ORLANDO, Fla. - Orlando City Soccer Club fell 1-0 in an international friendly against the English Premier League’s Stoke City at the Florida Citrus Bowl in front of a rowdy 10,441 fans Saturday night. A goal in stoppage time at the end of the first half put the Potters on top over the Lions. Despite the loss, Orlando City was praised for the quality of play and the crowd that showed for the friendly in Orlando.
“This club has all the right things to be in the MLS,” said Stoke City Manager Tony Pulis. “A great crowd came out tonight, and Orlando City played well. This is definitely the place to be.”
Stoke City’s first chance came in the 11th minute, after a free kick attempt nearly notched the Potters an early score. Glenn Whelan, after a foul left Stoke with a free kick opportunity just outside the 18 box, put a shot whizzing by the City back line only to be saved by diving Orlando City Goalkeeper Miguel Gallardo to keep the scoreline level.
Orlando added an attack of their own just minutes later. A City counter responded up the middle of the pitch left the outside options open, including winger Jerome Mechack. The defender found open space on the right side of the pitch after the Lions made a charge up field, leaving Mechack alone with space in front to maneuver. The Haitian rocketed a shot inches above the Stoke crossbar, and despite the miss, established an early Orlando offensive.
Right before halftime struck, Stoke City got on the scoreboard. John Walters got a feed after a deflected pass found the forward alone outside the six-yard box, one-timing the deflection toward goal and past Gallardo to give the Potters a 1-0 lead.
The second half got off to a rocky start for Stoke City. Handed a yellow earlier in the afternoon, Whelan elbowed Orlando’s Charlie Campbell in the 59th, putting the midfielder on his back. Whelan received his second yellow for the challenge and was sent off, leaving the Potters down a man for the final 30 minutes.
The 10-man side left Orlando in a favorable position. The Lions remained persistent, maintaining possession while putting shots on frame. It was evident in the shot total in the second half, which was titled heavily in City’s favor, 12-3.
Despite the attacks, Stoke kept their top-level form by playing solid defense and denying the multiple Orlando opportunities. Stoke, who is in the middle of their preseason, used the second half as an opportunity to get players on the pitch- substituting in six players. With the fresh legs coming on, the Potters were able to hold off City and secure the 1-0 victory.
Orlando City returns to USL PRO regular season play on Wednesday, August 1, against the Harrisburg City Islanders. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. EST. Orlando has already clinched the regular season title and home field advantage throughout the playoffs, so every game from here on out is for bragging rights.