ORLANDO, Fla. — Orlando City clearly took coach James O’Connor seriously when he said it was time to put points on the board.
Despite falling behind early, the host Lions put together one of their best performances in recent memory, crushing FC Cincinnati 5-1 and ending their losing skid at three matches.
It was a scoring explosion that was in the making for a while. Orlando City had no shortage of chances during recent matches, but the team repeatedly failed to finish. That wasn’t the case Sunday afternoon — the Lions took 17 shots, nine of which were on target, and scored four second-half goals to race by FCC.
“I think we were finally finishing,” forward Tesho Akindele said. “I think we were a little bit unlucky in the past in some of the chances we missed. I think maybe we got a little bit lucky today in some of the ones we scored. It kind of balances out in the long run, as long as you’re creating chances, which we’ve been doing all year.”
After giving up the first goal, the Lions managed to avoid going down 2-0 at home (it would have been the fifth time this season that happened) thanks to Akindele in the 37th minute.
He took a one-touch pass from from midfielder Will Johnson and fired from the top of the penalty area to level the match with his third goal of the season. The ball took a slight deflection off centerback Kendall Waston.
“I thought we completely outplayed them in the first half,” Akindele said. “They had good chances, but off of counter-attacks. The run of play, I thought we controlled. We’re like, ‘If we keep controlling the game like that, we’re going to break through.’
“And we did.”
Orlando City came out firing in the second half. Forwards Chris Mueller and Nani both put shots on target in the first five minutes of the second half. Both shots were knocked out by FC Cincinnati goalkeeper Spencer Richey for corners. The second corner led to Orlando City’s second goal.
Waston took down centerback Lamine Sané in the penalty area when the ball was sent in. The foul was missed at first, but referee Nima Saghafi reviewed the sequence and awarded a penalty to Orlando City. Nani’s penalty attempted was saved by Richey, but the star forward calmly tapped in the rebound to give the Lions a 2-1 lead in the 50th minute.
The match marked Nani’s return to action after he missed back-to-back matches with calf inflammation.
“We knew we were getting [in] a situation [where] we have more pressure from our fans,” Nani said. “From the club. Even from us because what we want to achieve is getting more difficult. Today, we had a great performance. A great result. We must take the positive things from this game and then continue to work hard and continue to believe because I believe there’s still a lot of games to win and we have a great chance.”
The Lions scored two goals and took the lead, but they were just getting started.
Right back Ruan showed off more of his speed to beat Waston into the penalty area. Ruan got to the end line and cut the ball back for Nani, who finished the sequence for his second goal of the match, giving the Lions a 3-1 lead in the 59th minute.
Akindele added a fourth in the 64th minute. Mueller’s service off a corner kick simply fell to Akindele and the 2014 MLS Rookie of the Year got his brace.
Star striker Dom Dwyer broke out of his scoring slump in the 82nd minute to add a fifth, heading home a corner kick from young designated player Josué Colmán for his first goal since March 31.
“I really pleased for Dom, as well,” O’Connor said. “To see him come on and get his goal. We know Dom’s going to score goals, so it’s been a really good day for us.”
Orlando City got off to a rough start. For the sixth time in seven home matches, Orlando City gave up the first goal. The Lions dominated possession early in the first half, but a turnover by Sané led to a chance for FC Cincinnati.
Sané sent a pass into the middle of the pitch that was intercepted by FCC midfielder Eric Alexander, who played the ball to forward Darren Mattocks.
Mattocks had a host of Orlando City defenders, including centerback Robin Jansson and Sané around him, but him created space and fired a left-footed blast by Orlando City goalkeeper Brian Rowe. That was the only shot FCC put past Rowe, who had a save in the fifth minute of first-half stoppage time to deny a header from right back Mathieu Deplagne.
After rallying to thrash FC Cincinnati, Orlando City (4-6-3, 15 points) will shift its focus to preparing to host LA Galaxy on Friday.
Despite picking up a yellow card against FCC and initial concern it would trigger a suspension, Dwyer will be eligible to face the Galaxy after a string of matches earlier this season without a card helped reduce his card tally under MLS disciplinary rules.
“We need to be focused,” O’Connor said. “I think the big thing is making sure that we follow the process and make sure that we have a focus to our work. We’re well aware of how good LA Galaxy are. We know what a tough game it’ll be.”