Since we have this pause during Orlando City’s 10th season of existence, it seems like a good time to look back at some of the club’s greatest moments. Despite the struggles in recent years, there have been some excellent individual performances in those 10 years. With that in mind, let’s look back at the five greatest individual performances in Orlando City history.
Sean Kelley Saves the 2011 USL Pro Championship Game
Orlando City got off to a roaring start in its inaugural season, winning the Commissioner’s Cup as the regular season champions. Its dominance didn’t stop in the playoffs either, defeating both the Charleston Battery and Richmond Kickers at the Citrus Bowl. Fans expected the club to claim the double in its first season, but it wouldn’t be that easy. Miguel Gallardo was the team captain and led the team throughout the 2011 season to become the USL Pro’s Goalkeeper of the Year. But in the 48th minute, the veteran was sent off for taking down Sainey Touray after he had gotten behind the Lions’ defense. Backup Sean Kelley, who played in only two games that season, was called into action.
Kelley performed admirably during the remaining portion of the game, keeping the Harrisburg City Islanders scoreless until five minutes into stoppage time when JT Noone equalized, sending the game to extra time. After Touray gave the visitors the lead in the 95th minute, Lewis Neal equalized for the hosts in the 115th. It was in the ensuing penalties that Kelley became a star for Orlando City. He guessed right on the first two kicks from the Islanders, saving shots by Nelson Becerra and Jose Angulo. Despite Charlie Campbell and Luke Boden missing for the Lions, a final miss by Touray gave Orlando City its first of two USL championships.
Dom Dwyer Returns for the 2013 USL Championship
At the end of the 2013 preseason, Sporting Kansas City sent second-year forward Dom Dwyer on loan to Orlando City. The striker found a home in Orlando, scoring 15 goals in 13 league games before being recalled to the MLS side. Meanwhile, Orlando City continued to play excellent soccer, finishing the regular season in second. Richmond’s loss to the Charlotte Eagles in the semifinals meant the Lions hosted the championship game for the second time in three years and Dwyer wasn’t going to miss it.
The striker made it clear he wanted to return and the Lions were excited to welcome him back when he was loaned back for one game. As if he hadn’t already written his name in club history with his regular season performance, Dwyer made himself a club legend by scoring the first four goals in a 7-4 victory. Adding to his four goals, Dwyer also assisted the sixth by Adama Mbengue in the 85th minute. Dwyer said he considered the game a thank you and goodbye to the Orlando City fans he never had a chance to bid farewell to earlier in the year. It was quite a sendoff for a club legend.
Cyle Larin’s Rookie Season Hat Tricks
In 2015, two expansion teams entered MLS. Orlando City moved up from the USL while New York City FC was a brand new club entering the league. The Lions were fortunate enough to claim the first pick in the 2015 MLS SuperDraft, winning the rights to UConn forward Cyle Larin. The Canadian lived up to the hype in his first season, scoring 17 goals — an MLS rookie record — and claiming Rookie of the Year honors. While there were many highlights for Larin that season, most people remember the two games he played in New York.
The first came on July 26 at Yankee Stadium against the fellow expansion team. Despite losing 5-3 with David Villa netting a brace, Larin scored all three goals for Orlando City in the second half. It was only the third hat trick in club history and the first in the club’s MLS era.
As if that wasn’t enough, Larin matched the feat two months later at Red Bull Arena. This one came with happier memories as the Lions won 5-2. While Larin’s eventual departure left a bad taste in the mouths of some, the striker gave Orlando City one of the greatest rookie seasons in MLS history.
Kevin Molino’s Pair of Hat Tricks in 2014
In 2011, Orlando City signed a 20-year-old first-year professional from Trinidad and Tobago. Kevin Molino went on to be named the USL MVP twice and became Orlando City’s first MLS signing. While the midfielder won the USL Pro MVP in 2012, it was 2014 when he pushed his game to the next level. His 20 league goals that year remains the club record for most in a season. With a team built with a combination of MLS and USL players, the Lions dominated the regular season and Moilno was the star.
The most memorable performances by Molino were a pair of hat tricks. The first came early in the season on May 21 as he netted three goals in a 3-1 win over the Charlotte Eagles. He did it again in Orlando in the third to last game of the season. This one was a dominating win as the Lions defeated the Dayton Dutch Lions, 7-0. Molino started the scoring early with a goal in just the sixth minute before adding goals in the 40th and 57th minutes to net his second hat trick of the season.
Adam Grinwis’ U.S. Open Cup Heroics
The 2019 Orlando City season will be best remembered for the club’s U.S. Open Cup run. Prior to 2019, the club’s longest Open Cup runs had been to the quarterfinals, doing so in 2013, 2015, and 2018. On July 10, 2019, Orlando City hosted New York City FC with a chance to make it to the semifinals for the first time in club history. A goal by Chris Mueller in the 61st minute seemed to be enough as backup goalkeeper Adam Grinwis had kept the Pigeons scoreless until Maxi Moralez equalized six minutes into injury time. After 30 minutes of scoreless extra time, the game had to be decided by penalties.
This game is probably mostly known to people for the “Running of the Wall” as the penalties were set up at the empty end of the stadium. Once that end had filled up with migrating Orlando City fans, Grinwis made his mark in club history. The Lions were quite clinical with their penalties as only Dwyer’s third penalty was saved. Grinwis had a pair of bookend saves, first stopping Alex Ring to start the shootout and then saving Maxime Chanot’s attempt to secure the advancement.
This break in sporting events makes it a good time to look back at some of the great moments in history. These are some of the greatest individual moments in the history of Orlando City Soccer Club. Do you agree with our list or do you think other performances are worth mentioning? Let us know in the comment below.