Orlando City looked like it would cruise to an easy win over the Columbus Crew at Exploria Stadium after getting goals from Daryl Dike and Silvester van der Water to go up 2-0. But Antonio Carlos scored a bizarre own goal early in the second half and the Crew tied it up moments later before Junior Urso’s goal lifted the Lions (10-4-8, 38 points) to a 3-2 win over Columbus (7-10-6, 27 points).
The win lifted the Lions to their longest unbeaten streak of the year at seven matches (3-0-4) and it was Orlando City’s fifth consecutive win over Columbus. Orlando jumped back into second place in the Eastern Conference with the wins tiebreaker over Nashville.
“It was a great effort by the players,” Orlando City Head Coach Oscar Pareja said after the match. “Once again they took us over many hurdles today. The game was like a rollercoaster of emotions for us — dominating not just the score but dominating the game in the first half. Then we conceded two goals that came from nowhere. That put us in a difficult situation emotionally.”
With Pedro Gallese on international duty and Mason Stajduhar unavailable due to injury, Pareja started Adam Grinwis in goal for the first time since he was re-signed. Grinwis lined up behind a back line of Joao Moutinho, Robin Jansson, Carlos, and Ruan. Joey DeZart and Urso started in central midfield, with Chris Mueller and van der Water on the outside and Nani and Dike up top in the attack.
Nani got the game’s first shot attempt with a long free kick that he got on frame but from that distance Eloy Room was able to get over and make the save in the 10th minute.
Six minutes later, Ruan got down the right side and cut a pass back for Dike who directed it toward goal. The ball hit a defender and came back off Dike and caromed toward the net but Room made the save.
Columbus was dangerous on the counter and from the wings and Derrick Etienne’s cross just needed a touch in the 21st minute but none of his Crew teammates were close enough to provide it.
Mueller cut inside and had an excellent scoring chance in the 24th minute but he made a mess of his right-footed effort and hit it into the sky. Nevertheless, the Lions opened the scoring moments later.
Nani won the ball and sent it forward over the top from his own defensive half. Dike out-muscled Aboubacar Keita and broke in on goal down the right. He faked a couple of times and then smashed a shot into the roof of the net to make it 1-0 in the 26th minute. There was a delay for the video assistant referee to take a look to see if Nani had fouled Pedro Santos, but the goal was awarded. It was Dike’s third of the year and first since June 22 vs. San Jose.
“It was a good win from Nani and then, you know, battling with my UVA teammate Abouba (Keita),” Dike said. “Once I got the ball I just saw the grass in front of me and the goal in front of me. I think that’s when the instincts kind of kick in and that’s when you do anything you can to get the ball in the back of the net, and that’s where it ended up.”
The Lions struck again three minutes later. Ruan cut a ball back from the right corner to van der Water, who sent what appeared to be a cross in for Mueller but he couldn’t get a touch on it and it bounced into the net to double Orlando’s lead in the 29th minute. It was the Dutchman’s first goal since July 30 against Atlanta and his third of the year.
Columbus spent much of the rest of the half winning the ball in the middle of the field and trying to score in transition. Harrison Afful sent a cross-shot just wide of the far post in the 32nd minute. Grinwis then made a spectacular save to deny Lucas Zelarayan from outside the box in the 36th minute. Zelarayan had a couple of dangerous free kick opportunities but hit them off the wall of defenders as the half wound down.
The best chance for Orlando down the stretch fell for Mueller but he fired his shot on target only for Dike to stray into its path and block it. The Lions took a 2-0 lead into the half but the Crew had built some momentum in the final minutes of the opening 45.
Columbus held the advantage in shots (8-7) but Orlando got more on target (4-1). The Crew held the advantage in possession (51.7%-48.3%), passing accuracy (81%-79%), and corners (5-1).
The Lions roared out of the locker room looking to put the match away and nearly did so in the 46th minute. Urso stole the ball from Santos, took it to the top of the box and tried to finesse it around Room, just inside the left post. However, the Crew keeper did well to make a diving, one-handed save.
The Crew got back into the match on a strange play. The ball was knocked high in the air with two Lions and one Columbus player about 10 yards in front of Grinwis’ goal. Carlos went high to head it away but ended up nodding it just inside the right post and into his own net to put the Crew on the board in the 52nd minute.
“It was a fluky moment,” said Grinwis, who won in his first MLS start since 2018. “It took a little deflection. The ball went sky high and I kind of assessed the situation. I saw Antonio Carlos going up to battle at six yards away. I would take him 10 (times) out of 10 in this league to win that header and he did, and it was just an unfortunate bounce where it kind of comes back towards school, as opposed to going away from it.”
That goal seemed to unsettle the Orlando defense, as the Lions conceded the equalizer just two minutes later. A good passing sequence by the Crew, combined with Carlos stepping up and leaving room behind him, sent Miguel Berry in behind and he beat Grinwis to tie things up at 2-2. VAR Jorge Gonzalez took a long look at the play to see if Etienne was offside in the buildup to the goal. The play was close but it wasn’t judged to be a clear and obvious error and the goal stood up.
“It was a tough moment for us and that’s when the character, the togetherness, and the glue that this team has came out again and took us over that hurdle,” Pareja said.
While waiting for the video review, Dike was in the center circle, visibly urging the crowd to make noise.
“I looked around and everyone was kind of obviously in shock, because going up from two-nil up to being 2-2, I think it’s a big shock,” Dike said. “In moments like that I truly believe in the 12th-man effect. With the crowd pushing us, you can instantly see the players, including myself, having a little lift, having a little extra burst of energy and extra belief. I think having that kind of support around you, especially in a situation like that, is important.”
Pareja sent on Mauricio Pereyra — a player who he said he didn’t want to use for more than a few minutes due to his ongoing recovery from a knock — and Benji Michel just after the goal to settle the team down and it worked.
“The game was asking for somebody to settle the pace of the team and just try to be more creative in that zone,” Pareja said. “Just being able to bring the boys from the bench now and have people who can change the direction of the game, it will make us a very strong team.”
Just eight minutes after the subs were introduced, the Lions took the lead. Dike played a ball back to Urso just outside the area and the Bear picked out a spot and fired through traffic just inside the left post to restore Orlando’s lead at 3-2. Room didn’t see the shot come through the crowd until it was too late to do anything about it and the eventual game-winner found its way home in the 69th minute. Like Dike and van der Water, Urso scored his third of the year.
“It was a great third goal,” Pareja said.
With the Crew needing a goal, Caleb Porter sent on some offensive subs in the form of Erik Hurtado and Bradley Wright-Phillips. Orlando continued to stay organized and looked for insurance, which Mueller nearly found in the 77th minute when he sent a ball toward the net that sliced just wide to the right.
Columbus sent in crosses, looking for someone to get onto one but most of those found the heads of Carlos, Jansson and Moutinho. Pereyra sent a ridiculous ball behind Vito Wormgoor in the 84th minute that should have provided an insurance goal by substitute Tesho Akindele. Akindele beat Room from the left side, only to see his shot skip an inch or two wide of the right post.
Pareja sent on Rodrigo Schlegel for Mueller and went five at the back for the final minutes and the Lions were able to prevent any good chances and spent some time taking the ball to the attacking corners to bleed clock. The ref blew the full time whistle just after Moutinho blasted a shot just wide of the left post from the top of the area.
Orlando City held a slim edge in shots (13-12) and had more on target (6-2), while Columbus won more corners (5-2), and held slight advantages in possession (51.9%-48.1%) and passing accuracy (82.6%-81.7%).
“There are things that we need to be better, of course,” Pareja said. “We would like to keep being solid defensively. But scoring three goals today by the players is great.”
While it was far from a perfect win, it was an emotional one for Grinwis, who battled back from a torn ACL while playing at the USL Championship level and to get back to winning an MLS game was a great moment for him.
“It’s just an honor to play in front of such a great committed fan base. Feels good to be home,” Grinwis said after getting his first MLS win since 2018. “Tough to put into words. I think these are the kinds of situations I was dreaming about and was telling myself, ‘No, I believe it can happen,’ although I’ve not seen anybody go through an injury in the second division and then find their way back into MLS and then play.
“But this game is crazy, and through a lot of prayer and a lot of hard work, I found myself in this position. And I want to hold on tight because it feels amazing to be back out there.”
The Lions will travel north to face Atlanta United on the road next Friday night in their next match.