Heading into Saturday’s match against Toronto FC at Exploria Stadium, the Lions didn’t have their team captain and leading scorer Nani, due to a two-game suspension issued just yesterday.
What Orlando City did have was Silvester van der Water’s cross to Tesho Akindele to secure the goal, a gritty team play for much of the match to eventually secure the win — and two crucial saves in stoppage-time from Pedro Gallese to see out the 1-0 win over Toronto, extending their unbeaten streak to six games on the season.
“This group keeps maturing a lot,” head coach Oscar Pareja said in Spanish following the win. “We’re no longer a team that plays good soccer, but we’re a team that knows how to suffer in decisive moments. These things that have been happening to us, the suspension for us is not right for Luis [Nani], so it’s simply turning to our additional resources for players who have been waiting for the opportunity. I’m happy for those players who have been waiting like Alexander Alvarado, Silvester — those players tonight with the difficulties took advantage of their opportunities and they’re part of an important victory.”
On Friday it was announced that Nani would miss Saturday’s game against Toronto and the following match on May 29 at New York Red Bulls because of a two-game suspension for “unwanted” contact with a match official during last week’s match at D.C. United.
Nani was also fined an undisclosed amount.
But on Saturday, the Lions (3-0-3, 12 points) got off to another good start, scoring early in the game when a cross sent by Silvester van der Water connected with an unmarked Tesho Akindele, who headed the ball past Alex Bono in the 12th minute.
Orlando would show another strong defensive outing on the night, including a goal-line clearance from Robin Jansson in the 32nd minute to deny TFC the equalizer. The match marked Jansson’s first start in the 2021 season.
Saturday’s win also marked Orlando’s fourth clean sheet result, posting a league-best two goals conceded in six games.
Fullback João Moutinho was not named to the game day lineup because of some soreness earlier this week in training, according to Pareja after the match.
Pedro Gallese finished with five saves, including two major stops in the final moments of stoppage time to secure the win for the Lions.
Quote of the Match
Pareja acknowledged the team’s struggle to produce more goals during games this season.
Despite having a Conference-best two goals conceded in six matches — Orlando has only been able to score seven times this season.
When asked if Orlando looks to bring in another forward at some point this summer, Pareja was coy on the matter but did provide an outlook from the match and some aspirations he has for the rest of the season.
“Honestly, I have to recognize that the goal tonight was scored by a forward. So, Tesho gave us three points tonight and had two more chances where he could have been more clinical and precise. That tells us that we’re creating key options. We’re missing [Alexandre] Pato, Daryl Dike who will return soon if things go accordingly. Nani was not here tonight, Matheus [Aias] is still adapting, who had a really good week, but he didn’t come in but still doing good. We know we have to score more goals, but the team is finding a way to win with some solitude, some generosity, and when we have the options, I’d like to win 3-0, 4-0 but tonight 1-0 gives us three valuable points.”
The Lions are on the road when they take on the New York Red Bulls on May 29 at Red Bull Arena. Kickoff is slated for 1 p.m. and will televise locally on FOX 35 Plus and Lion Nation TV.
12′ – Tesho Akindele, assisted by Silvester van der Water (ORL)
How the Lions lined up
Orlando City XI: Pedro Gallese; Robin Jansson, Rodrigo Schlegel, Antonio Carlos, Kyle Smith; Sebastian Mendez, Junior Urso, Silvester van der Water (Andres Perea, 59′), Mauricio Pereyra (Alexander Alvarado, 87′), Chris Mueller (Benji Michel, 71′); Tesho Akindele (Joey DeZart, 87′).
Substitutes: Brandon Austin, Michael Halliday, Rio Hope-Gund, David Loera, Matheus Aias.
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