OCALA, Fla. - Behind one goal in the first and second halves, Orlando City SC advanced past the PDL’s Ocala Stampede 2-1 Tuesday night in Ocala, Fla., at Forest High School. With the win, the Lions will host Major League Soccer’s (MLS) Colorado Rapids next Tuesday, May 28, at Fifth Third Bank Field at the Florida Citrus Bowl.
“I thought our first half performance was very good,” said Orlando City Head Coach Adrian Heath. “We gifted them (Ocala) a goal in the second half and let them back in the game. But at the end of the day we bring the Rapids to Orlando next week and it will be a good game for us.”
The Lions came out on the attack to begin the match, with league-leading scorer Dom Dwyer nearly converting chances early on, including a bicycle kick in the 20th minute of play. The Sporting Kansas City loanee and the Lions frontline continued to press, with it paying off just past the halfway point of the first half.
After an Ocala throw-in, Defender Erik Ustruck took away control from the Stampede, passing his attempt into the box where an Ocala defender knocked a deflection to Dwyer. The striker then lobbed the deflection up and over Goalkeeper Lex Craggs, putting Orlando up 1-0.
Just after the second half began, the Lions went up 2-0 after an Adama Mbengue strike in the 50th minute. The midfielder found space just inside the 18-yard box, blasting a low strike past the Ocala defense and into the lower-right corner for the two-goal advantage.
Ocala responded with a goal of their own in the 58th minute, with Midfielder Christian Blandon converting a score after Orlando Goalkeeper Jon Kempin made two diving saves in a penalty situation. The Stampede were awarded a penalty after Kempin took down an Ocala striker inside the box, with the Sporting KC loanee making two saves initially- only for Blandon to secure the follow up and cut the lead down to 2-1.
Orlando regained composure after the goal, retaining possession while getting multiple chances at a third score. The last part of the match was a back and forth affair, with the Lions ultimately holding strong and ending the match with the victory.
The club plays one regular season match on Saturday, May 25, vs. the Wilmington Hammerheads before hosting the Rapids in the third round of Open Cup play Tuesday night at Fifth Third Bank at the Florida Citrus Bowl. Tuesday’s game marks the first time Orlando has hosted an MLS team at home in the knockout tournament, with the Lions traveling to opponent’s venues in the third round of the past two seasons.