Tigres UANL was as difficult as advertised but Orlando City managed to go on the road and grind out a 0-0 draw at Estadio Universitario in San Nicolás de los Garza, Nuevo León, Mexico. The Lions even had a few opportunities to take the lead in the second half, but couldn’t find that little bit of quality needed to steal all three points in their Concacaf Champions League debut.
The two sides will battle it out at Exploria Stadium in Orlando next Wednesday night in a winner-take-all battle to reach the quarterfinals.
“Here, (getting a result) is not an easy thing to do,” Orlando City Head Coach Oscar Pareja said after the match. “We’re proud. We have a game in front of us in Orlando and we know the rival, and we’re ready and we hope we can advance.”
Pareja’s lineup included Pedro Gallese in goal behind a back line of Luca Petrasso, Robin Jansson, Rodrigo Schlegel, and Michael Halliday. Cesar Araujo and Mauricio Pereyra played in the central midfield behind an attacking line of Ivan Angulo, Martin Ojeda, and Facundo Torres, with Ramiro Enrique making his first start up top. For Schlegel, it was his 50th career start in all competitions for the Lions.
Tigres controlled the first half and Orlando City continued to waste its few opportunities in the attack. The game was just about three minutes old when the hosts fired the first shot, a deflected effort that gave them a corner.
In the seventh minute, Andre-Pierre Gignac danced through the Orlando defense and sent a shot toward goal but he didn’t get good contact on it and Gallese made the save. Two minutes later, Gignac fired a blast from outside the area that Gallese could only punch away.
The Lions seemed content to fire from ridiculous distance if they found any space. Enrique fired the first shot for Orlando from long range in the 10th minute and sent his effort well over the bar.
Juan Pablo Vigon had a free header in front on a ball in from Tigres’ right side in the 14th minute but sent his shot wide.
Enrique went down and stayed down in the 17th minute after an awful tackle from Tigres defender Samir, but no card was given. Enrique was eventually able to continue but he didn’t look like himself the rest of the first half.
In the 20th minute, Ojeda sent in a cross from the left corner to Pereyra at the top of the box. The captain tried to take a touch in traffic and lost control rather than going for goal with his first touch. Four minutes later, Schlegel stole the ball to start the break and with numbers finally in the attack, Ojeda decided to shoot from 35 yards away and his shot didn’t come close to the goal on another wasteful attack.
In the 32nd minute, it was Angulo wrecking an attack. After getting inside the box on the left side, he made a move to lose his defender but then — instead of moving closer and either shooting or finding a teammate — he made an extra feint with the ball that put two defenders between himself and the net.
Fernando Gorriarán fired a dangerous shot from distance in the 34th minute, skipping his effort out in front of goal. All Gallese could do was fight it off, but no Tigres player could get to it.
Araujo made a nifty move up the right side in the 38th minute but once he got into the box, with no defenders near him, he seemed indecisive and sent a weak shot squirting wide of the near post, which was covered anyway. Angulo sent a weak shot on target at the end of normal time for the lone shot on target of the half for the Lions.
In stoppage time, Gignac was shown a straight red after lashing out at Schlegel. After video review, the card was changed to yellow.
The Mexican side held more possession (60.6%-39.4%), passed more accurately (87.4%-77%), fired more shots (8-5) and shots on target (4-1), and won more corners (2-0).
Wilder Cartagena replaced Enrique at the break, pushing Pereyra up into the attacking midfield and Ojeda into the forward position.
But Tigres kept coming. Gignac fired wide on the half volley through Schlegel’s legs just two minutes after the restart and that was just a start of a frantic second period. In the 53rd minute, Gignac took a long ball out of the air and hit it on the volley, forcing another stop by Gallese. Jansson then got just a touch on a cross that surely would have been a goal had he not flicked it through the legs of Nicolas Ibanez.
The Peruvian international then had to get a touch on a Gorriaran corner kick to push it off the crossbar in the 55th minute. He made a bigger stop two minutes later. After a turnover that appeared to come off a Tigres hand, the ball was crossed in to center back Samir, who made a run up the field. Gallese fought off the point-blank header.
What a tremendous save by @OrlandoCitySC's Pedro Gallese pic.twitter.com/1T7E7ENhHZ— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) March 8, 2023
Orlando had a brief spell of good play after the save on Samir’s shot. Ojeda stole the ball in the attacking third and sent a hard, low shot toward goal. Nahuel Guzman got down to make the save in the 58th minute. Moments later, a shot from outside the area forced a comfortable save from Guzman.
Gaston Gonzalez subbed on for Angulo in the 62nd minute and two minutes later he had a chance to change the game. Ojeda got the ball at the top of the area and waited for support. He slipped the ball left to Gonzalez, who fired first touch but sent his shot over the bar. Had he slipped the ball across the box, Torres likely would have had a tap-in.
Gignac got his head to a corner kick in the 68th and smashed it toward goal but it stayed high. Ten minutes later, Gallese again denied Gignac, and then he stoned Sebastián Córdova seconds later.
Water covers 71% of the Earth and @OrlandoCitySC's Gallese covers the rest! pic.twitter.com/fBBZpb6Umy— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) March 8, 2023
In the 87th minute, a mistake by Guzman nearly gifted Orlando City a go-ahead goal. The Tigres goalkeeper came out of his box and had the ball knocked away by Ojeda. While running toward the sideline, and with the net wide open and undefended, the Lions’ Designated Player tried to chip a shot back toward goal but he couldn’t get it on target.
Tigres again found the woodwork in the 88th minute. Guido Pizarro’s header off of Cordova’s corner kick cross crashed into the right post and stayed out. The hosts caught a break in the 90th minute when a soft foul was given on Schlegel near the sideline. The free kick found Samir’s head but the defender nodded wide of goal.
Orlando survived a few more entry balls and after a couple of seemingly unnecessary extra minutes of stoppage time, the final whistle brought the match to an end.
Tigres continued its dominance on the stat sheet, finishing with more possession (62%-38%), passing accuracy (84.9%-75.1%), shots (22-9), shots on target (8-3), and corners (5-1).
Ultimately, it was a fantastic performance by Gallese — and, for the most part, by the Orlando defense.
“I think Pedro deserves all the praise on the way he played today,” Pareja said. “But the collective effort of the players, the courage, the discipline, just keeping us in the game — and not just defending but some possibilities during the game that we could probably score as well against a good rival.”
El Pulpo was named Player of the Match.
@pedrogallese was simply unbeatable tonight, making incredible saves and earning the recognition as the Player of the Match for his outstanding performance.— Scotiabank Concacaf Champions League (@TheChampions) March 8, 2023
@OrlandoCitySC | #SCCL23 pic.twitter.com/oj5rZyXntU
“Just having this result here in Monterrey is just creating an illusion to go there and advance in the series,” Pareja said. “It’s a game that lasts 180 minutes. And we’ll see. We’ll see, but we are very optimistic. We already fought a good battle here and we’re going back home.”
The Lions have a quick turnaround with Saturday’s road trip to D.C. United. Tigres will make the return trip to Exploria Stadium next Wednesday.