Orlando City fell behind in the first half but broke its losing streak in convincing fashion with a 5-1 destruction of FC Cincinnati (3-8-2, 11 points) in front of an announced crowd of 22,341 on a hot day at Orlando City Stadium. The Lions got braces from Nani and Tesho Akindele and a header from Dom Dwyer to run the MLS newcomers out of the City Beautiful.
It was only the third time all season that Orlando (4-6-3, 15 points) had scored more than one goal in a game and it was the team’s first victory by more than one goal in 2019. The win broke a three-game losing streak and a four-match winless skid. The 5-1 win was Orlando’s second-biggest MLS win only to a 6-1 home win over New England on Sept. 27, 2017 — a game in which the Revs were a man down for much of the night.
James O’Connor praised his team’s mentality after the match for coming back after conceding the first goal in the team’s third game in eight days.
“Obviously very pleased — not just with the result,” O’Connor said after the game. “I thought overall the mentality of the players was excellent. To play at three o’clock in Florida is a mental test.”
O’Connor rotated 10 of the 11 spots from Wednesday’s game, leaving only Lamine Sané in the starting XI from the midweek match in Seattle.
The game was mostly a plodding affair before Cincinnati opened the scoring in the 24th minute. Up to that point, neither team seemed particularly adept at getting into the opposing team’s penalty area, passing the ball around the perimeter and either turning it over or sending in a hopeful cross.
The only real chance of the game had come from a shot by Emmanuel Ledesma in the 21st minute that rattled off the crossbar.
That warning shot failed to wake up Orlando, which had started to concede more of the possession after dominating the ball early, and it proved costly moments later.
Mattocks’ opener came out of nowhere. The Lions were in excellent shape defensively, but seemed mesmerized by the Cincinnati attacker, who faked one way, went the other and fired his shot into the back of the net with the two center backs right in front of him and several other players in the neighborhood just watching the play happen.
The goal was exactly what the game needed as the match sprung to life after Mattocks’ strike. Will Johnson nearly pulled back the goal after taking a pass from Chris Mueller in the 30th minute but he saw his effort blocked. Cristian Higuita followed with a narrow miss two minutes later from the top of the area.
Akindele tied things up in the 37th minute. Johnson took a pass from Joao Moutinho and played in Akindele with a nice through ball and the Canadian fired home to make it 1-1.
“I saw Will making a run though,” Akindele said. “They fired the ball into him. I kind of was asking for the flick and he played a really good pass kind of around the corner. I took a good first touch, I thought, and then just tried to put it on target...I think the play was really well done by our team.”
The game remained open the rest of the half. Nani’s cross in for Johnson in the 41st minute provided a good opportunity but the ball was deflected out for a corner. Mueller fizzed a ball in for Akindele in the first minute of stoppage time that was just inches too far in front for a deflection. Johnson had a go from distance moments later but he didn’t hit it with much power and it was right at Spencer Richey for an easy save.
The last good opportunity for Cincinnati came off a set piece that was headed across goal where Mathieu Deplagne got a head on it and forced a last-second save from Brian Rowe.
Orlando then finished with a set piece from the left that Cincinnati deflected off the outside netting and the teams went to the break tied at 1-1.
Orlando City led in shots, 7-3 (2-2 on target), possession (61.9%-38.1%), and passing accuracy (90.1%-81.1%).
The Lions came out of the break like a different team. Mueller and Nani each forced diving saves from Richey in the first two minutes of the second half. Shortly after the latter, Sebas Mendez was called for a foul and during that stoppage referee Nima Saghafi indicated he was going to video review. Replays showed that Kendall Waston had grabbed Sané from underneath both arms and took him down in a wrestling move during an Orlando corner kick. Saghafi didn’t review the play long and returned to the field, indicating a penalty to Orlando for Waston’s WWE move.
Nani took the spot kick but didn’t hit it well and Richey saved it, but the rebound fell right back at the feet of the Portuguese star, who calmly slotted home to make it 2-1 in the 50th minute.
Nine minutes later, Nani extended the lead to 3-1. Ruan worked a quick give-and-go with Akindele and made a lightning-quick dash down the right channel and cut in toward goal before crossing. Nani was there to stab home the cross in the 59th minute, scoring the 200th goal in Orlando City’s MLS history.
Orlando continued to press forward in the attack. Mueller won a free kick to the left of the area but sailed his set piece delivery over the bar in the 62nd minute. Two minutes later, the Lions struck again. Orlando won a corner kick and Mueller served in a corner kick cross that fell in the box and bounced off Sané. Akindele took it out of the air with the first touch and slotted it into the net to make it 4-1. With four goals on the season, it is the Canadian’s highest goal total since he scored four in 2017 across 29 appearances. It was also his first brace since July 4 of last year, when he got both of his goals on the season in a 3-2 win over Atlanta United while playing with FC Dallas.
“I think we got a little bit unlucky in the past on some of the chances we missed and I think maybe we got a little bit lucky today on some of the ones we scored,” Akindele said. “It kind of balances out in the long run as long as you’re creating chances, which we’ve been doing all year.”
City got a bit sloppy after that and failed to track second-half sub Fanendo Adi on a set piece. He brought the ball down in the area but couldn’t make good contact, sending a weak dribbler toward Rowe.
Dwyer came on for Nani and started to get things moving back in the other direction. He fired high from distance in the 73rd minute, but his injection into the middle of the attack began causing issues for the Cincinnati defense as the visitors tried pushing numbers forward to get back into the match.
After Ruan won a corner in the 81st minute, Dwyer broke his scoreless streak with a well-placed header off Josué Colmán’s corner kick cross. It must have come as a relief to the veteran striker and it was touching the way his teammates celebrated after the goal.
As time wound down, the Lions got a bit more lackadaisical in their own half and that nearly resulted in a cosmetic goal for Cincinnati. Ledesma fired just inches wide of goal in the 91st minute in what would have been a bit of a letdown for the team as well as the crowd. Instead, the Lions saw out the four minutes of stoppage and got a much deserved victory.
Orlando City finished with a 17-5 advantage in shots (9-3 on target), a 61.1%-38.9% edge in possession, more corners (11-4), and a better passing accuracy (88.9%-83.5%).
“There were a couple of things I thought we just needed to be a little bit sharper on and areas we that needed to try to play in,” O’Connor said of his halftime adjustments. “The quality of the players started to come through. Again, I think the players deserve enormous credit for the mentality and the way they went on performed second half. I thought they were excellent.”
Akindele underscored the importance of the victory after the match.
“It was really important, especially to do it at home. The fans...they deserved that,” Akindele said. “They come out all the time. They support us. They’re making noise. And I’m so glad we could give them that win and they could experience that with us.”
Orlando City is back in action Friday night when the LA Galaxy come to town for a 7 p.m. kickoff.