ORLANDO, Fla.- Adrian Heath and his players struggled to put their feelings into words after the complete roller-coaster nature of the 2-2 draw with San Jose on a night that was also marked by numerous tributes and dedications to the victims, families and first responders of the Pulse nightclub shootings.
The disappointment in the locker room Saturday night was palpable after the Earthquakes stole away with a point thanks to the late, late Shea Salinas effort, but there was also pride, amazement and honor in a kaleidoscopic mix from a highly emotionally-charged evening.
All those emotions were on show through an elaborate pre-game ceremony, a poignant half-time show and the high drama of the 49th-minute stoppage for a moment’s silence to honor the victims.
In the end, Heath – and the majority of the team – were positively anguished at not delivering the three points he thought his men deserved and which he felt were crucial to sealing a night of commemoration.
“Obviously I’m disappointed that we didn’t finish it off,” he said. “The players are absolutely distraught. They never gave up and kept pushing for the win. We had plenty of chances and we just had a lack of concentration at the end.
“It was an incredible evening for the city, though. The fans never cease to amaze me and it is something we will be able to look back on and be very proud of. I think the club has handled the situation extremely well and it has been the most emotional evening I have ever had in football – and I have been at this a long time.”
Orlando City’s opening goalscorer, Seb Hines, confirmed the feelings of the players, after it looked like substitute Julio Baptista had secured a 2-1 win with his second goal in successive games in the 91st minute.
“It is a huge disappointment,” Hines admitted. “We were just trying to do everything we could for the city, especially with the way they turned up for tonight in the rainbow sections of the stadium. Their support means so much to the team and we just wanted to show our support for them tonight, and that everybody’s united with them.”
Brek Shea was equally upset with the outcome. “It was obviously a big game for us after all that’s gone on this past week,” he said. “It was pretty cool to see the turnout, and all the organizations, charities, first responders and families that came out after everything that’s happened.
“It was really special for something that’s hard to describe, and there were a lot of emotions out there, especially before kickoff. I think we showed how much we wanted to do well, which is why it was so disappointing at the end and I just felt so bad for the fans. I felt like we let them down.”
Baptista added his thoughts at the end via the team’s translator, with the Brazilian striker speaking in Spanish. “We went out to put on a show for all our fans,” he said. “We know what this meant to the community, and not just the city, but the whole country. We didn’t quite get it done, but we definitely know there is so much love in this community.”