It wasn’t a convincing performance, but the Lions were able to grind out three points Wednesday night.
Sporting Kansas City dominated the possession game, but it was Tesho Akindele’s first-half strike that gifted Orlando City a narrow 1-0 victory in front of an announced attendance of 22,347 Exploria Stadium.
“It wasn’t pretty, I think for us we had some passages that you think first half not bad,” said City coach James O’Connor. “Couple little bit of passages, nice goal. Some good chances first half. The second half just became a complete game of transition, and it became for us [a] pure heart.”
Akindele, who scored his team-leading ninth goal of the season, struck in the 21st minute when a pass from Carlos Ascues found the forward unmarked, hitting the ball past Tim Melia for the opener and eventual winner.
Orlando (9-11-6, 33 points) could have opened the scoring in the opening minutes of the game when Chris Mueller’s cross found Dom Dwyer, who’s headered ball went wide of the goal.
Kyle Smith left the game early after colliding with Sporting KC goalkeeper Tim Melia in the eighth minute. The Orlando right-back was substituted for Shane O’Neill in the 12th minute and received six stitches to the head, Orlando City officials confirmed post-game.
Wednesday night’s victory tied the club record for most shutouts in a season with seven, tying Brian Rowe with Joe Bendik’s 2017 feat.
Sporting KC’s Roger Espinoza almost tied the game in the 77th minute when his backheel flick from close range was saved by Brian Rowe. In the 83rd minute, Benny Feilhaber’s strike inside the box went wide of the goal.
Orlando struggled most of the second half with possession, but a counter-attack near stoppage time almost saw the Lions double the lead when a pass from Nani connected with an unmarked Sacha Kljestan, who chipped the ball over Melia but was cleared by Felipe Gutierrez.
“Because you always want the perfect performance, regardless of whether you win,
“The massive encouraging sign for us as a club is we’ve not played well tonight, [but] we won the game, which is great,” said O’Connor. “… we want to get into the playoffs, so we needed three points tonight and that’s a massive three points for us.”
Orlando City extended its unbeaten streak to three games as eight games remain to the regular season.
Up next for the Lions
The Lions travel to Allianza Field to take on Minnesota United on Saturday at 8 p.m. ET
21′ – Tesho Akindele, assisted by Carlos Ascues and Uri Rosell (Orlando City)
How Orlando lined up
Orlando City XI: Brian Rowe; Kyle Smith (Shane O’Neill, 12′), Lamine Sané, Robin Jansson, Kamal Miller; Uri Rosell, Carlos Ascues; Chris Mueller (Benji Michel, 46′), Nani (c), Tesho Akindele, Dom Dwyer (Sacha Kljestan, 74′).
Orlando Bench: Adam Grinwis, Alex De John, Dillon Powers, Santiago Patiño.
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