With the releases of both Orlando City’s regular season and preseason schedules now complete, the 2023 season is starting to feel closer than ever. With that being said, since we still have some time before OCSC takes on the New York Red Bulls at the end of next month, I thought this would be a good time to take a look at the best goals the Lions scored during the 2022 season. I’ve picked my five favorite ones and ranked them. I took into consideration difficulty level, the context in which the goal was scored, and finally my own personal preferences. Let’s get after it.
No. 5 Mauricio Pereyra vs. Atlanta United
Our fifth-best goal of the year comes courtesy of Orlando City’s captain. In an away match against Atlanta United on July 17, the Lions won a free kick on the edge of Atlanta’s box with only a little under 10 minutes played in the game. Atlanta goalkeeper Rocco Rios Novo busied himself setting up his wall to cover the left-hand side of the goal, but he was still on the far post when the referee blew the whistle. Pereyra saw it and wasted no time in smacking a shot into the side netting to give Orlando an early lead.
No. 4 Junior Urso vs. D.C. United
Orlando’s fourth-best goal came from another road game during the month of July, as Orlando City traveled to the nation’s capital to take on D.C. United. It was another early goal, and it was sweetly taken. Alexandre Pato knocked a ball over the top looking for Junior Urso, and the ball held up perfectly for the Bear on the edge of the box. Urso didn’t even have to take a touch, he simply sent a perfect chip over the head of Rafael Romo and into the back of the net to give Orlando another early lead. The chip was impressive enough on its own, but the fact that it was a one-touch finish means its more than worthy of the fourth spot on this list. As for how the rest of the game went, let’s not talk about that, shall we?
No. 3 Andres Perea vs. Philadelphia Union
For our bronze medalist, we turn to the early days of OCSC’s U.S. Open Cup run — the fourth round to be exact. The Lions squared off against the Philadelphia Union at Exploria Stadium, and held a 1-0 lead coming out of halftime. In the 57th minute, Ercan Kara attempted to play a pass to Pato on the edge of the Union’s box. The ball was cut out but found its way right to Perea, who took one touch to settle it before hammering it past Matt Freese from around 30 yards to double the Lions’ advantage. The sheer power of the strike, coupled with the accuracy to place it in the corner, meant Freese had no chance, and Perea’s missile proved to be the game-winning goal as the Union pulled one back 20 minutes later.
No. 2 Facundo Torres vs. Sacramento Republic
Our runner-up arrives from Orlando’s last match in the successful U.S. Open Cup campaign: the Lions’ 3-0 victory over Sacramento Republic FC in the final. It took longer than OCSC fans would have liked, but the first goal finally arrived in the 75th minute courtesy of Facundo Torres, who so often provided the spark for Orlando this season. Ivan Angulo did very well to dispossess Dan Casey in the back corner of Sacramento’s box, and Benji Michel alertly picked up the loose ball and laid it off perfectly for Torres. Facu used his first touch to rifle the ball into the top corner and the resulting explosion of noise seemed to briefly overload ESPN’s field mics. The effort from Angulo, layoff from Benji, and finish by Facu — combined with the stage on which the goal happened — meant that this one had a real chance of taking the top spot, but ultimately it settles for silver.
No. 1 Ercan Kara vs. Columbus Crew
We’ve arrived at the cream of the crop. The Lions faced off against the Columbus Crew at Lower.com Field back in April. Orlando brought a 1-0 lead into the second half, thanks to a Rodrigo Schlegel goal in the 37th minute, which was followed by a touching tribute to his late father, who passed away from COVID-19. Five minutes after the break, OCSC put together a passing move that was a thing of absolute beauty. Rather than recount the entirety of the move myself, I’m simply going to shut up and let the video do the talking.
I love a rocket like Perea’s as much as the next guy, but there’s just something special about a fluid and flawless passing move like that, and the accuracy and venom with which Kara deposits the ball into the net isn’t anything to be sniffed at either. For me, it was Orlando’s best of the 2022 season.
But, what do you think? Is my order correct? Were there any goals that I missed? Be sure to have your say down in the comments.