WASHINGTON, D.C. — As Orlando and the entire state of Florida brace for the impact of Hurricane Irma late this weekend, Orlando City was in our nation’s capital. A pair of first-half goals helped propel the Lions to a much-needed victory, snapping an eight-game winless run after holding on for a 2-1 win over D.C. United at RFK Stadium. It’s the Lions’ first ever win at D.C. and Orlando improves to 4-3-0 in the overall series.
Cyle Larin opened the scoring with his 11th goal of the season, and Giles Barnes added another less than 10 minutes later as Orlando City, which saw two players sent off in the second half, picked up its first win since June 30 and it was also the Lions’ first multi-goal game since June 17 against the Montreal Impact.
“Obviously very, very happy to get a result after so long and after feeling for so long that the team has deserved it,” Head Coach Jason Kreis said after the match. “To get the result tonight was the most important thing, and probably the only important thing.”
A chaotic final 10 minutes nearly saw all three points slip away from the Lions, who let in a goal in the 89th, and then dropped to nine men in the 95th minute of a game that was finally capped off after 101 minutes.
“It felt like it was going to be another sad night. It felt like we would concede,” Kreis said. “Just felt like everything was going against us for those five or 10 minutes. Just really happy that the guys continued to fight and got the job done.”
D.C. jumped out of the gates with a good start, putting pressure on Orlando City’s back line throughout the first 15 minutes of the match. Joe Bendik had to swat down a chip from the left side in the third minute, then made a big pair of back-to-back saves in the 10th minute to keep United off of the board. A D.C. free kick in the 16th minute led to the ball bouncing around inside the penalty area before a header from about 10 yards out bounced wide of the post.
Where D.C. was thriving, the Lions were struggling. Orlando couldn’t string together much through that early stretch of the game, getting closed in on and shut down almost immediately with the ball, while D.C. was seeing plenty of space and building attacks that signaled early trouble for the visitors.
But things started to change around the 16th minute. Suddenly, Orlando was able to stretch out D.C.’s defense and see some time on the ball in the final third, setting up more opportunities to find a goal.
And that goal did come when Larin broke the hold in the 19th minute, knocking home a cross from Dom Dwyer on the left side to put Orlando City 1-0 on the road. Larin’s 11th goal of the season put him on top of Orlando City’s all-time goal scoring list, passing Kevin Molino with his 43rd goal for the Lions.
Not even 10 minutes later, in the 28th, Orlando doubled its lead on Barnes’ third goal of the year. Scott Sutter delivered a cross in from the right side, and the ball was headed by one D.C. defender into another, who failed to successfully clear the ball. Barnes was there to pick up the mistake and tucked it away into the net, beating Bill Hamid for the second time this season to give his side a two-goal lead, which hadn’t happened in months.
If there was a way to describe the game in one sentence, it would be that this match was nearly the opposite of everything Orlando has been put through in recent months. D.C. was putting up shot after shot, but couldn’t manage to get them in the net.
Patrick Mullins missed a golden opportunity in the 62nd minute, breaking away from the defense to set up a 1-on-1 with Bendik, but sailed his shot over the goal.
D.C. finally got on the score sheet in the 89th minute when defender Kofi Opare snuck one past Bendik, but by then it was too late for United to mount a full comeback, leaving Orlando City to walk away with all three points.
If anything, the Lions earned this victory after seeing two players sent off in the second half. Servando Carrasco, who came on in the 48th minute for Cristian Higuita, who suffered an apparent injury, picked up a second yellow in the 79th minute. And then Seb Hines saw a straight red in stoppage time on a very questionable decision by referee David Gantar. Hines tried to push off a D.C. player who had him in a bear hug for several moments and the only thing Gantar saw was the push and the subsequent flop. To top things off, Kaká was issued a stoppage-time yellow for dissent, meaning he’ll miss the Lions’ next match due to yellow card accumulation.
“We’ll see,” Kreis said when asked if losing three players to suspensions next week was worth the three points. “In thinking about it, and thinking about the lineup that we’ll put out next week, I think we’ll be okay. We have plenty of guys that can step in and do jobs, and we’ll rely on those players to do it.
“At the end of the day, I’m not happy with the two ejections because it’s showing of a lack of discipline. I thought for Servando to go into that tackle after after having a yellow card was not good, not smart. And for Seb to even react the way he did, even if he got punched in the back of the head, is not good. He needs to be more intelligent in those moments.”
The Lions are currently expected to leave D.C. some time on Sunday and head to Atlanta, where they’ll wait our Hurricane Irma until at least Tuesday before coming back to Orlando. But it’ll only be for a couple of days, as the Lions will travel back to Atlanta next weekend to face off against Atlanta United FC for the third and final time this season, this time at the team’s brand new home.