Orlando City ride their luck to record 6th straight victory

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Orlando City came from behind on Sunday evening to defeat Real Salt Lake 3-1 in an incredible game in front of 23,258 fans at Orlando City Stadium. The victory was the Lion’s sixth consecutive victory and the three points mean they have consolidated third place in the Eastern Conference for another week.

The game started brightly with both teams showing attacking intent as play switched from one end of the pitch to the other. Sacha Kljestan should have opened the scoring for the home side in the sixth minute when Cristian Higuita played a neat ball behind the visitors defence to the US International on the six yard box but somehow he toe poked the ball past the far post instead of being more decisive with the finish.

Two minutes later Chris Mueller evaded Pablo Ruiz’s challenge on the right hand side of the penalty box and delivered a pin point cross that Justin Meram should have done better with. The ball fell to Yoshimar Yotún left of the penalty spot and he rifled a left footed shot wide of the goal when surely any type of shot on target would have found the back of the net.

Real Salt Lake hit back in the twelfth minute when Kljestan lost the ball in center midfield and Damir Kreilach played a superb ball behind the Orlando defence that Lions defender Lamine Sané should have done much better with. Instead, the Senegalese defender made a hash of trying to control the ball and allowed it to run onto Corey Baird who finished with some aplomb chipping the onrushing Joe Bendik in the Orlando goal. It was the seventh time in nine games this season that Orlando has conceded the first goal in a game.

Orlando poured forward in an effort to level things up and Kljestan again messed up his lines in the sixteeth minute as he wildly fired over the cross bar from just inside the box after good work by Yotún and Dom Dwyer. Seconds later Kljestan fed Meram down the left and he played a ball across the box that Will Johnson tamely fired at Salt Lake keeper Nick Rimando.

Play then raced up the other end and Orlando allowed Salt Lake’s Joao Plata enough freedom to take strike from just outside the box that Bendik did well to save. The open play continued as Meram then fired an effort wide of the left hand post after Mueller again wriggled free on the right and delivered a cross in the 24th minute.

The visitors should then have extended their lead in the 33rd minute as playing on the counter, they broke quickly as Brooks Lennon cleared another Orlando attack that Albert Rusnák headed into the path of Jefferson Savarino, who ran twenty yards before releasing Baird, who then saw his low shot cannon off the far post and out for a goal kick.

The crowd had just about gathered their breath when Orlando broke moments later and Meram managed to create a chance out of nothing on the left side of the Salt Lake box before firing just over the bar after doing all the hard work.

Salt Lake then created the next chance just before half time as Orlando defender Mohamed El-Munir was caught in possession by Savarino and he fed Rusnák who found the unmarked Plato through on goal on the left hand side of the box. The Ecuador striker looked certain to score but Bendik again came to the Lion’s rescue with a fine save that Chris Schuler, playing against his former team, cleared for a corner. It was a crucial moment in the match and a miss the visitors would come to rue.

Half Time: Orlando 0 Real Salt Lake 1

The Claret and Cobalt started the game the better of the two teams in the second half and again they hit the woodwork as Rusnák collected the ball inside his own half and drove unchallenged towards the Orlando box in the 48th minute. The Slovak then unleashed a left footed strike from the “D” that unluckily crashed against the right hand post with Bendik well beaten.

Two minutes later Savarino brought a fine save from Bendik as he found himself wide open just outside the Orlando box and he unleashed a rocket that the Lion’s overworked keeper managed to tip away for a corner.

Incredibly, seconds later, Real Salt Lake were on the loose again inside the Orlando area and Bendik was again called into the action producing another fine save to his left from Rusnák’s curling effort that then fell to Savarino who fired haplessly over the bar.

Finally Orlando forced a corner to stem the traffic in the 58th minute but it spelled trouble as Salt Lake dealt with it easily and launched another speedy counter attack down the right hand flank. The ball was duly delivered to the unmarked Kreilach who shot from the edge of the area and Bendik did well to gather down low to his right hand side.

It seemed just a matter of time before the visitors would add to their lead but incredibly Orlando managed to grab a lifeline through Dwyer’s sixth goal in six appearances in the 61st minute. The men in purple broke down the left as Yotún played in Kljestan who instead of shooting tried to flick the ball to the open Dwyer. Salt Lake defender Nick Besler managed to get a foot to the ball and it seemed as if the chance had gone until Kljestan spun, regained the ball and chipped a delightful cross to Dwyer, who gleefully headed home.

The Orlando fans were ecstatic but straight from the kick off their defence was again caught flat footed and out of shape as Plata delivered a superb cross beyond Schuler to Baird, who took a touch before firing his right footed shot straight at Bendik. It was a crucial save as City then took the lead in the 63rd minute as they won a corner and Sané headed home his first Orlando goal from Yotún’s delivery.

The goal seemed to knock the stuffing out of the visitors and fifteen minutes later, the home side delivered the killer blow as Dwyer saw his shot from the left edge of the box parried out by Rimando. The ball fell kindly to Yotún, who was unmarked on the penalty spot, and he fired home to give Orlando the unlikely 3-1 victory.

The loss was the fourth straight on the road for RSL after starting off the year with a scoreless draw at FC Dallas. It was City’s fourth come-from-behind victory during its six-game winning streak, the most by any team in MLS this season.

The Lions return to Orlando City Stadium on Sunday, May 13, to host Atlanta United FC at 6 p.m. ET.

Lineups/Substitutions:

Orlando City SC – GK Joe Bendik, D Mohamed El-Munir, Chris Schuler, Lamine Sané, Will Johnson, M Yoshimar Yotún (Uri Rosell 81’), Cristian Higuita, Justin Meram (RJ Allen 88’), ⓒ Sacha Kljestan, Chris Mueller (Stéfano Pinho 73’), F Dom Dwyer

Substitutes Not Used: GK Earl Edwards, Jr., D Donny Toia, M Dillon Powers, PC

Real Salt Lake – GK Nick Rimando, D Pablo Ruiz (Sebastian Saucedo 82’), Nick Besler, Justen Glad, Brooks Lennon, M Damir Kreilach, Albert Rusnak, Kyle Beckerman, F Joao Plata, Corey Baird (Luis Silva 79’), Jefferson Savarino

Substitutes Not Used: GK Connor Sparrow, D Adam Henley, Aaron Herrera, M Sunny, F Ricky Lopez-Espin

Attendance: 23,258

 

 

 

 

 

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