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2020 Orlando City Season in Review: Benji Michel

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The 2020 season was Benji Michel’s second with Orlando City and second in the professional game, after signing a Homegrown deal with the Lions before the start of the 2019 season. The Orlando native spent time in the Orlando City Development Academy and at the University of Portland before becoming a solid rotation option for James O’Connor last season. 

It was a good first season in purple for Benji, but how did he fare in his sophomore effort in the City Beautiful?

Statistical Breakdown

Like last season, Michel was a heavily used rotation piece, with 21 regular-season appearances, including eight starts, playing a total of 840 minutes. Even with relatively limited minutes, he still produced solid numbers, with five goals — two game winners — and added two assists, taking just 16 shots and getting 10 on target. His finishing was superb, as he scored on half of his shots on goal.

His passing rate of 79.38% was decent for a forward, and he committed just eight fouls while drawing 17 free kicks. He saw two yellow cards this season. He may not have created a wealth of opportunities (a decent 0.6 key passes per game) but he typically capitalized when he had the chance. His efficiency on the ball wasn’t great, however, as he only completed 15 of 37 attempted dribbles. Defensively, he averaged 0.5 tackles, 0.2 interceptions, 0.6 clearances, and 0.1 blocks per match.

Michel also played in three of the Lions’ four MLS is BAck Tournament knockout stage games — all off the bench — scoring one goal on two shots, with one on goal. The lone strike came against Minnesota in the semifinals. He added a pair of appearances in the postseason, playing 15 minutes against New York City FC, but his lone contribution came in the sudden death portion of the penalty shootout, when he scored the winning penalty. He played 12 minutes against New England but didn’t contribute a lot in that match, aside from winning a pair of free kicks.

It wasn’t an elite season, but it was another good step for the best Homegrown signing in Orlando City’s brief MLS history so far. 

Best Game

Michel’s best game was probably the 1-1 draw against Nashville SC on Sept. 2. He opened the scoring with one of Orlando’s best goals of the season, an absolute rocket from outside the box. All game, he was a nightmare for Nashville, using his speed and underrated strength to put himself in great positions to score. He finished with a whopping nine successful dribbles on 12 attempts and also added a key pass in his 73 minutes of action on the day. 

Our Scott Cavernale named Benji his Man of the Match on the night saying:

It was a quiet start to the match. Orlando was dominating possession, but nothing much happened until the Homegrown product put a banger into the upper 90 to open the scoring. That was Michel’s second goal — first in MLS play — of the season. He had a perfect chance to earn a brace in the 70th minute. Tesho Akindele back-heeled a ball in the box to him, but Michel took too much time, and Nashville cleared the ball. He was active on the defensive side of the ball. He finished with two tackles, two clearances, and one interception.

However, while that game was his best overall performance, I’d be doing a disservice if I didn’t mention Michel’s late game heroics against future champions the Columbus Crew. He only played 20 minutes that night, but he created a moment that will live long in the memory of the Orlando City faithful.

2020 Final Grade

The Mane Land staff gave Benji Michel a solid 6 for his 2020 campaign, which was the same mark he got last year. That’s a good grade for a role player off the bench. It’d be hard to beat out Nani or Chris Mueller for game time on the wings, but when he was called upon, Benji proved to be a good asset for Orlando as he continues to grow as a player.

2021 Outlook

Since Orlando picked up his contract option for 2021, Michel will likely play a similar role in 2021 that he did the past two seasons — providing an attacking threat off the bench — and that is something that seems to suit him. With Mueller and Nani back, as well as Alexander Alvarado and Matheus Aias, Michel will likely remain a bench option next season. He hasn’t yet shown the consistency to be a high-level starter, as he still struggles at times with his first touch and sometimes fades from games. But as a super sub, he’s thrived. He has good pace and goal-scoring instincts, even if some of his technical skills aren’t quite there yet. Hopefully as Michel moves into his third season as a professional, he can take the next step, like Mueller did this past year.


Previous Seasons In Review (Date Posted)

Orlando City

Orlando City vs. New England Revolution: Player Grades and Man of the Match

How did your favorite Lions perform in Orlando City’s 3-1 road victory at New England?

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

There is probably a more eloquent Dickensian reference out there I could use about how this match was a tale of two cities halves. The Lions looked poor initially but started to find their footing toward the end of the first half and then came out and really lived up to our great expectations and smashed New England in the second half. A final score of 3-1 means that Orlando City finally won for the first time ever at New England and has now won three games in a row and four of its last five.

The Lions have a short turnaround with a game at Nashville coming on Wednesday, but for now, let’s bask in the glow of another high-scoring win and get to work on the report card. I have my purple pen out, and I am ready to issue those grades, so here we go.

Let’s take a look at how Orlando City’s players rated individually in their Eastern Conference matchup.

Starters

GK, Pedro Gallese, 6 — The Peruvian international did not have a lot to do during this match, as New England did not really threaten his goal often. The Revolution only had three shots on target all game long, and the one goal they scored was from point-blank range after a defensive breakdown. I think Gallese perhaps could have collected the initial ball over the top from Esmir Bajraktarevic, but that would have been a risky play and he likely did not assume that his defenders would all ball watch and let runners go unmarked right in the middle of the box. Gallese made one save and completed seven passes on the night, but it was a mostly unremarkable game for him.

D, Kyle Smith, 5 — After two consecutive solid games starting in the back four, Smith looked almost subdued in the game Saturday night, completing a lot of short passes but not really accounting (see what I did there?) for any — for lack of a better term — oomph in Orlando City’s attack. He completed 30 passes at an 88.2% rate, but aside from one ball to Iván Angulo towards the left side of the box, there really was not a lot that was memorable about his play in the first half. In fact, he did not record a single defensive statistic, and I was not surprised that Rafael Santos was on the field in place of Smith when the second half started. This did apparently surprise Apple TV’s broadcasters, since they did not realize he was out for a few minutes, but Smith had not put on a Santos disguise, and he had indeed gone off after 45 minutes.

D, Robin Jansson, 6 — New England has an excellent striker in Giacomo Vrioni, but he really did not do a lot to threaten the center of Orlando City’s defense, to the point that neither Jansson nor Rodrigo Schlegel had a tackle. Now, the obvious counter to this is that, you know, Vrioni scored a goal (aside from that whole gunshot thing, how was the play, Mrs. Lincoln?), but I thought Jansson helped limit Vrioni to really only be a target and not someone that the Revolution played through. On the play that led to the goal, Jansson was marking Jack Panayotou, so I do not think he takes much culpability in that goal, even thought it happened right in front of him. As I mentioned, the Beefy Swede did not have a tackle but he led the team with four clearances and one blocked shot, and he completed 36 passes at a 90% completion rate. It was a quiet night for Jansson after his Man-of-the-Match-level performance last week against D.C. United, but I do not think the captain will mind since the Lions picked up another three points.

D, Rodrigo Schlegel, 6.5 — I thought Schlegel was excellent for most of the game, except for the three seconds from 22:44 to 22:47. During that time, he followed the ball instead of his man, and Vrioni slipped unmarked into the center of the box and smashed a shot home to give the Revolution the lead. Ugh. However, during the rest of the game, I thought Schlegel was really good, especially around the marking of Vrioni, and he showed why even with the return of David Brekalo from the Euros that Orlando City has not made a change to the pairing of Jansson and Schlegel in the middle. Rodrigo was third on the team with 51 completed passes, compiling a 98.1% completion rate (that’s 51/52, everyone), and he even advanced forward and got two shots off, though neither were on target. He also had two clearances and blocked one shot, and led the team with 11 accurate long balls on 14 attempts.

D, Dagur Dan Thorhallsson, 6.5 — I know Thorhallsson is listed as the starting right back, but I really think that D for defender should be a DD for Dagur Dan, because to call him just a defender or just a right back does not really satisfy what he brings to Orlando City. He is a Dagur Dan, and just like Tigger, he is the only one. On Saturday night, he was once again all over the field making plays, and although he did not contribute to any of the goals it was not for lack of trying, as in the first half he got himself into a great scoring position for a cross from Angulo that he just could not place properly to get by Aljaž Ivačič, and he was constantly probing and making runs off the right side of the box and helping to cause worry along the left side of the Revolution’s defense. He also completed 39 passes at an 88.9% completion rate, with one key pass among those passes, and he had one tackle and one clearance defensively. I have to ding him some early defensive mistakes. He was beaten early in the match by Panayotou but Jansson was able to intervene in the 11th minute. He was in position, but still got beat over the top on the cross into the box that led to New England’s only goal. Despite the early defensive errors, I thought on the whole his performance was solid on the evening.

MF, César Araujo, 7 — The Uruguayan defensive midfielder had another typical game, generally short on flash but long on making a difference in the middle of the field. Cesar was second on the team in passes completed (54), tackles (3), and shot-creating actions (3), with one of those shot-creating actions being the assist for the second goal when his header back into the middle of the box was knocked in by Ramiro Enrique in the 58th minute. The midfield pairing of Araujo and Wilder Cartagena has been excellent during the recent three-game winning streak. I do not think it is a coincidence that as soon as Cartagena returned from the Copa America tournament, the team got hot. Araujo and Cartagena know how to play with and off of one another, which showed Saturday night. I think it is instructive to look at this heatmap from whoscored.com in between the grades for Araujo and Cartagena, because you can see just how well they balanced each other with their play during the match.

MF, Wilder Cartagena, 7.5 Saturday night’s performance was another outstanding showing from the Peruvian midfielder, as he was once again all over the field making plays and bossing the game with midfield partner Araujo. Wilder led the team with 60 completed passes at a 93.8% completion rate, and he also led the team with 16 completed passes in the attacking third, five tackles, two fouls suffered, and one (friendly) face slap of Facundo Torres, after Torres scored his second goal. I will be tracking friendly, and unfriendly, face slaps for the rest of the season, do not worry. I thought Cartagena dictated the game with his play in the center of the field, and though he did not play a major role in any of Orlando City’s three goals, he was the best two-way player on the field, and was definitely a candidate for the Man of the Match.

MF, Iván Angulo, 7.5 — During the first part of Saturday’s match it seemed like everyone wearing Orlando City colors was sluggish except one player, and that player was Angulo. As he seems to do every game, Angulo looked like he was perpetually playing on turbo mode, making runs up the sideline and getting around defenders to create opportunities. Orlando City was profligate in front of the net for most of those, but eventually his hard work paid off, as it was his driving run into the box and pass to Torres that led to the latter’s tying goal in the 51st minute. Angulo led the team in progressive carries (7), shot-creating actions (6), and key passes (4), and he completed 31 passes at an 81.7% rate. He chipped in a tackle and an interception defensively before coming off for Brekalo in the 84th minute in a defense-for-offense substitution, but the Colombian winger had well earned a few minutes of rest after another strong effort.

MF, Martín Ojeda, 6 — The Lions went with the same attacking midfield group that had been starting during the last few matches, but on Saturday night Ojeda just did not seem to have the same juice as he had brought during those other recent wins. As usual, this was not due to lack of effort, but something just was off from the Argentinean midfielder. Despite playing nearly 70 minutes, he only completed 27 passes, though he did complete them at a 96.4% rate, and he only crossed the ball four times all match, unusually low for him, completing two. He did play the corner that led to Enrique’s goal, and that was a well-placed corner kick to Araujo’s head that then came right back into the middle for the tap-in (one of Ojeda’s two key passes), but on the whole I thought it was just a muted performance by Ojeda on the night.

MF, Facundo Torres, 8 (MotM) Facu is so hot right now, not unlike how Hansel was during Zoolander. Since the official first day of summer, Torres has five goals in five matches, and he has now moved into a tie with Nani for third all-time on the Orlando City goal-contribution list (career goals + assists = 44). On Saturday night he started slowly, but as the first half came to a close he started to pick up. Then, in the second half, he was excellent. Hmm, sounds a lot like how Orlando City’s overall game flow was, too. Coincidence? No. Facu’s two goals were absolutely perfectly hit curling balls from the right side of the box that went exactly where every soccer coach tells you to shoot — low and hard to the far corner. Torres also put a third shot on target that was saved well by Ivačič, so he put all three of his shots on frame. The Uruguayan winger completed 44 passes at a 91.7% rate with two key passes. He also compiled a dribble, a tackle, and an interception. As he goes, so will this offense, and I think there is very little that we as fans love more than to see Facu over by the corner flag with his pretend phone up doing the Selfie Celebration with his teammates.

F, Ramiro Enrique, 7 — The one change in the starting lineup from the last two matches was Enrique in for Duncan McGuire, and that was most definitely not a like-for-like swap. Enrique is not as adept at holdup play and winning long balls to create possession for the offense, but what he does bring, which showed on Saturday night, was an extra burst of quickness and shiftiness to get something on the ball and create plays. This manifested in the first goal, when Angulo slipped a pass to a cutting Ramiro who then played it back, and it eventually made its way across the box to Torres. Enrique then made the dashing run on the second goal to beat everyone to Araujo’s header back across the box, tapping it into the net for his second goal in the last two games. Enrique had no key passes or defensive stats, only had 23 touches, and only completed seven passes on the night (87.5% rate), but he still contributed majorly to Orlando City coming from behind to take the lead before he made way for Luis Muriel in the 69th minute.

Substitutes

D, Rafael Santos (46′), 6 — Santos checked in after halftime and provided a spark that had not been there in the first half from the left back position. The raw stats show that Smith completed more passes and at a higher percentage, and that neither left back made many plays defensively, but Santos definitely looked more composed and threatening on the ball during the second half than what the Lions got from that position during the first half. His hustle to get to a ball that he nearly lost after a heavy touch led to the third goal for Orlando City, and while his passing accuracy (87%) was among the lowest on the team, the danger he brought to the field with his play during the second half definitely contributed to the second half comeback.

F, Luis Muriel (69′), 6.5 — The Colombian Designated Player had one of his best games as a Lion on Saturday night, which is both good news and bad news for Orlando City. I am writing grades specifically for this match, but it is hard not to also take a step back and consider that the fact that an appearance off the bench with one assist against a bottom of the conference team is one of the best games for Muriel this season does raise some questions. That said, I thought Muriel looked dangerous in this match and made the right decision with the ball on most of his possessions — in particular, his perfect pass to Torres for an assist on the third goal that effectively iced the game for Orlando City. He unselfishly played the ball with the outside of his foot to a sprinting Torres, and the weight of the pass allowed Facu to curl that ball in without ever breaking stride. That was the first Muriel-to-Torres combination for a goal, and I, for one, would enjoy seeing many more of those this season. I recommend they do this again on Wednesday. Muriel put his only shot attempt on target, forcing a save, had one key pass, and won an aerial duel.

MF, Nico Lodeiro (69′), 6 — I think the role of supersub off the bench fits Nico well, and he turned in another strong performance in his 21 minutes Saturday night. The Uruguayan took over for Ojeda and completed 14 passes at a 93.3% rate, including hustling to win a loose ball that he then played to Muriel that then went on to Torres for the backbreaking third goal from Orlando City in the 81st minute. Lodeiro was active throughout his minutes on the field, also making one tackle and intercepting one pass.

D, David Brekalo, (84’), N/A The Slovenian international came on for Angulo shortly after the Lions took a two-goal lead, moving the team to a five-man back line and playing as the right center back in between the Nordic duo of Jansson and Thorhallsson. Brekalo made one interception and completed four of his five passes, including one long ball, but he did not contribute enough in his short outing to earn a grade this week.

MF, Jeorgio Kocevski (90 +2′), N/A — Jeorgio subbed in for Araujo during stoppage time to help close out the game. He was able to get four touches of the ball and complete two passes, but he was not on the field long enough to earn a grade this week.


That’s how I saw the individual performances on Saturday night. What did you think? Be sure to let us know in the comments, and vote in the poll below for your Orlando City Man of the Match.

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Orlando City vs. New England Revolution: Five Takeaways

What did we learn from the Lions’ road victory against the Revolution?

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Orlando City traveled north to battle the New England Revolution in a stadium where the Lions had never secured three points. Falling behind early, the Lions were able to ride a dominant offensive performance in the second half to walk out of Gillette Stadium with a 3-1 win. What follows are my five takeaways from a match in which the final result was both needed and a surprise all at the same time.

Poor Marking Early

Orlando City started the match flat and the Revs looked to be the aggressors for the majority of the opening half hour of the game. New England should have capitalized on poor defensive marking in the 11th minute of the match but a sliding attempt on goal was deflected wide of the near post by a recovering Robin Jansson. The poor effort ultimately came back to bite the Lions in the 23rd minute, as Dagur Dan Thorhallsson was in decent position but was too passive in defending DeJuan Jones on a back-post cross, allowing him to get to it and lay it off. Rodrigo Schlegel also attempted to defend Jones at the back post and seemed surprised when he saw Thorhalsson, peeling off but then not locating a wide-open Giacomo Vrioni in his area. New England capitalized and took a 1-0 score into the break.

Torrid Torres

Who knows what the Lions had for a halftime snack? Whatever it was, it needs to become a staple going forward. Six minutes after the start of the second half, Orlando City leveled the game, as Facundo Torres ran onto a ball near the top of the 18-yard box and skillfully placed a shot into the bottom left corner. The Uruguayan has been in top form over the last six matches, and Saturday night illustrates that when Torres is on his game, it elevates the entire team. I am calling it now…summer time Facu has officially arrived.

Success from Set Pieces

Orlando City won a corner in the 58th minute after a strong shot attempt by Torres from outside the box had been parried out of play by New England goalkeeper Aljaz Ivacic. Martin Ojeda then sent in an in-swinging corner kick to the far side of the box, which found Cesar Araujo rising to meet it. Araujo wisely put the ball back across the face of the goal, as he wasn’t in a great position to make an attempt on goal himself. At the same time, Ramiro Enrique made a smart, curling run behind the defense and in front of Ivacic. Enrique met the ball as it landed and flicked it past the keeper and into the back of the net. In what seemed like the blink of an eye, Orlando City went from a goal down to having a one-goal lead.

Securing the Victory

Orlando City fans did not have to sweat out the final minutes of the match clinging to a one-goal lead thanks once again to Torres. In the 81st minute, a quick takeaway transition was sent from second-half substitute Nico Lodeiro to fellow sub Luis Muriel. Although Muriel could have tried to get into the box himself, he spotted Torres open on the right and made the pass. Torres shot with his first touch and again picked out the inside of the left post to give the Lions breathing room. With his brace in New England, Torres is up to six goal contributions in the last three matches. Torres seems to be thinking less and doing more. Against the Revolution, both goals that Torres scored were instinctual, with no extra touches or dribbles.

Resilience on the Road

Orlando City had been winless at Gillette Stadium throughout the entirety of the club’s existence in Major League Soccer, entering the match with a mark of 0-6-2 in eight previous visits to Foxborough, MA. It is a tall task to win matches on the road in MLS, but Orlando City’s ability to grind out results away from home propelled the Lions to their best finish in team history in 2023. It’s also helped keep the ship afloat this season. Not only did the Lions make some history with the victory in Foxborough; they did it by coming from behind, demonstrating a strong desire to earn all three points on the road. It is these kind of performances that the team will be able to draw upon as the season continues.


That is how I saw things in an exciting, come-from-behind, 3-1 victory. What players or moments stood out to you the most? Let us know in the comments below and as always, vamos Orlando!

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Orlando City vs. New England Revolution: Final Score 3-1 as Lions Finally Win at Gillette Stadium

Lions erase halftime deficit with three second-half goals to pick up their first-ever win at Gillette Stadium.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

It’s been a long time coming. Despite a poor start and a halftime deficit, Orlando City dominated the second half and defeated the New England Revolution 3-1 to pick up the franchise’s first win at Gillette Stadium.

Since Orlando City joined Major League Soccer in 2015, home games against the Lions (8-9-6, 30 points) have been the Revolution’s (7-13-1, 22 points) free space on their Bingo card, but that was not the case tonight, as Facundo Torres sandwiched two brilliant left-footed goals around a set-piece strike by Ramiro Enrique to more than cancel out Giacomo Vrioni’s first-half goal.

It was Orlando’s third consecutive win and its fourth in five matches, with the Lions scoring 18 times over the course of their last six games overall.

“Very excited with the three points. Very proud of the character of the team and the players that brought us back after an irregular first half,” Orlando City Head Coach Oscar Pareja said after the match. “The second half was what we wanted, and the reaction was outstanding from the players. It seems like our confidence keeps raising, and finding the net is helping us to believe that this is a team who can keep that rhythm and just get into the playoffs.”

Pareja’s lineup included only one change from the side that beat D.C. United 5-0 a week ago. Pedro Gallese started in goal behind a back line of Kyle Smith, Robin Jansson, Rodrigo Schlegel, and Dagur Dan Thorhallsson. Cesar Araujo and Wilder Cartagena made up the central midfield partnership behind an attacking line of Ivan Angulo, Martin Ojeda, and Torres, with Enrique starting up top in place of Duncan McGuire, who is on international duty.

As is typically the case when the Lions visit Gillette Stadium, they were sloppy with the ball, weighting passes improperly and often losing the ball in their feet to ruin promising attacks. Whether it’s the trip to the Boston area, the artificial surface, something else, or a combination of all of that, the first half looked like so many other trips to play New England. Orlando City wasted multiple opportunities to take an early lead and eventually coughed up the first goal.

Ojeda took the first shot of the match just four minutes in but he hit his shot over the bar. It was an omen of things to come. Angulo tried to play in Enrique in the 11th minute with Ojeda to his left. Enrique was a few yards offside but the Colombian didn’t seem to notice when weighing his options.

Orlando was fortunate not to concede at the other ends seconds later. Smith and Jansson were turned inside out by Vrioni and he slid the ball in for Jack Panayatou, who seemed poised to score but Jansson deflected it behind for a corner.

Esmir Bajraktarevic fired a shot right at Gallese in the 13th minute and then the Lions wasted a number of attacks that could have led to an opener. The first came in the 15th minute when Enrique couldn’t get to a dangerous cross by Angulo, who was easily the best attacking player of the opening period.

Ojeda gave the ball away cheaply on a pair of good transition opportunities in the 19th and 21st minutes when the Lions had numbers in the attack but didn’t so much as get a shot attempt off. That allowed the Revs to break the scoreless deadlock.

Thorhallsson drifted too far inside away from DeJuan Jones on the initial cross, so that the heavy touch by the Revs fullback didn’t cost the hosts possession. The ball cycled around to the attacking right and a routine back-post ball from Bajraktarevic found Thorhallsson in perfect position to deal with it, but he was far too passive on the play, allowing an easy cross from Jones in front to Vrioni for a tap-in while Schlegel was caught marking no one.

“I thought in the first half we conceded a lot of freedom for New England players and that first goal is something that we need to correct,” Pareja said.

The Icelandic fullback had a chance to immediately make up for his mistake on the attacking end, making a nice move to get to the end line, but he sent his cross right at the goalkeeper as the wasteful first half continued. Moments later, it was Smith getting dispossessed in the offensive end.

Angulo did well to steal the ball and jumpstart the attack in the 34th minute and the Lions poured forward with numbers. However, Enrique got impatient while approaching the box and sent a weak, long-range shot toward goal that gave Aljaz Ivacic no trouble. Seconds later, Orlando took possession again and Araujo attempted a long-range shot that missed badly to the left of goal.

The best chance for Orlando in the opening half came in the 42nd minute. Angulo did well to lose his defender and get to the end line, sending in a cross to Thorhallsson in front, but the fullback sent his shot right at Ivacic, who made the save. Angulo got another good cross in two minutes later, but the defense was there to clear it and after a minute of injury time, the half came to an end with the Lions again looking up at a deficit on the Gillette Stadium scoreboard.

The Revs had the halftime advantage in possession (52.5%-47.5%) and corners (2-1), while the Lions fired more shots (7-2) and passed more accurately (93.3%-89.7%). Each side put two shots on target.

“In the break, we decided just to push our lines way higher and just bring more stamina for those actions and dueling, passing, landing in the box,” Pareja said. “And I saw that team that we have seen the last two games, with more chemistry, but at the same time with more passion and energy. That allowed us to dominate the game and score our goals.”

Pareja sent Rafael Santos on for the second half, withdrawing Smith, who had an ineffective first half. His first involvement was a good cross in for Enrique, who lost sight of it and couldn’t make good contact, allowing the ball to bounce harmlessly to Ivacic.

Torres equalized moments later, however. A foray into the penalty area looked to have been snuffed out by the defense, but the ball bounced back to Angulo, who sent it to Torres near the top of the area. The Uruguayan fired it just inside the left post to level the match at 1-1 in the 51st minute.

Ojeda tried to give Orlando the lead two minutes later but Ivacic did well to make the save and the flag came up anyway. Torres then sent a blast from outside the box that sent Ivacic diving to his left to save. However, seconds later, the Lions took the lead on the ensuing corner kick.

From the right corner, Ojeda sent in a back-post ball and Araujo rose to head it back in front of goal. Enrique swooped in and touched it home with center back Henry Kessler on the line, keeping the play onside. The Lions led 2-1 in the 59th minute on Enrique’s second goal of the season and his sixth career MLS goal.

“The play developed as we had been working on together,” Enrique said. “But as a forward, knowing that the ball was going to the far post, you always have to stay active in the area to be able to get onto the end of it. And it fell right in the perfect spot where I was staying moving and active. That’s just how we want to run those plays.”

Enrique had a shot at a brace four minutes later. Santos sent in a good cross and the Argentine made a diving effort at the near post but Dave Romney did well to get his head in front to nod it behind for another corner. The set piece cross came straight to Araujo, who volleyed it toward goal but hit it just over in the 62nd minute.

New England started throwing numbers forward in an effort to get back on level terms and had some longer spells of possession as a result. Panayotou sent a screamer just wide of the left post from distance in the 64th minute, although Gallese appeared to have it covered, pulling out of his dive.

A minute later, a ball got through to Vrioni at the top of the area but Jansson blocked the shot. The rebound fell for Ian Harkes, who volleyed the follow-up effort over the bar. Panayotou then danced his way past Araujo and Thorhallsson to get to the top of the area but Schlegel blocked the New England attacker’s shot in the 67th minute. After the teams exchanged unsuccessful corners, Panayotou sent a shot at Gallese in the 73rd minute.

Orlando then started to look dangerous on the counter. Substitute Luis Muriel tried to curl a shot around Ivacic from the left in the 75th minute, but the New England goalkeeper made a good diving save. The Lions then won a free kick that came to Jansson. The Swede’s header was blocked and Schlegel was subsequently booked for a tactical foul to break up the counter.

The Lions used the counterattack to put the game away in the 81st minute. After taking the ball away in the attacking half, the ball found Muriel, who dribbled toward the box. With two defenders between him and the goal, the Colombian sent a pass to Torres on the right. With his first touch, Torres sent a gorgeous, curling shot around Ivacic and inside the left post to make it 3-1.

The Uruguayan is on fire, scoring his sixth goal — to go along with four assists — in his last six matches.

From that point, Orlando City did its best to stay organized and look for more opportunities to counter. David Brekalo subbed on late to give the Lions five defenders on the back line. Jeorgio Kocevski also spelled Araujo early in stoppage time, but there weren’t any real chances for either side after Torres’ second goal.

There may have been a chance for Torres to pick up a hat trick late on an Orlando takeaway, but Kocevski’s pass for the Uruguayan near the top of the area was offline as the two players weren’t on the same page. Moments later, the game was over.

Due to Orlando staying organized with the lead, New England racked up a huge advantage in possession (73.5%-26.5%) by the end of the match. However, Orlando City finished with the edge in shots (15-8), shots on target (7-3), corners (4-3), and passing accuracy (90.7%-87.9%).

“The connections were much better, sharper, the way we moved the ball,” Pareja said about the second half. “I think the way Rafa came up in that second half helped us a lot just to have more freedom, more connections, and be more dangerous there. I think that left leg that he provided us definitely changed the game, and then we found the net again with the players.”

“I’m very happy right now, especially because it was a really tough and complicated game for us,” Enrique said. “The first half cost us a bit, but thankfully in the second half we were really start playing together. And thankfully we were able to complete the comeback, and obviously I’m very happy to score tonight in the win.”

“This is the first time that the team wins here in New England, and that means a lot of respect for the players too that achieved that,” Pareja said.”
“This is the first time that the team wins here in New England, and that means a lot of respect for the players too that achieved that,” Pareja said.


The Lions have a quick turnaround with another road match coming up Wednesday at Nashville SC.

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