Three unanswered goals to start Friday night’s Semifinal gave Orlando City SC (16-4-6, No. 2 seed) what they wanted early, topping the Charleston Battery (13-7-6, No. 3 seed) 3-2 at Fifth Third Bank Field at the Florida Citrus Bowl. The win advanced the Lions to the 2013 USL PRO Championship game, with the opponent still to be determined.
“We put the game away after the first few goals, but gifted them back into the game,” said Orlando City Head Coach Adrian Heath. “We’ll move on and try to win next week.”
Similar to Orlando’s Quarterfinal victory last week, the Lions got off to a fast start, scoring two goals in just the first five minutes of play. Orlando Forward Long Tan, who scored a brace against the Pittsburgh Riverhounds, got on the scoring end first- blasting in a well-played ball from Dennis Chin past Charleston Goalkeeper Odisnel Cooper in the 4th minute of play for the 1-0 advantage.
Just a minute later, Orlando doubled their lead thanks to a nice one-two between Defender Erik Ustruck and Forward Dennis Chin. After cleverly getting behind the Battery backline, Ustruck crossed it into Midfielder Adama Mbengue in the box. Mbengue found space, beating Cooper for the 2-0 lead.
The quick start continued for Orlando, with a 19th minute goal by Chin extending the lead to 3-0 over the Battery. After earning a corner, Winger Luke Boden swung in his attempt- with it bouncing off bodies inside the box. Chin found the deflection just inside the 6-yard box, tapping it in for his second goal of the postseason.
Charleston got on the scoreboard in the 33rd minute, with Midfielder Michael Azira capitalizing on a miscommunication from the Lions’ backline to put the Battery back in contention. After a shot in by Charleston, Orlando Goalkeeper Miguel Gallardo deflected it out, but he was caught straying too far outside the 18-yard as Azira floated his header up and over Gallardo.
Charleston dug into the Orlando lead even further as the second half began, with an Amadou Sanyang goal in the 60th minute cutting the advantage to 3-2.
Things continued to get heated as the match wore on, with red cards being shown to both teams after a controversial challenge including Tan and Colin Flavey. Both were taken out of the game, leaving each team with 10 men for the last 15 minutes of the match. The red card also leaves Tan unavailable for the Championship match.
Charleston continued to attack on the offensive side of the ball as the match came to a close, but the Lions’ backline held strong- not allowing for an equalizer and ending the game with the 3-2 score line.
The win puts Orlando in the Championship match for the first time since 2011. The Lions topped the Harrisburg City Islanders on penalty kicks two years ago, taking home the USL PRO Championship in the club’s inaugural season.
Attention now turns to Saturday night’s Richmond Kickers/Charlotte Eagles match, with the winner determining where the 2013 Championship will be held. A Kickers win would mean the game will be played in Richmond, with an Eagles victory putting the Championship in Orlando. Regardless of the result, the match will be played on Saturday, September 7.