Alexandre Pato and Junior Urso scored second-half goals to lift Orlando City to a 2-1 win over the Tampa Bay Rowdies at Exploria Stadium in the third round of the 2022 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. All of the scoring took place in the second half as Orlando maintained its dominance in the I-4 Derby series and the Lions will move on to the fourth round of the competition.
“It is a very important game for our fans, for our club, and we are very proud to beat the Tampa Bay Rowdies today and we dedicate this to our people,” Head Coach Oscar Pareja said after the match. “I was very glad to see them in the stands, pushing our team in the difficult moments. So, we really enjoy this victory, with a lot of respect for Tampa, that came out with a great attitude in the game and a good team also.”
Pareja started a fairly strong lineup, with Mason Stajduhar in net behind a back line of Kyle Smith, Thomas Williams, Rodrigo Schlegel, and Ruan. Sebas Mendez and Andres Perea were in central midfield behind an attacking line of Benji Michel, Junior Urso, and Silvester van der Water, with Alexandre Pato up top.
The first 10 to 15 minutes saw the Rowdies come out on the front foot and controlling play. It was chippy at times but there was little consistency in when a foul would be called. Tampa Bay got the ball into the box a few times but didn’t generate much from it early, aside from winning a couple of corners.
The first clear-cut chance came in the 16th minute on the first real foray into the attacking end. Perea slipped van der Water down the right side and he took the shot on his right foot, forcing a save from Raiko Arozarena.
The Rowdies nearly got a gift in the 22nd minute when a hopeful cross into the area took a deflection off Schlegel and Stajduhar did well to collect it before it could get behind him.
In the 35th minute, the Lions took a short corner and Pato played in a perfect back-post cross to Perea, but the young midfielder got his header badly wrong and his shot was well off target from point-blank range.
Perea had a chance to shoot from the top of the box in the 40th minute but instead opted to pass left to Michel, who was covered. Benji did well to win the ball back from the defender but then fired a shot right into the defender’s shins for an easy block.
In the end, the play from Orlando was rather lackluster in the opening 45 minutes, with sloppy giveaways and a lack of much threat working the ball into good scoring positions. Tampa Bay did well to get into the attacking third and get in and around the box, but strong play from Schlegel and Williams, and solid team defending, typically snuffed out danger before it turned into a shot attempt.
Orlando City finished the half with more possession (53.3%-46.7%), but both teams attempted four shots and each got one on target. Tampa won more corners (4-2) and was slightly more accurate in the passing game (88.2%-87.4%).
“I thought we got exposed in the flanks especially,” Pareja said about the first half. “Not that we did not want to get close to those wingbacks, but they looked far from our control or at least our challenge. I didn’t see us connected when we did not have the ball, and once we got it back, I thought we were in different positions and we couldn’t create sequences either. So, I didn’t like the first half. I don’t think the boys did either.
“We needed to get into the game and the boys did. The second half I liked a lot.”
Pareja made three halftime substitutions, withdrawing Smith, Perea, and van der Water and putting Joao Moutinho, Robin Jansson, and Mauricio Pereyra into the match. The Lions shifted into a five-man back line in defense and three when on the attack.
The change helped Orlando City maintain more possession and it paid off on the offensive end. Pereyra slipped Michel into the box and he was knocked down by Aaron Guillen. The Tampa defender was booked and referee Daniel Gutierrez pointed to the spot. Pato used a stutter-step approach and buried the spot kick to make it 1-0 in the 52nd minute.
Pato nearly had another five minutes later. A well-worked counter ended up with Ruan on the right side. The fullback found Pato at the top of the area and he took a quick shot. However, the forward didn’t make good contact and scuffed his shot right at the goalkeeper.
Tampa created some danger two minutes later with defender Laurence Wyke getting to the end line and crossing the ball through the six, but none of his teammates were there.
The Lions doubled the lead in the 63rd minute. Pereyra sent a chip pass over the top that fell for Urso, who swept it past Arozarena, making it 2-0.
“I’m really happy with the goal,” Urso said. “This is important for me. I want to help the team every time.”
After the goal, in a scene reminiscent of a Daryl Dike goal in the past, Urso ran to The Wall and somehow ended up with a pair of sunglasses on his face during the celebration.
“I was running, then I saw the guy. He said, ‘Hey, come here,’ and then I saw he had sunglasses. And you guys know what happened with that,” Urso said. “That was a crazy celebration, but I was really happy.”
The Rowdies pulled the goal right back. Orlando fell asleep defensively and Jansson played passively as he’d picked up a soft yellow card just moments earlier. That allowed a ball in from Stajduhar’s right that found Lucky Mkosana in front for a tap-in as he beat Williams to the spot. The Rowdies were back in the game in the 65th minute.
“I think it took a deflection,” Williams said of the pass in front of goal. “I think the guy just got the best of me, he got in front of me, and he scored the goal.”
“I think we have to be more concentrated to close every gap,” Urso said about giving the goal back quickly. “But that’s fine, after that we played well. We kept more of the ball, but we have to be more concentrated to (not concede) the goal.”
Tampa pushed for an equalizer but didn’t create many chances. Orlando was content to take the air out of the ball and pass it around to eat up time, looking to find an opening for an odd-man rush.
Yann Ekra got some space from about 25 yards out in the 80th minute but he sent his shot over Stajduhar’s crossbar. It was Tampa’s last open look at goal in the match.
In the 91st minute, Tampa Bay Head Coach Neill Collins was sent off. Collins had been booked at halftime for dissent and early in stoppage time he ran onto the field to kick the ball to his players after a free kick had been awarded to the Rowdies. The game was halted while the official made sure Collins left the field.
The Rowdies got a couple of late balls into the area but the Lions dealt with them and saw out the rest of stoppage time, holding on for the 2-1 win.
Orlando City dominated in the second half and finished with more possession (58%-42%), shots (10-7), shots on target (5-2), and passing accuracy (86.6%-84.7%). The Rowdies edged the Lions in corner kicks (4-3).
“I like to play derbies and Oscar was telling us don’t play like a friendly game or they will come to push us,” Urso said. “So, we were OK, I think. We were concentrated on the game. It was hard, because they know how to play, but we got to win in front of our fans.”
The Lions will learn their next Open Cup opponents on Thursday and will be back in action on Sunday, returning to MLS play against the New York Red Bulls at home.