Orlando City

Orlando City vs. D.C. United: Final Score 3-2 as Lions Score Twice Late to Win

Duncan McGuire’s stoppage time goal capped a wild comeback win on the road by the Cardiac Cats.



Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

The Lions flipped the script. After suffering numerous sucker punches at the hands of D.C. United over the years, Orlando City (2-3-2, 8 points) finally turned around the narrative, scoring twice late to turn a 2-1 deficit into a 3-2 win over D.C. United (2-2-4, 10 points) at Audi Field in Washington, D.C.

Dagur Dan Thorhallsson, David Brekalo, and Duncan McGuire scored for Orlando, as the “Killer Ds” did enough to offset goals by Christian Benteke and Gabriel Pirani. The goals by Brekalo and McGuire each came after the start of the 82nd minute. The victory snapped a four-game winless streak against D.C. (0-3-1) for Orlando, which picked up its first road win of the 2024 MLS season and, in fact, scored its first three road goals of the league campaign.

“Obviously very happy with the result, and I want to give all the credit to these players that gave everything and understood how to play it, in many ways that we didn’t want to play,” Orlando City Head Coach Oscar Pareja said after the match. “But we tried to match that model of D.C., of playing a long ball and finding those second balls.”

Pareja’s lineup included Pedro Gallese in goal behind a back line of Kyle Smith, Robin Jansson, Brekalo, and Thorhallsson. Cesar Araujo and Wilder Cartagena started in central midfield behind an attacking line of Ivan Angulo, Facundo Torres, and Martin Ojeda, with Luis Muriel up top.

The first half was an open affair at times and Orlando nearly unlocked D.C.’s defense three minutes in when Muriel made a nice run up the right side. However, his final pass hit the trailing foot of a defender and ruined the chance. Ojeda then scored a minute later but he was correctly flagged for offside after the ball crossed the line. It was a close play, but Ojeda was a half-step behind the last defender.

That was costly, as D.C. then opened the scoring seconds later.

A good attack up the left side ended with a D.C. cross through the penalty area. Smith did well to play safe and knock it behind for a corner. The hosts scored off that corner when Gallese came off his line to track the ball and ran into a D.C. player, going down hard in his area. While referees blow those kinds of plays dead about 95% of the time, Guido Gonzalez, Jr. swallowed his whistle and Benteke’s looping header into a gaping net put D.C. in front in the fifth minute.

United was buoyed by the goal and continued to attack aggressively. Kristian Fletcher missed the net in the eighth minute, and Benteke tried a flying volley on a bouncing cross from Aaron Herrera in the 16th but missed the target. Two minutes later, Gallese stopped a wicked blast from Herrera to keep it at 1-0. Gallese then collected a weak header from Lucas Bartlett on the ensuing corner kick as it appeared the Lions were in for a long night of suffering.

But Orlando settled into the match after the second D.C. corner. A good spell of possession led to a cross from Smith on the left, but the fullback overcooked his attempt and the attack broke down in the 20th minute. Moments later, Muriel chested down a cross into Ojeda’s path, but the Argentine swung right past the ball while it was still in the air, missing it completely from just above the penalty spot. Torres blasted a shot just inches wide of the right post in the 23rd minute as the Lions kept up the pressure, which finally paid off.

Angulo used a burst of speed to free himself on the left and sent a great cross to the back post. Thorhallsson made no mistake, driving his header low and into the net on one hop to make it 1-1 in the 28th minute. It was Orlando’s first road goal of the season.

“When (Angulo) got the ball, I was like “OK, he’s going to try to go past (his defender),” Thorhallsson said of the play. “In the trainings we’ve been trying to get me there (the back post), so he just ran there and put the ball perfectly on my head. There was nothing more that I could have done than just run on the ball, basically, and put it in goal. So, all credit to Ivan and great to get the first goal of the season.”

After a failed D.C. corner kick, the Lions came close again in the 35th minute when Angulo had a shot blocked in front of Alex Bono by the defense. Torres then sent in a dangerous cross that Connor Antley headed out for a corner, but Ojeda sent the set piece cross right at the goalkeeper.

Muriel nearly opened his MLS account with Orlando City in the 38th minute. An outstanding long ball from Ojeda sent Muriel down the right. He collected the ball and fizzed the ball past Bono but Herrera tracked back to block it.

The chippy nature of the match picked up near the end of the half, with four D.C. players and Cartagena getting booked as time wound down. Neither team could create much in the five minutes of stoppage time, although Muriel blasted a shot that buzzed over the crossbar late in added time. The teams went to the break knotted up at 1-1.

Orlando City finished the first half with the advantage in possession (53.2%-46.8%) and passing accuracy (81.9%-78.9%), while D.C. had more shots (9-5), shots on target (3-1), and corners (4-2).

“I thought the first half we played better with the ball and we had some options,” Pareja said.

The second half continued to be a back-and-forth open affair, with both teams creating some havoc.

Muriel nearly played Angulo in behind shortly after the restart but Bono came out of his box quickly and got there just in time to knock it out of play. Torres then made the first of a couple of bad crosses, sending a ball from the left onto the roof of the net with Ojeda breaking open at the back post.

Torres then won a free kick out on the left side. Ojeda sent in a good cross but Brekalo couldn’t quite get his head onto it in the 51st minute. A minute later, Angulo stole the ball in the attacking half, but Torres again overcooked a cross, sending it over everyone from the left.

Bartlett sent a weak shot wide in the 56th minute off a corner kick that appeared to be a goal kick. D.C. then had a mad scramble in front of Gallese. The Peruvian made a vital save on Benteke, but the big striker was offside anyway.

D.C. got back on the front foot and good pressure and more possession helped the host take control of the match for a while. A wild scramble in front of goal in the 58th minute nearly allowed United to take the lead, but Gallese made a vital stop even though the play was ultimately blown dead for offside on Benteke.

The hosts regained the lead in the 66th minute in transition. It looked as though Muriel was pulled back from behind and the Colombian went to ground, but the referee played on and D.C. punished the Lions. With a defender jumping into the play, United ended up with numbers in the attack. A ball off Benteke’s head in the box found the foot of second-half substitute Pirani, who blasted it past a helpless Gallese to make it 2-1 in the 66th minute.

Moments after the second goal, Smith failed to get his body turned properly in front of a bouncing ball passing through the middle. He was intead called for a handball, gifting D.C. a dangerous free kick straight out from goal. Herrera went for goal and his shot cleared the wall but did not dip back under Gallese’s crossbar.

Pareja made three changes at the cusp of the 73rd minute, sending on Nico Lodeiro, McGuire, and Rafael Santos, and withdrawing Cartagena, Ojeda, and Smith. It proved in the end to be a shrewd set of subs.

McGuire quickly won a free kick near the left corner of the box but Orlando City couldn’t do anything with the set piece.

Lodeiro had a go from outside the box in the 82nd minute. His blast from long range had a lot of movement on it and it was on target, forcing Bono to tip it over the crossbar. That led to the equalizer just seconds later.

Lodeiro delivered the corner kick from Orlando’s attacking right (although the stats sheet said it was Torres) and sent a good ball into the area near the top of the six. It appeared that the ball may have glanced off Benteke’s header attempt, skipped off the back of Brekalo’s head, and nestled into the left corner, tying the match at 2-2 in the 82nd minute. It was Brekalo’s first goal with Orlando City.

D.C. nearly pulled the goal right back in the 84th minute. Off a set piece, the ball ended up with Benteke who headed it toward goal. The shot was blocked by Brekalo and fell for Pirani, who smashed a blast into the outside netting from the left side.

Santos tried to pick out McGuire in the front with a cross in the 89th minute, but it was blocked out for a corner kick. The ball was headed in the air and Angulo attacked it at the top of the box but was called for a foul, ending the attack.

D.C. had a dangerous spell of possession near the top of the penalty area just after that set piece, but the goal ended up going the other way. Orlando picked out an attempted through ball and Angulo sent it quickly to Lodeiro. The Uruguayan turned and sent a perfect ball to McGuire, who had kept his foot on the center line and got in behind the defense. The second-year pro dribbled toward the top of the box and blasted a shot just inside the right post, beating Bono and handing Orlando City a late 3-2 lead in the first minute of stoppage time.

“It’s fantastic for us to have such professional players, whether they come in from the start or they come in from the bench, they’re just giving their heart and they’re giving their soul on the pitch,” Pareja said of his subs. “Nico, when he came on with Duncan, they showed us the unity those players had and the intentions that they have just to put this team on the top again. We’re trying to find our best version still, but it was really encouraging for us to see the response of them when they came from the bench. It helped us a lot.”

There was a lengthy check to make sure the initial call on the field was correct, and the video assistant referee upheld the original call. McGuire’s goal was his third against D.C. United in as many meetings. He has scored in each of the three matchups against United since joining Orlando City.

The Lions had to see out a minimum of 11 minutes of added time, which ultimately grew to nearly 15. That’s when Gallese earned his money.

The Peruvian international made a good reaction save in the 93rd minute to deny Pirani. He denied a cannon shot by Herrera from the top of the box in the 99th minute, preserving the lead once again.

Orlando finally ran out the clock on the match and claimed its first road win of the year. The Lions extended their unbeaten streak to three matches (2-0-1).

United led all over the stat sheet in the end, finishing with the advantage in possession (51.6%-48.4%), shots (20-10), shots on target (6-4), corners (7-4), and passing accuracy (77.4%-76.7%). However, the Lions were more clinical, especially late in the match.

“The second half they gave us a little trouble there with D.C.’s style, but we resolved it and then we found our ways to score, which is fantastic for our team at this moment,” Pareja said. “The most important (thing) is the heart the players showed today. They have done it before but not (getting) results, and we’ve had a result that is very important for us in this moment.”

“I would say it’s a great feeling (in the locker room),” Thorhallsson said. “I feel like we needed that to show a little bit of character. When we get concede a goal, I feel like we’ve been a little bit down and we can’t get out of it. And it shows that no matter the circumstances, if we concede a goal, we can still bounce back, and we did that really well.”

The Lions will be continue their road swing next Saturday at Montreal.


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