Flashback Friday: First Victory of an Open Cup Run



While we finally have an official restart date for Orlando City games, the opener of the un-creatively-named MLS is Back Tournament won’t take place for nearly four more weeks. Which of course means that I’m back for another edition of Flashback Friday, where we dig around in the vault and relive Lions’ games of years past. This week is slightly different, as we’ll be taking a look at a U.S. Open Cup game for the first time during this series.

The date was June 12, 2019 and Orlando City had a fourth round U.S. Open Cup match-up with Memphis 901 FC in the first game of the team’s 2019 Open Cup campaign. The Lions were on the road and looking to maintain momentum from a rousing 3-0 win over the Montreal Impact during the team’s last league game.

The good guys lined up in a 4-3-3 with Adam Grinwis in goal; Alex De John, Robin Jansson, Lamine Sané, and Shane O’Neill as the back four; Cristian Higuita, Sacha Kljestan, and Dillon Powers in midfield; and Chris Mueller, Santiago Patino, and Tesho Akindele as the front three. Memphis, meanwhile, came out in a 4-4-2 that had Scott Levene at goalkeeper; Abdi Mohamed, Marc Burch, Jacob Hauser-Remy, and Wesley Charpie in defense; Adam Najem, Lagos Kunga, Ewan Grandison, and Dan Metzger at midfield; and Elliot Collier, and Jochen Graf up top.

The home team started the game on the front foot and had some chances early on, but the opening stages of the game as a whole were characterized by fouls and disjointed play. Orlando finally had a couple shots just after 15 minutes, with Higuita firing narrowly to the left on two separate occasions and Patino flicking a ball wide right before the 20-minute mark. Overall though the first half was a largely drab affair. While Orlando was able to do a pretty good job of keeping the ball and controlling the game, the Lions were uninspired and a bit sluggish in the final third, and the opening goal of the game gave OCSC a much needed foothold.

With 35 minutes gone, Mueller played a diagonal ball over the top for O’Neill, and the defender did very well to bring the ball down and even better to shield it and draw Mohamed into fouling him inside the box. Kljestan stepped up to the spot and placed the ball deftly past the diving Levene into the bottom right corner of the net to give the Lions the lead.

Memphis had two decent chances before halftime but was unable to hit the target with one, while Grinwis made a fantastic save off a deflection on the other effort, and OCSC took a 1-0 lead into halftime.

Unfortunately for Orlando, the team was unable to build upon the momentum it had started to generate with its goal right before the half. Memphis won a corner a mere four minutes after the restart and Najem whipped it in with his right foot, where Collier was able to out-jump his man and bring the hosts level.

Despite Orlando blowing its lead the team did very well to respond. Just five minutes after conceding, Higuita made a strong tackle at midfield, allowing Kljestan to win the ball. The mustachioed one carried the ball into the final third and passed ahead to Higuita, who then returned the ball to the late-arriving Kljestan at the top of the box. The midfielder hit the ball first time into the far corner, finishing off an excellent counter-attack and restoring Orlando’s lead in short order.

The second goal did wonders for the good guys. Several minutes later Powers had a pile-driver from distance parried wide of goal by Levene, with Sané unable to convert a header shortly afterward. Once again though, the game settled into a slower-paced affair, with fouls and sloppy passing playing a large part in the tempo change.

Based on the flow of the game another goal didn’t look the most likely for OCSC, which of course meant that the Lions soon banked an insurance goal. In the 71st minute Mueller put in a high looping corner kick that the Memphis defenders failed to clear. It bounced around in the box and eventually found its way to Jansson, who bundled the ball over the line for his very first Orlando City goal.

Memphis came very close to making things interesting though, with Collier forcing a good save from Grinwis several minutes after Jansson’s goal, and saving again from a Burch free kick with just a couple minutes to go. In the end though the Lions were not to be denied, and left Memphis with a 3-1 win. While we didn’t do our typical player grades piece for this game, I did evaluate the performance of several players who weren’t regular starters at the time, with Powers and Grinwis receiving the best grades of 8/10 and 7/10, respectively. You can find the full piece here.

That’ll do it for this edition of Flashback Friday. If you have any particular memories from this game be sure to drop them in the comments, and I’ll see y’all next week.


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