Orlando City made a statement by overcoming a red card to Nani and a tying goal shortly thereafter by Harrison Afful on Wednesday night at Exploria Stadium. Benji Michel had a lot to do when Mauricio Pereyra lofted a nice long ball up the field, but the Homegrown Player did all of it when he headed it to himself, spun inside a Columbus Crew defender, then slipped the ball past Eloy Room to give the 10-man Lions a 2-1 win over the Crew.
It was the third consecutive win for Orlando, which moved into third place in the Eastern Conference, leapfrogging Columbus. The Lions now have their second-most points and wins in a season, with both of those high marks coming with one game to spare in a 2020 season that includes 11 fewer matches than in 2015 — when both club records were set. Orlando can equal 2015’s 12 wins and 44 points on Sunday if the Lions can close out the season with a win against Nashville SC, but they’ll have done it in 23 games rather than 34.
Chris Mueller’s goal put the Lions in front in the first half, but truthfully Orlando could have had a couple more goals had it not wasted some early opportunities. Nani’s sending off changed the complexion of the match but only for a few moments. The Lions had dominated the majority of the game until that moment and settled back in after Afful’s goal. Rather than bunker and withstand waves of the Crew’s attack, Orlando fought hard to win the ball back and create opportunities at the other end whenever possible. That eventually paid off in the 84th minute when Pereyra found Michel up the field.
The Lions captured their first victory when down a man and in a non-winning position in the match. Pereyra was the driving force with assists on both goals, landing a spot on MLS Team of the Week. Unfortunately, the Uruguayan will miss the season finale vs. Nashville due to yellow card accumulation, but his final contributions to the 2020 MLS regular season were vital ones and helped his club to three more valuable points.
We hope you enjoy the following images from a memorable Orlando City victory.