Kyle Smith’s late flicked header rescued Orlando City from a wasteful performance in the attacking third as the Lions defeated Toronto FC 1-0 at BMO Field. Orlando (6-4-2, 20 points) sent the Reds (3-7-2, 11 points) to their fifth consecutive loss and extended the Lions’ unbeaten streak against Toronto to five matches.
The Lions improved to 3-1-2 on the road in 2022. Orlando City is now 5-8-3 against Toronto FC in the all-time series and 2-4-3 in road games, but this win was the team’s first at BMO Field. The previous “road” win came at Exploria Stadium during the time Toronto was playing in exile during the pandemic last year.
“Congratulations to the players today in such an important match in a difficult place, with that personality and collectiveness that we are pursuing in this project,” Orlando City Head Coach Oscar Pareja said after the match. “I like the way they controlled the game the whole time. I think we imposed our rhythms. We came here to win and the victory is ours and we’re very pleased and happy.”
Pareja’s lineup had just a few changes from Tuesday’s U.S. Open Cup lineup. Pedro Gallese returned to the goal behind a back line of Joao Moutinho, Robin Jansson, Rodrigo Schlegel, and Ruan. Cesar Araujo and Andres Perea took up residence in central midfield behind an attacking midfield line of Facundo Torres, Mauricio Pereyra, and Junior Urso, with Ercan Kara up top.
The Lions played the first half like a team that either played a few days ago 1,200 miles south of BMO Field or was assembled two weeks ago. Players failed to connect or read where their attacking partners would go, crosses were poor to the point of not being worthy of MLS-level players, and bad touches cost Orlando City multiple goals.
Torres fired the game’s first shot from long range in the fifth minute but missed wide to the right of goal. This was the theme of the opening 45 minutes as the Lions wasted several opportunities.
In the 12th minute, the first of Urso’s heavy touches cost the Lions a chance to score. He and Pereyra played a nice give-and-go but the first touch by the Bear was heavy and he had to make a sliding effort at a cross. The ball hit off the defender and back off of him for a harmless goal kick. It was a tough way to end a nice spell of attacking pressure set up by a great run up the field by Jansson.
Jordan Perruzza ended up with the ball after Pereyra turned it over in the corner of his own defensive half but the Toronto forward’s shot was blocked in the 15th minute.
Ruan was sent down the right by Urso moments later and had plenty of space to pick out one of his teammates in the box but instead he sent his cross lazily right at goalkeeper Alex Bono in the 17th minute. A minute later, Torres sent a cross over everyone as Orlando continued to waste opportunities in the final third.
Toronto nearly capitalized after the two poor crosses. In the 19th minute, the Reds got the ball in the right corner and a cross went through everyone in the area to find Luca Petrasso. The fullback took a shot but Ruan blocked it to keep it scoreless.
Jesus Jimenez was left all alone from long distance in the 24th minute and he got his shot on target, forcing a diving save from Gallese.
Seconds later, the Lions should have scored. A good line-breaking spell of passing ended up with Urso on the right. He led a 3-v-1 with Kara and Torres to his left and only one defender to beat. However, the Bear took a massively heavy touch and by the time he caught up with it, the chance was gone.
Three minutes later, Urso was served up a golden opportunity at the left post by a Ruan pass. All the ball needed was a touch toward net for the Lions to open the scoring. Urso, however, popped up his deflection over the net from just a few yards off the goal line, continuing the theme of Orlando letting Toronto off the hook.
The Lions lined up a dangerous set piece in the 38th minute when Torres was knocked down by Michael Bradley about 25 yards straight out from goal. Pereyra took the free kick and got it on target but left it too far from the right post and Bono did well to get a hand on it to knock it out for a corner. It was Orlando’s only shot on target of the half.
That was the last decent chance of the half for Orlando, which defended a late corner and went to the locker room tied at 0-0.
Orlando City led in most statistical categories, including possession (52.2%-47.8%), shots (7-3), corners (3-2), and passing accuracy (84%-78.8%). But both teams put just one shot on target, and that’s the only reason the Lions didn’t have at least a two-goal lead at the break.
Toronto sent on Ayo Akinola for Ralph Priso to start the second half and the last 45 minutes were much more wide open.
The Lions quickly won an early corner that was played short and sent to Jansson from about 30 yards out. The defender fired a shot on target but it didn’t have much venom in it and it was right at Bono. Orlando played corners short through most of the match and seemed more likely to concede a goal at times than score one from such set pieces, so the game-winning goal seemed a bit ironic in the end.
A minute after Jansson’s shot, Deandre Kerr sent a shot on frame from distance and Gallese did well to knock it away.
Orlando nearly made a free kick pay off in the 59th minute after Ruan was fouled out on the right wing by Perruzza. Pereyra sent in a good cross on the set piece that found the foot of Perea. The first-time shot was sent just wide of the left post.
The end-to-end action continued with Ruan getting into the box in the 60th minute. The right back fired a shot toward goal but Carlos Salcedo made a sliding challenge to block it behind for a corner. Moutinho flicked a shot on goal moments later but it was blocked. The left back then fired right at Bono from distance in the 64th as Orlando continued to look for the go-ahead goal.
In the 67th minute, the Reds came close to opening the scoring against the run of play. Kerr sent a curling shot in that went just inches wide of the left post. Jansson may have gotten a sliding touch on it but a goal kick was given. Petrasso fired off target moments later as Toronto spent a spell of time simply out-hustling Orlando. That spell included yellow cards for both Moutinho and Schlegel, with the latter being forced into taking a tactical foul.
Moutinho then handed Toronto a good opportunity on a set piece. The Lions did well to clear that and counter but a poor touch by Ruan trying to cut back against a defender wrecked the transition chance.
In the 78th minute, Urso fired a volley shot just over the bar from 25 yards out after a good layoff by substitute Alexandre Pato.
Toronto nearly created something out of nothing in the 81st minute when the Lions couldn’t find the handle on a loose ball in the box. It ended up on Akinola’s foot and he sent a shot that bounced off Schlegel and went wide.
The next few minutes were frustrating ones for Orlando. Second-half sub Jake Mulraney was knocked down from behind in the box but no call was made. In the aftermath of that, Pato took a boot to the leg and again there was no set piece awarded. Moments later, Urso sent a too-heavy pass forward trying to send Ruan in behind.
Toronto got a free kick just outside the left corner of the box in the 88th when Jansson appeared to make a successful sliding challenge to break up a counter opportunity. The Beefy Swede appeared to get the ball and knock it out for a throw before contact with Paul Rothrock, but a foul was called and Jansson was booked on top of it. The Lions cleared but Urso lost control of the ball during the ensuing counter attack.
The match appeared destined to end in a 0-0 draw at that point. However, substitute Smith cracked the door open and then busted it down in stoppage time. Smith sent a good cross into the area in the 91st that was cut out for a corner kick. On the ensuing set piece, Pato sent a hard, low cross toward the near post. Smith made the run and flicked a header toward goal and the ball found inside netting to put the Lions ahead 1-0 in the 92nd minute.
KYLE SMITH WINS IT IN STOPPAGE TIME! pic.twitter.com/Tn6VPcRwWr— Major League Soccer (@MLS) May 14, 2022
“I was unmarked in the box on the corner, so I knew I wanted to make a near-post run,” Smith said. “Because Pato plays a good ball into the box. It dips. So, that’s what I did. And luckily the ball found me and I just tried to put it on frame. I’m more of a defender, so I don’t get to score often. So, it’s really fun to score goals and I feel really good right now to help the team win on the offensive side for a change.”
Orlando did well to see out the last couple of minutes of injury time, with Ruan making a nice play to win a corner. Pato nearly scored a late insurance golazo from midfield. He sent a floating shot on target with Bono well off his line, but the Toronto keeper scrambled back to his net just in time to catch it and avoid an embarrassing late goal against in the 95th minute. That was the last action of the match.
Orlando dominated the stat sheet despite scoring just the one goal. The Lions led in possession (52.3%-47.7%), shots (17-8), shots on goal (6-2), corners (9-3), and passing accuracy (84.1%-80.9%).
It wasn’t a perfect performance due to the finishing and some misplaced passes and heavy touches, but the Lions found a way to get all three points and keep a sixth clean sheet on the season.
We accept ourselves in this moment as a team in a growing process in our attacking phase,” Pareja said. “New players, different characteristics. We would like to wait not too much for gluing us together, but the players are united and they’re working hard just to find those connections and that fineness in the final third. We need to grow up, but just knowing how to win this kind of game in a different way just makes us a very serious and important team.”
The Lions will continue their road trip next Sunday night at Austin in the first meeting between the two sides.