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Orlando City became the first team to earn four consecutive wins at home to open a new MLS stadium as they defeated LA Galaxy on Saturday at Orlando City Stadium.
Cyle Larin’s stoppage-time volley and Will Johnson’s first goal as a Lion secured the three points and the 2-1 win.
Orlando started the game positively and created numerous opportunities in the opening twenty minutes. The first came in the sixth minute when a Carlos Rivas free kick was flicked onto the far post by Giles Barnes. The ball struck the upright and bounced back across the line to hit the other post before falling back to Barnes whose close range shot was somehow blocked by LA captain Jelle Van Damme and went out for a corner.
Orlando took the lead two minutes later when Donny Toia found Johnson free on the left flank. The midfielder chested the ball down inside the box before unleashing an unstoppable volley past Clement Diop in the Galaxy goal.
In the 14th minute Orlando threatened again as Rivas advanced down the left wing before aiming a cross into the box meant for Cyle Larin. Van Damme did extremely well at full stretch to divert the ball just past his own goal post for a corner.
Four minutes later, Orlando almost doubled their lead but again the woodwork came to the visitors rescue as a Rivas hit a superb curling shot that left Diop grasping at fresh air as it hit the far upright for the second time in the match.
The Lions continued to dominate the possession in the first half but LA always looked dangerous on the break. The visitors best chance came in the 38th minute when left back Ashley Cole crossed to Romain Alessandrini who should have done much better with his header that went out over the bar.
Half Time: Orlando 1 LA Galaxy 0
Orlando started the better of the two sides but LA almost grabbed an equalizer in the 58th minute when Nathan Smith found Gyasi Zardes free but his rushed shot was deflected out for a corner.
The game was warming up nicely and a minute later Rivas did superbly with a diagonal run from his own half to the left flank. He beat three Galaxy defenders before crossing to Larin who couldn’t bring the ball down and the chance went begging.
In the 67th minute Orlando nearly grabbed a vital second goal when Rivas turned Van Damme to feed Barnes with just the keeper to beat. Diop did superbly to spread his body in front of the ex-Vancouver forward and deny the opportunity.
In the 71st minute Luis Gil came on for Cristian Higuita and four minutes later Servando Carrasco entered the game in place of the influential Rivas. The changes seemed to put Orlando on the back foot as LA created several chances to score.
In the 77th minute a needless free kick was given away on the edge of the Orlando box. Giovani Dos Santos stepped up and Joe Bendik, in the Orlando goal, finger tipped the ball onto the bar. The ball fell loose to Daniel Steres and his snap shot was blocked on the line by Jonathan Spector.
Three minutes after that Romain Alessandrini wasted a glorious chance to level the scores. Receiving the ball from Jermaine Jones inside the box he failed to hit the target when unmarked. Galaxy then created another chance just 30 seconds later as Alessandrini crossed from the right wing and substitute Bradford Jamieson’s right footed effort just went past the right hand post.
A goal seemed inevitable for the visitors and it duly arrived in the 82nd minute as Allesandrini received a long pass from Jones. The midfielder turned in field and from just outside the box he fired home a powerful strike off the right hand post for his fourth goal in four games.
The game entered stoppage time and 2016 MLS SuperDraft first-round pick and former University of Central Florida striker Hadji Barry earned a corner in front of The Wall. Johnson stepped up and served a perfect ball to Larin, who met it with a vicious right foot volley into the roof of the net. His fourth goal of the season and his 35th in 64 MLS games sent the fourth consecutive sellout crowd at Orlando City Stadium into a frenzy.
After the game Orlando Head Coach Jason Kreis talked about the substitutions that seemed to change the match in favor of LA Galaxy and he said : “The substitutions were made out of fatigue and slight injury situations. Higuita is a player that is really coming back into fitness after injury in pre-seaon. He didn’t get a lot of the pre-season in so he’s not yet a 90 minute player. Carlos was cramping so the substitutions were made out of necessity rather than trying to be defensive. That’s not our intent at all. We aren’t going to be a group of coaches that want to sub all kinds of defenders in when we’re winning games.”
The win for Orlando now puts them on top of the MLS Eastern Conference for the first time and next week they will head to the Bronx to take on New York City FC on Sunday, April 23, at 1:30 p.m. ET. The match will be nationally televised on FS1. The Lions then return to Orlando City Stadium on Saturday, April 29, when they host the Colorado Rapids in another nationally televised contest.
Orlando City SC – GK Joe Bendik, D Donny Toia, Jonathan Spector, Tommy Redding, Scott Sutter, M Antonio Nocerino, Cristian Higuita (Luis Gil 72’), Giles Barnes (Hadji Barry 90’), Will Johnson, Ⓒ Will Johnson, F Carlos Rivas (Servando Carrasco 75’), Cyle Larin
Substitutes Not Used: GK Josh Saunders, D PC, Léo Pereira, M Tony Rocha
LA Galaxy – GK Clement Diop, D Nathan Smith, Daniel Steres, Ⓒ Jelle Van Damme, Ashley Cole, M Romain Alessandrini, Jermaine Jones, João Pedro, Emmanuel Boateng (Bradford Jamieson 68’), F Giovani Dos Santos, Gyasi Zardes (Jack McBean 90’)
Substitutes Not Used: GK Brian Rowe, D Dave Romney, M Baggio Husidic, Rafael Garcia, Raul Mendiola
More photos at www.FloridaLeisurePhotography.com