Orlando City scores early to nab road victory over D.C. United, extend unbeaten start to five games

MLS: Orlando City SC at D.C. United

Scott Taetsch-USA TODAY Sports

The Lions unbeaten start to the season continued on Sunday night.

An early goal from Mauricio Pereyra and another strong defensive outing was enough to extend Orlando City’s undefeated run to five games as they secured a 1-0 road victory over D.C. United at Audi Field.

“I’m really happy because we looked like a serious team, a team that knew how to manage the game,” head coach Oscar Pareja said in Spanish after the match.

“We suffered in the second half in certain bits but not a lot because really they didn’t have any key options, they just played a quiet ball, but from the start after having scored the early goal and the time passed by in the first half, I knew we were going to have defend well and perhaps with an extra player to get the result.”

The Lions (2-0-3, 9 points) for the second time this season managed to score early on in the match, this time in the seventh minute of play. A ball into the area from Kyle Smith found Tesho Akindele in the attacking third, who then dished the ball to Mauricio Pereyra as he controlled the ball and scored past former USL-era Lions keeper Jon Kempin to open the scoring for the Lions.

It was a poignant moment for Pereyra, who celebrated his goal by removing his shirt to show a picture of Santiago García, a player that Pereyra grew up with in the youth system of Nacional in Uruguay. García was found dead back in February due to a self inflicted gunshot wound. Pereyra said it was a special moment for him.

“I was really waiting for this moment because I lost a really close friend in February.” Pereyra said. “He was a soccer player and we both grew up together. We played since we were 10-11 years old, and then we play in National and we were champions there. I have a lot of moments with him and the honor, it was for him. I was really excited waiting this moment and now we have a little bit lightly now because it was a heavy moment for me.”

DCU (2-4-0, 6 points) after having just played on Thursday in a 1-0 home win against the Chicago Fire, didn’t look like a team with little rest, shortly after Orlando’s opener.

Hernan Losada’s side pressed high numbers forward for much of the first half and early second half and almost managed to find the equalizer in the 37th minute, after a counter attack led by Edison Flores was denied by Joao Moutinho.

Sunday’s result is Orlando’s third clean sheet in five games.

The match also marked a substitute appearance by Chris Mueller, who officially appeared in his 100th game as an Orlando City player. He has played in 88 MLS league matches, 6 US Open Cup games, 4 MLS is Back games and 2 playoff games.

Quote of the match

Orlando may have put on another strong defensive outing, but continued to struggle to find multiple scoring opportinties.

But Mauricio Pereyra did set some perspective from Sunday’s win.

“It was important for us to set the rhythm from the start. We dominated the very first 15 minutes and after the goal, we lost a bit of the ball. But I also think they didn’t have much scoring chances. We’re aware it wasn’t a perfect game but to defend well is to play well.”

Up next…

The Lions return home to Exploria Stadium when they take on Toronto FC on Saturday, May 22 at 7 p.m.

Scoring Summary

7′ – Mauricio Pereyra, assisted by Tesho Akindele (ORL)

How the Lions lined up

Orlando City XI: Pedro Gallese; Joao Moutinho, Rodrigo Schlegel, Antonio Carlos, Kyle Smith; Sebastian Mendez, Junior Urso (Joey DeZart, 82′); Nani (c), Mauricio Pereyra (Andres Perea, 70′), Benji Michel (Robin Jansson, 51′); Tesho Akindele (Chris Mueller, 82′).

Substitutes: Brandon Austin, Silvester van der Water, Alexander Alvarado, Michael Halliday, Matheus Aias.

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