Robin Jansson scored early but Diego Rubio equalized in first-half stoppage time as Orlando City and the Colorado Rapids drew 1-1 in preseason action at Exploria Stadium. The Lions remain winless in the 2022 preseason (0-2-1) but played pretty well overall against last year’s surprise team from the Western Conference.
The big news for Orlando City was that Young Designated Player Facundo Torres made his Orlando City debut and played nearly the full game.
“I really thought it was a hard exercise, a tough one, and seems like competition is getting closer,” Head Coach Oscar Pareja said after the match. “I saw the team in some moments of the game with that taste of just being in the season already. So that’s good.”
Pareja’s starting lineup included Pedro Gallese in goal behind a back line of Joao Moutinho, Jansson, Rodrigo Schlegel, and Ruan. Sebas Mendez and Cesar Araujo patrolled the central midfield behind Mauricio Pereyra and wingers Torres — his first time featuring for the Lions — and Benji Michel, with Alexandre Pato up top.
Orlando City wasted no time getting into the attack. Ruan took the ball down the right side and crossed over for Jansson who had bombed forward in the attack. The Beefy Swede finished into the roof of the net in the third minute to put the Lions on top.
“I got the ball in the back and advanced a little bit and then I find Mauro (Pereyra). Mauro turned away from the goal and I was trying to give him an option to give the ball back, but he turned it around to Ruan (by way of Torres) who was running up the right side. I continued forward because no one was in the box. I tried to fill that spot. So, it went well this time. So I’m happy for that.”
The Lions held the possession for most of the early part of the game but Colorado grew into the game. Jansson did well to block a Rubio shot at the top of the box and then Colorado won a corner off a heavy touch by Moutinho moments later. That corner led to a second on a recycled ball that was cleared out to safety after a poor touch by Pato in his own box. Michael Barrios then tried his luck from just inside the area in the 19th minute but fired wide. The Lions turned the ball over on the restart and that led to a Rapids corner. Auston Trusty headed well wide on the set piece.
Orlando held a lot of possession but the movement was often slow and players seemed a bit hesitant at times. The Lions were close to slipping someone in behind several times but couldn’t quite find the quality to pull it off.
Jonathan Lewis won a dangerous free kick for Colorado from the middle, about 10 yards outside the area but Rubio hit his shot wide of the left post in the 33rd minute.
Torres showed his speed and quickness throughout the first half and nearly got in behind the defense in the 36th minute after winning a header in transition. Trusty took him down and earned a booking, giving the Lions a free kick from long range on the right side. Michel got his head on the cross from Pereyra but a whistle blew the play dead with Schlegel looming in front of goalkeeper William Yarbrough.
In the 41st minute, Torres fired a shot from range that sailed just over the goal while getting pulled from behind by Danny Wilson but no free kick was awarded.
Rubio equalized in first-half stoppage time for the visitors. Keegan Rosenberry sent in a back-post cross from the right and Orlando’s defense fell asleep, allowing Rubio to tap home. The clubs went to the break tied at 1-1.
“I liked a lot the first 15 minutes, when we came out very sharp and then after that Colorado had some initiative with the ball and started just getting some control,” Pareja said.
The visitors nearly scored seconds after the restart. The Lions got caught in transition and a good cross from the right found Lucas Esteves at the left post but his header crashed off of Gallese’s crossbar and the Lions were able to clear the danger.
The majority of the second half was played between the penalty boxes after that early chance but Pereyra drew a foul in the 56th minute and the Lions thought they’d taken the lead on the ensuing set piece. Torres took the free kick and sent a back-post ball to the right. Pato put the ball in the net but the flag came up for offside and the replay showed it was a good call.
A minute later, Barrios found the ball on the left with defenders in front of him. After making multiple fakes and working his way left to right, he fired a shot on goal but right at Gallese.
Pato nearly sent Torres in behind in the 62nd minute with a flicked header off a goal kick but the flag came up again. This time there wasn’t a replay on the scoreboard and it looked like the young Uruguayan had timed his run correctly.
The last good look for either side came on an Orlando City free kick in the 77th minute after Torres drew another foul from about 30 yards out. Pereyra took the set piece and went for goal. His shot was heading for the net but Yarbrough got over and made a diving one-handed save to keep the game tied.
There was no stoppage time and the game finished at 1-1.
“The preseason started off a little bit like like this (makes a ‘so-so motion’), but now I feel like we start to get a little bit of the connections and the play that we want to play out there,” Jansson said. “So the coming two weeks, we still need to work hard to get those connections, to get the tactics, and how we’re going to attack the game.”
“Second half was probably a midfield game for both (teams) without many actions in either box,” Pareja said. “We will keep improving but a good good match. I like it overall. I thought it was a very good exercise to start with.”
The coach also seemed happy with Torres’ first runout in purple.
“Facu is bringing the joy in his game,” Pareja said. “You all could see he’s dynamic and his commitment with the ball and trying to create actions. It’s normal for the new players when they have this competition they’re finding things they are not used to — maybe the speed of the game, the physicality of the league and all those things. But what I could see today was a moment of dynamic and technique and that combination that’s going to help us a lot. We’re very happy with him.”
Pareja said the coaching staff saw this game as an opportunity to let Torres and Araujo play the majority of the game. Both played well overall, and they’ll only get more fluid with their teammates as they rack up more minutes.
“It’s good to get Facundo into the team and starting to get the connections with the guys out there,” Jansson said. “So that’s good. And I’m happy to see that.”
The Lions will face USL Championship side Miami FC on Wednesday as the 2022 preseason rolls on.