Orlando City forward Dom Dwyer (center) celebrates with defender Mohamed El-Munir (13) and forward Stefano Pinho (29) after scoring against the Philadelphia Union during the first half at Talen Energy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Derik Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
CHESTER, Penn. — At long last, and for the first time this season, Orlando City scored first.
Then the Lions scored again.
And for the first time since Sept. 30, 2017, the Lions didn’t concede a goal.
It wasn’t perfect. It wasn’t all that pretty. But for coach Jason Kreis, it was complete. It was enough to extend Orlando City’s win streak to three games. The Lions snatched three points on the road from the Philadelphia Union with a 2-0 victory in front of an announced crowd of 16,032 at Talen Energy Stadium.
“It felt different; didn’t quite know how to handle ourselves,” Kreis jokingly said about playing with a lead.
Speaking seriously, Kreis said, “Really, really proud of guys’ effort tonight. The performance, for me, [was] the most complete game of the year. There’s no question about it.”
After withstanding a furious attack from the Union in the opening minutes, Orlando City midfielder Sacha Kljestan chipped the ball to striker Dom Dwyer, who silenced supporters with a clinical finish in the 38th minute.
Dwyer’s right-footed finish was set up by an unorthodox off-the-back first touch.
“I figured if I let it go, it was going to run through too much,” Dwyer said. “So I just tried to get a little touch on it and it managed to lay nicely for me and I finished off.”
It was Dwyer’s fourth goal in three matches since returning from an injury. It was definitely against the run of play until that point, but it was more than enough to spark some confidence in the Lions.
The momentum of the match shifted after Dwyer’s goal.
“It just kind of got us a bit more relaxed, I think,” Dwyer said.
Shortly after Dwyer scored, the Lions doubled their advantage over the Union thanks to the tenacity of Chris Mueller.
In the 45th minute, the rookie striker – who started Friday’s match – went full speed by Philadelphia left back Matt Real, nearly into the top of penalty area, was dispossessed by Union center back Jack Elliott and got the ball back.
Mueller fired a shot by goalkeeper Andre Blake for an unassisted goal and the Union never recovered.
“It’s a big step for the club,” Mueller said. “Getting three points on the road was huge. Getting on the three [game] win streak, it helps a lot going into these next couple of games. It just proves a lot and it shows us what we’re really capable of.
“We’re the farthest thing from satisfied right now. We’re going to keep going and shoot for another three points next week.”
Philadelphia continued to battle in the second half, but its best chances were turned away by Orlando City goalkeeper Joe Bendik, who had six saves and helped secure the Lions’ first clean sheet of the season.
Three of those saves were in the second half, including a diving right-handed save of a shot from the top of the penalty area from the Union’s Alejandro Bedoya in the 62nd minute.
“I think we did a really good job at containing them,” Bendik said. “I think they had more pressure in the first 20 minutes of the second half and then they just kind of fell off because time after time we won our duels and completely fended them off.”
Orlando City came into the match without center back Jonathan Spector and right back Scott Sutter, who both stayed due to Orlando with injuries. In the 28th minute of the match, RJ Allen – Sutter’s replacement – went down with an injury and had to be subbed off.
Cristian Higuita came on as a defensive midfielder and Will Johnson shifted to right back. Kreis said Donny Toia was also available to come in at right back, but he went with Johnson at that position because Toia is left-footed.
“Cristian, I think, for me, was one of the top performers tonight,” Kreis said. “He’s been training really, really well, so we knew he was ready. Will put a shift in for us at right back last year for the first opening five or six matches. We knew he was quite capable of that as well.
The Lions (3-2-1, 10 points) return to action on April 21 at in Orlando City Stadium against the San Jose Earthquakes.