holding it back from finishing games decisively.

Mueller expresses discontent

Mueller has been a fan favorite since his rookie year in 2018, but after Wednesday’s match the winger said his relationship with the club has soured amid contract negotiations.

Mueller signed a pre-contract for 2022 in July with Hibernian in the Scottish Premier League. At the time, he pushed for an early exit from Orlando to join his new team for its season that started in August.

Orlando City denied the request. In the three months following, the winger didn’t score a goal — until Wednesday’s draw.

Mueller cited those negotiations as a distraction that impacted his play.

“My situation with the club ... ultimately I think makes things a bit more difficult but I’ve just continued to push myself every day and continued to try and be positive and be happy where I can help the team,” Mueller said. “[It’s] been a tough process for me to handle everything that’s been going on, but it feels good to help the team where I can and just kind of get that monkey off my back.”

Mueller will remain an Orlando City player until his contract expires at the end of the year.

Pato return hopes to bring magic

Alexandre Pato made a long-awaited return for Orlando City as an 82nd-minute substitute.

The striker injured his knee in the season opener after debuting as a starter, then underwent surgery. He recovered from the procedure this summer only to suffer a series of unspecified knocks, which sidelined him for the majority of the regular season.

Coach Oscar Pareja said the challenge with Pato is balancing the current dynamic of the team with the striker’s reintegration. He will remain on limited minutes as the Lions test his health and ability to keep pace with the frontline, which already includes goal scorers like Luis Nani and Daryl Dike.

Pareja believes Pato’s experience as an international player will be beneficial in the final stretch of the regular season.

“This is a stage where sometimes we need magical moments from players who have been in these situations before,” Pareja said.

This article first appeared on . Email Julia Poe at .

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