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 was really no other decision to make. When you look back at Orlando City’s 2018 calendar year, one “moment” stands out above all the rest, and by a country mile. By any stretch of the imagination, it was an awful season for the Lions and a poor one for the Pride. So Orlando City’s six-game winning streak, which set a club MLS-era record — stands out.
For five glorious weeks, from March 31 to May 6, the Lions couldn’t lose. Oh, they could fall behind, but they couldn’t be beaten.
It started against the New York Red Bulls on Saturday, March 31. In a back-and-forth matinee game, Josué Colmán scored a game-winning goal that he knew little about as Scott Sutter’s blast flicked off the Paraguayan and into the net behind Luis Robles to secure a wild 4-3 victory.
The Lions made it two straight in dramatic fashion in what was our No. 2 moment of the year. With time winding down, Orlando City scored three times in just seven minutes to erase a two-goal deficit and beat the Portland Timbers, 3-2, on Sunday, April 8. Yes, we just showed you this goal in yesterday’s piece, but it’s so amazing we’re happy to show it again.
The winning streak stretched to three games on the road on the following Friday night, April 13. It was a scary Friday the 13th for the host Philadelphia Union, who fell to the Lions, 2-0. Joe Bendik had an outstanding game in goal to keep the clean sheet. His teammates helped him out, with Dom Dwyer striking first in the 39th minute from a gorgeous Sacha Kljestan chip pass, and Chris Mueller following with his second career goal in the 45th on a determined run through traffic.
Orlando’s run bulged to four consecutive games in a dominating performance against San Jose on Saturday, April 21. A couple of late concentration lapses allowed the Earthquakes to close the final score to 3-2, but the score line flattered the visitors. Orlando built a three-goal advantage that might have been more if not for a missed penalty by Justin Meram. Mueller opened the scoring with the earliest goal in club history, with Kljestan and Dwyer — his 100th pro goal — adding to the offense. Florian Jungwirth scored twice late off set pieces to dampen the party at Orlando City Stadium but he could not completely spoil the party. Just look at this team goal:
The Lions went back on the road on Sunday, April 29 to win No. 5 in the streak. Playing away at altitude is never easy, so you knew an ugly game was coming at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park when City visited the Colorado Rapids. Dominque Badji gave the hosts a lead with the Pids’ first ever goal against Orlando. But the Lions bounced back with goals from Cristian Higuita and Yoshimar Yotún — the latter from the spot — to win it for City, 2-1.
Orlando City came home and kept the party going in a difficult game against Real Salt Lake on Sunday, May 6. The guests hit the woodwork a few times and had numerous chances but the Lions hung in there and eventually won, 3-1. It was the final win in a six-game run, despite some good opportunities in the next three games — all 2-1 losses. Corey Baird gave the visitors the lead but the resilient Lions bounced back in the second half through strikes by Dwyer, Lamine Sané, and Yotún.
An early penalty surrendered by Higuita in the next game against Atlanta helped to derail the winning streak, as the Lions again fell behind but could not come back this time. After that, a late draw turned into a loss after some poor defending by Mohamed El-Munir and Will Johnson in Toronto, and then a good performance against Chicago at home was undone by spectacular goalkeeping by Patrick McLain and a wondergoal by Alan Gordon.
From that point, the free fall continued for the entire season. But despite the misery of the 2018 MLS campaign, no one can ever take that magical six-game run away from us. For the joy we felt over those five weeks, it’s the obvious choice for our top moment of 2018.
This concludes our countdown of Orlando City’s top 10 moments of 2018. We hope you enjoyed reliving some of the best times of a year we’d otherwise prefer to forget. Every year has its ups and downs, but 2018 was especially difficult. These 10 moments gave us something to be happy about and are worth remembering as we prepare to move into 2019.
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.
5. Orlando Pride acquire Sydney Leroux in a trade from Utah Royals FC.
4. The Pride get their first victory over the defending champion Portland Thorns.
3. Orlando City awarded 2019 MLS All-Star Game.
2. Lions roar back from two-goal deficit with three goals in seven minutes to beat Portland.