Orlando City

Orlando City vs. Philadelphia Union: Final Score 3-2 as Lions Win Behind Luis Muriel Brace

Orlando gets two goals from Luis Muriel, another from Duncan McGuire, and three assists from Nico Lodeiro to win in Philly.



Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Luis Muriel scored his first two MLS goals and Nico Lodeiro assisted on all three Orlando City strikes as the Lions beat the Philadelphia Union 3-2 at Subaru Park in Chester, PA. For Orlando City (3-5-3, 12 points), which also got a goal from Duncan McGuire, it snapped a two-game losing streak and a three-match winless skid, but the Lions had to suffer quite a bit for their points, enduring two penalties, a scary-looking injury to Robin Jansson, an overturned Philadelphia red card, and about 19 minutes of stoppage time in order to beat the Union (3-3-5, 14 points).

Mikael Uhre and Daniel Gazdag (penalty) scored for Philadelphia, but Orlando held on through a nervy finish to claim the points.

“First (I want to) congratulate the players for such an effort today. The bravery that they had and the cooperation that they showed to each other during the game was exceptional,” Orlando City Head Coach Oscar Pareja said after the game. “Its a very difficult place to come and win, but we’re proud. We really played a very, very good first half, where we created many chances. It’s great for us as well Luis has started scoring. So, many things happened and we’ll keep going. The journey is long.”

Faced with not having starting fullback Rafael Santos and not wanting to rush Dagur Dan Thorhallsson (who was on the bench) back into the fray, Pareja opted to not use anyone who regularly plays fullback in his starting lineup. Michael Halliday wasn’t in the team after picking up a knock late in the week in training.

Goalkeeper Pedro Gallese lined up behind a back line of Jansson, Wilder Cartagena, and David Brekalo. Ivan Angulo and Facundo Torres slotted in at wingbacks on the outside of a midfield that also included Cesar Araujo, Martin Ojeda, and Lodeiro, with Muriel and McGuire up top in a 3-5-2.

“We came here today with a different proposal,” Pareja said of his lineup change. “We extended our line in the back, but not with fullbacks, but with wingers. And I think we put everything that we had on the pitch trying to get the win from the start.”

The Lions started brightly, with a lot of early possession in the attacking third, but the only thing to come from it was Torres hitting the outside of the left post from a tight angle in the fifth minute.

The Union started to get more settled and created a shot on their first real attacking buildup, but Cartagena blocked Jack McGlynn’s effort out for a corner. The Lions dealt with the initial set piece and tried to break on the counterattack, however, Orlando never could gain control of the ball and Philadelphia recycled it into the top of the area before City could regain its shape. Uhre ended up with the ball in the box and slotted home inside the left post to make it 1-0 in the 12th minute.

McGuire was picked out in the box by a great entry ball by Muriel moments later, but the second-year striker was quickly closed down by three defenders. Trying to work his way higher in the box, McGuire went down under contact, but no foul was given and there was no pause for a review on the next stoppage.

Philadelphia should have had a second in the 15th minute, but Gallese robbed Gazdag, who had taken a great layoff from Uhre, who was holding off Cartagena, taking advantage of the midfielder-turned-center back. Gallese did well to keep the deficit at one.

Muriel and Ojeda sent shots over the bar in the 16th and 17th minutes, respectively, as the Lions continued looking dangerous in the attack. That finally paid off in the 21st minute. After playing a corner kick short, the ball was knocked out of the box and recycled to Lodeiro on the left. The midfield maestro got to the end line and sent a great cross into the box. McGuire made a great run to get across his defender and nodded it down and in to make it 1-1 with his fifth league goal of the season.

Muriel conceded a set piece near the touchline in the 22nd minute, giving Philadelphia a chance to get the goal right back, but the Lions cleared the danger and Gallese caught the recycled entry ball to end the threat.

The Union had a great chance in the 29th minute off a short corner. Jose Martinez took the pass and fizzed a laser cross to Bedoya at the top of the six. The veteran midfielder tried to steer it on frame but it had so much pace on it that it deflected out for an Orlando throw.

Philadelphia kept coming. McGlynn sent either a cross or a shot onto the roof of the net in the 33rd minute, and Quinn Sullivan sent a shot just high and just wide right in the 35th. Uhre had a go from a tight angle on the right a minute later but Gallese was well positioned and made the easy save.

The Lions thought they had a penalty in the 40th minute when an entry ball went off Martinez near the edge of his shirt sleeve. Timothy Ford did not call a penalty and on the next stoppage the play was reviewed, but it was close and no obvious error was detected.

No matter. Orlando scored seconds after the review. A bad pass by Martinez was picked off by Angulo, who sent it to Lodeiro. The Uruguayan flicked it to Muriel, who cut inside on his left and sent a rocket shot into the upper left corner for his first MLS goal. The Lions led 2-1 in the 42nd minute.

“It was a situation where we recovered the ball high up the field and really quickly,” Muriel said through a club interpreter. “When I saw Nico making his run, I made sure to just put myself in a good position, and I started to cut inside and just saw an opportunity to hit it. Thankfully, it was a really good strike.”

Again the Union nearly pulled the goal right back as Bedoya nodded a header right at Gallese in the 44th minute, however, the Lions nearly got right back in on goal through McGuire, who was barely beaten to a loose ball in the box by goalkeeper Oliver Semmle to deny a golden chance.

Lodeiro had the last good look for either side in the second minute of first-half stoppage, sending a shot toward goal that deflected just wide by the defense. The halftime whistle came moments later and Orlando held onto a one-goal lead at the break.

Orlando City attempted more shots (9-7) and corners (5-3) in the first half, while Philadelphia finished the opening period with more possession (59.8%-40.2%), shots on target (4-3), and passing accuracy (79.4%-76.9%).

Muriel doubled the lead just after the restart. Lodeiro ended up with the ball at midfield and threaded a through ball up the middle. Muriel timed his run perfectly, put the ball on his right foot, and calmly slipped it past Semmle to make it 3-1 just 20 seconds after the start of the second half. The play underwent a review for offside but was confirmed.

“I was right there in line with the defenders and Nico was able to find me in a great way,” Muriel said. “And so once he put me in on goal, it was easy for me to finish. So, those are two goals that really fill me with confidence today.”

“A very important moment for Luis to come through this way with the team,” Pareja said. “Scoring goals is what he came for and today was a night that he will remember, not just because we won it but he scored those two goals that are very necessary for his confidence, and the whole team as well.”

Philadelphia’s first chance of the half came in the 48th minute, but Jansson was able to block Gazdag’s effort from near the top of the box.

Moments later, at the other end, a good cross from Lodeiro on the left would have fallen for Angulo at the back post if Kai Wagner hadn’t arrived in time to nod it behind for a corner. Brekalo got his head to the ensuing corner cross, but his body was turned sideways from jockeying for position with the defense and he couldn’t steer it on frame.

Sullivan scored in the 54th minute but the flag came up immediately. The Philadelphia attacker and Brekalo were nearly even, but there wasn’t enough evidence for the video assistant referee to overturn the call on the field, and the Lions were spared some blushes from losing an aerial ball in their box that Gazdag knocked down.

McGuire got in behind in the 57th minute and Semmle was caught out of his net. The Orlando striker chipped the ball but it went wide of the left post and the flag came up anyway.

Martinez sent a ball into the Orlando box in the 59th minute but it was close enough to Gallese for him to catch it to end the threat. At this point in the game, the Union were throwing numbers forward and the Lions’ defensive block was getting pushed lower. Another dangerous ball into the box at the hour mark bounced out for a corner off Jansson on a cross in that Orlando didn’t deal with properly.

Pareja made his first substitution before that corner could be taken, sending Dagur Dan Thorhallsson, who cleared concussion protocol, onto the pitch for Ojeda, who had a quiet night and was a bit untidy with the ball. Thorhallsson took the right wingback slot, pushing Angulo to the left side and Torres up the pitch into a more advanced position.

On the ensuing corner, Jansson went down as the ball was cleared out and stayed down. He ultimately had to be stretchered off the field and was replaced by Kyle Smith. To make matters worse for Orlando City, the deflected ball changed directions and caught Lodeiro’s hand as he was pulling it in toward his body. Although the ball fell for a half chance for the Union, Ford went to the monitor and deemed it a penalty. Gazdag sent Gallese to his right and scored right down the middle to make it 3-2 in the 66th minute.

It was a tough break for Orlando, as Jansson had been strong up to that point in the match, while Philadelphia was buoyed by pulling within a goal with plenty of time left in the game.

Much of the remainder of the game was spent in Orlando’s half, with the Union trying to play balls in over the top from the wings or work their way into the box from the channels. Lodeiro did well to block a Bedoya cross attempt out for a corner in the 70th minute, and Jakob Glesnes sent his header on the ensuing set piece wide a minute later.

Moments after that, Bedoya passed up a shot to head a cross back to the left post, where Uhre was waiting. The play nearly came off for the Union but Gallese got over and the ball ended up hitting off the woodwork and Uhre and landing on the roof of the net.

The game nearly took a dramatic change in the 74th minute when McGuire was sent in behind and went down due to contact with Damion Lowe. Ford produced a red card immediately for denial of a goal-scoring opportunity. However, he then went to the monitor and determined there was no foul because Lowe got a touch on the ball.

Uhre could have tied it in the 78th minute. A direct ball found Uhre over the top and Gallese could probably have gotten to it first but he got caught flatfooted well out of his goal. However, the Peruvian was able to block Uhre’s shot attempt to preserve the lead.

Orlando kept looking to put the game away on the counterattack but simply couldn’t find the final ball. Angulo sped down the left side in the 78th minute but his cross was knocked away by Semmle and the defense cleared. Moments later, Brekalo led the transition break himself, but when the ball got to the Union box, a wayward pass allowed the defense to intercept it and killed the threat.

Glesnes tried his luck from distance in the 80th minute, but his shot was always going wide of the left post.

Orlando’s next counter opportunity in the 84th minute ended when a cross into the box to Lodeiro bounced high and the Uruguayan could only get under his half-volley shot, sending it high.

Ford handed the Union a lifeline in the 86th minute, calling a soft penalty on Angulo. The speedy winger-turned-wingback was on Nathan Harriel, who went down easily, and Ford bought it. After going to the monitor twice before, this time he didn’t, and the call stood.

Gazdag stepped up to take another spot kick, and this time he tried to go to his left. Gallese read the play and the Union’s star man left his shot too close to the middle. Gallese parried it away with a huge save, but it fell back to Gazdag, who sent his rebound attempt over the bar, ending the threat.

It was the first time in MLS play that Gazdag has failed to score on a penalty kick attempt.

McGuire was booked as the game reached the 90th minute and the fourth official put 15 minutes on the board. There were two video reviews and the Jansson injury, but 15 still seemed excessive. That ended up growing to nearly 19 minutes in the end.

Philadelphia came close in the 91st minute, but Felipe, who had come on for Muriel late, did well to get a toe on a cross that almost certainly would have been tucked home in front. A minute later, Brekalo did just enough to bother Lowe’s header attempt, which sailed off target. Brekalo followed that by blocking a Wagner cross in the 93rd minute. Sullivan sliced a shot well wide to the right a minute later.

The Lions managed to kill a few minutes until Lowe jumped up into the play in the 98th minute but sent his long-range shot fizzing over the bar.

The final chance came deep in the 18th minute of stoppage on a Union corner. The ball pinged dangerously around the box off multiple players before flying just over the crossbar. Ford called the match complete at that point, and the Lions could finally breathe easier.

Philadelphia ended up owning the stat sheet, finishing with the advantage in possession (61.5%-38.5%), shots (31-13), shots on target (7-4), corners (7-6), and passing accuracy (80.4%-73.5%).

“We have been getting through hard times and the (team’s) fate is still intact,” Pareja said. “So, we worked very hard today and (the win) was very deserved.”

“It was a great game. I think it was something that we were wishing for coming in after two tough games that we lost, but I think today we deserved this win,” Muriel said. “And with all the work that this group has been putting together, just just very happy for that.”

While Pareja and company wait to see the extent of Jansson’s injury, the encouraging thing for the Lions is that Muriel finally looked every bit the part of the Designated Player from Serie A that he was billed to be. Aside from his two goals, his passing unlocked the defense multiple times. Additionally, Lodeiro had one of his best matches since joining Orlando City, and showed that he still has the quality to create for his teammates.

With the win, Orlando City improved to 6-7-6 in the all-time MLS series against the Union (7-8-6 in all competitions) and is now 4-5-1 in league matches at Subaru Park (4-6-1 in all competitions).

Orlando City has a quick turnaround, returning home to face Inter Miami in the second leg of the 2024 Tropic Thunder rivalry Wednesday night.


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