As we count down to the new year of 2023 — which will be Orlando City’s ninth in MLS and the Orlando Pride’s eighth in the NWSL — and say goodbye to 2022, it’s time to look back at the club’s 10 best moments of the year as selected by The Mane Land staff via vote.
Normal time ended with Orlando City and Inter Miami scoreless in U.S. Open Cup play in the Round of 16 on May 25. But the game should have had at least one goal by then. By the end of extra time, each team had a goal in open play, requiring a shootout to decide things. And, in our No. 5 moment of 2022, the Lions won another nervy shootout to knock Inter Miami out of the competition and advance to the quarterfinals.
The Lions dominated play in the opening half hour but couldn’t find a breakthrough with the final pass or shot. That nearly caught them when Inter Miami fashioned the best chance of the opening 45 minutes in transition. Mason Stajduhar was able to push a shot by Indiana Vassilev off the post in the 32nd minute to preserve the deadlock at the time.
At the other end, Damion Lowe stuck out a leg to prevent Tesho Akindele having a sitter just one minute later.
The Lions dominated the stats sheet in the opening half but had nothing to show for it. The second half was more evenly played but Orlando City still held a lopsided advantage in most statistical categories at the end of 90 minutes. But without a goal on the scoreboard, the Tropic Thunder rivalry went into extra time.
Mauricio Pereyra tried to open the scoring just two minutes into extra time, but he fizzed his shot just over the bar. That looked like a costly miss about 10 minutes later when Jean Mota opened the scoring for Miami. Joevin Jones had the ball at the top left corner of the box and the ball got away from him but Mota ran onto it and struck a hard, left-footed shot that was able to sneak past Stajduhar at the near post, giving the visitors the lead.
Things seemed bleak being down a goal in extra time but the scenario changed quickly. Inter Miami’s lead lasted all of three minutes.
Facundo Torres played a give-and-go quickly with Pereyra to get inside the top of the box. He drifted to his left to clear traffic and lashed a shot just inside the left post and past Drake Callender to even things up in the 97th minute.
The Lions had more of the chances as extra time wound down but Orlando City needed a massive play from Mikey Halliday to prevent the Herons from stealing the win late. Halliday’s timely block of Leonardo Campana’s shot with a gaping empty net allowed the game to get to penalties.
Despite holding the advantage in possession (64.7%-35.3%), shots (28-12), shots on target (6-3), corners (12-3), and passing accuracy (88.7%-81.9%), Orlando City did not finish open play with more goals than Inter Miami, so the game went to a penalty shootout.
Prior to the spot kicks, Orlando City goalkeeper and folk hero Adam Grinwis had some important advice for Stajduhar:
“He always says, ‘Just rock up and be sick,’” Stajduhar said.
Stajduhar did rock up and he was sick. Campana went first for Miami and hit the crossbar but the ball deflected in to give the visitors the early advantage. Ercan Kara quickly leveled the shootout as Orlando’s first shooter.
Stajduhar then made his biggest play of the game, guessing correctly and diving to stop Bryce Duke’s attempt. Robin Jansson then scored to give the Lions the advantage after two rounds.
DeAndre Yedlin fired well over the bar on Miami’s third attempt and Andres Perea converted to give Orlando City a commanding 3-1 lead after three rounds. Ariel Lassiter kept the Herons’ hopes alive by converting as the fourth Inter Miami shooter. But Pereyra fired home to win the shootout 4-2, with the Lions converting each spot kick that they attempted.
Orlando City players and fans experienced not only the joy of advancing to the U.S. Open Cup quarterfinals, but also the satisfaction of the Lions having knocked out in-state rivals for the second time in the competition — Orlando began its USOC title run with a third-round win over I-4 Derby rival Tampa Bay — and in the most painful way possible.
The magnitude of the Tropic Thunder rivalry win, the ability to advance to the quarterfinals, and more shootout heroics from both the Lions who took shots and Stajduhar — who faced them — makes this a worthy inclusion to our list of the club’s top 10 moments of the calendar year.
Come back through New Year’s Eve as we count down the remainder of Orlando City’s top 10 moments of 2022.
Previous Top Moments of 2022
10. OCB nabs first win in MLS NEXT Pro play after joining the new league.
9. Orlando City signs Facundo Torres as a Young Designated Player ahead of the 2022 season.
7. Jack Lynn scores 15 goals in a record-setting season with Orlando City B.
6. Orlando Pride reel off improbable seven-game unbeaten streak.