There’s a standard to-do list for any MLS team looking to claim a road result in front of 29,000 opposing supporters. It’s safe to say that conceding inside of four minutes and being on the receiving end of a first-half red card rarely make the cut.
But as both setbacks befell the Chicago Fire Friday night vs. Orlando City SC -- first Cyle Larin’s early strike for the hosts and, in the 32nd minute, Michael Harrington’s straight red card -- the Men In Red banded together and eventually walked out of the Orlando Citrus Bowl with a hard-fought 1-1 draw to their credit.
“It’s not easy to come back from a goal early,” said goalkeeper Matt Lampson, who finished with four key saves in net. “But the team showed resilience and we did everything that we could to stay in the game to get a result away from home, down a man for close to 70 minutes. That shows the heart of this team and how hard we work for each other, and that’s the reason we got a result today.”
Following the ejection -- the first sending off of a Fire player since Aug. 2 of last season -- head coach Veljko Paunovic transitioned his side from the ambitious 3-5-2 setup that began the match to an organized and efficient 4-4-1.
“It’s never easy being down a man,” Paunovic said. “The guys did very well to adapt to the new system, to defend and try to play on counter. Especially Kennedy Igboananike who did very well on the left side. We had to stick together and stick to our team spirit and work as a team. Most of all they gave their hearts on the field.”
It wasn't easy tonight, but we showed a lot of character and got a well deserved point! On to the next one @ChicagoFire— Matthew Ryan Polster (@MattPolster) March 12, 2016
Even shorthanded, the Fire held their ground against a Lions side which, just five days ago, had roared back from a 2-0 deficit vs. Real Salt Lake to pull level with two stoppage time goals.
“[It] speaks volumes about the character of the team,” Lampson said. “When you’ve got every single guy giving everything they have, you know you are going to be proud of what you put out on the field, regardless of the outcome. We can be proud of it. It shows the type of team that we are.”