Orlando City entered Saturday night’s match-up with the Chicago Fire on a four-game unbeaten streak but it wasn’t the most convincing one. The Lions were coming off three consecutive 1-1 draws and that was wrapped around a 1-0 loss at home in the Leagues Cup. But, despite the offense still not coming back to life, and the loss of Nani at the half-hour mark, the Lions managed to grind out a hard-fought 1-0 win at Exploria Stadium.
The night began with a 45-minute delay for lightning in the area and rain fell throughout much of the game, making for a slick ball and field and players’ touches — particularly in traffic — suffered as a result. Neither side mustered a lot of offense in a first half that was played mainly between the two penalty areas, but Orlando came closes when Silvester van der Water rang a shot off the left post. The ball kicked back across the front of goal but no one could get to it to tap it home.
Shortly after halftime, the Lions struck for the game’s only goal. Tesho Akindele made his relentless pressure pay off by nicking the ball off of defender Mauricio Pineda, knocking it to teammate Benji Michel. The Homegrown dribbled toward the top of the box and smashed a shot just inside the left post for the opener.
It was perhaps a bit of justice for Akindele, who appeared to be pulled down by his shirt at the top of the area by Pineda earlier in the match. The referee had a look but did not see enough to overturn his initial decision of no denial of a goal-scoring opportunity. But that was certainly a debatable play and even though it only would have resulted in a free kick from just outside the area, Pineda would have been sent off and Chicago made to play the rest of the way while down a man.
The Lions prevailed anyway and it was good to see the Homegrown Players have a big night for Orlando City. In addition to Michel scoring the goal, Mason Stajduhar got his first shutout, and midfielder Raul Aguilera Jr. made his MLS debut.
We hope you enjoy these photos from a wet night at Exploria Stadium.
Images: Dan MacDonald
Words: Michael Citro