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.
Back on June 25, Orlando City traveled to Fort Lauderdale to take on the poorly named Inter Miami CF. The match was the Lions’ third match in a week. Orlando City won both of the previous matches, defeating Toronto FC 3-2, and decimating the San Jose Earthquakes 5-0, but it’s never easy heading into a rivalry match like Tropic Thunder on short rest.
Remember that Orlando City was without Pedro Gallese, Ruan, and João Moutinho for this match, and neither Chris Mueller nor Benji Michel got the start. Given that Gallese was unavailable, Óscar Pareja utilized Tottenham Hotspur loanee Brandon Austin in goal. Kyle Smith and Michael Halliday filled in at fullback and Silvester van der Water got the start in place of Mueller.
Meanwhile, Miami had a normal match week following its 1-0 loss at D.C. United on June 19, and looked to take advantage by playing with a lot of emotion and intensity. Miami challenged Orlando’s backup keeper early and often, forcing Austin to make a big save only three minutes into the match. The Lions played themselves into the match and things settled down through halftime.
Pareja brought Mueller on at the half to try to raise the tempo, and it made a difference as Orlando City created some chances, including a free kick that Nani missed. It seemed that a goal wasn’t coming, and the longer it took, the worse the chances seemed for a tired Orlando City. In fact, Miami finally opened the scoring with the first goal of the match by Gonzalo Higuain past the young Austin for a 1-0 lead in the 67th minute.
Come off the bench, score the opening goal!— Major League Soccer (@MLS) June 26, 2021
Higuaín puts @InterMiamiCF up 1-0! #MIAvORL pic.twitter.com/0wX2xbOUeg
Fortunately, it didn’t take Orlando City long to get back on the front foot, and in the 73rd minute, the Money Badger scored his first goal of the season to equalize for the Lions. It was as clean and simple of a buildup as one could want in a goal. Robin Jansson sent a perfect long ball down the right to Nani, who one-timed it to Mueller, who took it first touch for the goal.
And just like that we are TIED @cmueller1662 comes up huge for @OrlandoCitySC pic.twitter.com/95PmawG6tv— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) June 26, 2021
Despite tired legs, the Lions kept up the pressure and in the 80th minute the Miami defenders did something ill-advised. They neglected to close down Nani at the edge of the box.
A goal so nice we watched it twice.*— Major League Soccer (@MLS) June 26, 2021
*more than twice but who's counting pic.twitter.com/fwuOeXgkaE
The shot turned out to be the winning goal, and Orlando City earned their first road win in the series against Inter Miami. It also capped the Lions’ best week of the season with nine out of nine points earned, and a whopping 10 goals scored. The golazos scored by two of Orlando City’s now departed wingers, and a road win in the rivalry, is enough to earn this match the No. 2 spot in our countdown.
Come back tomorrow on New Year’s Eve as we bring you the No. 1 moment of Orlando City SC’s top 10 moments of 2021.
Previous Top 10 Moments of 2021
10. Orlando City takes part in the 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 start the 2021 NWSL season with a club-record seven-game unbeaten run.
6. Orlando City gets late Daryl Dike goal to beat D.C. United in the 97th minute to end slide and restart playoff push.
5. Orlando Pride end slide and rekindle their playoff hopes with 2-0 road win over the Chicago Red Stars, giving interim coach Becky Burleigh her first NWSL win.
4. Lions smash San Jose Earthquakes 5-0 to equal their most lopsided MLS win behind braces from Benji Michel and Daryl Dike.
3. Orlando City rallies twice in comeback win vs. Atlanta United as Mason Stajduhar wins in his MLS debut.