With the first ever meeting between Orlando City and Sporting Kansas City at the Major League Soccer level set to go on Sunday night, some nostalgia has been inspired for Lions supporters this week. While the Lions will continue to fight for their playoff lives – which somehow remain on life support – this week, the last time these two clubs faced off resulted in perhaps the biggest win in OCSC history in the fourth round of the 2013 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.
Sporting KC entered the 2013 tournament as the reigning champion, having knocked off three-time defending titlists Seattle Sounders in 2012 to claim their second U.S. Open Cup in franchise history (Kansas City previously won the 2004 Open Cup as the Wiz). What's more, SKC had knocked off Orlando City en route to that 2013 cup title, downing the Lions in the third round by a 3-2 score at Sporting Park.
The USL Lions went back to KC on June 12, 2013, looking for a second straight win over an MLS side, after advancing with a 3-1 win over Colorado Rapids in the third round.
The Lions, who had entered an agreement to become the official USL Pro affiliate of Sporting KC in January of 2013, were unable to play any of their four SKC loanees, including leading scorer Dom Dwyer, midfielder Christian Duke, goalkeeper Jon Kempin and defender Yann Songo'o. Dwyer, who scored 15 goals in 13 USL appearances for the Lions that season before being recalled, chipped in with three goals in that U.S. Open Cup run, so his absence was particularly impactful for Orlando.
Current Orlando City defender Aurélien Collin suited up on the back line for Sporting, where he played from 2011-14, but he and the other SKC defenders could not stop Orlando's Long Tan from putting the Lions ahead just two minutes into the match. After an SKC giveaway, Adama Mbengue played a sweet through ball to Tan, who slotted home past Eric Kronberg with a right-footed finish into the lower left corner of goal.
That early score proved to be enough for Orlando City on the road, as the Lions managed to defend that lead for the remaining 88 minutes and escape with a 1-0 victory. Gritty defending from OCSC was enough to unsettle the SKC attack, which couldn't quite generate the end product required in the final third to beat City keeper Miguel Gallardo.
SKC out-shot the Lions 18-5, but the Lions were solid enough defensively to only allow four of those shots to fire on target. Even so, Gallardo came up big in the second half when he made consecutive saves to keep Sporting off the scoreboard. The first save came on a redirected effort from C.J. Sapong, who managed to get on the end of a long, low shot from Seth Sinovic, but could not get it past the foot of Gallardo. Seconds later, Paulo Nagamara had a go from about 20 yards, sending a curling right-footed effort at goal only to be denied by diving Gallardo.
The Lions advanced to the quarterfinals following the massive road victory, but would go no further after being handed a 5-1 loss by Chicago Fire. After the Chicago loss, Dwyer was recalled to Kansas City before his return for the USL Championship win over Charlotte later in the season.
While that match will have no affect on Sunday's, it is an important piece of club history and one that can't be taken away from City supporters. While the 2015 Lions bear little resemblance to the '13 edition – Kevin Molino and Luke Boden were the only two current Lions to start in that match – a similar result on Sunday would be more than welcome as OCSC tries to reverse its bad fortunes in recent months.