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.
Closing in on the top spot we first take time to enjoy the No. 2 moment on our countdown of the top 10 moments of 2022 for Orlando City SC, and it is the come-from-behind victory over the Columbus Crew on Decision Day that sent the Lions to the playoffs for a third season in a row. Like it or hate it, Decision Day in MLS can be exciting — even if nerve-wracking — and that was the case with this Eastern Conference clash. Fortunately, the Bear, the Crow, and a home crowd were too much for the visitors and Orlando City won the day.
It often happens that in win-or-go-home matches the teams will play conservatively not wanting to lose rather than looking to win. The Lions certainly approached the first half that way, though Ruan did earn a free kick on a foul by Pedro Santos, but Orlando City was not able to capitalize. Junior Urso also took a shot from distance but that was it for the offense.
Columbus settled into the match a bit quicker than the Lions, and may have taken the lead in the 35th minute if not from a great save by Pedro Gallese. However, it didn’t take much longer for the Crew to pull ahead as Derrick Etienne put the visitors on the scoreboard in the 38th minute.
Etienne hurt himself on the play and was replaced by former Lion, Kevin Molino, because there’s always room for more drama.
Orlando City was forced to open things up after going down a goal, but was unable to generate a response in the first half, having been down in possession (50.9%-49.1%), passing accuracy, (88.6%-88.3%), shots (7-3), shots on target (3-1), and corners (3-0).
Coming out of the locker room in the second half, Óscar Pareja switched tactics and employed Junior Urso, Cesar Araujo, and Mauricio Pereyra as a three-man midfield, opening things up for the offense. As Orlando City earned more possession further up the pitch, Pereyra almost found Ercan Kara in the box, but the pass was too hard. Then in the 56th minute, he was able to get the assist on Urso’s goal to even up the score.
Both teams were now playing for the win, with the Crew getting away with a handball not seen by referee Alex Chilowicz, and on the other end Gallese deflected a shot by Cucho Hernández.
You may have noticed I haven’t really mentioned Facundo Torres much so far, but that’s because you save the best for last. Torres took a shot in the 80th minute that went out for a corner kick. His outswinger was headed back across goal by Rodrigo Schlegel to Benji Michel, who took a shot that hit the arm of Crew defender Milos Degenek, giving Orlando City a penalty kick — after Chilowicz took a look at it on the monitor, that is.
Orlando’s Young Designated Player then stepped up to show his quality from the spot in the 84th minute.
The Lions then had to see out the remainder of the match plus stoppage time. Gallese once again proved why he is so important to Orlando City’s success, stopping two shots by the Crew’s Lucas Zelarayán in the 86th and 96th minutes. Ultimately, Orlando City made the playoffs in a hard-fought match on Decision Day in front of a joyous crowd at Exploria Stadium.
Of course, it wasn’t just making the playoffs that was important. Unlike the Seattle Sounders, the Lions didn’t miss out on the playoffs after winning a trophy. It was also the third trip to the postseason in a row for Pareja’s team. It was the cap to a regular season fraught with challenges that the club, the supporters, and those of us who cover the team could enjoy. That is why it is our No. 2 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.