Orlando City welcomed the New York Red Bulls to Exploria Stadium on Wednesday night, looking to make history. By the end of the night, that history was made.
The Lions gave up the first goal in first-half stoppage time but responded immediately and then exploded for four second-half goals to rout the Red Bulls, 5-1. With the win, Orlando City reached the final match of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup for the first time in club history. MLS U22 Initative midfielder Cesar Araujo led the charge for the Lions, scoring the equalizer off a corner kick just before the halftime whistle and adding the first of three insurance goals on another corner.
Mauricio Pereyra, Facundo Torres, and Benji Michel also scored for Orlando to more than offset the opening goal from Lewis Morgan. The first four OCSC goals were scored by Uruguayan players and Torres assisted on Michel’s late strike.
To say the performance by the Lions came out of nowhere would be an understatement. Orlando City had not scored more than three goals in an entire match all season long and yet the Lions bagged four after the break, starting with Pereyra’s strike on a great buildup just two minutes after the restart. Araujo’s two goals weren’t just his first two since joining Orlando City, but his first two professional goals ever.
At the other end of the pitch, Araujo and the back line did well to limit New York’s opportunities to get back into the match. Patryk Klimala, who hit the woodwork twice in the first half, was the most dangerous Red Bull on the evening but the visitors were largely held in check in the second period.
Orlando City will host the final on Sept. 7 against USL Championship side Sacramento Republic. The second-division side made a magical run through the other side of the bracket, advancing on penalties after a scoreless draw at home against Sporting Kansas City. A major trophy awaits one of the two teams in September.
We hope you enjoy these images from a historic night for Orlando City at Exploria Stadium.
Images: Dan MacDonald
Words: Michael Citro
Orlando Pride vs. Houston Dash: Photo Gallery
An album of images from the Pride’s 2023 season finale at Exploria Stadium.
The Orlando Pride got the win they needed on Sunday, but with other results around the NWSL going against them, the team’s playoff dream ended after a 1-0 home win over the Houston Dash. Despite having the second-most wins in the league this season, the Pride are the only Orlando City team out of the postseason in 2023 — due solely to the goal differential tiebreaker, which placed Orlando just behind both Angel City and NJ/NY Gotham FC.
It was a hard-fought victory, with the season-high announced crowd of 8,504 driving the team forward to the end. The Pride generated most of the better of the scoring chances on the night, but sent several or those straight at Houston goalkeeper Jane Campbell. Eventually, Marta made the game’s decisive play, beating Dash defender Katie Lind to a ball in the box in the 85th minute. Lind clipped Marta’s heel in the process, drawing a deserved penalty, which the Pride captain calmly dispatched in the 87th minute.
Knowing that the three other games around the league weren’t going their way, the Pride pushed hard for more goals as time wound down. Summer Yates fired over the bar on the best of those opportunities, and a poor header at the back post by Mikayla Cluff also could have helped the cause, but neither found the back of the net and the Pride were bounced from postseason contention.
Because the season is now over for the Pride, these will unfortunately be the last images of the team for a while, and may possibly be the last photos in an Orlando uniform for some of these players. We hope you enjoy them and that you can revisit our Pride galleries throughout the off-season until next season rolls around.
Orlando City vs. New England Revolution: Photo Gallery
An album of images from Orlando City’s 3-2 home win over the Revolution at Exploria Stadium.
Orlando City hosted the New England Revolution Saturday night in a pre-playoff test of mettle for both teams. The Lions, who had been riding a long run of good form, continued to rise to the challenge, winning 3-2 on the strength of late first-half goals by Duncan McGuire, Facundo Torres, and Iván Angulo. These were assisted by by Dagur Dan Thórhallsson and Mauricio Pereryra, Angulo and Rafael Santos, and Santos and Pereyra, respectively. Torres’ goal was particularly impressive, as he scored his goal on a wicked volley on Angulo’s cross, which was behind him — see picture 38 in the gallery above.
The game was well contested, but not as close at the scoreline indicated. The Lions mostly controlled the game after the first 20 minutes and the Carles Gil goals came as the result of an extremely rare Pedro Gallese goalkeeping error and an unfortunate deflection late in second-half stoppage time.
With the victory, Orlando locked up second place in MLS along with a 2024 Concacaf Champions Cup berth and home field throughout the playoffs for almost every possible game. (The Lions will have a road game in the best-of-three, first-round series and the only other matchup in which they wouldn’t host would be if they meet FC Cincinnati.)
The Exploria Stadium crowd of 24,440 came out in force for the final regular-season home game of the year, providing the top-notch MLS atmosphere that Orlando is known for. The team responded with appreciation, signing autographs during warmups and high-fiving fans on throw-ins, and generally playing for fun.
Next up is a week off for the international break, followed by a trip to Toronto to close out the regular season. Then it’s off to the playoffs!
Orlando City vs. Inter Miami: Photo Gallery
An album of images from Orlando City’s hard-fought draw at home against the Herons.
The Lions brought much more roar on Sunday night to face their southern rivals but had trouble finding the net, allowing the Herons to nick a point even while short staffed. None of Miami’s high-priced talent traveled for the match after facing Toronto midweek, and physicality ensued, firing up the sold-out crowd at Exploria Stadium.
Talking with some of the other photographers on the sideline who had flown in for this match, they rated the Orlando atmosphere top-notch; in their experience, other cities don’t compare to the in-stadium fan enthusiasm.
The Lions were in “the net is lava” mode, with Duncan McGuire and Iván Angulo each missing prime one-on-one chances with Miami goalkeeper Drake Callender in each half, McGuire leaving it straight at Callendar, and Angulo badly missing the net after a missed first touch. So of course Miami struck first, with David Ruíz scoring early in the second half.
This fired the Lions up even more and Martín Ojeda pinballed McGuire in behind the Miami back line, allowing Duncan to do what Duncan does to draw the score level. The Lions generally looked the more dangerous team for most (but not all) of the night. However, it is scoring goals that actually counts, leaving both teams unchanged in their respective Eastern Conference standings. Orlando remains second at 14-7-9, while Miami stays in 14th at 9-15-5.
The Lions continue to control their own destiny in terms of getting a top-four finish as they look to lock up home field advantage for a best-of-three matchup in the MLS Cup playoffs.
With home dates left against Montreal and a sputtering-but-dangerous New England remaining, there’s still plenty of time to be part of that world-class gameday atmosphere by going out to support the team as they push for a strong finish.
We hope that you enjoy these images from a hard-fought, come-from-behind draw against Inter Miami at Exploria Stadium.
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