Major League Soccer announced the opening match for every team today and Orlando City will host CF Montreal on Sunday, Feb. 27 at 1 p.m. It will be the eighth consecutive season since joining the top flight that the Lions will be home for the first game, but it will be the first time Orlando has faced Montreal on opening day.
In addition, Orlando City will be the opponent for the Chicago Fire’s home opener. That game will take place at Soldier Field at 6 p.m. on Saturday, March 5.
“Playing at Exploria Stadium in front of our fans is special, as they create an incredible game day atmosphere,” Orlando City SC Chairman Mark Wilf said in a club press release. “We’re excited to kick off the 2022 season at home, and begin our eighth season in Major League Soccer in front of the best fans in the league.”
Montreal will become the fifth different team Orlando City has hosted on opening day in the club’s eight years in MLS. The Lions have previously opened against New York City FC three times, Real Salt Lake twice, and Atlanta United and D.C. United once each.
Orlando will try to keep its unbeaten opening day run going. The Lions have only won once in the season opener, back in 2017 when the club christened Exploria Stadium (then known as Orlando City Stadium) with a 1-0 win over NYCFC. However, the club has drawn its other six openers for a combined opening day record of 1-0-6.
The Lions are 6-7-3 against Montreal in the all-time league series (7-7-3 in all competitions), but just 2-4-2 at home. The most recent meeting was the 2-0 Orlando City victory that pushed the Lions into the 2021 MLS playoffs on Decision Day back on Nov. 7. Sebas Mendez scored his first MLS goal to open the scoring in the second half and Daryl Dike added an insurance goal.
The last meeting in Orlando resulted in the teams drawing 1-1 at Exploria Stadium on Oct. 20. Chris Mueller struck for the Lions just before halftime but Rudy Camacho answered on a corner kick header shortly after the restart. Orlando out-played Montreal for about 60 of the 90 minutes but struggled to put the final ball into the net.
The first meeting of 2021 came at Exploria on Sept. 15 with Orlando falling 4-2 and finishing the game with just nine men after both Nani and Andres Perea were sent off. Romell Quioto led Montreal with a goal and two assists. Mathieu Choiniere and Quioto put Montreal up 2-0 but despite already being down one man, Robin Jansson and Ruan tied things up. But the visitors got two more from Lassi Lappalainen and Sunusi Ibrahim.
Last year, the teams met at Red Bull Arena as the then-Impact played home games in New Jersey due to the pandemic. Orlando City got a Dike goal in the 39th minute to win 1-0 on Nov. 1, 2020. It was the second meeting of the 2020 season, with Orlando also beating Montreal 1-0 in the MLS is Back Tournament knockout rounds on July 25 to advance to the quarterfinals. Tesho Akindele scored the game’s only goal on a Montreal defensive mistake. Orlando had controlled the game but was struggling to finish. Ultimately, the one goal was enough.
Orlando City snapped a six-game winless streak against Montreal (0-5-1) in MLS regular-season play dating back to 2016 when the Lions put the Impact to the sword in a 3-0 drubbing at Stade Saputo on June 1, 2019. Nani (penalty), Akindele, and Will Johnson supplied the offense that day.
The main reason the Impact had such success against Orlando during that span was the play of its defense and of former talisman Ignacio Piatti. The Lions fell 3-1 at Exploria Stadium back on March 16, 2019, and Piatti was a big reason why, scoring his ninth and 10th career goals against Orlando, adding to a strike by Orji Okwonkwo. Dom Dwyer added a cosmetic goal late for Orlando City to spoil the clean sheet.
Montreal did not allow a goal against the Lions in 2018, sweeping the two-game set from Orlando and the Impact shut out Orlando City in three of the six meetings in that 5-0-1 run. The lone draw in that time frame was a 3-3 shootout in Orlando in 2017, in which the Impact led deep in stoppage time, only to see Jonathan Spector’s well-placed header steal the Lions a point.
The first match in the Impact’s successful run vs. Orlando occurred Oct. 2, 2016, when Montreal stole a 1-0 win in Orlando after bunkering down and hitting on a Dominic Oduro counter-attack goal. The Lions dominated the match, out-shooting the Impact, 22-4, and holding 66.8% of the possession (74.2% in the second half). Oduro’s goal was the only shot on target by Montreal and it eliminated the Lions from playoff contention that year.
Orlando won the first two meetings in 2016 by a combined score of 6-2. The teams split three meetings in 2015, with each getting a win and a loss to go with one draw.
The 2022 season and home opener for Orlando City will be the earliest to date in the calendar year. The previous earliest start for the Lions was in 2020 when the season kicked off at Exploria Stadium and resulted in a 0-0 draw against Real Salt Lake. The last two season openers (both under Oscar Pareja) have been 0-0 draws.
Orlando City MLS Season/Home Openers
2015: 1-1 draw vs. New York City FC, March 8
2016: 2-2 draw vs. Real Salt Lake, March 6
2017: 1-0 win vs. New York City FC, March 5
2018: 1-1 draw vs. D.C. United, March 3
2019: 2-2 draw vs. New York City FC, March 2
2020: 0-0 draw vs. Real Salt Lake, Feb. 29
2021: 0-0 draw vs. Atlanta, April 17
2022: vs. CF Montreal, Feb. 27