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2016 Orlando City Season in Review: Where Were the Vital Points Dropped?



Let’s not sugarcoat it – missing the playoffs sucks. Watching other people’s favorite teams battle it out for a trophy while yours is playing golf, vacationing, or whatever. So, I get why there was so much gnashing of teeth on social media and in the comments section of this site after the loss to Montreal on Oct. 2 stuck a dagger in the Lions’ playoff chances.

Since all we’re left with is picking up the pieces and dissecting the 2016 season, we’ll be doing a number of postmortem pieces over the next few weeks. Today I thought I’d break down where Orlando City went particularly wrong in amassing enough points to make the 2016 MLS playoffs. Had the club but duplicated the 44 points from 2015, the Lions would have finished two points ahead of Philadelphia and we’d have had an additional game this week. But instead, the Lions ended the season on just 41 points. Let’s break down where dropped points really hurt the most by splitting the opponents into groups.

Orlando City by Conference

  • Orlando City vs. the Eastern Conference: 8-7-9, 33 points
  • Orlando City vs. the Western Conference: 1-4-5, 8 points

The Lions did OK against the East. At 1.375 points per game, this kind of production across the board would have had Orlando City in the middle of the table at about 47 points. That would have earned the Lions a home playoff game. The 1-4-5 record against the West is a big drop from last year’s mark of 5-3-2. Orlando City beat Portland, Sporting Kansas City, LA Galaxy, Houston Dynamo, and Colorado Rapids in 2015. In 2016, the team mustered only a win over Portland, albeit a fun and convincing one.

But East teams playing poorly against the Western Conference is not unique to Orlando City (Philadelphia was 1-6-3 vs. the West, for example). Four of the six Eastern Conference playoff teams had .500 or worse records against the Western Conference, so the answer probably lies elsewhere. By eliminating a poor cross-conference record, we can focus solely on the Eastern Conference.

Orlando City vs. Eastern Conference

  • Orlando City vs. East Playoff Teams: 7-6-4, 25 points
  • Orlando City vs. East Non-Playoff Teams: 1-1-5, 8 points

Now we’re getting somewhere. The Lions actually had a good record against Eastern Conference teams that made the playoffs. The club went 2-0-1 against New York City FC; 2-1-0 versus Montreal Impact; 1-1-1 against both Philadelphia Union and Toronto FC; 1-1-0 against D.C. United; and 0-2-1 against conference regular-season conference champion New York Red Bulls.

Meanwhile, the Lions managed only one win in seven matches against the East’s bottom feeders and drew five times against those teams. While Orlando City pulled in 1.47 points per game against the conference’s six best teams, the Lions mustered barely over a point per game against the other three clubs that missed the postseason. The lone win came at home against New England in Jason Kreis’ first game as head coach. That goes along with the infamous handball draw at home and another tie on the road against the Revs. Orlando failed to beat Columbus or Chicago, going 0-1-1 against the Crew and 0-0-2 against the Fire. Woof.

If Orlando City would simply have maintained the same points-per-game average against the worst teams in the East as it did against the best, that’s a jump of about four points and the Lions leapfrog New England and Philadelphia and finish level on points with the Impact.

This can be taken a bit further. The Lions went 1-0-3 against the four non-playoff teams in the Western Conference. That’s a total of 2-1-8 against the dregs of Major League Soccer. Eight times Orlando failed to score one goal more than the opponent to break a tie against the most meh competition the league had to offer.

In fairness, some of those draws were better than others. Rallying from two goals down on opening day was a satisfactory tie. Going to Vancouver on short rest and getting a result under an interim head coach was a good draw. Failing to find the net once against Houston at home was not. Allowing a goal at (beyond?) the death against San Jose at home was abysmal.

Just one more win among the group of Chicago, Columbus, New England, Houston, San Jose, and Vancouver would have pushed the Lions above the Union and into the postseason. The win over defending MLS champion Portland seemed a lot bigger in March when everyone expected the Timbers to make another run toward the MLS Cup. Now it seems like the kind of result Orlando City should have expected against teams below the line.

To make matters worse, of those dropped points against bad teams, five of the games were at Camping World Stadium: the draws against New England, San Jose, Houston, and Chicago, and the loss to Columbus. The Lions drew all four away games from that group: at Vancouver, New England, Columbus, and Chicago. Maybe drawing those road games is OK, but those dropped points at home were a killer.


Is Orlando City’s bad play against the bottom feeders a disturbing trend or was this year just particularly bad?

Looking back at 2015, the Lions were 3-2-3 for 12 points (1.5 ppg) in eight matches against Eastern Conference non-playoff teams (1-1-1 vs. NYCFC, 0-1-1 vs. Philadelphia, and 2-0-1 vs. Chicago). Further, Orlando was 2-0-2 for eight points (2 ppg) in four matches against Western Conference non-playoff teams a year ago (beating Houston and Colorado, and drawing vs. RSL, San Jose). That’s a total of 5-2-5 for 20 points (1.67 ppg) in matches against the league’s worst in the club’s inaugural year. That kind of production would certainly have helped the Lions get above the red line in 2016.

The club did perform better against Eastern Conference playoff teams this season, despite collecting fewer overall points through the 2016 MLS campaign. The Lions were just 4-9-3 for 15 points (0.94 ppg) against Eastern Conference teams that made the postseason in 2015. Toronto FC alone clobbered Orlando three times in those nine City losses.

To summarize, Orlando City got better against the Eastern Conference overall and especially against Eastern playoff teams from 2015 to 2016. However, the Lions also got substantially worse against non-playoff teams, dropping from to 1.5 points per game vs. Eastern Conference non-playoff teams in 2015 to 1.14 ppg in 2016, and from 1.67 ppg vs. all non-playoff teams in 2015 to 1.27 ppg in 2016.

The key to the lads in purple reaching the playoffs for the first time might possibly be as simple as beating the bad teams in 2017.

Orlando City

Orlando City vs. D.C. United: Final Score 3-2 as Lions Score Twice Late to Win

Duncan McGuire’s stoppage time goal capped a wild comeback win on the road by the Cardiac Cats.



Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

The Lions flipped the script. After suffering numerous sucker punches at the hands of D.C. United over the years, Orlando City (2-3-2, 8 points) finally turned around the narrative, scoring twice late to turn a 2-1 deficit into a 3-2 win over D.C. United (2-2-4, 10 points) at Audi Field in Washington, D.C.

Dagur Dan Thorhallsson, David Brekalo, and Duncan McGuire scored for Orlando, as the “Killer Ds” did enough to offset goals by Christian Benteke and Gabriel Pirani. The goals by Brekalo and McGuire each came after the start of the 82nd minute. The victory snapped a four-game winless streak against D.C. (0-3-1) for Orlando, which picked up its first road win of the 2024 MLS season and, in fact, scored its first three road goals of the league campaign.

“Obviously very happy with the result, and I want to give all the credit to these players that gave everything and understood how to play it, in many ways that we didn’t want to play,” Orlando City Head Coach Oscar Pareja said after the match. “But we tried to match that model of D.C., of playing a long ball and finding those second balls.”

Pareja’s lineup included Pedro Gallese in goal behind a back line of Kyle Smith, Robin Jansson, Brekalo, and Thorhallsson. Cesar Araujo and Wilder Cartagena started in central midfield behind an attacking line of Ivan Angulo, Facundo Torres, and Martin Ojeda, with Luis Muriel up top.

The first half was an open affair at times and Orlando nearly unlocked D.C.’s defense three minutes in when Muriel made a nice run up the right side. However, his final pass hit the trailing foot of a defender and ruined the chance. Ojeda then scored a minute later but he was correctly flagged for offside after the ball crossed the line. It was a close play, but Ojeda was a half-step behind the last defender.

That was costly, as D.C. then opened the scoring seconds later.

A good attack up the left side ended with a D.C. cross through the penalty area. Smith did well to play safe and knock it behind for a corner. The hosts scored off that corner when Gallese came off his line to track the ball and ran into a D.C. player, going down hard in his area. While referees blow those kinds of plays dead about 95% of the time, Guido Gonzalez, Jr. swallowed his whistle and Benteke’s looping header into a gaping net put D.C. in front in the fifth minute.

United was buoyed by the goal and continued to attack aggressively. Kristian Fletcher missed the net in the eighth minute, and Benteke tried a flying volley on a bouncing cross from Aaron Herrera in the 16th but missed the target. Two minutes later, Gallese stopped a wicked blast from Herrera to keep it at 1-0. Gallese then collected a weak header from Lucas Bartlett on the ensuing corner kick as it appeared the Lions were in for a long night of suffering.

But Orlando settled into the match after the second D.C. corner. A good spell of possession led to a cross from Smith on the left, but the fullback overcooked his attempt and the attack broke down in the 20th minute. Moments later, Muriel chested down a cross into Ojeda’s path, but the Argentine swung right past the ball while it was still in the air, missing it completely from just above the penalty spot. Torres blasted a shot just inches wide of the right post in the 23rd minute as the Lions kept up the pressure, which finally paid off.

Angulo used a burst of speed to free himself on the left and sent a great cross to the back post. Thorhallsson made no mistake, driving his header low and into the net on one hop to make it 1-1 in the 28th minute. It was Orlando’s first road goal of the season.

“When (Angulo) got the ball, I was like “OK, he’s going to try to go past (his defender),” Thorhallsson said of the play. “In the trainings we’ve been trying to get me there (the back post), so he just ran there and put the ball perfectly on my head. There was nothing more that I could have done than just run on the ball, basically, and put it in goal. So, all credit to Ivan and great to get the first goal of the season.”

After a failed D.C. corner kick, the Lions came close again in the 35th minute when Angulo had a shot blocked in front of Alex Bono by the defense. Torres then sent in a dangerous cross that Connor Antley headed out for a corner, but Ojeda sent the set piece cross right at the goalkeeper.

Muriel nearly opened his MLS account with Orlando City in the 38th minute. An outstanding long ball from Ojeda sent Muriel down the right. He collected the ball and fizzed the ball past Bono but Herrera tracked back to block it.

The chippy nature of the match picked up near the end of the half, with four D.C. players and Cartagena getting booked as time wound down. Neither team could create much in the five minutes of stoppage time, although Muriel blasted a shot that buzzed over the crossbar late in added time. The teams went to the break knotted up at 1-1.

Orlando City finished the first half with the advantage in possession (53.2%-46.8%) and passing accuracy (81.9%-78.9%), while D.C. had more shots (9-5), shots on target (3-1), and corners (4-2).

“I thought the first half we played better with the ball and we had some options,” Pareja said.

The second half continued to be a back-and-forth open affair, with both teams creating some havoc.

Muriel nearly played Angulo in behind shortly after the restart but Bono came out of his box quickly and got there just in time to knock it out of play. Torres then made the first of a couple of bad crosses, sending a ball from the left onto the roof of the net with Ojeda breaking open at the back post.

Torres then won a free kick out on the left side. Ojeda sent in a good cross but Brekalo couldn’t quite get his head onto it in the 51st minute. A minute later, Angulo stole the ball in the attacking half, but Torres again overcooked a cross, sending it over everyone from the left.

Bartlett sent a weak shot wide in the 56th minute off a corner kick that appeared to be a goal kick. D.C. then had a mad scramble in front of Gallese. The Peruvian made a vital save on Benteke, but the big striker was offside anyway.

D.C. got back on the front foot and good pressure and more possession helped the host take control of the match for a while. A wild scramble in front of goal in the 58th minute nearly allowed United to take the lead, but Gallese made a vital stop even though the play was ultimately blown dead for offside on Benteke.

The hosts regained the lead in the 66th minute in transition. It looked as though Muriel was pulled back from behind and the Colombian went to ground, but the referee played on and D.C. punished the Lions. With a defender jumping into the play, United ended up with numbers in the attack. A ball off Benteke’s head in the box found the foot of second-half substitute Pirani, who blasted it past a helpless Gallese to make it 2-1 in the 66th minute.

Moments after the second goal, Smith failed to get his body turned properly in front of a bouncing ball passing through the middle. He was intead called for a handball, gifting D.C. a dangerous free kick straight out from goal. Herrera went for goal and his shot cleared the wall but did not dip back under Gallese’s crossbar.

Pareja made three changes at the cusp of the 73rd minute, sending on Nico Lodeiro, McGuire, and Rafael Santos, and withdrawing Cartagena, Ojeda, and Smith. It proved in the end to be a shrewd set of subs.

McGuire quickly won a free kick near the left corner of the box but Orlando City couldn’t do anything with the set piece.

Lodeiro had a go from outside the box in the 82nd minute. His blast from long range had a lot of movement on it and it was on target, forcing Bono to tip it over the crossbar. That led to the equalizer just seconds later.

Torres delivered the corner kick from Orlando’s attacking right and sent a good ball into the area near the top of the six. It appeared that the ball glanced off Benteke’s header attempt, skipped off the back of Brekalo’s head, and nestled into the left corner, tying the match at 2-2 in the 82nd minute. It was Brekalo’s first goal with Orlando City.

D.C. nearly pulled the goal right back in the 84th minute. Off a set piece, the ball ended up with Benteke who headed it toward goal. The shot was blocked by Brekalo and fell for Pirani, who smashed a blast into the outside netting from the left side.

Santos tried to pick out McGuire in the front with a cross in the 89th minute, but it was blocked out for a corner kick. The ball was headed in the air and Angulo attacked it at the top of the box but was called for a foul, ending the attack.

D.C. had a dangerous spell of possession near the top of the penalty area just after that set piece, but the goal ended up going the other way. Orlando picked out an attempted through ball and Angulo sent it quickly to Lodeiro. The Uruguayan turned and sent a perfect ball to McGuire, who had kept his foot on the center line and got in behind the defense. The second-year pro dribbled toward the top of the box and blasted a shot just inside the right post, beating Bono and handing Orlando City a late 3-2 lead in the first minute of stoppage time.

“It’s fantastic for us to have such professional players, whether they come in from the start or they come in from the bench, they’re just giving their heart and they’re giving their soul on the pitch,” Pareja said of his subs. “Nico, when he came on with Duncan, they showed us the unity those players had and the intentions that they have just to put this team on the top again. We’re trying to find our best version still, but it was really encouraging for us to see the response of them when they came from the bench. It helped us a lot.”

There was a lengthy check to make sure the initial call on the field was correct, and the video assistant referee upheld the original call. McGuire’s goal was his third against D.C. United in as many meetings. He has scored in each of the three matchups against United since joining Orlando City.

The Lions had to see out a minimum of 11 minutes of added time, which ultimately grew to nearly 15. That’s when Gallese earned his money.

The Peruvian international made a good reaction save in the 93rd minute to deny Pirani. He denied a cannon shot by Herrera from the top of the box in the 99th minute, preserving the lead once again.

Orlando finally ran out the clock on the match and claimed its first road win of the year. The Lions extended their unbeaten streak to three matches (2-0-1).

United led all over the stat sheet in the end, finishing with the advantage in possession (51.6%-48.4%), shots (20-10), shots on target (6-4), corners (7-4), and passing accuracy (77.4%-76.7%). However, the Lions were more clinical, especially late in the match.

“The second half they gave us a little trouble there with D.C.’s style, but we resolved it and then we found our ways to score, which is fantastic for our team at this moment,” Pareja said. “The most important (thing) is the heart the players showed today. They have done it before but not (getting) results, and we’ve had a result that is very important for us in this moment.”

“I would say it’s a great feeling (in the locker room),” Thorhallsson said. “I feel like we needed that to show a little bit of character. When we get concede a goal, I feel like we’ve been a little bit down and we can’t get out of it. And it shows that no matter the circumstances, if we concede a goal, we can still bounce back, and we did that really well.”

The Lions will be continue their road swing next Saturday at Montreal.

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Orlando City

Orlando City vs. D.C. United: Preview, How to Watch, TV Info, Live Stream, Lineups, Match Thread, and More

The Lions look for their first road result of the season when they visit Audi Field.



Image courtesy of Orlando City SC

Welcome to your match thread for a Saturday night matchup between Orlando City and D.C. United at Audi Field (7:30 p.m., MLS Season Pass on Apple TV+). This is the first of the two scheduled MLS matches this season between the Lions (1-3-2, 5 points) and the Black and Red (2-1-4, 10 points). D.C. United will make the return trip to Orlando on Saturday, July 6.

Here’s what you need to know ahead of the match.


The Lions are 6-9-2 against D.C. in the all-time league series since the club joined MLS, and 6-9-3 in all competitions. Orlando is just 2-5-1 in MLS road matches against D.C. and 2-5-2 away to United in all competitions. The Black and Red have managed four consecutive results in the series (3-0-1), while Oscar Pareja is 5-6-2 in his managerial career against D.C.

The last meeting between the teams came in Orlando on April 22, 2023, with D.C. scoring twice in the second half to snap a 1-1 deadlock and win, 3-1. Taxiarchis Fountas, Donovan Pines, and Christian Benteke scored for D.C. to more than offset Duncan McGuire’s strike.

These teams squared off in D.C. just a few weeks before that in D.C., splitting the points in a 1-1 draw at Audi Field on March 11. McGuire scored his first MLS goal but Chis Durkin leveled things late in a match that was sandwiched between Orlando City’s two legs of Concacaf Champions League play against Tigres UANL.

D.C. swept the season series in 2022, despite being a terrible team that “won” the league’s Wooden Spoon by no small margin. The meeting in D.C. that year took place July 31 and saw Orlando City dominate the first half but miss multiple glorious chances to put the game away early. The Lions were wasteful and took only a 1-0 lead into stoppage time, thanks to Junior Urso’s first-half goal, only to fall 2-1 on stoppage-time strikes by Durkin and Fountas.

The teams also met on Independence Day at Exploria Stadium, with D.C. putting together a performance out of nowhere in a 5-3 road win. Fountas netted his first MLS hat trick and Kimarni Smith and Nigel Robertha added their first goals of the season. Facundo Torres, Ercan Kara, and Alexandre Pato scored for Orlando, threatening to bring the Lions back, but Orlando could never get on level terms.

The teams met twice in 2021, including Oct. 2 at Exploria Stadium. Daryl Dike scored deep in stoppage to lift the Lions to a 2-1 home victory. Robin Jansson scored a first-half goal off a corner kick scramble to offset an early Julian Gressel strike. The first match of 2021 took place on May 16 in D.C., with the Lions winning 1-0 on an early Mauricio Pereyra goal. That win snapped United’s 3-0-1 streak in the series in league play and 3-0-2 in all competitions dating back to City’s previously most recent win over D.C. back in 2017.

The teams did not meet in what was an odd 2020 season.

D.C. United swept the season series in 2019, winning 1-0 at Audi Field back on June 26, 2019. Wayne Rooney’s wondergoal from his own half of the pitch caught Brian Rowe napping and served as the only scoring in that match. The Lions fell 2-1 at home on March 31, 2019, with set pieces ruining the night for Orlando. You might recall the controversy that surrounded the winning goal, with then-coach James O’Connor visibly upset after the match. Steve Birnbaum scored the first on a set piece and Rooney scored the second on a free kick that he took from wherever the hell he wanted rather than where the foul occurred. Frederic Brillant bulldozed Rowe on the play as the ball sailed into the net.

D.C. was 1-0-2 in three total meetings (two in league play) in 2018. Orlando swept the two league meetings in 2017, the teams split two lopsided games in 2016 — with each team winning at home — and the Black and Red went 2-1-0 in the first three meetings back in 2015.

Match Overview

Orlando City is coming off an unsatisfying 1-1 draw against the New York Red Bulls at home two weeks ago. The overall performance was good, but the Lions continue to waste scoring chances and make mistakes in their own end. Kyle Smith conceded a penalty, allowing Lewis Morgan to score from the spot. The Lions got an own goal late to at least claim a point when the combination of Ivan Angulo’s wicked cross and Jack Lynn’s run forced Noah Eile to deflect the ball past his own goalkeeper. Orlando has at least managed two straight results (1-0-1).

However, the Lions have been dreadful away from home to start the season. Orlando City is 0-2-0 after two road matches, getting outscored 7-0 in visits to Inter Miami and Atlanta United.

D.C. is off to a solid start to the season under Head Coach Troy Lesesne. The Black and Red are 1-0-2 in their last three matches, including a 1-1 draw at defending champion Columbus a week ago. D.C.’s only loss came at home, however, as the club is 2-1-0 at Audi Field in 2024. That loss came against Inter Miami on March 16.

The Lions will need to be aware of where Christian Benteke is at all times. The former Crystal Palace, Liverpool, and Aston Villa man leads D.C. in goals (5), shots (23), and shots on target (11). D.C. looks for him often and from everywhere, and he’ll be a handful on set pieces. Polish international Mateusz Klich is another D.C. player that Orlando City will need to keep an eye on. Klich has a goal and a pair of assists on the year.

“I’ve seen a [D.C. United] team that’s very organized,” Orlando City Head Coach Oscar Pareja said. “[Lesesne] has modeled the defense. I recognize in prior matches with him and his systems. But the nature of his players, D.C.’s players are dynamic, organized, and very bold defensively. I’ve seen the games they’ve played this season and I notice they are a team that is organized, and we have to be organized.”

The only player on Orlando City’s availability report heading into the weekend is Ramiro Enrique (ankle), who remains out. D.C. lists Steven Birnbaum (knee), Russell Canouse (unspecified non-injury reason), Theodore Ku-Dipietro (hip), and Tyler Miller (shoulder) as out for the match, while Garrison Tubbs (thigh) is listed as questionable.

Mandatory Match Content

Official Lineups

Orlando City (4-2-3-1)

Goalkeeper: Pedro Gallese.

Defenders: Kyle Smith, Robin Jansson, David Brekalo, Dagur Dan Thorhallsson.

Defensive Midfielders: Cesar Araujo, Wilder Cartagena.

Attacking Midfielders: Ivan Angulo, Facundo Torres, Martin Ojeda.

Forward: Luis Muriel.

Bench: Mason Stajduhar, Rafael Santos, Michael Halliday, Rodrigo Schlegel, Felipe, Jeorgio Kocevski, Nico Lodeiro, Jack Lynn, Duncan McGuire.

D.C. United (3-4-3)

Goalkeeper: Alex Bono.

Defenders: Connor Antley, Lucas Bartlett, Christopher McVey.

Midfielders: Cristian Dajome, Jackson Hopkins, Mateusz Klich, Aaron Herrera.

Forwards: Kristian Fletcher, Christian Benteke, Jared Stroud.

Bench: Luis Zamudio, Matti Peltola, Garrison Tubbs, Matai Akinmboni, Pedro Santos, Martin Rodriguez, Gabriel Pirani, Jacob Murrell.


REF: Guido Gonzales Jr.
AR1: Adam Garner.
AR2: Justin Howard.
4TH: Joshua Encarnacion.
VAR: David Barrie.
AVAR: Joshua Patlak.

How to Watch

Match Time: 7:30 p.m.

Venue: Audi Field — Washington, D.C.

TV/Streaming: MLS Season Pass on Apple TV+.

Radio: FM 96.9 The Game (English), Mega 97.1 FM (Spanish).

Twitter: For rapid reaction and live updates, follow along at @TheManeLand, as well as Orlando City’s official Twitter feed (@OrlandoCitySC).

Enjoy the match. Go City!

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Orlando City

Flashback Friday: April 13, 2018 — Orlando City vs. Philadelphia Union

Hop in the time machine as we reminisce about a classic Orlando City game from six years ago.



Carlos Romero, The Mane Land

During the two-week break we’ve had since Orlando City’s last competitive match, I’ve had some time to go back and revisit some of the matches that the team has played in the past. What better thing to do when considering the heavy emphasis that the club has placed on its 10th season as a member of Major League Soccer?

So, before the Lions take on D.C. United tomorrow, let’s hop in the time machine and reminisce about a game that OCSC played six years ago — almost to the day.

The date was Saturday, April 13, 2018, and the Lions found themselves on the road in Philadelphia. The Jason Kreis-coached team had won two games on the bounce and entered the contest with a record of 2-2-1 (7 points), while the Union sat at 1-1-2 (5 points). The Orlando team sheet on the day looked wildly different from what we’re used to seeing these days, as no one on that gameday roster is still with the club. Kreis deployed his team in a 4-2-3-1, which will be plenty familiar to Orlando fans by now, but that was where the similarities ended.

Philadelphia’s XI had a few familiar faces however, with Andre Blake in goal, Jack Elliot at center back, Matt Real at left back, and Alejandro Bedoya in midfield.

The Union began the game strong, with Keegan Rosenberry getting off a shot from long distance, and David Accam beating RJ Allen down the right and delivering a dangerous cross that fortunately didn’t have any teammates attacking it. Despite the slow start, Orlando almost opened the scoring just inside 10 minutes when Amro Tarek had a shot cleared off the line after being picked out by Yoshi Yotun from a corner.

Philadelphia continued to be dangerous, and Orlando’s task got more difficult when Allen went down with a hamstring issue in the 21st minute. The Lions were already missing Jonathan Spector through concussion and Scott Sutter with the dreaded lower body injury, so Cristian Higuita entered the fray while Will Johnson moved to right back.

The Lions’ resilience paid dividends a few minutes before halftime. Dom Dwyer timed a perfect run to stay level with Real, and Sacha Kljestan delivered him the ball by way of an outstanding lifted pass. Dwyer showed outstanding invention to settle the pass using his back, and then turned to curl the ball beyond Blake for the game’s first goal and the 99th of his career.

The goal seemed to unlock something in the good guys, as the first-half-fun didn’t end there. The second goal of the night had a bit of fortune to it, as Chris Mueller collected the ball in midfield and drove toward the box. A heavy touch meant he lost the ball, but Philadelphia couldn’t clear its lines and the ball came right back to him off the foot of Elliot. From there, it was a simple matter of taking a touch to settle himself and then firing low and hard past Blake and into the far corner.

The Lions took that 2-0 lead into halftime, but after the restart they once again found the Union streaming forward toward their goal. Bendik made his second big save of the night in the 53rd minute from a Fafa Picault shot, and it wasn’t the last time he was called on, as he denied Bedoya in the 62nd minute.

Justin Meram provided some moments of danger as the half wore on, and probably should have had an assist as the clock struck 90 minutes, but Dwyer fired his shot off target. Bendik had to make one big final save in the 94th minute to stop Borek Dockal’s effort, and when the whistle blew for full time the Lions’ had escaped with a 2-0 win.

The home side finished with 55% of the ball to Orlando’s 45%, and outshot OCSC by a whopping 20-8, but a lack of clinical finishing proved to be the Union’s undoing (sound familiar?).

That win meant the good guys had won three on the bounce, and a strong start to the season continued as that streak ultimately stretched all the way to six victories in a row. Sadly, the good vibes didn’t last. The last league win of that six-game streak came on May 6 in a 3-1 home victory over Real Salt Lake, and then the bottom fell out. The Lions lost nine straight league games, Kreis lost his job after the sixth of those losses, and Orlando only won two more league games for the remainder of the season.

Ultimately, the 2018 season proved to be the most difficult that the club has endured since joining MLS. OCSC’s total of 28 points is the lowest that the team has ever finished with in a season, and only a truly woeful San Jose side prevented the Lions from claiming the Wooden Spoon. Still, the win over Philadelphia — and the win streak that it was part of — were bright spots early in the year, and it’s always fun to look back on those. With a little luck, the Lions will get a similar result on the road against D.C. United tomorrow. Vamos Orlando!

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