Orlando City rediscovers offense, clinches playoff berth

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Orlando City SC (15-1-4, 49 points) clinched a playoff berth for the fourth consecutive year Saturday evening, defeating the Charlotte Eagles (7-12-3, 24 points) 4-1 at ESPN Wide World of Sports.  The win extended City’s home unbeaten streak in USL Pro play to 16 while maintaining OCSC’s lead at four points in league standings.

 

“We expected to make the playoffs, but it’s still nice to do it,” said Orlando City Head Coach Adrian Heath after the 4-1 win. “I thought the performance tonight was a lot better than it has been in the past. We have to continue to play at our maximum because we can’t afford to play 75-80 percent and expect to win.”

 

After a relatively slow start to the match, Oviedo, Fla. native Dennis Chin provided the first goal in the 45th minute, scoring his sixth of the 2014 campaign. Chin’s goal ended a 266-minute goal-scoring drought for Orlando.

 

The finish stemmed from good build-up play by City’s front three, consisting of Mbengue, Chin and Molino. Chin drifted inside and found the Trinidadian, who released Mbengue in the box for a clear chance on goal. Charlotte Goalkeeper Alec Kahn’s save on the Senegalese midfielder’s ensuing strike landed in Chin’s path, setting up a clinical finish from 12 yards away.

 

Tyler Turner and Molino added the final goals for Orlando in the opening portion of the second half. Turner’s header in the 48th minute marked the 18-year-old’s first ever professional goal, while Molino boosted his league tally to 13 with a brace in the span of ten minutes.  He is in second place for most goals in the USL Pro behind Richmond Kicker’s striker Matthew Delicate.

Turner jumped on the score-sheet when the right-back got on the end of Ceren’s free-kick, nodding the ball home from the back-post. City was awarded the set-piece when Mbengue was brought down just outside the area by the Charlotte defense.

 

“I’ve been aching to score a goal,” said Turner. “It’s always been my dream to score at the professional level and everything is finally starting to fall in place. It’s been an unreal experience.”

 

Molino followed up on Turner’s header shortly afterward, calmly slotting away a penalty for his first goal before coordinating a moment of brilliance for his brace. The referee pointed to the spot for the penalty in the 49th minute when Brian Span was hacked down in the box, resulting in Juan Guzman being shown a red card.

 

Molino’s second goal of the game was a special finish, displaying the confidence the 24-year-old carries in his game. After making a piercing run in behind the Eagles’ defense, City’s first Major League Soccer (MLS) signee effortlessly chipped the ball over Charlotte’s keeper Alec Kahn who was charging off his line.

 

Charlotte pulled one back in the 75th minute when Striker Wells Thompson scored a cracking effort off the crossbar.

 

Orlando City now has eight games remaining in the season, as the Lions aim to capture a third Regular Season Championship. City’s next fixture will take place on Saturday, August 9 against the Harrisburg City Islanders at Skyline Sports Complex. Kick-off is scheduled for 6 p.m. EST.