Ruan and Facundo Torres scored in the first half and Orlando City survived in the second period for a 2-1 win over Charlotte FC at Exploria Stadium. The Lions (5-3-2, 17 points) had control of the match until a questionable penalty allowed Christian Fuchs to pull one back at the hour mark, but Orlando was able to hold off expansion Charlotte (3-6-1, 10 points) to claim all three points in the first meeting between the teams.
Charlotte FC remained winless on the road (0-5-1) since joining MLS and Orlando got a much-needed home win, improving to 3-3-0 at Exploria Stadium.
“It’s good to get back to the good results, the victory, the three points, the goals,” Orlando City Head Coach Oscar Pareja said after the match. “I feel very pleased with the effort of the players and just coming from a difficult result and getting this one is what we needed.”
Pareja’s lineup included Pedro Gallese in goal behind a back line of Joao Moutinho, Robin Jansson, Rodrigo Schlegel, and Ruan. Cesar Araujo and Junior Urso took their spots in central midfield behind an attacking line of Benji Michel, Mauricio Pereyra, and Torres, with Ercan Kara up top.
Charlotte got off to the quicker start in the match, pressing high and creating issues for the Lions in the midfield. Daniel Rios and Christian Ortiz sent shots wide in the game’s early moments.
Orlando’s first chance came in the 14th minute after earning a corner. The Lions played the corner short and Pereyra sent a cross that hit the back post and bounced out. Torres sent the ball back in for Michel to head on target but his shot was no problem for Kristijan Kahlina to save.
Two minutes later, the Lions broke the deadlock. Michel got the ball down the left side and after a cutback, he sent a cross into the area to Jansson, who had ventured forward to start the attack. Jansson flicked the ball to the back-post side for Ruan to finish easily into the empty side of Kahlina’s net.
“On the goal, I just traveled with the ball. I gave it to Benji and then I felt like I can go on this one,” Jansson said. “I flicked it a little bit to Ruan’s side because I felt like they were pushing to one side a lot. I’m not the most technical one but I tried to do something for a big guy, and it went over there. I couldn’t hit the ball on target because my body was not in that position so I had to do something else.”
Ruan was booked for his celebration, which included donning a Flash mask. After previous celebrations with sunglasses and cowboy hats, it seemed a strange place to draw the line, but nevertheless the right back went into Fotis Bazakos’ book.
Karol Swiderski tried his luck from distance in the 25th minute but he was under pressure and didn’t come close with his shot.
Pereyra sent Kara in behind in the 33rd minute and the Austrian fought off Christian Makoun the whole final third of the pitch. Kara tried to round Kahlina rather than shoot past him and in doing so he allowed Makoun enough room to get behind him to block Kara’s shot.
A minute later, Rios got his head on a cross in the box but Schlegel did well to pressure him into nodding well off target.
The visitors got a late opportunity to equalize just before halftime with a corner kick, but it was Orlando City that pounced. Orlando cleared and the ball ended up on Ruan’s foot as the speedy right back got 15 yards behind his defender. As he approached Kahlina’s goal, he spotted Torres on his right and sent the ball over for the Crow to finish easily. Torres’ goal in first-half stoppage time doubled Orlando’s lead just before the teams headed to the locker room.
Charlotte held more possession (51.5%-48.5%), and out-shot the Lions (5-4), but Orlando City got more shots on target (3-0) and was more accurate in the passing game (84.5%-82.3%). Each team finished the half with one corner kick taken.
Charlotte subbed leading assist man Ben Bender on at halftime for Ortiz and the visitors were the more lively looking team out of the break. Bender took the first shot of the second half but didn’t hit it well and it was off target.
The visitors got their lifeline on a controversial call. A routine ball over the top for Alan Franco had no shot at success with Schlegel and Moutinho converging and Gallese waiting to collect the ball. There was contact from Schlegel and the opposing forward went down to sell the call. Bazakos was buying and for the second straight game Schlegel conceded a penalty and was booked.
“I think the second half was not the same as the first,” Jansson said. “They had the ball more and obviously they got the 2-1 goal, which was a cheap one by the way.”
Fuchs waited until Gallese committed and scored easily on the ensuing spot kick to make it 2-1 in the 60th minute.
“I didn’t think it was a PK at all, but it is what it is,” Michel said. “I mean, both of our guys were in front of him. I guess he fell or someone touched him. I don’t know. It just happened so fast. But I didn’t see anything that was like, you know, bad for it to be a PK, but you know, I think the ref gave it to him. That’s my opinion.”
Just after the Charlotte goal, Orlando had a chance to pull it back. Pereyra was fouled on the left side and Brandt Bronico was booked for the foul. Pereyra sent the free kick across the top of the box for Jansson who hit his shot with his first touch but fizzed it over the bar in the 61st minute.
Both teams made substitutions as the visitors looked for an equalizer and the Lions looked for more balance. Charlotte got some half chances in the final half hour but nothing terribly dangerous.
Orlando had two decent opportunities but second-half sub Silvester van der Water didn’t get all of his shot on target, giving Kahlina an easy save in the 85th minute and on the second opportunity, Torres was pulled back by a defender and Bazakos inexplicably called no foul, despite it preventing a transition chance.
Instead, the visitors took the ball the other way, won a corner kick, and Jansson picked up his fifth yellow card — meaning he’ll be suspended for the team’s next game.
The Lions survived a few set pieces and several long throw-ins from Fuchs, including one that came after an obvious handball on Charlotte wasn’t called. Orlando had to defend one last long throw, rather than taking a free kick, and van der Water was injured in the aftermath of the play that should have drawn a whistle. Alexandre Pato cleared the final Charlotte ball in and the game ended with the Lions on top.
Charlotte held a big possession advantage (57.9%-42.1%), finished with more shots (8-7), won more corners (4-1), and passed more accurately (83.7%-81%). Orlando City got more shots on target (4-1).
“They changed their tactics and we didn’t adjust to it as we wanted to,” Michel said. “But I still feel like we were able to manage them.”
Pareja’s team has fired just 10 shot attempts in the last two matches — both at home — and he said that still has to improve.
“Offensively, we need to get better,” he said. “It’s something that we recognize and the boys know that. If we want to become that team that needs to dominate and aspire to become a protagonist in the league, we need to get that better. I’m just trying to build from those good things that we saw today.”
“We need to continue building the victories,” Jansson said. “We bounced back good (from the Red Bulls loss) and hopefully we will continue to stay in the good way in the future.”
The Lions return to the road for their next game as Orlando City visits CF Montreal next Saturday at 4 p.m.