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Orlando City vs. New York City FC: Final Score 2-1 as Tesho Akindele Scores Another Late Winner

The Lions win their third straight game as Akindele stuns NYCFC with a header deep in stoppage time.

MLS: New York City FC at Orlando City SC Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

Tesho Akindele scored deep in stoppage time on a corner kick to snap a 1-1 tie and lift Orlando City to a 2-1 win over New York City FC at Exploria Stadium. The Lions (11-10-6, 39 points) deserved all three points with a lopsided advantage in attacking stats but were seconds away from an unsatisfying draw with NYCFC (13-8-6, 45 points) after Junior Urso and Maxi Moralez scored early in the first and second half, respectively.

Orlando notched its third consecutive win — each by one goal — and finally managed to put together a good performance at home that claimed maximum points.

“I thought it was a great victory — one that was deserved by the players,” Orlando City Head Coach Oscar Pareja said after the match. “I think the effort that they did during the whole game today showed this character that they’ve brought in the last three games.”

Pareja started Pedro Gallese in goal behind a back line of Joao Moutinho, Rodrigo Schlegel, Antonio Carlos, and Ruan. Wilder Cartagena got his first MLS start in central midfield with Urso, behind an attacking line of Jake Mulraney, Facundo Torres, and Benji Michel, with Ercan Kara up top.

Orlando came out swinging at its 2015 MLS expansion rivals. Cartagena took the game’s first shot just two minutes in but missed the net from outside the area. But five minutes later, the Lions grabbed the lead.

Torres saw space and played an aerial ball for a well-timed run by Urso, who took it down nicely with his first touch and blasted it past Sean Johnson. The flag came up immediately but the play looked good with a defender keeping him on. Referee Chris Penso went to the monitor to look at it again and ruled the goal good, giving Orlando a 1-0 lead in the seventh minute.

“I was really free. And Facu, he’s so intelligent, so he gave me a nice ball,” Urso said. “The ball jumped a little bit and that was perfect (height) to shoot so, for me, it was incredible.”

Urso said the delay during the video review was nerve-wracking.

“I almost died on the field,” Urso said with a laugh. “I was like praying to God, please, I’m not off. So, it was OK.”

NYCFC got a long-distance free kick in the 12th minute but Gabriel Pereira sent the set piece kick right at Gallese for the easy catch.

A few minutes later, the skies opened up over Exploria Stadium, with rains so heavy and so prolonged that puddles began forming on the normally quick-draining pitch and creating issues. Passes stopped dead if they hit a watery patch and the game got sloppy for both sides. The Lions seemed to handle it better but couldn’t string together passes in the slop.

“In the first half it was a lot of courage (by the players) with this rain,” Pareja said. “Congratulations to the fans that suffered that rain too. It was difficult to play but I think we showed a lot of personality too and we came out winning the half.”

Urso sent a shot from outside the box wide in the 28th minute off a recycled corner kick. A minute later, the Bear came close to adding a second goal. Urso smashed a shot on target but Johnson made a spectacular diving save to keep his team’s deficit at one goal.

Cartagena fired another shot wide off the ensuing corner kick after the visitors cleared it out of the area.

The rain diminished late in the first half and the drainage was able to do a better job of keeping up with the extra moisture.

Late in the half, Torres put in a good cross for Kara but Maxime Chanot did well in defense to make the chance difficult and Kara could only hit his shot wide.

Talles Magno fired wide from distance late in first-half stoppage time and the Lions took their 1-0 lead into the break.

NYCFC held the advantage in possession (57%-43%) and passed more accurately (81.8%-74.6%), while Orlando fired more shots (7-1) and shots on target (3-1), and earned more corners (5-0).

Two minutes after the restart, it appeared the game was about to swing in the visitors’ favor. Carlos won a tackle just outside his area and dribbled up the field. As he was dribbling past New York City FC’s Nicolas Acevedo, the defender stepped on his opponent’s foot and Penso went straight to the red card. Again the referee went to the monitor but he quickly changed his mind upon seeing the replay and changed the card to yellow, much to the relief of Orlando City players and fans.

The game changed moments later anyway. Mulraney turned the ball over near midfield and New York City FC broke the other way in transition. The ball ended up with Thiago Andrade on the left and he did well to slip in a perfect pass for Moralez, who split the defense with his run and slotted a shot past Gallese to make it 1-1 in the 53rd minute.

The goal was NYCFC’s only shot on target in the match. Moralez got into a decent position to give his team the lead in the 56th minute but fired his shot into the outside netting from the right side.

Pareja chased the game by bringing on Ivan Angulo and Andres Perea for Cartagena, who put in a solid shift for Araujo, and Mulraney. Araujo came on in the second half but the plan was to rest him in this match after the young midfielder experienced tightness after playing on the turf last week at Charlotte.

Angulo, Araujo, and Perea were joined a little later by fellow second-half subs Akindele and Kyle Smith, and those players were crucial in changing the energy of the game over the final half hour. Schlegel and Torres both fired over the crossbar as the game entered its final 20 minutes, as the Lions continued to get into scoring positions.

The Lions nearly went ahead in the 80th minute when Angulo sent in a good cross to the back post for Smith, but the fullback couldn’t keep his volley shot under the crossbar with Johnson out of position to make a save.

Torres tried to send Akindele through on goal in the 88th but the two were on different pages on where the ball placement should be and the pass skipped harmlessly out for a goal kick.

But the Lions kept coming, winning set pieces. In the 91st minute, a corner kick cross was headed across the box but NYCFC cleared. A minute later, Angulo unleashed a hard shot on goal that Johnson fought off.

Angulo won the Lions a late corner when his cross was deflected out by Anton Tinnerholm and Orlando had one more chance as time wound down. Angulo took the set piece himself and sent in a good cross that found Akindele at the near post. The forward flicked his header toward the far post and it found its way through traffic and nestled in the back of the net.

It was the second late winner in consecutive games for Akindele, who scored the winner at Charlotte in the 89th minute a week ago.

“The call (on the set piece) was just get in the box,” Akindele said. “I was just thinking that I had seen (Angulo) hit some near post. I was like, ‘I’m just going to guess near post.’ That’s what you do a lot of times. You just guess. Our set piece coach won’t want to hear me saying that, but that’s what I do sometimes — just guess. So I just thought, ‘Maybe Ivan’s going to hit it near post,’ and he did, luckily. And then I hit it and then I didn’t even know if it went in but then I heard everybody screaming and I said, ‘Oh dang, it went in.’”

“The situation with Tesho is a good example for all,” Pareja said. “Generosity on our team is non-negotiable. We may lack of things sometimes but when you see a team that is giving what they have, then you can sleep — happy, sad, but you can sleep — thinking you’ve done your best.”

Orlando cut into NYCFC’s possession lead in the second half, but the visitors finished with a slight edge in that category (50.8%-49.2%). The Pigeons also passed more accurately on the night (83.6%-79.3%) but had a slimmer advantage at full time than at the break. Orlando City had far more shots (17-5), shots on target (5-1), and corners (7-0).

“The second half, New York came up with some other ideas that complicated us and I thought they took the middle of the field,” Pareja said. “And then, after their goal, our reaction — especially with the players that came in — it was phenomenal. I think they lifted us, they took the team on their shoulders and gave us that energy that we needed. More than the energy, just the ideas, and we ended up being the best team.”

“Honestly, I think our team played a great game. And I think we deserved the win,” Akindele said. “So it was good for us to get it. I’m glad I was the one to be able to provide it for us.”

The Lions have a quick turnaround as the Seattle Sounders visit Exploria Stadium on Wednesday night.