Orlando City 2 Rochester Rhinos 1

Filed under: Orlando City Soccer |

In a clash of the titans, American division leaders Orlando City overcame National division leaders Rochester Rhinos by a scoreline of 2-1 to maintain their 9 point lead at the top of the USL Pro League. In essence, the victory effectively secures home field advantage for the Lions in the upcoming play offs.

In front of 4,758 fans, the game started well for the Rhinos as they took an early lead in the 15th minute as Rhino midfielder Alfonso Motagalvan took a corner kick that sailed over the Orlando City defense.  It landed at the feet of Tony Donatelli who blasted a volley past the hands of Orlando goalkeeper Miguel Gallardo.

The Lions were down but were not defeated.  Orlando began to discover their rhythm but were then forced into making two substitutions as both Erik Ustruck and Lawrence Olum succumbed to injury. The Lions put this behind them though, and started to exert some pressure as substitute Mechack Jerome saw a shot tipped onto the post by Rhinos keeper Neal Kitsoneven. In the 38th minute Olando was level thanks to a textbook cross  from Jack Traynr that soared over the Rhinos defense and found the head of debutant Matt Luzunaris,  the new Lion on loan from San Jose Earthquakes (Major League Soccer). Luzunaris timed his jump perfectly to send the ball crashing into the net and over the diving hands of the Rochester keeper. 1-1.

Even better was to come for Orlando as they stole the lead in the 41st minute with an epic goal by Lewis Neal. Orlando received a direct free kick right outside the 18-yard box, which gave them the perfect setup for a goal. Neal struck the ball and it soared into the left corner of the net leaving Kitson clutching fresh air. The Lions exploded with celebration and were able to carry the rhythm and lead into the half. Half Time : 2-1

Tthe second half started with aggressive play from both teams but the match came to an abrupt halt when an intense lightning storm swept across Orlando in the 67th minute causing a 75 minute delay.

The game eventually restarted and despite slick conditions on the field, Orlando was still able to pass well and maintain good possession.  The last ten minutes of the match proved to be a battle as the Lions played very defensively, keeping only Max Griffin in a high forward position. The Rhinos desperately tried to even the score with two dangerous corner kicks within the last five minutes of regular time, but were unable to capitalize due to Orlando’s excellent defense and multiple diving saves by Gallardo.

“Obviously when they scored the first goal we were down, but we came back and had high energy and everyone worked hard together,” said Orlando forward Max Griffin after the game. “This win is huge. It gives us a chance to solidify our spot and gain a special advantage.”

There is no rest for the rain-soaked Lions as the 2011 Premier League Challenge has arrived.  Bolton Wanderers kicks off the challenge tonight at the Citrus Bowl with a start time of 7:30 pm and then next Saturday, July 23, Newcastle United comes to Orlando to take on the Lions.  Tickets for both matches are still available, starting at just $25.  Call 855-ORL-CITY (855-675-2489) for more information or to order tickets today.

Scoring Summary

15th Minute – Rochester: Tony Donatelli (Alfonso Motagalvan)

38th Minute – Orlando: Matt Luzunaris (Jack Traynor)

41st Minute – Orlando: Lewis Neal

Orlando City Line-up

GK: Miguel Gallardo

D: Erik Ustruck (18’ – Mechack Jerome), Demar Stewart, Kieron Bernard, Jack Traynor

M: Jamie Watson (80’ – Charlie Campbell), Yordany Alvarez, Lawrence Olum (24’ – Luke Boden), Lewis Neal

F: Matt Luzunaris (67’ – Kevin Molino), Max Griffin

More photos here.

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