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.
I could not be more excited to bring to you the No. 3 moment of our countdown of the top 10 moments of 2022 for Orlando City SC, and it’s one of this writer’s favorite moments from the 2022 season: the absolute thrashing of the New York Red Bulls in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup semifinal. While this game wasn’t played in exactly the same Central Florida downpour as the driving sheets of rain that the Lions endured in their quarterfinal match against Nashville SC, the rain and the Lions poured it on throughout the match, propelling the team into the final.
While the end result ultimately became one of Orlando City’s best offensive results of the entire season, the game got off to a shaky start, as the visitors played the majority of the first half on the front foot. As the aggressors, the Red Bulls saw two golden scoring opportunities slip through their hands before the game had even reached the 20th minute of play.
Brazilian midfielder Luquinhas sent the first warning shot just wide of the left post in the 14th minute. Five minutes later, Luquinhas sent another scoring opportunity just wide of that same left post. Just a minute after that, after a poor clearing attempt from the Lions, Red Bulls forward Patryk Klimala sent a bicycle kick off the crossbar and, through a series of bounces that all seemed to favor the visitors, the ball found Dylan Nealis. From all angles, it looked like Nealis could simply walk the ball into the back of the net, and he might have, if not for the herculean effort of Pedro Gallase, who flew from left to right in a fraction of a second to deflect the ball with his left hand.
The visitors continued to press and the Lions found a few chances of their own from Alexandre Pato, but Lewis Morgan had other plans. A turnover by Pato in the 45th minute led to a break for the Red Bulls, and Morgan found the back of the next with a rocket from his left foot.
The first half looked as if it would end with Orlando City trailing 1-0, however, the Lions managed to find a late equalizer from a corner kick in the 47th minute. Mauricio Pereyra sent in a dangerous corner on the set piece which found a leaping Antonio Carlos at the near post. The center back sent a strong shot with pace towards the opposite back post. The ball found the post and ricocheted out to midfielder Cesar Araujo, who slotted the rebound into the back of the net for his first professional goal.
With the momentum swinging in their direction after the late equalizer, the Lions came out of the break looking like a different team completely. Just two minutes into the second half, Orlando City took the lead on a team goal which showcased some beautiful passing and ended up on the foot of a sliding Pereyra. To get to that point, the captain started the play by switching the field to Facundo Torres on the left, Torres laid the ball off for Joao Moutinho, who made a strong overlapping run to the end line before sending a cross back toward the center of the box, which is were Pereyra slotted it home. Truth be told, it is far better to watch this one than to read a description of it, so take a look below.
A 2-1 victory may have been viewed as sufficient, after the previous two Open Cup matches were decided by penalty kicks. But the Lions had other plans, and in the 61st minute the rout was officially on. From another set piece — this time sent into the box by Pato — the ball found the head of Benji Michel and then fell to foot of Araujo, who sent a first-touch shot into the back of the net, recording his second professional goal and first career brace.
Despite the driving rain, anyone inside the confines of Exploria Stadium could feel the passion and joy that was pouring out of Araujo as he celebrated his second goal of the match with his teammates.
Orlando City’s final two goals of the match came in quick succession in the 75th and 83rd minutes. Junior Urso set the first of those up by sending Torres in behind the defense. El Cuervo had plenty of time to pick out his spot and slot home the Lions’ fourth goal of the game.
Michel put the finishing touches on the win inside the final 10 minutes. Robin Jansson sent a perfect pass up the left to Torres and the Young Designated Player found the streaking Michel, who touched it home for the final margin.
A 5-1 thrashing of a strong Red Bulls team might have not been on the radar of many pundits going into the match, but by time the final whistle blew, the Lions were one step closer to realizing their collective dream of lifting a trophy for the city of Orlando.
Even a regular-season 5-1 win over a good New York side would be worthy of a spot in this list, but to do it in a cup semifinal and advance to a final in the competition for the first time makes it worthy of our No. 3 moment of 2022.
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 an improbable seven-game unbeaten streak.
5. Orlando City scores a late equalizer and then wins penalty shootout to oust rival Inter Miami from the U.S. Open Cup Round of 16.
4. Lions avenge a 2021 playoff loss at Nashville as Rodrigo Schlegel’s stunner ultimately sent a U.S. Open Cup quarterfinal match to a penalty shootout, with Orlando City advancing.