Wednesday night was a historic moment in Orlando City’s history. The “magic of the cup,” as the saying goes, was alive and well, and the Lions advanced to the U.S. Open Cup semiinals for the first time in club history.
The fans stole the show. The game went viral, not because of the outcome, but because of the fans swarming the other side of the stadium after after the ref indicated the spot kicks would be taken at the net opposite of The Wall.
After the game, James O’Connor called it “the biggest game in the club’s history.” But was it really? Below is a breakdown of the six most memorable games in Orlando City history. They may not be the “best” games or the “most exciting” necessarily, just the most memorable. Be sure to comment below if you disagree!
2015 vs. Chicago Fire
It took nearly five hours to complete as a monsoon developed over the Citrus Bowl. The entire game was start and stop as the weather would not cooperate, and the match ended in a 1-1 draw.
2015 U.S. Open Cup vs. Charleston
After a scoreless first half, the teams combined to score eight goals in the second 45 minutes, and 30 minutes of extra time. Carlos Rivas scored a hat trick, all from the penalty spot, but the game went to penalty kicks. It took 10 rounds, but there was eventually a winner. Earl Edwards Jr. saved Taylor Mueller’s shot and then Danny Mwanga converted to send the Lions to the next round.
2017 vs. New England
It was the most goals Orlando City scored in MLS history and the club’s biggest margin of victory. This 2017 match in the stadium formerly known as Orlando City Stadium saw five different Lions find the back of the net.
2018 vs. New York Red Bulls
Seven total goals in a back-and-forth affair saw the Lions get three points in a 4-3 game in Orlando City Stadium. Scott Sutter fired the game winner in off Josué Colmán’s back.
2016 Home Opener vs. Real Salt Lake
Down 2-0 heading into stoppage time, Cyle Larin and Adrian Winter both scored in the last two minutes to get Orlando City a point and tie the game 2-2.
The Six Most Memorable
6. The Pulse Match
This match is perhaps most memorable not for anything to do with the actual game itself. To be honest, I forgot the result of this game and who it was against and had to look it up. The match ended 2-2 against the San Jose Earthquakes as Shea Salinas’ 94th-minute equalizer ended Orlando’s hope for a win. But it will forever be remembered for what took place during the match:
“The night began with a huge ovation for the first responders and an emotional National Anthem, sung by a crowd that somehow managed to stripe the stadium in rainbow colors with just a few days notice. The Pulse shooting victims’ names were displayed on the giant video screen and advertising boards. And then there was a soccer game.”
The city came together after a terrible tragedy, remembering and honoring the 49 victims, even stopping the game in the 49th minute for a moment of silence. The first responders were recognized on field, the players walked out to the Beatles’ All You Need Is Love, and the fans wore, not the Orlando City purple, but each section a different color of the rainbow. Today, anybody that attends an Orlando City game can witness a memorial, with 49 rainbow color seats with “#OrlandoUnited” on them.
5. The Running of the Wall
Let’s be honest here. This game wasn’t great. Orlando City was poor for the majority of the match and struggled to keep hold of the ball. New York City looked the better team, and the Lions seemed content to defend in their own half and try to spring a counter attack.
The opening goal was one to remember, but it took over an hour to occur. Nani did well to get down the line after a steal by Sebas Mendez and send in a perfect cross to Chris Mueller. Mueller headed it into the back of the net, the Lions went up 1-0, and then Orlando went back to defending. James O’Connor went more defensive, but his team couldn’t hold the lead, and the Pigeons scored in the sixth minute of stoppage time.
The match went to extra time, and it was a dull affair. Still a defensive side in the game, Orlando sat back and had no gas left in the tank to create any chances. When the Lions got the ball, they struggled to hold onto it, and the game went to penalties. This was when the game became historic.
Being a U.S. Open Cup game, the south end was not being used. New York City’s fans were the only people in that side of the stadium, high in the upper deck. The flip of the coin determined the shots would be taken to the south. The Orlando City supporters then did what they do best. When it was clear that the kicks were happening opposite of The Wall, fans sprinted to the other side of the stadium. Security attempted to prevent this — why they tried helping New York is another question — but the fans eventually won and flooded the sections behind the goal.
Orlando got its advantage back, and then Adam Grinwis stepped up. The ‘keeper stood on his head all game and made some miraculous saves, but he will be remembered for the saves he made in the shootout that sent Orlando City to the semifinals for the first time in history.
4. The 2013 USL Championship
2013 was an important year in Orlando. It was the year the city met Dom Dwyer. The Englishman was sent to Orlando on loan from Sporting Kansas City, and he blew up the lower division. He scored 15 goals in 13 USL matches before being recalled by SKC. When the Lions made it to the final, Dwyer made the trip south to play in one final game.
Facing the Charlotte Eagles in the finals, a then-record crowd of 20,886 packed the lower deck of the Citrus Bowl. Charlotte struck first, but then Dwyer scored twice, and the Lions took a 2-1 lead. A minute later, Christian Ramirez tied the game at two as the game went into halftime tied. Ramirez got his brace in the second half, but Dwyer tied it from the penalty spot two minutes later. Tied 3-3 at this point, Orlando finally broke free. Dwyer added a fourth goal, Denis Chin got a brace, and Adama Mbengue scored to give the Lions a 7-4 win and their second USL Championship.
3. 2017 vs. LA Galaxy
Once again, Larin stole the show. The Lions made history with this win as they became the first team in MLS history to open up a stadium with four straight wins. Will Johnson scored in the ninth minute to bring the Lions to a 1-0 lead. Orlando held that lead for the majority of the match, but LA tied things up in the 83rd minute. Romain Alessandrini made a brilliant cut and then shot from distance. The ball banged off the inside of the post and found its way into the back of the net.
With things tied 1-1, the Lions once again used a late spark to grab some points. Johnson sent in a corner. Larin was heavily guarded by Jermaine Jones, but the Canadian muscled off Jones and volleyed the cross into the back of the net. The goal gave Orlando City the 2-1 win, and it also made history. With his 35th career goal, Larin became the all-time leading scorer in MLS history for a player under the age of 22.
2. The 2011 USL Championship
The greatest penalty kick shootout in Orlando City history. Yes, it was better than Wednesday. In its first-ever season, Orlando took the USL by storm. The Lions lost just three games all season and marched into the final against the Harrisburg City Islanders.
Miguel Gallardo was the 2011 Goalkeeper of the Year but was given a red card early in the second half after taking down Sainey Touray outside the box. Backup ‘keeper Sean Kelley made just his fourth appearance in the year, in the biggest game in the club’s young history.
Lawrence Olum found the back of the net in the 89th minute, and it looked like Orlando would win in regulation. But J.T. Noone tied the match in the fifth minute of stoppage time and the game went to extra time. Touray headed in the go-ahead goal just five minutes into extra time but Lewis Neal’s penalty kick in the 115th minute sent the game to penalties.
With the supporters’ section at his back chanting his name, Kelley looked like a seasoned veteran filled with confidence. He saved the first two kicks, and the Lions went up 2-0. Orlando missed the next two, with Harrisburg City converting, and it was back to being tied, 2-2. Touray then shot but sent his attempt wide of the post. Devorn Jorsling walked up for the Lions and powered his kick into the back of the net. 10-man Orlando City won in penalties, and Kelley won MVP of the match.
1. Inaugural MLS Game
No game will ever match this one for Orlando City. MLS was something that the city had been waiting years for. The anticipation of this match alone could make this list, and the fans did not disappoint come game day. A sellout crowd of 62,510 packed the Citrus Bowl, as the two 2015 expansion teams met. The game itself wasn’t anything special until late in the second half, but the atmosphere and fan support made it something spectacular. Mix Diskerud thought he won the game for New York in the 76th minute, but Kaká’s stoppage time free kick leveled the game at 1-1 and sent the crowd home smiling.
What was your favorite and most memorable Orlando City match?
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Inaugural MLS Game
2017 vs. LA Galaxy
The Running of the Wall