Last gasp equalizer earns valuable point for Orlando over DC Utd

Orlando City Soccer 1 DC United 1, Orlando City Stadium, Orlando, Florida - 4th March 2018 (Photographer: Nigel G Worrall)

The opening game of the Major League Soccer season saw the usual brand of controversy from refereeing decisions and a late goal from the home side to give hosts Orlando City a point against DC United.

The game saw the Lions start nervously and they could have found themselves a goal down after just 60 seconds as Cam Lindley was caught in possession and four DC Utd players surged forward only for Ulises Segura to slip at the vital moment as he took his shot and the ball went harmlessly wide.

Orlando City Soccer 1 DC United 1, Orlando City Stadium, Orlando, Florida - 4th March 2018 (Photographer: Nigel G Worrall)

In the 16th minute DC’s Darren Mattocks found himself by the by-line in the left hand corner and he darted past Amro Tarek towards goal before Will Johnson intervened to help clear the ball away. Confusion then ensued as match referee Fotis Bazakos headed across the field to consult the Virtual Assistant Review (VAR) system and almost three minutes later a penalty was awarded to the visitors as the referee determined that both Tarek and Johnson had handled the ball. It was one of those decisions where as the attacking team you would hope to be given the decision and as the defending team you’d feel badly done by if it was.

Orlando City Soccer 1 DC United 1, Orlando City Stadium, Orlando, Florida - 4th March 2018 (Photographer: Nigel G Worrall)

Mattocks then stepped up and placed his kick at a nice height for Orlando keeper Joe Bendik to push onto the cross bar and the foot of the post before captain Jonathan Spector cleared for a corner. Spectacular stuff!

Orlando were struggling to get into the game and on the few occasions they went forward, they were quickly closed down by a well organised DC Utd defence. Orlando then heaped unnecessary pressure on themselves in the 31st minute as Scott Sutter took a tight throw in to Lindley who ended up fouling Yamil Asad and being yellow carded for his troubles. Asad then curled over a tantalizing free kick to the six yard box and Mattocks turned the ball in to give the Black and Red a deserved lead.

A minute later the visitors should have added to their lead as Orlando sloppily gave the ball away and DC swept down their right hand flank. Paul Arriola moved into space in the 18 yard box before cutting the ball back just behind the unmarked Segura and the whole of Orlando breathed a sigh of relief.

VAR then came into the game again in the 37th minute as Orlando’s P.C. saw first yellow and then red for a challenge on Asad. The left back, playing out of position at right midfield for this game, went up for an aerial challenge but completely misjudged the line of the ball. Asad, meanwhile, started to turn and as he did so P.C.’s left elbow caught the Argentine midfielder full in the face. Referee Bazakos initially issued a yellow card for the offence and was about to restart the game before his attention was called to take another look at the incident where he ultimately made the correct decision in sending the Orlando player off for an early shower although it took a full four minutes to do so.

DC then looked to capitalise on a weakened Orlando side and Arriola tried his luck with a curler from just inside the penalty area in the 44th minute that Bendik comfortably saved before five minutes of extra time was added onto the first period of play.

Half Time: Orlando 0 DC United 1

The second half began with Orlando looking to up their game. Forward Justin Meram was the spark of most creativity as he started to open up the visiting defence. In the 51st minute he surged forward before laying on a fine ball for Chris Mueller who took a poor first touch and fired wide into the crowd.

The forward was then judged to have fouled David Ousted in the DC goal as he went to head a Mueller cross a few minutes later and just seconds later the impressive Iraqi forward turned provider as he delivered a pin point cross that was met by Yoshimar Yotún, who saw his effort cleared off the line by defender Frédéric Brillant with Ousted well beaten.

Orlando City Soccer 1 DC United 1, Orlando City Stadium, Orlando, Florida - 4th March 2018 (Photographer: Nigel G Worrall)

Urged on by another sell-out crowd of 25,527 purple clad supporters, the Lions continued pressing as Stéfano Pinho came on for Mueller in the 58th minute to offer more of a forward threat and instantly the home side looked a better outfit.

DC seemed content to sit back and invite the pressure on and Meram needed no further invitation as he rasped a drive just past the left hand post in the 68th minute. Richie Laryea came on for Lindley in the 66th minute and immediately won a foul near the left hand corner flag which was promptly wasted by Yotún who failed to beat the first man. Laryea then nearly found a way through as Meram played a neat ball to Yotún who just put an ounce of pace too much on a through ball to the Canadian midfielder and Ousted collected.

It seemed inevitable that the Lions would score but as always when pressing forward, you need to be very careful in defence and in the 79th minute DC cut Orlando apart from a Lion’s free kick deep inside the Black and Red half when Will Johnson played a sloppy ball that Segura intercepted. The Costa Rican midfielder then released Mattocks who had a clear run in on goal from the half way line before Mohamed El-Munir managed to complete a miraculous last second tackle just as the Jamaican forward was about to strike.

Orlando City Soccer 1 DC United 1, Orlando City Stadium, Orlando, Florida - 4th March 2018 (Photographer: Nigel G Worrall)

It was a game changing moment and one that the men from Washington would rue as Orlando rode their luck and then grabbed a dramatic equalizer in stoppage time as Stéfano Pinho turned in a cross from central defender Spector who somehow found himself on the right hand by-line in the 3rd minute of added time. The moment sparked amazing scenes reminiscent of Adrian Winter’s spectacular goal to tie the game against Real Salt Lake on opening day in 2016.

Full Time: Orlando 1 DC United 1

After the game Orlando Head Coach Jason Kreis remarked “Really, really pleased with the effort level, the commitment level, the togetherness the team showed. The never giving up. The true grit that was shown tonight by our squad was second-to-none.” He continued “We out-possessed D.C. United on a night where we were down a man for 60 minutes. I think that says something. I do believe there’s still lots of room for improvement. Obviously. It’s a first night. But as I said before, couldn’t be happier with it. Absolutely take it.”

The Lions return to action on Saturday, March 10, when Minnesota United FC makes its first visit to Orlando City Stadium. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. ET.


Orlando City SC – GK Joe Bendik, D Mohamed El-Munir, Amro Tarek, ⓒ Jonathan Spector, Scott Sutter (RJ Allen 81’), M Cam Lindley (Richie Laryea 66’), PC, Will Johnson, Yoshimar Yotún, F Justin Meram, Chris Mueller (Stéfano Pinho 58’)

Substitutes Not Used: GK Earl Edwards, Jr., D Lamine Sané, Donny Toia, M Tony Rocha

D.C. United – GK David Ousted, D Frédéric Brillant, ⓒ Nick DeLeon, Oniel Fisher, M Júnior Moreno, Paul Arriola, Ulises Segura, Zoltán Stieber (Ian Harkes 60’), F Darren Mattocks (Patrick Mullins 85’), Yamil Asad (Chris Durkin 73’)

Substitutes Not Used: GK Steve Clark, D Chris Odoi-Atsem, Kofi Opare, F Bruno Miranda

Attendance: 25,527

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