Orlando City continued its winning form on Tuesday night as the Lions took down expansion rival New York City FC in a contentious bout, with Chris Mueller scoring twice in the first 10 minutes to lead his team to a 3-1 win and place them atop Group A standings of the MLS is Back Tournament.
“It’s a great night for the club and for the boys. They had a terrific effort on the field and that effort was rewarded,” said Orlando coach Oscar Pareja. “I think we had much more volume in the attack today and we had a lot of people in the match, many times in a lot of sequences, that had the personality to have a good start and at the end hold the result against a team who is well structured and has very good players too. It is a night to grow, it is a night to feel confident about what we’re doing here. I don’t get tired to say that this is very well deserved for the players who made a great effort on the field.”
Chris Mueller got the scoring started early for the Lions four minutes into the game when he connected on a free kick from João Moutinho. After Mauricio Pereyra drew a free kick, Moutinho floated a ball into the box which Mueller connected with, smashing the shot past Sean Johnson to give Orlando the early advantage.
Just six minutes later, Mueller doubled his damage. Ruan made a speedy run down the sideline, crossing into Dom Dwyer in the box. Dwyer headed the ball up and towards Mueller, who deftly took it down and rounded Johnson to score his brace, the fastest brace in Orlando City history.
As Orlando continued to hang on to the two-goal advantage, the 30 minute water break seemed to wake up NYCFC. The Lions were forced to defend more and finally, in the 38th minute, they were beaten. Jesús Medina struck a ball just outside the box on the half-volley to beat Pedro Gallese and bring his team back within one.
Mueller had a chance towards the end of the first half to complete his hat trick, but his header pinged off the crossbar. The half ended with Orlando clinging to a 2-1 lead.
The second half started as the first ended. Lots of pressure and combination play from NYCFC, but the Lions keeper Gallese showed his stuff, parrying away two dangerous shots in the 77th minute as Valentin Castellanos forced El Pulpo into a diving stop.
Orlando was able to restore their two-goal lead just four minutes after that save, when Nani found substitute Benji Michel open in the box. His initial shot was saved by Johnson, but the rebound was headed home by the other substitute Tesho Akindele to make it a 3-1 game.
For the final 10 minutes plus 10 more of stoppage time, Orlando weathered the offensive onslaught by NYC, but did not break, keeping the scoreline stagnant and securing the second win in the MLS is Back tournament.
This win for Orlando marks the first back-to-back wins in Oscar Pareja’s tenure. Those wins have been at a premium the last few years. In fact, the last time the Lions won two games in a row was back in May of 2018, when they beat Real Salt Lake 3-1.
Orlando will now play game three of the MLS is Back tournament next Monday, July 20 against the Philadelphia Union. Kickoff for that match is set for 10:30 p.m.
Regardless of the result of that match, Orlando will advance to the knockout stages of the tournament, along with Philadelphia. Depending who wins the match on July 20th, the Lions could play the 3rd place team from groups C, D or E or they could play the second place team from group C. No matter which scenario, the Lions’ match will be played on Saturday, July 25 at either 8:00 or 10:30 p.m.
4′ – Chris Mueller, assisted by João Moutinho (ORL)
10′ – Chris Mueller, assisted by Dom Dwyer, Ruan (ORL)
38′ – Jesús Medina, assisted by Héber (NYC)
81′ – Tesho Akindele (ORL)
Here’s how the Lions lined up
Orlando City XI (4-4-2): Pedro Gallese; João Moutinho, Antonio Carlos, Robin Jansson, Ruan; Chris Mueller (Benji Michel, 80′), Uri Rosell (Sebastián Méndez, 65′), Junior Urso, Mauricio Pereyra (Andres Perea, 80′), Nani; Dom Dwyer (Tesho Akindele, 61′)
Orlando bench: Brian Rowe, Alex De John, Kyle Smith, Rodrigo Schlegel, Daryl Dike, David Loera, Robinho, Santiago Patiño.
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