Orlando was looking to earn their first win of the season and the first win at their home stadium this year. The Orlando City Faithful and the Supporters in “The Wall” at Exploria Stadium have truly become a force for Orlando as they had only lost 1 of their last 11 coming into this game, and now its 1 of their last 12, with 180 scoreless minutes at home so far this season. Orlando finished the game 3-0, with goals from Tesho (1’), Luis Nani (19’) and Junior Urso (80’).
Orlando City SC came into this game looking to get a fast start - and with Tesho Akindele scoring within 31 seconds, (the fastest goal in City History) I don’t know if there was anyway to start faster. A pass over the top from Mauricio Pereyra that bounced over Tesho and the FC Cincinnati defender, as Tesho chased the defender with a sloppy pass back to the keeper that Tesho punched home with a clinical first touch finish to the keepers far post. Orlando City started the game facing the wall and the supporters absolutely erupted with this early lead.
The game continued to be controlled by Orlando through the first 10 minutes creating multiple chances and opportunities putting pressure all over the Cincinnati defense and midfield. Cincinnati struggled to do anything with the ball early on, their - goal keeper had multiple goal kick passes go astray and directly out of bounds. Sloppy midfield passes that left the receiving player in tough vulnerable spots and just leaving the Cincinnati team desperate for possession and any type of flow to their game.
Tesho had another solid chance in the 15th minute when a cross from Kyle Smith, fell to him at the back post that he ended up taking with his off foot and it sailed high over the bar from about seven (7) yards out. However, Nani and City capitalized just 4 minutes later after another pass from the Cincinnati keeper ends up with Orlando City. Chris Muller took the ball and started running down the right flank just wide of the box. He then sends a cut back pass to Nani who is waiting at the top right of the 18 yard box. Nani then puts the defender on roller skates, as he starts left, goes right, then back left leaving the defender stretched and reaching, he then shoots and buries the shot from the right side of the box, to the top left corner past the diving goal keeper to make it 2-0 City.
The first half continued to be all Orlando City as another chance came in the 23rd minute as a cross from Muller again finds the Portuguese international, Nani, this time lurking on the back post and he put a spinning header low and just past the fingers of the keeper, however it bounces off the post and back into play. Tesho then won the ball in the box from the defender and a one-two pass with Nani gave Tesho an open shot that he ultimately snatched at and put into the stands, much to the relief of the Cincinnati keeper who wanted no part of another shot on frame from Orlando.
The first booking of the game was given to Orlando City midfielder and Ecuadorian international Jhegson Mendez in the 26th minute for a sliding, almost diving challenge where he caught the foot of Yuma Kubo with his studs. Orlando had been physical and aggressive, winning the ball in the passing lanes, taking the Cincinnati players off the ball and really having their way in every aspect of the game. A strong sense of fear came across the stadium as after a beautiful heat seeking pass from Nani finds Mauricio Pereyra coming into the box. Two defenders force him off the ball cleanly and as he goes down in the box he is stepped on by a Cincinnati defender trying to clear the ball, in the same sequence of play Muller also gets bodied off going for the ball and goes to ground. The ref stopped play to allow the medical team of Orlando on the field and a collective sigh of relief came from the stands for Orlando as both men were able to immediately come back on the field.
FC Cincinnati’s best run of the game came between the 30th to 40th minute of the first half. They got their first real chance in the 35th minute from of a corner kick that cleared everyone in the box as it headed to the far back right post of Orlando’s goal. City goal keeper Pedro Gallesse miss reads the balls flight and it fell to an unsuspecting Cincinatti player Tom Pettersson and ultimately was a missed opportunity from the set piece. Just two minutes later a ball over the top splits the City center backs, leaving keeper Gallasee in no mans land, however CIN attacker Alvaro Barreal could not get a clean shot off and his shot is high and wide of the target leading to a ORL goal kick. ORL conceded another corner in the 38th minute that didn’t put any pressure on their defense, however it started to get Cincinnati back into the flow of the game and gave them a game plan of how to attack in the second half. Fast play continued in the two minuets of first half extra time, FC Cincinnati had a counter attack off of an Orlando corner that left their defense exposed, but a streaking Nani getting back on defense was just enough to not allow the through pass to find its target in the box. Orlando also had a break to end the half but Pereyra’s pass was just cut out as he was looking for Muller on the right side of the box once again.
The second half started quickly with a break by FC Cincinnati that allowed Ronald Matarrita, to get a clean shot off past the first defender that was then blocked by City CB Antonio Carlos. That started a break for Orlando the lead to a beautiful counter on the right that let Perryea switch the field to Nani, who switched it back to Chris Muller who’s shot was blocked by Matarita who had hustled all the way back on defense to save his team from surely going down 3-0 early in the second half. Orlando continued taking shots and keeping the CIN goal keeper Pzqemyslaw Tyton on his toes. Orlando totaled 22 shots on the night with 5 on target and 52% possession. Cincinnati could only muster 7 shots however none on target. The only save of the night for Pedro Gallase was called back as the attacking player was in an offside position.
Orlando got its third goal of the game in the 80th minute, CIN keeper played a poor ball across his own box that ORL team captain, Nani ran down and stole the possession back for his squad. After getting the ball back he sent a cross into the back post to, recently subbed in, Andres Perea who headed it back across the goal. The ball then bounced around at the feet of also recently subbed in Benji Michel and starter Junior Urso, until Urso was finally able to chip it over the keeper and sliding FC defender and into the back of the CIN net.
Orlando would be the continued sensational play and back to back weeks with must see goals from their talisman Nani! Having Mauricio back in the lineup makes an unmistakeable difference in their midfield. His touch, vision and skill level with the ball simply make the team much more dangerous and clinical in attack. It also makes the midfield stronger on defense as Mendez and Urso are not drawn into the attack as often, which then leaves them stretched and out of position on the counter, or a lost ball. After the game coach Oscar Pareja mentioned how having some of their key players back and available in the lineup was great to see, including LB Joao Moutino, back from a being out for five (5) month s with a hip injury. For FC Cincinnati, they have to take solace in the fact that they were able to regain their composer in the first half after conceding the two quick goals within 20 minutes. And although they were never able to get a ball pass the city keeper or even on target, they created chances and will need to keep building and finding their style of play.
City will be ready to go again on May 8th vs NYCFC who are coming off of back to back wins, this game is going to be a key matchup early in the season between two top Eastern conference top teams. FC will be excited to finally have their season home opener and their first game in their brand new stadium where they will be expecting a tough matchup against Inter Miami and their attack lead by Gonzalo Higuain.