Orlando City

Orlando City vs. St. Louis City SC: Final Score 2-1 as Lions Ride Facundo Torres Brace to Victory

Facundo Torres opened the scoring and then broke a 1-1 tie late from the penalty spot as Orlando City beat the Western Conference leaders.



Dan MacDonald, The Mane Land

Facundo Torres scored a brace, with his second goal coming late to lift Orlando City to a 2-1 win over Western Conference-leading St. Louis City tonight at Exploria Stadium in front of an announced crowd of 22,156. The Lions (12-6-7, 43 points) scored early in the second half to break the deadlock but St. Louis (14-9-2, 44 points) was awarded a goal after video review determined the assistant referee was wrong to raise his flag for the ball going over the end line prior to the crucial pass on Rasmus Alm’s equalizer. Torres then scored from the spot after a late handball was called on the visitors, which blocked a Rafael Santos shot.

Orlando City has won three straight league games for the first time in 2023 and is unbeaten at home since April 22 (5-0-3).

“Very happy for the victory, not just with the three points that are so important for us but the way they gained those points,” Orlando City Head Coach Oscar Pareja said after the match. “I thought we played a very good game. Our fans today were terrific. They were fantastic and they brought us that energy and I just want to be grateful with them because we fed (on) that energy.”

Pareja’s lineup was the same as the one that lined up in Chicago on Sunday. Pedro Gallese started in goal behind a back line of Santos, Robin Jansson, Rodrigo Schlegel, and Dagur Dan Thorhallsson. Cesar Araujo and Wilder Cartagena manned the central midfield behind an attacking line of Ivan Angulo, Mauricio Pereryra, and Torres, with Duncan McGuire up top.

The Lions started the match looking to play directly but struggled to pick out McGuire up top. Orlando City did well in the opening half to find spaces through the middle of the pitch but lazy, late, or off-line passes in the final third ruined several good opportunities to break down the aggressive St. Louis defense. The visitors were content to foul a lot anytime Orlando City threatened to break a line, but very few of those fouls were in the defensive third of the pitch.

Five minutes in, Aziel Jackson took the game’s first shot from outside the box on the right side but his shot was a good 15 to 20 yards wide of the left post. Two minutes later, Eduard Lowen sent a free kick wide of the target after Cartagena conceded a foul about 25 yards out from Gallese’s goal.

The best St. Louis City chance of the opening half came in the 13th minute when the visitors broke down the right off an Orlando turnover. Akil Watts fizzed a cross to the top of the six for former Lion Nicholas Gioacchini, who slid to meet it but it was too far in front for him to make contact. Two minutes later, Indiana Vassilev sent a shot well off target.

The Lions finally got a shot in the 15th minute when Angulo took on three defenders and predictably had his shot blocked. Santos won a corner off of that block but Roman Burki came off his line to punch away Pereyra’s delivery. The ball was recycled to Pereyra, who sent in a good cross for Jansson, but again Burki got there first to punch it away. Burki was aggressive all night in coming off his line and Orlando did little to create traffic in front of him.

Torres got onto the deflection of the third Orlando corner and smashed a shot toward goal but it was headed over by a defender in the 20th minute.

Gioacchini tried a difficult volley from about 12 yards out in the 23rd minute but couldn’t get the attempt on target.

Orlando City had a great chance in the 31st minute when McGuire got onto the ball on the right side of the box. He sent in a good cross and Pereyra got to it first but his volley attempt went just wide of the left post.

Lowen sent a shot over the bar from long range on the last chance of the half for the visitors.

Orlando’s best chance of the half came in stoppage time. Pereyra picked out McGuire but his shot was denied by Burki from close range.

Orlando City held the halftime advantage in possession (55.1%-44.9%), shots (6-5), shots on target (1-0), corners (4-1), and passing accuracy (83.8%-80.5%). Neither team was able to break down the other to great effect and Orlando City wasted too many good opportunities to create in the final third with poor passes or obvious ones that were easily defended.

“I thought we weren’t playing the right way,” Pareja said of the first half. “They came out with a different formation, so for the first 15 minutes we needed to accommodate the team again. They were very dense in the middle, and they were keeping the ball and creating some spaces that we don’t want. But then we matched that up in the middle. We corrected and we were trying to impose our ways and that happened. In the second half I thought we were more protagonists of (the game) against a very good team. I thought we had a very professional job.”

The Lions broke the deadlock just after the restart. Torres sent the ball right to Pereyra and the captain played it to Thorhallsson near the top of the box. Thorhallsson cut from right to left and thought about shooting but found Torres breaking toward goal. His pass found the Uruguayan and Torres smashed his shot, which took a slight deflection off of Jake Nerwinski and sailed past Burki in the 48th minute for his ninth goal of the season.

“When I got the ball, I looked up and I saw (Pereyra) in a bit of a diagonal, and normally he likes me to play those in to his feet,” Torres said through a club translator. “So, I just kind of hit it, but thankfully once he got it, he played it to Dagur, and I just kind of made my run away from him and toward the goal. And thankfully he found me and I was able to put it away.”

Gallese was called to action in the 53rd minute, punching away a shot from a free kick from 30 yards out. Lowen sent a one-hopper at Gallese three minutes later after Pereyra appeared to cleanly win the ball and then collided with a St. Louis player. The Lions thought Torres would be in alone on goal at the other end after a quick outlet pass but referee Joe Dickerson brought the play back and booked Pereyra.

Watts and Thorhallsson exchanged shots high into the crowd over the next few minutes as St. Louis chased the game, while Orlando looked to score an insurance goal.

Cartagena committed a foul 30 yards out in front of his own goal in the 73rd minute, but Lowen sent the dangerous free kick just wide of the right post.

St. Louis coach Bradley Carnell sent on offensive reinforcements in the 77th minute, as Joao Klauss and Rasmus Alm entered the match. The move paid off two minutes later.

A ball to the end line appeared from the press box to go over the end line before St. Louis substitute Nokkvi Thorisson sent it in front for Alm to slam just inside the left post in the 79th minute. The video assistant referee looked at the play for several minutes before Dickerson went to the monitor himself. After another long look, Dickerson awarded the goal and the game was tied.

Thorhallsson had a good look at the play and said he knew the goal would count.

“I thought it was in as soon as they scored. And I kind of just went down on the ground,” Thorhallsson said. “I need to watch it again, but when I saw it, I was like, “OK, that’s gonna be a goal.”

With the match tied, Pareja sent Michael Halliday and Jack Lynn onto the pitch for Thorhallsson and Pereyra in the 85th and 86th minutes. Lynn was crucial down the stretch of the match defending in the box on set pieces and providing outlet passes to spring potential counters.

Second-half sub Ramiro Enrique earned a foul to the left of the box in the 87th minute and that led to the winning play. The free kick was played backward to Santos just outside the top of the box and the left back blasted a shot toward goal. The ball hit the arm of Anthony Markanich and went out over the end line. Orlando players pleaded with Dickerson to award a penalty for handball, but after several seconds of thought, Dickerson signaled a corner kick.

The VAR again directed Dickerson to look at the play and the referee awarded a penalty upon review. Torres stepped up to the spot and took the shot. Burki faked as if he would dive right but then went left. Had he stayed right, he might have made the save, but he didn’t, and that’s where Torres sent the shot, making it 2-1 in the 90th minute and reaching double figures in goals on the 2023 season.

“All I was thinking about was, ‘score the goal,'” Torres said. “When I stepped up, I knew this was the opportunity for us to put the game away, get the victory — obviously thinking a little bit about the goal that they scored that didn’t get taken back — so, thinking about that and just trying to bury it and secure the three points for us.”

Orlando City still had a lot to do with nine minutes of stoppage time added.

The visitors nearly stole points in the 94th minute off a cleared corner kick. The clearance went well outside the box but Vasillev struck it true on the volley and the curling shot crashed off the left post and fizzed across the front of the goal line before the Lions could clear.

The final chance fell Orlando’s way as Lynn sent Enrique in behind the defense in the 10th minute of stoppage time. He was taken down from behind just outside the box by Nerwinski, who was sent off for denial of a goal-scoring opportunity. Second-half sub Martin Ojeda took the free kick and smashed it on target but Burki fought it off. Before anyone could collect it, Dickerson blew the full-time whistle on a huge win for the Lions.

Orlando City held the advantage in possession (57.1%-42.9%), shots (11-10), shots on target (4-2), corners (8-4), and passing accuracy (83.2%-78.7%).

“It was important for us to win this one against a rival who is in the top of the Western Conference that gave us the sensation that we’re competing (at a high level),” Pareja said.

The Lions have a short turnaround as the fixture schedule gets more congested over the next week. Orlando City visits Charlotte on Wednesday before traveling to face FC Cincinnati on the road next Saturday.


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