Sunday, February 19, 2012

Match Report: Orlando City v Philadelphia Union

Courtesy of Orlando City S.C.
Last year the Philadelphia Union of the MLS signed a four year agreement to play the Orlando City Lions in preseason friendlies. They should have emphasized the “friendly” part of the agreement with the players before the game. In what turned out to be a physical, hard fought match, the Lions and the Union played nearly their entire rosters to settle on a 1-1 score.

Both teams have to replace critical players no longer with the team, so the new arrivals were given a chance to show what they could do. Orlando City came out in a 4-4-2 with new signings James O’Connor and Anthony Pulis in central midfield, John Rooney up top with Dennis Chin, and trialist Logan Emory sharing central defense responsibilities with Rob Valentino. Emory was one of 5 players from the open tryout two weeks ago that were on the bench, trying to make the squad.

Even with the limited practice time, the players looked comfortable together. John Rooney was especially impressive in his home debut. He was frequently dropping back into the midfield to receive the ball and then slotting passes to put Chin and the overlapping midfielders through on goal. His hard work paid off in the 21st minute when a ball luckily deflected to him at the edge of the box. The trailing Union defender took him down and the referee pointed to the spot – penalty kick. Unfortunately, Union keeper Zac MacMath guessed right and stopped Rooney’s shot with a fine diving save.

And is typically the case in Soccer, if you don’t finish your chances, the other team will make you pay. Minutes later, Philly striker Danny Mwanga jumped on a bad back pass, forcing City keeper Miguel Gallardo to come out of the box to defend. Gallardo’s tackle attempt clipped Mwanga’s legs, taking him down at the corner of the 18 yard box. The referee decided that Gallardo was not the last defender and let him off with only a yellow. Gallardo was not as fortunate on the ensuing free kick that Union defender Danny Califf headed into the back of the net from the 8 yard line – Philly up 1-0.

Chin had an opportunity to answer in the 36th minute, when Rooney played him through one-on-one with the keeper. Again, Orlando was unable to capitalize on the opportunity and the Union were immediately back the other way, with defender Sheanon Williams finding himself unmarked at the back post 6 yards out from goal. This time City was let off the hook as Williams put the free header high over the bar.

Orlando City had controlled possession and tempo for the majority of the first half, with some crisp one touch passes in midfield, but could not find that final touch and went into the locker room down 0-1.

Philadelphia came out to start the second half with wholesale changes in the lineup, while Orlando City only changed their keeper with back-up Sean Kelley on for Gallardo. Philly’s second string looked the better side until Orlando City Head Coach Adrian Heath decided to bring on subs at the 60th minute.

Max Griffin was one of those brought on, and he became the focal point of the Orlando attack that was now pushing 3-4 men forward looking for the equalizer. Griffin had a solid outing, holding possession and consistently beating his defender to put shots on goal. The Lions continued to press hard up the field and were getting the majority of second half chances. A City goal looked imminent, but time was running out.

In true Orlando City dramatic fashion, the Lions waited till the last second to tie it up. In the third and final minute of extra time, Griffin took a pass down off his chest in the box, deftly turned and fired it home past the keeper. Final whistle: Orlando City Lions 1 – Philadelphia Union 1.

Two matches so far this season against MLS competition and two draws. Couple that with the impressive turnout of 5,968 extremely loud fans for a preseason friendly – Phil Rawlins and Orlando City have to be pleased. Next up is the Disney World Pro Soccer Classic and an opportunity to show Garber and the MLS what Orlando City Soccer is all about!


  1. Charlie campbell and rob valentino had great games as well...and credit Eric ustruck with coming in and help create the tying goal! solid outing by orlando

  2. Agreed...I thought the entire back line was solid and Ustruck whipped in a couple dangerous crosses. Good showing by Orlando who I felt deserved a draw at a minimum.


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