Five different Lions scored in a surprising 6-2 thrashing of the New England Revolution in the final game of the Orlando City Invitational at Orlando City Stadium. The Lions captured the Orlando City Invitational title on goal differential after finishing 2-0 at the top of the table alongside Minnesota United, spurred on by four second-half goals in the span of about 10 minutes. It was the second consecutive comprehensive win, although it’s difficult to take too much away from preseason matches.
“I thought (the team’s performance) was excellent,” said Head Coach James O’Connor after the match. “I thought the movement was very good. I think we can be very pleased. Quite a number of the players had a really strong performance.”
O’Connor rotated his squad from Saturday’s lineup and gave mostly backups a run-out. He also started OCB defender Matheus Silva and 17-year-old Hamady Diop from SIMA’s Gold Team. Santiago Patino and Benji Michel flanked Josué Colmán on the forward line, in front of a defensive-minded midfield of Cristian Higuita, Cam Lindley, and Uri Rosell. Presumed starter Lamine Sané slotted into the back line with Dillon Powers as the starting right back. Greg Ranjitsingh started in goal.
New England started a lot more regulars, including Teal Bunbury and Cristian Penilla up front, which looked to be a mismatch against the back line of the Lions. However, it didn’t turn out that way in the end.
Ranjitsingh was called into action in the sixth minute, making a good reaction save on a header by Antonio Delamea. The shot came off a New England free kick out near the right sideline. The Revs controlled the ball early and tried to work through the Orlando defense, but two different attacks broke down when Penilla tried to flop to draw a penalty on Powers, who was well positioned.
Referee Robert Sibiga didn’t buy either dive and booked the Revs’ attacker after the second simulation in the 11th minute. Penilla was a non-factor after that.
Bunbury timed his run well and got in behind the back line in the 13th minute but Sané’s recovery run bothered him just enough to make him send his shot wide of the far post. Three minutes later, Carles Gil fired a shot that Ranjitsingh stopped after a bad turnover by Silva.
Orlando then started to climb into the match. Patino forced a good save from Matt Turner in the 23rd minute and Michel made a great move to free himself on the right side a minute later, only to see Turner deny his attempt.
In the 29th minute, the Lions took the lead. Rosell fired inside the left post from the penalty spot after a handball on the Revs defense denied a Higuita cross from finding Michel on the right. Uri sent Turner the wrong way and easily put Orlando on the board.
“You don’t think about it,” Rosell said about his approach to the penalty. “You are there and you feel confident and you just say, ‘hey, I want to do it because I know I am going to score.’ And that’s what I did.”
Three minutes later it was Rosell again. This time he got free on the right side and tried to cross for a wide-open Patino at the back post but Brandon Bye deflected the ball past his own goalkeeper, doubling the Lions’ lead in the 32nd minute.
Sané got a free header on a corner kick in the 43rd minute but hit his shot right at Turner. A minute later, the Lions should have made it three goals when a gorgeous passing play from Colmán and Lindley sent Patino in alone on the left. The rookie hit his shot inches wide of the back post on his best opportunity of the half. Orlando took its 2-0 lead into the break.
Orlando City blew the game open with three goals in a five-minute span early in the second half. Michel laid off a ball on the right for Lindley and the Homegrown midfielder made a perfect cross-field switch to Colmán in space. The Paraguayan smashed a shot inside the far post to make it 3-0 in the 47th minute.
Two minutes later, Rosell slipped a ball in for Patino and the rookie, who grew up in Orlando, blasted his shot through Turner to make it 4-0.
“It was an amazing feeling,” Patino said of his goal, which he scored in front of 12 friends and family members — a number he said would have been larger if he had been able to give out more tickets. “It’s always great to help the team and to score a goal. And as a forward, every goal helps with confidence and how you play. So tonight was great. We won. We won the tournament and it was great teamwork.”
Colmán’s pass found Higuita in the 51st minute and the Colombian made it 5-0.
“I thought he played very well. I thought his understanding of space was very good,” O’Connor said of Colmán. “Not just him. I thought there was a number of players who played really, really well. The intensity that they were able to play at was great to see. Everyone will leave encouraged by the work the players were able to put in tonight.”
The Lions added a sixth with Dillon Powers scoring from the penalty spot after Michel was in alone and was taken down by Turner after playing the ball in behind. Sibiga took it easy on Turner and only booked him when in a regular-season game it likely would have been a sending off for the last defender.
Teal Bunbury scored a pair of goals late in garbage time to pull something back for the Revs, but it was a comprehensive victory for the Lions.
Lindley, Colmán, Diop, Rosell, and Higuita played exceptionally well for Orlando City.
“There are so many positives that we’ll be able to draw upon, which is really encouraging,” O’Connor said. “The movement, the understanding of space was excellent. There are quite a few things we can be pleased about but again, it’s preseason. For us, it’s fantastic to have the level of performance, considering we’ve changed out the whole 11. To get that level of performance is excellent.”
“I think we’re on a great path,” Rosell said. “We played two games with almost two different teams and both won, so that means we have a lot of depth, which is good for a long run. I feel like now we can start building from here.”
The Lions will play Minnesota United on Saturday afternoon in a closed-door friendly to finish the preseason.
New York City FC finished the Orlando City Invitational without a win, falling 1-0 to Minnesota United on an own goal by Ben Sweat. The Pigeons were outscored 3-1 in their two matches at Orlando City Stadium, while the Loons won both their matches by 1-0 scores on goals that should never have happened. Prior to beating NYCFC on an own goal tonight, Minnesota beat New England on Saturday on a howler of a giveaway outside the penalty area by goalkeeper Brad Knighton.