In a very reminiscent scenario to last year, it took until the third game of the year for Orlando City to secure their first victory of the 2021 regular season.
After tying their first two matches of the season, it took an early goal from Tesho Akindele, a stunner from captain Nani and late tap-in from Junior Urso to power Orlando towards a 3-0 victory over FC Cincinnati Saturday night in front of an announced limited-attendance of 11,503 at Exploria Stadium.
“Very good game for us, very solid performance,” said head coach Oscar Pareja. “The best part of the game was that we found the net. Something that we were missing in the last two games where we did a very good performance also but we were missing that final touch, and in today’s game, we did it, we were more precise, and that make us happy.”
The Lions didn’t waste time opening the scoring against Cincinnati when in the opening seconds of the match saw a defensive howler Nick Hagglund give the ball away to a poaching Akindele who capitalized on the error, making it 1-0.
For Akindele, Saturday marked his 100th career start and his goal — 31 seconds into the game — the fastest in club history.
Orlando continued its early first-half dominance when Nani made it 2-0 in the 19th minute after turning and cutting away from Yuya Kubo, sending him to the ground and sending a curling shot towards the upper-left corner of the goal for his second goal of the season.
Orlando outshot Cincinnati in the match, 23-7, with five of those shots from the Lions being on target. Cincy, who were thumped 5-0 last week against NYCFC, produced zero shots on target on Saturday.
The Lions made it 3-0 in the 80th minute when a cross from Nani connected with Andres Perea, who’s header attempt found both Benji Michel and Junior Urso in scoring positions with Urso tucking the ball away for Orlando’s third goal of the night.
Saturday saw the return of Mauricio Pereyra, who missed the first two games of the season because of suspension. The Uruguayan central attacking midfielder played 60 minutes before exiting the match for Andres Perea.
João Moutinho also made his season debut and first appearance since Aug. 29, 2020 when he subbed out in the 78th minute during a match at Atlanta. That lower-body injury saw Moutinho miss the last 15 games of the regular season which eventually resulted into Moutinho undergoing surgery during the offseason.
Orlando improves to 1-0-2 (W-L-T) with five points in the regular season, tentatively positioning the Lions to third place in the Eastern Conference standings.
Orlando host New York City FC on Saturday, May 8 at Exploria Stadium. Kickoff is scheduled for 6 p.m. and will be televised on ESPN.
1′ – Tesho Akindele (ORL)
19′ – Nani (ORL)
80′ – Junior Urso, assisted by Benji Michel (ORL)
Here’s how the Lions lined up
Orlando City XI: Pedro Gallese; Kyle Smith, Rodrigo Schlegel, Antonio Carlos, Ruan (Joao Moutinho, 85′); Sebastian Mendez, Junior Urso (Joey DeZart, 85′); Chris Mueller (Benji Michel, 71′), Nani (c), Mauricio Pereyra (Andres Perea, 60′); Tesho Akindele (Silvester van der Water, 85′).
Substitutes: Brandon Austin, Robin Jansson, Alexander Alvarado, Matheus Aias.
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