Orlando City’s season-opener was close to being a nightmare.
Darwin Cerén was ejected in the first half after a foul on Javier Morales, and Ricardo Kaká was a last-minute absentee four hours before kickoff.
And it looked as if Joao Plata’s two goals in the 26th and 66th minutes would power Real Salt Lake to three points.
But it didn’t. The Lions found a way.
Cyle Larin and Adrian Winter found the back of the net in stoppage time as Orlando City played to a 2-2 draw Sunday in front of 60,147 at the Citrus Bowl.
“They kept going,” Orlando City head coach Adrian Heath said on his team’s resilience. “I always thought we were going to score…just didn’t think we’d get two [goals] as late as it did, but I always thought we’ll get a goal at some stage.
“We’ve been going all afternoon. We certainly had [several] chances before [Real Salt Lake] scored. The crowd in the stadium kept going, and it does keep the momentum going. As soon as you get one goal, you’re still in the game.”
Plata broke the deadlock in the 26th minute after converting a penalty kick pass Orlando goalkeeper Joe Bendik. The Ecuadorian tallied his second and doubled RSL’s lead in the 66th minute after finishing off a Tony Beltran cross from close range.
With the game coming to a close, Larin, who failed to score in preseason, scored his first of the regular season, and a pivotal one at that, four minutes into stoppage time after striking the ball past Salt Lake goalkeeper Nick Rimando.
Servando Carrasco assisted the game-tying goal 30 seconds later after launching a long ball toward the final third of the field, finding Larin who then slotted the ball toward Winter for the finish.
“We just kept pushing and fought all game. It was coming,” Larin said. “Our team is a hard-working team and when we have a full squad, we can do even better. I got chances, and that’s most important. As long as I get my first goal and after that, it keeps rolling. Once I get one, the momentum keeps going.
“Everyone can contribute on this team, and that’s the most important thing… We have a deep bench. We have [Antonio] Nocerino and Kaká, who didn’t play, but I know when they’re back in the lineup, we’ll be very good.”
Orlando outshot Salt Lake 14-5 and dominated possession on the field with 52.5 percent.
Real Salt Lake went down to 10 men after Demar Phillips’ foul on Larin saw the defender earn a second yellow card to warrant a red card. Phillips fouled Kevin Molino earlier to earn his first yellow card.
Orlando City followed with going down a man toward the end of the first half after Cerén was issued a red card for a flagrant foul on Salt Lake midfielder Morales.
Orlando City’s history with red cards isn’t ideal. The Lions are now 0-7-4 in games where they went down a player.
Heath’s men welcome the Chicago Fire on Friday at the Citrus Bowl. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.