Orlando City Take I-4 Cup

Filed under: Orlando City Soccer,Tampa Bay Rowdies |

So now it’s clear. Orlando City Lions are the best soccer team in Florida. The USL champions have taken on the NASL champions Tampa Bay Rowdies three times over the last month and each time they’ve emerged victorious.

Tonight it looked like a run away victory was on the cards as Orlando were two goals up on the night after just 32 minutes.That meant the Lions were 5-2 up on aggregate and cruising towards the I-4 Cup.

Orlando City fans have never been accustomed to things being easy though and Tampa found a way back through what I can only describe as a “joke” penalty award decision by referree Ibanez in the 41st minute. Rob Valentino was clearly pushed in the back yet somehow the decision went against him and Rowdies defender Tayuka Yamada made no mistake from the penalty spot to open the tie up once again.

The night had started well for Orlando as a well placed through ball in the 5th minute by midfielder Adama Mbengue saw Kevin Molino confidently round Tampa keeper Andrew Fontein to give the Lions an early advantage (photo above left). Orlando kept pushing and created several other chances but the second goal arrived in the 32nd minute as forward and Sporting Kansas loanee Dom Dwyer blasted a shot that was deflected by Tampa’s Fontein, only for Mbengue to put in the follow up (photo above right).

That should have been game over until referee Ibanez stepped in on the 41st minute and it could have got a whole lot worse for Orlando just after conceding the penalty as Rowdies forward Georgi Hristov was clearly pushed in the box just 60 seconds later only to see the referee turn his appeal away. Half time came – 2-1.

While the first half may have been about Orlando, Tampa now had something to play for and they leveled the match in the 50th minute as forward Amani Walker slid the ball past Orlando keeper Jon Kempin. 2-2 on the night and the Rowdies were now looking dangerous and in control as a they created a couple of half chances that went begging. As time moved on the Rowdies chased the game and this then created some space for the Orlando forward line that saw Chin replace Watson on the 75 minute mark.

This added injection of pace troubled the Tampa defence and Orlando started to work their way back into the game and looked just as likely to score as the Rowdies. So it proved as the decisive goal came in the 90th minute as Orlando forward Dom Dwyer sealed a 3-2 win for the Lions (pictured above). It was the same scoreline as the previous time the teams had met and it meant an aggregate 6-4 win for Orlando. The deserved victory saw Orlando hoist the I-4 trophy in front of a noisy and boisterous Orlando following.

“It was an unbelievable atmosphere,” said Orlando City Head Coach Adrian Heath. “I’m pleased for our players as they worked really hard tonight, and I’m really pleased for the supporters as they’ve been unbelievable. This one is for them.“

Orlando now turns their attention to the 2013 USL PRO regular season, with the Lions traveling to Sun Devil Stadium on the campus of Arizona State University to face expansion side Phoenix FC on Sunday, April 7. The match will be streamed on UNation. For more information leading up to the regular season opener in Phoenix, visit Orlandocitysoccer.com.

More photos from the Tampa vs. Orlando game at www.FloridaLeisurePhotography.com

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