Tesho Akindele came back to haunt his old team and Carlos Ascues opened his MLS account as Orlando City (8-11-5, 29 points) got its first ever win (and goals) against FC Dallas (9-9-6, 33 points) in front of 22,479 at Exploria Stadium. The Lions played well defensively and got a timely goal in each half to finally beat the Texas side, moving to 1-3-1 in the all-time series.
With the three points, Orlando also has guaranteed it will finish with more points than the previous season, after putting up just 28 in 2018. It’s the first time in the club’s MLS history that it has amassed more points than the previous year.
“I thought that the mentality that the players showed was excellent,” Head Coach James O’Connor said after the match. “I think there were some outstanding individual performances.”
“It’s just a lot of mixed feelings,” Akindele said about scoring against his old teammates. “I played for that team for five years. I really love the club. I have a lot of respect from the ownership all the way down to the players, the academy. I was glad to be there. And I’m glad to be here. It was a mix of emotions. Hard to explain.”
Aside from not starting Nani, O’Connor’s match day squad for Dallas was a first-choice lineup.
Ruan was active in the attack almost from the jump. He drew an early free kick in the seventh minute, set up a shot by Dom Dwyer in the 10th minute, then set up the game’s first goal three minutes later.
The Brazilian cut inside from the right sideline and sent a perfect diagonal ball through the defense for Akindele to run onto. The former FC Dallas man slid his shot inside the back post past Jesse Gonzalez. The goal was Akindele’s eighth of the season, establishing a new career high for the Canadian. It was also the first goal Orlando has ever scored against FC Dallas after being shut out in all four previous meetings.
“I saw (Ruan) kind of cut inside and he was streaking through the middle,” Akindele said. “I checked and then went in behind and I didn’t really think he would see me, honestly, because it was pretty hard, but he saw me and played a great pass, I think with the outside of his foot. He just put it on a platter for me and I was finishing it.”
“I think for Ruan to come inside and play a fantastic weighted ball...but then you look at the quality of the finish from Tesho. It’s slotted right in the corner, outstanding finish,” O’Connor said. “It was a really good goal from our standpoint.”
Dallas started to get back into the game more after the goal, with Santiago Mosquera fizzing a ball through the area in the 16th minute and Edwin Gyasi firing a shot right at Rowe a minute later.
Akindele had a chance to put Dwyer in alone on goal in the 19th but put too much oomph on his pass. Orlando looked more content to counter attack and Dallas was forced to take some yellow cards to stop it. Reto Ziegler was booked for chopping down Ascues after being nutmegged by Dwyer.
Gyasi went off for Dallas after sustaining what appeared to be a groin injury and was replaced by Michael Barrios in the 30th minute. Dallas shifted from a 4-2-3-1 into a 4-3-3 and started seeing more of the ball.
Robin Jansson was forced into some good emergency defending in the 38th minute to concede a corner but prevent a scoring chance. Lamine Sané cleared the ensuing cross and Paxton Pomykal was booked for taking Dwyer down from behind on the counter.
The last good chance of the half came in the first minute of stoppage time when an Akindele cross took a deflection and Will Johnson sent it inches wide. The Canadian may have been distracted by Dwyer, who was tracking back for the ball and jumped over it to allow the shot.
Orlando took its 1-0 lead into the break with a 4-3 edge in shots (1-1 on goal). Dallas held 61% of the possession and the better passing accuracy (88%-83%).
Dominique Badji, who subbed on for Dallas at halftime for Brandon Servania, got the first shot of the second half, but he fired it over the Heineken sign in the south end and into the upper deck as a tribute to Orlando legend Carlos Rivas.
Dallas buzzed for the equalizer in the early part of the second half, with Santiago Mosquera serving as the danger man. He fired a free kick just wide in the 51st, then forced a Brian Rowe save in the 53rd after a corner kick that was set up when a Pomykal shot attempt deflected out off of Sané.
The visitors won a lot of corners after that, finishing with eight in the second half alone. But Orlando defended well all night. Despite seeing most of the possession, Dallas created few clear-cut opportunities as the Lions swarmed to the ball whenever it crossed into the defensive third.
Akindele nearly got a brace on a good play in the 70th. He sent the ball left to Ascues and the Peruvian returned it to him on the doorstep but Akindele’s shot hit Gonzalez in the chest and the score remained 1-0.
As the game moved into its final stages, there was a video review for a possible handball on Sané in the box. Lamine was tangled up with an opposing player and the ball did appear to glance off his hand but he was nudged by Badji as he jumped, spinning him a bit and no penalty was given.
Dallas started lumping more crosses and passes into the area in a final push to tie the game. The Lions threw their bodies in front of shots and did anything they could to shield Rowe’s goal.
“I think overall when you look at the commitment to defending, it was excellent,” O’Connor said.
Ascues put the game to bed in the 92nd minute. Second-half sub Nani centered the ball from the left, sending a ball to the top of the area to Ascues, who flicked on to Akindele — wearing the captain’s armband for the first time in his MLS career. Tesho laid off to second-half sub Sacha Kljestan, who found Ascues. With Kljestan breaking into open space on his right, Ascues opted to shoot. Gonzalez got a piece of it but couldn’t prevent the Peruvian’s first MLS goal.
“It was a little layoff by Tesho. My first idea was to shoot, but I didn’t think I had a good angle,” said Kljestan. “So, I could see Carlos kind of in the blind spot of the defenders and I flicked it to him. And to be honest I expected him to pass it back to me for a tap-in. So, fortunately he finished it because if he hadn’t I’d have been very angry.”
With the assist, Kljestan moved into sole possession of eighth in the all-time MLS assist list. His 92nd career helper moved him past Cobi Jones, but the midfielder said he didn’t care about that so much as getting the three points.
From there it was a matter of seeing out the rest of the seven minutes of stoppage time, which Orlando was able to do.
Dallas led in most of the statistical categories, out-shooting the Lions, 10-9, although City had three on target to just two for the visitors. FC Dallas also led in possession, with 64.2%, corner kicks (10-2), and passing accuracy (86%-79%).
“We had better opportunities in the first half, apart from Tesho’s in the second,” O’Connor said. “But overall when you look at the way the game went and how difficult it was for Dallas to break us down, I think that was the thing we wanted to try to make sure — that we made it hard for them to attack — and then equally we needed to be on point when we attacked them. So it’s a pleasing performance for all the guys.”
The team can now turn its attention to the massive match coming up this week.
“We know (Tuesday is) probably the biggest game in our club’s short time, short history, so everyone’s excited,” Kljestan said. “I know it’s going to be a very big game.”
Orlando City’s next match is a gigantic one, as Atlanta United visits Exploria Stadium on Tuesday night in the U.S. Open Cup semifinals. The Lions’ next league match will be next Saturday night in Toronto.