In case you weren’t aware, today is Friday the 13th, a date made infamous both for lots of historical reasons and the film franchise of the same name. As chance would have it, Orlando City will be on the road to play against the Philadelphia Union today. But, this isn’t Orlando’s first foray into playing on the unluckiest date of the year. Orlando has played an MLS game on Friday the 13th before, and the result wasn’t so bad either. Hop on in The Mane Land’s time machine and let’s turn the clock back to a Friday three years ago.
Way back in March of 2015, Orlando City was still a fresh-faced expansion side searching for its first MLS win. The team’s first ever game had been a 1-1 draw at Camping World Stadium (then known as the Citrus Bowl) against fellow MLS debutante New York City FC. The Lions then went on the road on a short week to play the Houston Dynamo on Friday the 13th.
The starting 11 that day couldn’t have been more different than the team we’ll see tonight, as every member of the team that took the field that night in Houston is no longer with the club. Donovan Ricketts started in goal with a back four composed of Brek Shea, Seb Hines, Sean St. Ledger, and Rafael Ramos. Amobi Okugo and Darwin Cerén played in the defensive midfielde with Kevin Molino, Kaká, and Lewis Neal deployed in more advanced midfield roles, while Carlos Rivas served as the lone striker. Even the manager was different, with Adrian Heath coaching his second MLS game in charge of the purple and gold.
The game was a chippy one and, while it had its moments, it wasn’t the most exciting encounter that the team has ever been a part of. While the Lions and Dynamo took eight and seven shots respectively, a majority of them weren’t quality chances. Rivas flashed a shot just over the bar from distance in the 16th minute and Kaká was only denied a goal by a wonderful Tyler Deric save in the 41st minute from a free kick. For much of the game, it looked as though a 0-0 draw was going to be the outcome. That wasn’t to be however.
In the 74th minute, substitute Pedro Ribeiro blocked an attempted Deric clearance. With the ball bouncing back towards the Houston goal, Ribeiro got between Deric and the ball and looked set to head it into the back of the net. Deric attempted to swat the ball away but, unfortunately for Houston, only succeeded in burying the ball in the corner of the goal. While certainly unconventional, it proved to be the game-winner and just like that Orlando City had its first ever MLS victory, albeit courtesy of one of the strangest own goals I’ve ever seen.
Not many fans, myself included, were too worried about Orlando winning by a lucky own goal. If the beginning of the 2018 season has had a theme, it has to be that a win is a win no matter how you get it. It’s an adage that held true then and it certainly still does now. Regardless, I’ll be hoping for a more conventional and comfortable win tonight when the team takes on the Philadelphia Union at Talen Energy Stadium. But if the team’s first five games are anything to go by, then this game could very well be anything but conventional. Either way, hopefully some Friday the 13th power is on the Lions’ side once again. Vamos Orlando!