ORLANDO. Fla.-- The man in the mask wasn’t happy for at least two reasons -- and the chances are he won’t be for a few weeks yet -- but Dom Dwyer still insists the best is yet to come for Orlando City SC.

With Dwyer forced into a bench role, as well as a face mask, as he recovers from a nose injury suffered during his Lions debut on July 29, Orlando's playoff hopes may have moved a step closer to life support following a 1-1 home draw with Columbus Crew SC on Saturday night.

However, after missing last weekend's loss at the New York Red Bulls, Dwyer at least felt encouraged by the team’s performance, and especially the fans’ reaction to his first match on the pitch at a raucous Orlando City Stadium.

“It was amazing, a very special night and a great feeling coming on,” Dwyer insisted. “It was everything I expected, and more. There was a lot of noise and it was very exciting. It is a great atmosphere and it brings me more excitement being at this club.

“It was just disappointing not to get the three points [for the fans]. But obviously we’re going to keep fighting. That’s all there is to do for us. We’re mathematically still in it, so we’ll keep working.”

Without a goal since joining Orlando, the former Sporting Kansas City star is fighting his own personal battle with a piece of facial protection that he admits is awkward and a distraction.

“It wasn’t the best, honestly,” Dwyer confessed. “But it is what it is. It’s there for protection. I’ll try to talk to the doctors next week and see if we can [either] not have it or maybe make some little adjustments.”

He also lamented loss of valuable practice time with his new teammates in the wake of an injury that also required surgery

Even so, and even with playmaker Kaká suspended and reduced to a supporter on Saturday, Dwyer's teammates remain optimistic about the impact Dwyer has made on matches aside from the scoresheet.

“Dom came in and made a hell of a difference, could have had a couple on a different day,” said Giles Barnes, who scored OCSC's equalizer. “There’s always injuries and suspensions in football, things you can’t control, but it’s great to have him back in the group. Everyone knows what he’s capable of.

“I thought the team was really buzzing in the second half and showed the passion and drive that we really wanted to win the game. Unfortunately a few of the attempts went just the wrong side of the post but it was encouraging to see how we bounced back.”

Barnes is also insistent the Lions are not out of the playoff race, despite sitting in eighth place in the Eastern Conference with a five-point gap and only nine games left.

“We don’t think we’re dead,” he confirmed. “The table is really close still. We believe we’re capable of beating anyone on any day regardless of how many games are left. We’ve just got to keep pressing for the three points.

“We’re a hungry, ambitious group. The last month or so hasn’t gone well for us, but we feel it’s just about that finishing touch, and again today, to come back from a goal down, just shows our character. We’re here to win and give these supporters what they deserve, which is for us to be in the playoffs at least.”

After frustrating home debut, Dom Dwyer still believes in Orlando City SC - https://league-mp7static.mlsdigital.net/images/extratime-640x395.png

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