As we count down to the new year of 2019 — which will be Orlando City SC’s fifth in MLS and Orlando Pride’s fourth in the NWSL — and say goodbye to 2018, it’s time to look back at the club’s 10 best moments of the year.
There weren’t many opportunities for Orlando City fans to celebrate victories in 2018. Most of those chances came early in the season during the Lions’ club record six-game winning streak. Today’s No. 2 moment of the year comes from that precise time period. In fact, it was the second game of that historic run, when the Lions came from two goals down, scoring three times in a seven-minute span to topple the Portland Timbers, 3-2.
Orlando City out-passed, out-possessed, and out-shot Portland in the match but it was the Timbers leading 2-0 on a penalty by Diego Valeri and a header off a set piece by Bill Tuiloma.
The Lions had their chances but were down by two goals after 59 minutes and that lasted until the late stages of the match. Jason Kreis brought on Chris Mueller and Stefano Pinho and they changed the energy of the game. After Mueller put a shot just inches wide in the 78th minute, he opened the scoring two minutes later with his first MLS goal, flicking a near-post header past Jake Gleeson and into the net off a Yoshimar Yotún corner kick delivery.
Just a minute later, Dom Dwyer earned a penalty when he was knocked down by Alvas Powell. Sacha Kljestan sent Gleeson the wrong way and made it 2-2 with a goal from the penalty spot in the 82nd minute. The goal not only tied the match, but it also opened Kljestan’s Orlando City account.
Dwyer urged his teammates on in the 85th minute, yelling encouragement and clapping his hands while the Timbers’ training staff attended to Powell and Gleeson, who were cramping up in the Florida heat and humidity. That provided further spark for the Lions and it was Dwyer himself who stepped up big, scoring one of the most determined goals of Orlando’s season.
RJ Allen’s perfect long ball over the back line appeared to send Dwyer in alone, but the Portland center backs recovered and converged on the Orlando City striker. Dwyer slipped and went to ground, but maintained possession, got up, switched feet and blasted home the eventual game-winning goal with his right foot in the 87th minute and the crowd went wild.
Three goals in just seven minutes and a complete turnaround for Orlando City against a team that would not lose again for months and eventually reached the MLS Cup final. Despite the Timbers not having won before this match, they were playing better in the run-up to this one and it was a gargantuan comeback by the Lions.
“I kind of feel like this week is very similar to last week in many ways,” Jason Kreis said after the match. “Incredible work rate by the guys, incredible that they stick together, incredible that they come back from two goals down. The effort and all those things are fantastic. I still think we’ve got a long way to go. We’ve got a lot of improvement to make. So we cannot kind of let this result take us to a place where we start to feel comfortable. We have to improve.”
The Lions won their next four before the wheels fell off on the 2018 season, but this early season victory showed the team’s capability when firing on all cylinders. The dramatic comeback was a highlight in a tough season and well worth a slot in our top moments of the year.
Come back through New Year’s Eve as we count down the remainder of Orlando City’s top 10 moments of 2018.
Previous Top 10 Moments of 2018
10. OCSC hires Oguchi Onyewu as OCB’s new technical director.
9. Orlando City bolsters defense with Carlos Ascues and Shane O’Neill in the summer window.
8. Orlando City B re-launched as a USL League One side for 2019.
7. Orlando Pride finally beat Chicago Red Stars.
6. Orlando City acquires Sacha Kljestan in a trade with the New York Red Bulls.
4. The Pride get their first victory over the defending champion Portland Thorns.
3. Orlando City awarded 2019 MLS All-Star Game.