Major League Soccer is back and exciting as ever.
As if the tides couldn't turn any quicker for Orlando City and Real Salt Lake, Cyle Larin and Adrian Winter struck twice in the closing moments of stoppage time to force a 2-2 draw in front of a full Citrus Bowl crowd to kick off the 2016 MLS season.
Scrappy First Half Ends With Both Sides At 10 Men
It certainly was an exciting match right from the get-go in Orlando. Amid a few early chances from both penalty areas, RSL's Demar Phillips picked up a pair of yellow cards and was sent off in the 20th minute to put the away side a man down.
Yet the sending off seemed to awaken Real Salt Lake, and five minutes later, Yura Movsisyan was taken down on a lobbed-ball run in the box to force a penalty. As Joao Plata stepped up to take the penalty, Joe Bendik guessed correctly and dove to his right, but Plata's powerful strike was too much for Bendik to stop, as the keeper's deflection couldn't prevent the goal and the shorthanded Royals went up 1-0.
Physicality ensued from both sides as the first half progressed, Orlando City trying to equalize with an extra man and Real Salt Lake playing alert defense and jumping out on counterattacks. But in stoppage time, the Lions in purple and gold lost their advantage, as a dangerous tackle by Darwin Ceren drew a straight red card and the midfielder exited the pitch to end the half.
Plata Doubles RSL Lead
Real Salt Lake controlled as the game approached its final third, but both sides held sturdy for the first 20 minutes of the half. Come the 66th minute, Juan Manuel 'Burrito' Martinez showed some skilled past a pair of defenders on the right wing, quickly finding Tony Beltran on his right. Beltran seared through a spectacular back-post ball to Plata, who knocked home the score to earn the brace and bulk up RSL's lead to 2-0.
Larin and Orlando City got antsy and started really pushing the attack, lobbing a few close balls through in the forward half to have them just steered far-enough away by Nick Rimando. On two occasions, in the 80th and 89th minutes, the ball got by Rimando but City was unable to get to it and fire it in before it crossed the end line.
Wild Scenes At The Citrus Bowl
The referees decided to place four minutes of stoppage time on the board, and at the last possible moment, Orlando City found their fight. Brek Shea found Cyle Larin on a 94th-minute cross, which Larin finished flawlessly to the top right corner. But that goal only made it 2-1, and it seemed almost too late, a garbage-time pride goal, until a minute later, the impossible happened.
Straight off the late Larin score, Orlando City SC was right back at it, and Servando Carrasco sent the ball of a lifetime over the top of the whole RSL defense from his own half to the feet of Larin and Adrian Winter. Larin fumbled a small touch to Winter, who sent it straight into the back of the net and seal the sensational 2-2 draw as the referee blew the final whistle.
Final score: Orlando City 2, Real Salt Lake 2. What it feels like: Orlando City on top of the world, Real Salt Lake sickened with disappointment.
So in the end, there was no separation in this one point-wise, each side taking away a point to open their 2016 campaign in Major League Soccer action.