Orlando City

Orlando City vs. Toronto FC: Final Score 2-0 as Lions Ride Duncan McGuire’s Brace to Victory

The Lions closed the season with another shutout win on the strength of two more goals by the rookie striker.



Image courtesy of Orlando City SC

Duncan McGuire came off the bench in the second half and scored twice to lead Orlando City to a 2-0 road victory over Toronto FC at BMO Field on Decision Day. With the win, the Lions (18-7-9, 63 points) clinched the best road record in MLS (9-4-4) and extended their unbeaten run against Toronto (4-20-4, 16 points) to eight consecutive matches (6-0-2), completing a season sweep of the Reds for the second straight year.

“We’re very happy with the performance,” Orlando City Head Coach Oscar Pareja said after the match. “The players have (had) a great season but the most important part is is coming. It was not easy for us. It’s a difficult place.”

Pareja’s lineup was a heavily rotated one, with backups starting just about all over the field. Mason Stajduhar started in goal behind a back line of Luca Petrasso, Rodrigo Schlegel, Antonio Carlos, and Michael Halliday. Cesar Araujo was joined in central midfield by Felipe behind an attacking line of Gaston Gonzalez, Junior Urso, and Martin Ojeda, with Ramiro Enrique up top.

As expected from the lineup filled with backups, the game didn’t exactly start crisply for Orlando City. There was very little early possession beyond the center circle and defensively the Lions sometimes looked confused in coverage.

The rust of some players was evident early. Petrasso coughed up the ball in his own defensive third just five minutes in but Stajduhar did well to cut off the ensuing cross from Federico Bernardeschi.

The first half-chance for Orlando ended up on Felipe’s foot off a long throw-in by Araujo. The midfielder had a weak shot blocked by the traffic in front of Sean Johnson’s goal.

A minute later, Osei Owusu had a free header in the box off a Kobe Franklin cross, but he couldn’t get it on frame.

Toronto was forced into an early substitution in the 17th minute when Aime Mabika pulled up with what appeared to be a hamstring injury. With no defenders on the bench, Michael Bradley moved from the midfield to the back line and that turned out to be a key factor in the match.

The only shot on target for Orlando in the first half came in the 24th minute. Carlos got his head to a corner kick cross by Ojeda but he generated no power on the shot and it was an easy catch for Johnson. That was the last time in the half Johnson’s goal was even mildly threatened.

Four minutes after that attempt, Schlegel partially whiffed on his attempt to clear a cross into the box but Stajduhar was able to collect it. Bernardeschi then had his shot deflect off of Petrasso for a corner in the 30th minute. Owusu shook free of Schlegel for a free header on the corner kick but again missed the net.

Lorenzo Insigne sent a free kick over the bar in the 37th minute after Carlos brought down Owusu about 25 yards out from goal.

The Lions finally had a good-looking attack going in the 42nd minute when Gonzalez was sent down the left channel. The MLS U22 Initiative winger sent a cross through the top of the box that didn’t come close to a teammate and Toronto broke the other way, winning a corner. The Lions were able to clear the second ball after an unconvincing punch by Stajduhar left the ball near the top of his penalty area.

Insigne fired a shot from distance that Stajduhar stopped in first-half injury time after Urso turned the ball over cheaply in his own half. That was the last look for either side, despite a late corner won by Toronto. The game went scoreless to the break.

The hosts finished with more possession (59.7%-40.3%), shots (7-2), corners (3-1), and passing accuracy (88.3%-80.3%). Each team directed one shot on frame. Toronto was the much more threatening side as Orlando City generated very little offensively, often overcooking direct passes over the top and failing to pick out passes once they approached midfield.

“I think the first half the boys sustained,” Pareja said. “Toronto brought a lot of energy. This allowed us to bring the players that were on the bench who have been more regular in the lineups with more space.”

Pareja made no changes at halftime and Orlando City didn’t look any better to start the second period. Stajduhar was forced to make a save in the opening minute of the half when Insigne got in tight down the left.

Halliday was sent down the right in the 48th minute but he sent a cross straight to Johnson.

Bernardeschi then started creating mischief down the right. He sent a cross through the Orlando area in the 50th minute that Halliday was able to clear. A minute later, Bernardeschi sent a shot right at Stajduhar from the top of the area as the Lions were caught by Toronto’s movement.

Toronto’s Owusu scored in the 52nd minute but the flag came up immediately. The play wasn’t offside by much, but Carlos stepped forward just in time to put the Toronto forward off.

Gonzalez sent a decent cross through the Toronto area in the 54th minute but Ojeda couldn’t quite get there before it skipped through.

Just beyond the hour mark, Pareja made some substitutions and it made a huge difference. McGuire, Mauricio Pereyra, and Ivan Angulo came on for Enrique, Felipe, and Gonzalez.

Carlos made a vital sliding block as Toronto quickly got forward in transition after the game restarted. That was huge, because Orlando took the lead just seconds later.

Stajduhar started the play that gave the Lions the lead with a long ball forward. It was over the midfield and bounced high. McGuire ran onto it and chipped it past Bradley and then sped past the former USMNT man. Once he cleared his last defender, McGuire smashed an unstoppable shot into the upper left corner past Johnson to make it 1-0.

“That strike by Duncan was incredible,” said Stajduhar, who picked up his first career assist on the play. “I hit the long ball and kind of fell off to my left a little bit, saw him take the touch by Bradley, and I started to organize our prevent, our defense. And all of a sudden, I see the ball hit the back of the net. And I was like, ‘Holy crap, what a what a shot.'”

McGuire added a second in the 74th. This time substitute Kyle Smith, who had come on for Petrasso, sent a gorgeous through ball up the left side that was perfectly timed. McGuire again blazed past Bradley and slotted the ball past Johnson to make it 2-0 with his 13th strike of the season, .

“Happy to see Duncan scoring again,” Pareja said. “I think it’s the whole team, not just what happened in the second half, but the work that the boys did in the first half as well was important.”

From that point, Orlando City seemed content to see out the match, playing safely and not getting forward often over the final quarter of an hour. Robin Jansson replaced Schlegel, who appeared to be cramping, in the 78th minute.

In the 81st minute, John Herdman subbed off Bradley for the final time in his professional career. Latif Blessing replaced the former USMNT captain.

Just after the substitution, Orlando had a chance to make it 3-0 when Toronto turned the ball over to Ojeda at the top of the area. The Argentine took the ball into the area but a second touch allowed the defense to close and his shot was blocked.

The last chance for Toronto to pull one back came in the 90th minute after a bad giveaway by Araujo at the top of his penalty area. Sending a pass straight to Insigne, the Uruguayan had to breathe a sigh of relief when the Italian’s shot deflected off the outside of the left post and out for a goal kick.

That was the last decent opportunity of the match and the regular season came to an end with yet another Orlando City road victory.

Toronto maintained its possession advantage at the final whistle (59.5%-40.5%), and the Reds had the edge in shots (12-5), corners (5-1), and passing accuracy (88%-81.5%), with each team putting three shots on target. The Lions simply had one more Duncan McGuire than Toronto FC and that was all the difference in this match.

“Anytime you play anybody in this league, regardless of who it is, what their record is, it’s a tough game,” Stajduhar said. “There’s no real bad team. There’s a lot of parity in this league, so you have to be ready for anything, no matter who you play. Toronto probably had the better of us in the first half but we were able to hold it and take advantage of our opportunities.”

Following the match, both Pareja and Stajduhar dedicated the win to club equipment manager Chafik Tounzit, who was diagnosed with cancer earlier in the week.

And that will do it for the 2023 regular season. The Lions will next play in the postseason against Nashville SC in a best-of-three, first-round series. The dates and times of the matches will be announced soon.


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