As I was reading an unnamed website's preview of yesterday's Orlando City vs. Philadelphia Union match-up, I was a bit surprised to read this was the first time the clubs have met. Last night's match was actually the fifth time the two clubs have tested each other on the pitch. The Union are actually only one of three teams the Lions have played in every year of their existence in Orlando. Incidentally, the other two are Toronto FC and the Charleston Battery.
With a team looking to build history and rivalries within MLS, these games can provide an interesting perspective to just how far the team has come, while at the same time building a continuing series with Orlando that only one other team in MLS can ever claim.
Long-time Orlando City fans will of course remember that the clubs met in Orlando's first game ever on Feb. 19, 2011. The return of professional soccer to Orlando was a successful one, as 3,600 fans saw a young Lions team beat the MLS club 1-0 on a Lewis Neal free kick. Orlando was aided in their efforts by a red card on Union's Carlos Valdes in the 17th minute.
The next meeting between the clubs came almost a year later to the day, as Orlando City squared off with the Union again at the Citrus Bowl on Feb. 18, 2012 -- this time in front of almost twice as many people, with 5,963 in attendance. This match-up found the clubs deadlocked at 1-1 after now-retired former Lion Maxwell Griffin knotted up the score in the 93rd minute.
The venue shifted for the 2013 and 2014 friendlies, as both clubs took part in the Disney Pro Soccer Classic. Both February friendlies ended with the now familiar score line between these teams of 1-1. The 2013 edition saw forever Lion Dennis Chin score an opportunistic goal in the 54th minute, only to see the Union tie things up later in the game. When the teams met in 2014, it was current Tampa Bay Rowdie Cory Hertzog who struck first for Orlando, only to see the Lions again concede late in the game to end up tied after 90 minutes.
Check out the above highlights of the 2013 match-up. There is a fantastic save by iconic former goalkeeper Miguel Gallardo around the 1:15 mark worth seeing.
Last night's match was more of the same from two teams, now fighting for a playoff spot. It was a hard fought contest, with both teams feeling disappointed having to share the points, with a scoreline of 0-0. Each team had its chances, with Tally Hall proving himself between the posts a number of times to preserve the draw.
After five contests with the Philadelphia Union, Orlando holds a record of 1-0-4, having never lost to the Pennsylvania club.
In its early days, Orlando City always played hard against MLS competition. In an effort to both attract fans and draw interest for a top-tier club in Central Florida from MLS, a good effort on the field against these clubs always helped the cause, even if they were only "friendlies." Those wins and well-played close matches added a level of legitimacy to Orlando's MLS aspirations.
Now, as we will be matching up against the Philadelphia Union at least twice a season in an Eastern Conference match-up, these games will continue to be a measuring stick in which we are able to judge the progress of the club.
While Orlando City might be short on decades of history, we have a nice head start with this brewing rivalry with the Union. If the crunching tackles and hard-fought challenges are any indication, this could be the rivalry we've been looking for.