For the second consecutive time at Orlando City Stadium, the Lions left it late again.
And for the second consecutive time at home, it was Portuguese star Nani who delivered and sealed Orlando City a 1-0 victory over the Vancouver Whitecaps Saturday afternoon in front of an announced crowd of 22,468.
“It’s a massive win for us,” said James O’Connor. “With games like that, it’s really important that you go in and win the game. Some players deserve enormous credit for doing that and getting the win.”
Heading towards the final moments of the game, a ball played from Ruan found Sacha Kljestan, whose shot redirected off Nani and past Zac MacMath for the go-ahead goal in the 88th minute.
It was Nani’s team-leading fourth goal of the season and his third consecutive goal for the Lions this season.
Kljestan, who started Orlando’s first seven games of the season, was omitted from the starting lineup entering Saturday’s game but said the win was big for the team after being credited with the game-winning assist.
“At the end of the year, we’ll look back, and think that this was an important game for us to win,” said Kljestan. “When you look at the end of the season at the standings, most of the teams that get into the playoffs, are teams that have a lot of wins at home and take care of their business at home.”
“So far us, having already dropped too many points at home early in the season to now get our second win in a row in our stadium is big for us.”
It was Orlando’s (3-3-2, 11 points) second clean sheet this season and Brian Rowe’s second shutout since joining the Lions ahead of the 2019 season.
Rowe finished with two saves.
“I feel great,” said Rowe after the game. “Great team effort defensively… the hard we can make it for teams to score, more shutouts we can have, the more opportunities we have up the field and like you see it today, we get opportunities and were able to score, so I think that’s something to build on.”
Dom Dwyer, who started and played 72 minutes, continued extended his goal drought to three games.
In the 60th minute, Nani almost opened the scoring for the Lions after a shot at goal was blocked and cleared by MacMath.
The Lions outshot the Whitecaps 16-3 with four being on target.
A give-and-go play between Chris Mueller and João Moutinho before the halftime break almost saw the Lions break the deadlock, but Moutinho’s shot was saved by MacMath, who finished with two saves.
Orlando is two games unbeaten at home heading into next week’s game at Yankee Stadium against New York City FC — a game which O’Connor plays a part in building some momentum.
“We’re going to try to garner some momentum,” said the Orlando coach. “We feel through the course of the season performances have been at a good level. We’ve got a couple of maybe blips where we’ve said ‘OK, that needs to be better’ but overall, we’re really pleased with the level of performance and we want to make sure that continues.”
Up next for Orlando
The Lions travel to take on New York City FC on Saturday, April 27 at 1 p.m. ET.
88′ ORL – Nani; (Sacha Kljestan, Ruan)
How the Lions lined up
Orlando City XI: Brian Rowe, João Moutinho, Robin Jansson, Lamine Sané, Ruan; Uri Rosell, Sebastián Méndez, Will Johnson; Nani (c), Dom Dwyer, Chris Mueller.
Orlando City Bench: Greg Ranjitsingh, Josué Colmán, Cristian Higuita, Sacha Kljestan, Kamal Miller, Tesho Akindele, Kyle Smith.
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