As we count down to the new year of 2020 — which will be Orlando City’s sixth in MLS, OCB’s second in USL League One, and the Orlando Pride’s fifth in the NWSL — and say goodbye to 2019, it’s time to look back at the club’s 10 best moments of the year.
There are many advantages that Orlando City has gained with the opening of Exploria Stadium. One of those advantages is hosting the United States National Team. Prior to moving into the stadium, Orlando was not chosen to host U.S. Men’s National Team games. Since 2017, the national team has come to Orlando three times, once each year.
The first time the men’s team arrived in Orlando, it was to face Panama in a key World Cup qualifier. After a friendly against Ecuador in 2018, the Yanks returned again this year to host an important Concacaf Nations League game against Canada.
The importance of this game was due to the struggles of the previous one in Toronto. After defeating Cuba soundly in the first group game, the team struggled in its first game against Canada, losing 2-0. The first loss to Canada since 1985, it placed the U.S. in a must-win situation in Orlando.
The U.S. got off to a fast start in this game, opening the scoring in the second minute. A corner kick was touched on by Sergino Dest. The mishit found its way to Jordan Morris, who was unmarked at the top of the six-yard box. His first touch pushed the ball behind Milan Borjan for the first goal of the game.
The home side doubled its lead in the 23rd minute. The counter attack started when Paul Arriola received a headed ball down the right. His long cross was over everyone but Morris on the far side. After a strong first touch, Morris caught up to the ball and lifted it for the oncoming Gyasi Zardes. The striker headed the ball past Borjan to make it 2-0 U.S.
In the 34th minute, the U.S. scored a third goal that almost seemed too easy. Tim Ream took a free kick from the corner of the box, placing it on the head of Aaron Long 10 yards from goal. The header was perfect placement by Long, putting it into the corner of the goal and effectively putting the game to bed.
Canada did pull one back in the 72nd minute, ensuring that they weren’t shutout. A corner kick was flicked on by Jonathan Osorio, finding the head of Steven Vitoria. The defender redirected the ball on goal from about two yards out, shrinking the deficit to two.
While the game was pretty much over, the U.S. ensured victory in the 89th minute. Canada attempted to clear a cross by Deandre Yedlin but it went right to Zardes. The striker’s first touch was a low, hard shot into the far corner, increasing the Americans’ lead back to three.
The crowd for this game differed greatly from the team’s previous appearances in Central Florida. Following the win against Panama in 2017, the city was applauded for its support, which was lacking in the team’s loss to Costa Rica in New Jersey. The 13,103-person crowd against Canada was a far cry from that full house.
Despite being poorly attended, it was a big win for the U.S. as it allowed the team to advance to the Concacaf Nations League semifinal in June. Once again, Orlando was able to host a triumphant moment for the national team and the USMNT improved to 3-0-0 at Exploria Stadium. Orlando City has become an important host destination for the United States and if results keep coming (the Yanks have outscored opponents 9-1 in those three games), U.S. Soccer will continue to bring the USMNT back to Orlando.
Come back through New Year’s Eve as we count down the remainder of Orlando City’s top 10 moments of 2019.