MLS is Back: Lions secure 1-1 draw, top spot in Group A

Orlando City remained undefeated in the MLS is Back Tournament, after pulling out a 1-1 result against the Philadelphia Union. Mauricio Pereyra had the only goal for the Lions, which he scored just two minutes after the Union took the lead. Orlando’s draw makes them the winners of Group A on goal differential.

“Let me congratulate this group of players that has made a great effort today to bounce back, and even deserved to win it,” said Orlando coach Oscar Pareja. “The team has personality and desire and that made us feel very confident so playing against a very good team, also well coached, with a very dynamic in the middle. But at the end, we’re content because we had that. We were the protagonist of the game and we want it all the way and could deserve more, but we take the point and qualifying as the first of the group is something to be proud of.”

The story of the first half was mainly of chances. Both teams had good quality shots on goal, but Philadelphia’s Andre Blake and Orlando’s Pedro Gallese came up with some big stops to keep things level.

Orlando did have a setback in the 15th minute after midfielder Junior Urso was forced out of the game with a groin injury. Sebas Mendez came in to fill the role.

It wasn’t until the second half where the game began to open up. Orlando had a great opportunity in the 65th minute as Antonio Carlos had a header saved by Blake off the crossbar. That save proved to be vital for the Union after what happened three minutes later.

In the 68th minute, Philadelphia opened up the scoring through dynamic playmaker Ilsinho. Having just come on as a substitute 10 minutes earlier, the Brazilian caught Orlando’s defense out and managed to fire a low shot past Gallese to momentarily give the Union the 1-0 advantage.

Just two minutes later, the Lions equalized. Mauricio Pereyra managed to play a quick combination to Nani out wide, while making a darting run into the box. The Orlando captain picked out Pereyra and caught him in stride to head it in and level the game at 1-1.

“I know that when Nani gets the ball, something different can happen. I went inside of the box, feeling that this ball was coming for me,” Pereyra said of his goal, “Very happy to score my first goal in Orlando.”

Orlando was able to see out the final 20 minutes and change with some good defensive work from the backline and midfield, pulling out the draw to see them top the group.

The Lions will play the 3rd place team from either groups C, D or E on Saturday, July 25 at 8:00 p.m.

Scoring summary

68′ – Ilsinho, assisted by Alejandro Bedoya, Brendan Aaronson (NYC)

70′ – Mauricio Pereyra, assisted by Nani (ORL)

Here’s how the Lions lined up 

Orlando City XI (4-2-3-1): Pedro Gallese; João Moutinho, Antonio Carlos, Robin Jansson, Ruan; Chris Mueller (Andres Perea, 87′), Uri Rosell, Junior Urso (Sebastián Méndez, 19′), Mauricio Pereyra (Santiago Patiño, 88′), Nani; Tesho Akindele (Benji Michel, 74′)

Orlando bench: Brian Rowe, Alex De John, Kyle Smith, Kamal Miller, Rodrigo Schlegel, Jordan Bender, Daryl Dike, David Loera.

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