The Orlando City Soccer Club had scored just 12 points through 14 matches, the lowest tally of any of its five Major League Soccer seasons.
If Saturday’s road match against the Montreal Impact was the first time you’d seen them play all season — you only even needed to watch the first half — you would have had no idea.
The Lions (5-7-3) got all of its offense in the opening 45 minutes for the 3-0 win, the club’s first win at Montreal’s Stade Saputo since 2016.
Nani, Tesho Akindele and Will Johnson brought the thunder, and the defense allowed just nine shots on goal, and two on frame in the direction of goalie Brian Rowe.
“I’m obviously very pleased,” Head Coach James O’Connor said. “I think to have that level of performance I think is great. To take our chances, very clinical with our opportunities, but also the way in which we won. I think the second half, very professional to manage the game the way we did and overall just really pleased for the players because I feel as if they’ve been rewarding of more points and it was great to go and have a win like that.”
The team gets a break before it can continue riding the momentum from the big win.
The Lions’ next match is set for Wednesday when they open up play in the 2019 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup at Memphis 901 FC of the United Soccer League. Orlando City will return to MLS action on June 26 for a matchup at D.C. United.
Orlando scored in the 27th minute when Montreal defender Zakaria Diallo was called for a hand ball in the box. Nani converted from the spot, registering his eighth goal of the season and his second off of a penalty kick.
Nine minutes later, Cristian Higuita stripped the ball at midfield and took his space up the middle before finding Chris Mueller on the left side of the penalty area. Mueller slid a ball across the face of goal to Akindele on the far post, who easily did the rest.
After another nine minutes, Will Johnson tallied his first goal of the year, punching in a rebound of João Moutinho’s originially-saved shot.
The match served as the third shutout for Rowe.
“It feels really good, especially before this long break. This is a game we needed to get a result from,” Rowe said. “We’ve kept saying that these last few weeks we’ve been playing well and creating opportunities, but it just hasn’t been there. I think tonight everything came together so I’m glad we all got rewarded for all the work we’ve been putting in.
“If you look at the previous games we’ve had, we’ve usually been conceding the first goal and then it takes us a while to have a reaction and go from there. So, I think for us to get on the front foot and score that first goal and dictate the game is something new for us but something we should expect every game.”
On Tuesday, Orlando City again grabbed the headlines when it announced naming rights for its three-year-old stadium — Exploria Stadium.
Exploria Resorts, a provider of vacation rental and timeshare ownership opportunities with a presence in Central Florida, has partnered with the club to become its first naming-rights partner.
“We are thrilled to have Exploria Resorts join the Orlando City SC family. As a Club based in the most visited city in the world, and one that has fans who support our teams around the globe, we are excited to partner with a Central Florida-based company that provides world-class travel and hospitality experiences to its visitors,” Orlando City SC CEO Alex Leitão said Tuesday. “We are looking forward to creating memorable experiences for our fans both at Exploria Resorts and here at Exploria Stadium.”
The Lions don’t return home to their newly-named playpen until July 3 when they hosted the Philadelphia Union.
Last week, the team made headlines down here in Osceola County when it announced that its MLS, USL and Developmental Academy squad under the same roof of its new training facility at Osceola Heritage Park. Construction work has already commenced on turning two baseball fields into soccer pitches, and the administrative building at the back of the baseball facility will house its offices and training rooms.