Ercan Kara, Facundo Torres, and Martin Ojeda helped elevate Orlando City to a 2-0 win and an end to a four-match home winless skid in front of 22,519 fans at Exploria Stadium. The trio of Designated Players were a threat to the LA goal all night and two of them scored to lead Orlando City (4-3-2, 14 points) to a complete performance against the Galaxy (1-5-3, 6 points).
Kara scored the first goal and helped set up the second, leading the Lions in shots on goal (3) and finishing second only to Ojeda in shot attempts, with four. The win snapped Orlando City’s 0-3-1 home winless streak and a three-match losing spell in front of the home fans.
“I thought we played a very good half in the first half,” Orlando City Head Coach Oscar Pareja said after the match. “We played very well against a team who changed the model in the second half and then occupied different spaces. But in the end, our players had the energy to decide the results, (and) create a couple more chances.”
Pareja shuffled his lineup a little due to injuries. Mauricio Pereyra (thigh) and Duncan McGuire (lower leg) were not on the team sheet. Pedro Gallese started in goal behind a back line of Kyle Smith, Robin Jansson, Antonio Carlos, and Michael Halliday — with the Homegrown fullback returning from an injury of his own. Cesar Araujo and Wilder Cartagena played in the central midfield behind an attacking line of Ivan Angulo, Ojeda, and Torres, with Kara up top. The club’s three Designated Players started together for the first time since opening night against the New York Red Bulls.
The first half was a back-and-forth affair but touches and passes were sometimes ruined by the wet conditions as players struggled with their first touch or to get onto longer or faster passes. Orlando had the better attacking movements but they often couldn’t pull off enough clean touches to free up a shot and a few times just a slight hesitation allowed Galaxy defenders to recover and cut off passing lanes. As a result, there weren’t many shot attempts in the opening half.
The first opportunity of the match fell to the visitors after a free kick from distance was given by referee Jon Freemon. The Galaxy played the ball short to Dejan Joveljic just inside the top of the 18-yard box but his shot attempt was blocked by Araujo.
The Lions should have had a great scoring opportunity six minutes in when a good switch by Smith found Halliday up the right side. Instead of crossing in to a wide-open Kara for a chance on goal, the Homegrown defender took an extra touch and it was a heavy one. He recovered at the end line and won a corner but nothing came of that.
Jansson broke up a good transition attack by LA in the 17th minute, getting in front of a Joveljic shot.
In the 25th minute, Tyler Boyd cut in from the left and fired with his right foot, but it was right at Gallese, who held fast to the wet ball.
Araujo put the ball in the net in the 33rd minute but it was quickly reviewed and overturned by Freemon for a handball in the buildup on Torres, who was run into from behind while in the air.
But five minutes later, the Lions had a goal that counted. Carlos sent a nice ball over the top down the right flank for Halliday. The fullback fizzed a cross into the 6-yard box that Kara flicked in for his first goal of the MLS regular season, putting Orlando City up 1-0 in the 38th minute.
“It’s a great feeling to score,” Kara said. “Big congrats to Mikey. He crossed it really well and I told him before the game that he can find me at the first post and, yeah, he found me.”
“The goal that Ercan did for us and Michael (Halliday) assisted as well, I think that’s the highlight from us and it’s very, very good for them,” Pareja said.
Orlando came within inches of doubling its lead in the 44th minute. A takeaway in the attacking half led to the Lions having numbers in the attack. The ball found Ojeda near the right corner of the box. He fired a shot in for the back corner but LA goalkeeper Jonathan Klinsmann got a fingertip to it and it fell just inches wide of the back post.
That was the last good chance of the opening half. Orlando held the advantage in possession (61.8%-38.2%), shots on target (2-1), corners (3-1), and passing accuracy (85.5%-78.9%), while the visitors led in shot attempts (4-3).
LA made two substitutions at halftime, chaning shape to five at the back after putting Eriq Zavaleta and Daniel Aguirre on for Boyd and Douglas Costa. It took Orlando a while to figure things out as LA quickly won a corner and looked more threatening to start the second half. Julian Aude cut in from the left and fired over the bar in the 48th minute.
But the Lions figured out how to deal with the Galaxy pushing wingbacks higher in an effort to keep Orlando from exploiting the flanks as it had in the first half.
“We understood the game,” Pareja said. “What was difficult for us to control was the volume in the middle. We knew that they will add another player there, but also that (if) they’re going to give the ball to us, we’re going to hurt them on the counter and that’s exactly what happened.”
Ojeda nearly doubled the lead in the 50th minute. Kara nodded the ball down into his path off another great pass from Carlos and the Argentine’s curling shot fizzed just inches wide of the far post.
In the 56th minute, Torres picked out Kara with a cross but it was behind the big Austrian and his scissor-kick attempt went over the bar. However, Orlando doubled the lead a minute later.
Kara knocked a ball to Ojeda in the middle with a filthy backheel touch and Ojeda sent Torres in with a good diagonal ball to beat Martin Caceres. Torres tried to hit a chip shot over Klinsmann, but the goalkeeper got a piece of it. The ball dribbled into the corner of the net anyway to make it 2-0 in the 57th minute.
Ojeda tried an audacious chip from midfield in the 63rd minute but his shot curled wide to the right side of the goal. He beat Klinsmann but the spin on the ball took it offline.
Klinsmann kept his team in the match with a good double save in the 66th minute, denying both Ojeda and Kara from good positions. On the ensuing the ball skipped to Kara, who fired on the bounce but his shot was right at Klinsmann.
The Galaxy poured numbers forward to try to get back into it but Joveljic curled a shot well wide in the 71st minute and Chicharito had two efforts denied by Gallese in the 76th and 83rd minutes. The latter of those was a great stop on a header off a scoop pass from Mark Delgado.
Pareja subbed liberally late in the match to help see it out. Among his changes was sending Homegrown Player Alex Freeman on for Halliday to make his MLS debut.
The Lions finished with more possession (55.1%-44.9%), passing accuracy (85.5%-81.7%), and shots on target (6-3). LA fired more total shots (15-14) and won more corners (6-4).
“I’m very happy that the team brought the performance to get the clean sheet,” Jansson said. “I think we looked solid all over the field.”
“The first thing, obviously, was to win at home,” Pareja said. “Just getting this result for us was crucial —just getting back our confidence.”
“I think that’s how we used to play normally,” Kara said of the performance. ” And that’s what everybody wants — the fans and we too, because that’s how we like to play. Keep the ball, and having chances, and I think we did today a great job, and we have to continue it, and we are all happy.”
The Lions will head on the road for their next few games, starting next Saturday at Montreal.