As we count down to the new year of 2022 — which will be Orlando City’s eighth in MLS and the Orlando Pride’s seventh in the NWSL — and say goodbye to 2021, it’s time to look back at the club’s 10 best moments of the year.
The Lions were in trouble. Orlando City was still in the playoff picture but had lost four consecutive times and the Lions were winless in five matches (0-4-1) — the team’s longest skid since Oscar Pareja took over as head coach prior to the 2020 season. The Lions badly needed a win to right the ship and remain in a suddenly crowded playoff hunt with just a few points separating several teams above and below the playoff line.
D.C. United entered the match having won its previous two matches and was looking to join the postseason party. The momentum the visitors brought into the contest was certainly not hurt when Julian Gressel opened the scoring just six minutes into the match. D.C. worked the ball up the right with some good, quick passes and the former Atlanta United player sent a rocket inside Pedro Gallese’s near post to put the Lions on the back foot early.
Orlando City pulled that goal back 11 minutes later to get back on level footing. Mauricio Pereyra sent a corner kick — won by Ruan — into the box and Junior Urso headed it toward goal. Bill Hamid made a good save but couldn’t control the rebound. Center back Robin Jansson was there to pounce and the Beefy Swede scored his second goal of the season by smashing it into the roof of the net, making it 1-1 in the 17th minute.
Orlando withstood some shaky moments and a few set pieces as the visitors tried to regain the lead, but the Lions then wasted an opportunity to take the lead in the 35th minute when Nani sent Benji Michel into the area. The Homegrown Player missed inches wide of the post and the game stayed at 1-1 entering halftime.
The Lions endured some sloppy play early in the second half before settling into the game again. But once Orlando regained its footing, D.C. started to play more cautiously and was more willing to settle for a draw if it couldn’t find its own winner in transition. As a result, there few clear-cut chances for either side through the second 45 minutes and time started to run out on what looked to be a sixth straight Orlando City match without a win.
Tesho Akindele sent a lunging shot on goal in the 88th minute that Hamid stopped and the D.C. defense was able to clear the ball off the line before Silvester van der Water could arrive as a draw seemed more and more likely with every passing second.
That changed deep in stoppage time.
Orlando won a late corner and due to some time wasting tactics, referee Guido Gonzales allowed the Lions to take it even though the six minutes of stoppage time given were up. Mueller stood over it and fizzed a dangerous line drive cross to the top of the six. Dike rose to meet it and flicked it toward the back post, where Hamid had no chance of reaching it. The ball found the bottom of the crossbar and then the inside of the far post for the game-winning goal at the death. Dike somehow found a pair of sunglasses in the post-goal mayhem of the celebration and put them on.
The 2-1 home win over D.C. United was huge for Orlando City. Not only did it stop the bleeding, but it also jump-started a strong finish for the Lions, who suffered only one loss in their final eight regular-season matches (3-1-4). That propelled Orlando into its second consecutive postseason. That final push started with Dike’s winning header. That’s why it’s a worthy inclusion among our top 10 moments of 2021.
Come back through New Year’s Eve as we count down the remainder of Orlando City’s top 10 moments of 2021.
Previous Top 10 Moments of 2021
10. Orlando City takes part in club’s first international competition against Liga MX side Santos Laguna in the Leagues Cup.
9. Orlando Pride get only their second win ever against Portland as Alex Morgan and Sydney Leroux lead the way.
8. Orlando City opens the 2021 MLS season with a club-record six-match unbeaten streak.
7. Orlando Pride open the 2021 NWSL season with a club-record seven-match unbeaten streak.