HARRISON, NJ — Orlando City was back on the road this weekend in the city that never sleeps (or at least in the general vicinity), taking on a familiar foe for the second time this season, and I was fortunate enough to be there in person. The Lions opened up the 2023 Major League Soccer season with a win against the Red Bulls and continued their great form on the road this season with a 3-0 win over New York on Saturday. Here are my five takeaways from a great away-from-home victory.
Head Coach Oscar Pareja utilized the same starting 11 for consecutive matches for the first time this season and the team chemistry that has been developing over the last few weeks was on full display. Orlando is still fighting through some injuries and players missing time for international duty, but it appears that Pareja has found a formation and combination of players that is starting to consistently produce the types of results most felt like the team would be capable of to start the season.
Angulo’s Speed A Big Problem
Winger Ivan Angulo has never been shy about taking on opponents in the open field. Saturday evening his tool kit was on full display as he literally and figuratively ran circles around the opposition. In the 18th minute of the match, Angulo found himself on the end of an absolutely beautiful through ball from Wilder Cartagena, sprinted into the box, and made an outstanding cut back to dodge Dylan Nealis before snipping the ball into the back of the net for the first goal of the match and his third of the season. It was a wonderful effort in a game that saw Angulo win the club’s Man of the Match award, but the goal wasn’t his only contribution to the scoresheet. The speedy winger also contributed an assist in the 72nd minute, as Angulo did most of the heavy lifting for Facundo Torres’ second goal. He used his pace to blast past Frankie Amaya in transition to get onto Martin Ojeda’s transition ball, drew defenders toward him, and found Torres with a well-placed pass on Orlando’s third goal.
Welcome Back, Facu!
It had been a sluggish start to the season for Young Designated Player Facundo Torres, coming off the heels of a first MLS campaign which saw the young star take the league by storm. Lofty expectations have been thrust onto the Uruguayan midfielder, and for most of this season Torres has fallen short of what many believed he was capable of. Against a team that Torres loves to score against, he doubled his season total for goals scored and at least for the night looked to be back playing at a pace and with a quality we have all grown to expect. Only time will tell if his brace against New York is the true turning point of the season, but at least for now it appears that Orlando’s star is back shining.
A Series of Fortunate Events
The Lions started the second half with a one-goal lead, and thanks to a series of fortunate events to start the second half found themselves with some breathing room in the match. Orlando quickly went up a man just two minutes after the break, as Andres Reyes was sent off for picking up a second yellow card for a professional foul when Ercan Kara did well to control an aerial ball and got behind the defense on the left side. Reyes pulled Kara back to break up the counterattack, which is always going to draw a booking. Orlando City then got an opportunity to score an insurance goal when referee Victor Rivas was instructed by the VAR to take a second look at a play in the box and saw that Sean Nealis had dragged down Robin Jansson just as the ball was arriving. Rivas correctly awarded Orlando City a penalty kick, and Torres blasted the PK into the back of the net. Seemingly in the blink of an eye, two (correct) calls completed changed the trajectory of the match. The work of Kara and Jansson to get into those positions created those calls.
Road Lions Pounce Again
Orlando City has put together some excellent results on the road this season, and while some may still feel that a 2-1 away win earlier in the year against the Philadelphia Union to be the best road result of the year, I would strongly consider the thumping of the Red Bulls in northern New Jersey to usurp that as the best road result thus far. It was a total team effort at a point in the season where Orlando truly needed this type of result. The team has talked in recent weeks about how they feel they have the quality when they take the pitch but that the results have been lagging behind as the boys have had to settle for a few late draws. They would leave no question unanswered against a Red Bulls defense that had only allowed 10 goals on the season entering the match. It was a resounding road effort which the team will hopefully continue to build upon.
Those are my big takeaways from a great win on the road and a match that I will surely be rewatching multiple times this week. Let us know in the comments below what stood out to you the most!