Despite Orlando’s continued offensive struggles, the Lions managed to muster out a win.
Playing without their starting striker and one of their designated players, with the other leaving the match after 30 minutes, it took some effort from the Lions’ homegrown players. A plethora of key saves from Mason Stajduhar, mixed with a lone goal from Benji Michel, lifted Orlando City past the Chicago Fire 1-0 Saturday evening in front of 15,538 at Exploria Stadium.
“Competing and winning those three points means a lot for the club, for the players, for all,” said head coach Oscar Pareja after the match. “I think along the game, we were good, we managed much better the tempos in the last six or seven minutes where Chicago started sending all the balls in the box and we had to defend it with some suffering there.”
“But overall, I thought our behavior was very good and what we want the personality, we create our sequences, we create our chances. We would like to be more precise as we have been saying along on scoring goals and obviously not suffering as much.”
Orlando almost opened the scoring in the 11th minute when a long ball from Junior Urso connected with Silvester van der Water down the right flank. The Dutch winger would cut inside before striking the ball off the inside of the post before rolling across the goal line.
Nani, who started the game questionable with a lower body injury, left in the 30th minute from an apparent injury, and Chris Mueller substituted in for the Orlando City captain.
In the 34th minute, Mueller had a near chance when he headed a ball from Ruan straight at Chicago goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth.
In the 40th minute, van der Water played a threading ball to Tesho Akindele, who was brought down from the last defender. Moments later, referee Timothy Ford went to the VAR, but was later determined that no denial of a scoring opportunity occured and the Fire regained possession of the ball.
The Lions finally opened the scoring in the 51st minute when Tesho Akindele forced a turnover on Chicago’s defensive third, finding Benji Michel open who made the run at goal and striking the ball past Shuttleworth to give Orlando a 1-0 lead.
Mauricio Pereyra and Andres Perea did not feature on Saturday — Pereyra was listed as questionable with a lower body injury while Perea status is unclear. Pedro Gallese made the bench, but according to Pareja, the Peruvian goalkeeper is still recovering from an injury but will fly out next week for the MLS All-Star game before joining the Peruvian national team for September’s World Cup qualifiers.
Mason Stajduhar earned his first clean sheet in a match that saw him finish with five saves — two of them which came late in the match, including a diving save in the 81st to deny a chance from Robert Beric.
Academy product and former Orlando City B player Raul Aguilera, who signed a homegrown deal earlier this year, made his first-team debut, entering in the 85th minute for Joey DeZart.
The Lions take on the Inter Miami CF on Friday at Exploria Stadium at 8:30 p.m. on ESPN.
51′ – Benji Michel, assisted by Tesho Akindele (ORL)
How the Lions lined up
Orlando City XI: Mason Stajduhar; Joao Moutinho, Robin Jansson, Antonio Carlos, Ruan; Joey DeZart (Raul Aguilera, 85′), Jr. Urso, Benji Michel (Rodrigo Schlegel, 78′), Silvester van der Water (Emmanuel Mas, 85′), Nani – c (Chris Mueller, 30′); Tesho Akindele.
Substitutes: Pedro Gallese; Alexander Alvarado, Kyle Smith, Michael Halliday, Rio Hope-Gund.
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