HIALEAH, Fla. – It wasn’t a league match, but Orlando City got its first win in a month.
And it was a much-needed win the club hopes will be a spark for future success after a four-game MLS losing streak.
The Lions opened their U.S. Open Cup run with a 3-0 victory over Miami United at Ted Hendricks Stadium Wednesday during a fourth-round match that got heated toward the end. A few brief scrums ended with players needing to be separated – by Orlando City midfielder PC – and a Miami United assistant coach was sent off in the 71st minute.
“I’m pleased, obviously, to get a result that wasn’t easy,” said Orlando City coach Jason Kreis. “I mean, this is a very difficult field to play on. As you can see, the ball was all over the place. It’s small and you knew there were going to be a lot of physical confrontations.
“I’m very, very pleased we got the win to advance and I’m even more pleased that we got out of here with no injuries.”
Kreis said he put out the lineup he though would get Orlando City the win on a turf field in Hialeah over an NPSL side. Outside of the usual starters, Stefano Pinho played up top of the Lions’ 4-2-3-1 formation, PC got the start on the left wing, RJ Allen was back at right back and Dillon Powers was the second defensive midfielder alongside Uri Rosell.
Pinho finally got his second goal of the season in the 37th minute of the match. Midfielder Sacha Kljestan found right back RJ Allen in the penalty area after some solid build-up play and Allen’s low cross connected with Pinho, who calmly finished the sequence to open the scoring.
After going scoreless through 10 MLS appearances since scoring a match-tying goal in stoppage time against D.C. United, Pinho was glad to finally finish another chance.
“It’s amazing,” Pinho said. “It’s a great feeling for me. I get more confidence to play more and to help the team for the next game.
“Before I came here, I put in my mind, ‘Today, I want to score.’”
The match also marked the return Orlando City captain and centerback Jonathan Spector – he was the one who started the build-up play that led to Pinho’s goal. Spector found Kljestan, who traded passes with Josue Colmán before Kljestan got the ball to Allen.
“It wasn’t here just to get minutes,” Spector said. “I wanted to contribute, so it was good to be able to do that.”
He added, “I’ve been doing it long enough where I’ve had some long-term injuries before, unfortunately, but it’s part of the game. You get used to it. I just felt really good. Comfortable and really happy to be back.”
Spector said he thinks he’s close to being able to play a full 90 minutes. Prior to Wednesday’s match, he hadn’t played since April 8.
Centerback Chris Schuler also got his first match minutes since breaking his left arm against the Chicago Fire two weeks ago and he was his usual physical self. In the 57th minute, he collided with a Miami United player, who ended up on Schuler’s back in the penalty area. He shrugged off the contact – and the player – and got back into Orlando City’s defensive half.
Powers doubled Orlando City’s lead in the 53rd minute. Kljestan sent a cross to the top of the penalty area, Powers took a touch, then smashed it home with his left foot. That goal was followed by one from PC in the 61st minute – Kljestan assisted on that one, too.
Kljestan’s three-assist night was the first for an Orlando City player since Brazilian legend Kaká did it on Sept. 25, 2015, against the New York Red Bulls.
The goals by Powers and PC were the first ones scored by either player in an Orlando City uniform.
“All three goals, good finishes,” Spector said. “It’s good to get on the scoresheet in that fashion. I think we had some good movements with the ball. Kept the ball really well. Made them work defensively. We got the reward for it.”
Next, Orlando City will take a chartered flight to Vancouver for a Saturday match against the Whitecaps. That match will be followed by one in Montreal against the Impact on Wednesday. The club continues Open Cup play in the Round of 16 — the draw for the next round is on June 7.
“It sets the tone for this trip,” Spector said of Wednesday’s win. “It’s a long road trip for us and it really sets the tone. Hopefully it will be the catalyst for the next couple of games we have in Canada.”