Orlando City scored three times in the first half to take full control, beating the Montreal Impact, 3-0 at Stade Saputo. For the Lions (5-7-3, 18 points), it snapped a six-match winless streak against the Impact (7-7-3, 24 points) and improved them to 4-6-2 in the all-time series and 2-8-1 in Canada.
Nani, Tesho Akindele, and Will Johnson provided the offense but everyone on the team chipped in something good in this one, as the Lions controlled the game from about the 20-minute mark onward.
Dom Dwyer, who suffered a hamstring issue in the team’s final training session before traveling north, was not in the lineup. Sebas Mendez did start, as he wasn’t with his Ecuador teammates in Miami to face Venezuela in a friendly — his national team is in its final preparation for the upcoming Copa America. James O’Connor went with the same exact lineup he used against the LA Galaxy.
An extremely boring first 25 minutes was exactly what Orlando City needed. Both teams stayed organized on defense and waited for the other to make a mistake. As the first half wore on, the Lions started winning the game in the midfield and it paid off.
Akindele forced the first good save of the game with a laser blast that Evan Bush fought off for a corner. On the ensuing set piece, Zakaria Diallo got his arm up while defending Lamine Sané and the handball was seen by referee Chris Penso, who immediately pointed to the spot.
Despite missing penalties in each of the last two games, Nani stepped up and slotted home to make it 1-0 in the 27th minute. It was his 100th career professional goal, as well as his team-leading eighth of the season.
Montreal tried to get forward more just after the goal but a pair of excellent defensive plays by left back Joao Moutinho kept the Impact at bay. He got tangled up with Bacary Sagna on the second such tackle and the veteran fullback was injured on the play, having to be subbed off for Zachary Brault-Guillard.
Chris Mueller tried to double the lead six minutes after Nani’s penalty, cutting inside on his right foot and forcing a save from Bush. Three minutes later, Orlando had its second goal. Cristian Higuita stole the ball in the midfield and sent Mueller down the left side of the area. Mueller crossed to Akindele, who tapped it in to make it 2-0 in the 36th minute.
With five goals now on the season, Akindele is just two shy of his career high of seven.
Montreal’s only shot of the half came in the 38th minute, when Robin Jansson blocked an effort from Anthony Jackson-Hamel. Brian Rowe went high in the air with confidence to catch an ensuing corner to keep the Lions’ lead at 2-0.
Orlando then built on that lead in the 42nd minute. A prolonged possession by the Lions eventually worked its way up the left side of the pitch, with Moutinho and Mueller working the ball back and forth to send the Orlando left back up the outside channel. Moutinho then crossed a ball into the box that found the head of a diving Johnson, who got it on frame and it bounced in to make it 3-0.
This honestly might be the best team goal Orlando City have ever scored. Gorgeous. pic.twitter.com/4qMfdkm8l5— Matthew Doyle (@MattDoyle76) June 1, 2019
Because Bush got a touch on the cross, there were no assists awarded, but the passing of Orlando on the play was the story of the third goal.
That was all the scoring, despite Mueller winning a free kick in a dangerous spot late in the half. Nani tried to play a low ball across the area but Montreal was wise to it and broke away on the counter. Mendez was able to snuff out the counter attack and the Lions took their 3-0 lead to the break.
First half possession was just about even at 50% apiece, with Montreal slightly ahead by a couple tenths of a percentage point. Shots were 7-1 to Orlando (5-0 on goal), with the Impact slightly ahead in passing accuracy, 87%-85%, but most of Montreal’s possession was in its own half, with the Lions only picking up the pressure after the Impact crossed midfield.
The Lions primarily focused on seeing out the game in the second half and didn’t push forward much at all. City stayed compact and organized and the Impact simply couldn’t break the Lions down. But despite Montreal seeing more possession in the attacking half, the Impact couldn’t do much with the ball.
Montreal out-shot the Lions 8-3 in the second half, but only a few were even remotely dangerous, as the Impact only forced one save from Rowe.
The bulk of the play was between the boxes in the second period. The first decent chance for the Impact came in the 65th minute, when Daniel Lovitz made a good, quick move to get past Johnson and sent a cross into the box. Jackson-Hamel flicked it toward goal but it stayed wide.
Orlando had a good opportunity to add a fourth goal through Akindele in the 71st minute, after the ball bounced around in traffic at the top of the Montreal area. It eventually found its way left to Akindele but the Canadian got caught leaning back and drove his shot over the bar from close range.
The Impact’s best chance to grab a consolation goal came in the 84th minute when a cross found Saphir Taider right in front of goal. Rowe was able to reach out a hand to make a spectacular save to preserve the team’s third clean sheet of the season.
The Lions were able to see out the match and win for the second time in three outings as the team heads into the Concacaf Gold Cup break. Montreal held a slim 52%-48% advantage in possession and an edge in passing accuracy, 86%-83%. The Lions led in shots (10-9) and shots on goal (5-1).
It was largely the tireless work of Johnson, Higuita, and Mendez in the midfield that made the win possible, although it truly was a team effort, with individual brilliance from every player on the pitch at one time or another, and it’s the kind of performance O’Connor can hopefully build on the rest of the season.