Orlando City SC (10-2-4, 37 points) downed the visiting Charleston Battery (7-3-6, 27 points) 2-1 Thursday night at Fifth Third Bank Field at the Florida Citrus Bowl in front of a club mid-week record crowd of 8,729 fans. Jamie Watson scored a goal in each of the halves to propel the Lions to a crucial home win in USL PRO play, moving Orlando further ahead in the league table.
“It’s a huge relief to get this tonight,” said Orlando City Head Coach Adrian Heath. “After losing players and a few past results it was important to get three points.”
The Lions fielded a starting lineup that featured all four Sporting loanees, including Defender Kevin Ellis and Forward C.J. Sapong- who arrived in Central Florida earlier in the afternoon.
The early parts of the first 45 minutes were a back and forth affair between the two sides, with Orlando attacking in pockets behind Sapong and team-leading scorer Jamie Watson. Those pockets continued to open up, with the Lions capitalizing on a well-played series in the 29th minute.
After a Charleston attack, Defender Rob Valentino began the series by clearing out the Battery offensive, finding loanee and 2011 MLS Rookie of the Year Sapong at the mid stripe. The striker then nodded the pass to fellow Sporting KC player Christian Duke, who played a through ball to a charging Watson. Watson then slotted his attempt in the lower right-hand corner past Battery Goalkeeper Odisnel Cooper for the 1-0 advantage.
The second half began with Charleston on the offensive, with the Lions backline clearing out multiple early chances by the South Carolina based side. Charleston equalized in the 55th minute, with a Jose Cuevas goal putting the match at 1-1. Battery Forward Dane Kelley set up the strike, finding Cuevas in open space inside the 18-yard box for the goal.
The Lions’ pace picked up after allowing the score, controlling possession while creating more opportunities as the second half progressed. Sapong created Orlando’s next scoring chance, with the striker getting tripped up while making a run just inside the penalty area- awarding the Lions a penalty kick. Watson took the attempt, converting past Cooper, despite the goalkeeper guessing correctly to give Orlando the 2-1 advantage heading into the final 15 minutes of the match.
Despite some late chances by the visiting side, Orlando held strong while keeping the scoreline at 2-1- gaining three valuable points at home with the win.
Orlando takes to the road for their next two matches, playing away at the Dayton Dutch Lions and Pittsburgh Riverhounds on Sunday, July 14, and Wednesday, July 17, respectively. Dayton currently stands in 7th in the USL PRO table with a record of 7-4-5 (26 points) while Pittsburgh is three spots behind in 10th with a mark of 5-6-6 (17 points). Orlando has taken on Dayton once in 2013, topping the visiting Dutch Lions 4-0 back on April 27. The Lions and Riverhounds have yet to face this season.
Both matches will be streamed live on USLNation.com, with Sunday’s match kicking off at 6:30 p.m. EST. For more information on the upcoming away matches and Orlando’s next home game on Saturday, July 20, visit OrlandoCitySoccer.com.