ORLANDO, Fla. — Orlando City captain Nani netted two goals at Exploria Stadium on Tuesday to lead the Lions to a 3-1 preseason win over KR Reykjavik.
The Lions defeated a team that is the 27-time champion of the top flight league in Iceland and currently holds the league title.
Orlando City opened scoring early, finding the net in the second minute of play. Defender João Moutinho found space on the left flank to curl a ball into the box, and Nani waited on the back post to tap in the opening goal.
Striker Benji Michel added to the lead six minutes later, slipping past the backline and taking the ball straight at the goalkeeper to score one-on-one.
Michel created another chance in the 17th minute, finding space behind the backline again and causing the keeper to tackle him hard to the ground just outside the box. The keeper was shown a red card and sent off the pitch, but KR Reykjavik was not forced to play a man down because it was a preseason game.
The visitors responded quickly, slipping a ball past goalkeeper Brian Rowe to cut the lead to 2-1. The ceded goal stirred up frustration along the backline, particularly for returning players who recalled last year’s habit of minimizing chances for the majority of a game, only to allow a goal in a moment of relaxation.
“You’ve got to concentrate for 90 minutes,” defender Alex De John said. “Obviously, we let up for one instance and they score a header. In MLS, those are very important. It could be the difference between winning at home or drawing at home… We want to win all of our games at home, that’s the No. 1 goal.”
But the Lions returned to a two-goal lead by the end of the half. Forward Chris Mueller threaded a pass into the box in the 42nd minute to Nani, and the captain sidestepped the keeper with a light tap to send the ball trickling across the goal line.
First round MLS SuperDraft selection Daryl Dike saw a handful of chances throughout the outing, using his stature to muscle between defenders and getting his head on the ball in the box twice in the opening half of action.
Along with Dike, coach Óscar Pareja used the match as an opportunity to give valuable minutes to the rookies on the roster. Midfielder Joey DeZart played the full 90 minutes, working alongside veteran Uri Rosell to serve as the core of the attacking midfielders. Despite his relative youth, DeZart moved the ball efficiently from sideline to sideline, creating a link to the attacking front.
Fellow rookies Jordan Bender and David Loera also saw the pitch in the second half, adding a burst of speed and intensity. Describing their composure as “mature,” Pareja felt confident in the performance of his younger players on the night.
“Obviously we wanted to increase our participation of the rest of the players too so that we can have different options,” Pareja. “It will help them to grow. For me, it’s great to have players available.”
The second half saw a decline in the Lions’ attacking action, as both teams fell into back-and-forth action. Despite dominating possession heavily in the attacking third for the final stretch of play, Orlando City was unable to add to the score in the second half, grinding out a 3-1 win.