Giant killers! Orlando City make statement with win at FC Cincinnati


Orlando City SC have now defeated the first-place team in both the Western Conference (St. Louis CITY SC) and the Eastern Conference (FC Cincinnati) in the span of a week.

The latter result, a 1-0 road win Saturday night, served as Cincinnati's first defeat at home in league play this season. It also soured the Supporters’ Shield leaders' home party after clinching the first Audi 2023 MLS Cup Playoffs spot midweek.

With that résumé, the Lions are proving two things:

  1. They’re forging a reputation as giant killers and road warriors (league-best seven away wins).
  2. They may be a team no one wants to face when the playoffs begin next month.

“There's a lot of things that we have to be proud of,” Orlando head coach Oscar Pareja said after the match. “But we have many as well that we need to get better. If we keep this mentality, we can fight. … But you have to maintain that consistency.”

Surging Orlando are third in the East, level on points with second-place New England, and are unbeaten in their last five league contests. Across all competitions, the Lions have lost just once – to Lionel Messi and Inter Miami CF in Leagues Cup – in their last eight matches.

Torres: Difference-maker

A key architect in Orlando City’s rise is Facundo Torres, who scored the game’s lone goal one minute before halftime. The Uruguayan Designated Player has 15 goal contributions (11g/4a) this season after posting 19 (9g/10a) a year ago upon his club-record transfer arrival.

“We don't have any doubt on Facundo. We understand that he is a very young player with a lot of talent that is carrying on his shoulders a big responsibility to take us to the next level,” Pareja said.

“He did it last year. … Facu is being a protagonist in our games. He understands well. I'm happy for him for his professionalism and camaraderie that he has with the group.”

The Lions are battling adversity in this stretch run, with Rodrigo Schlegel filling in for the injured Antônio Carlos and helping anchor an Orlando backline that kept red-hot Luciano Acosta, fresh off a second-straight MLS Player of the Month presented by CELSIUS award, and the Knifey Lions off the scoreboard.

McGuire update to come

Further, rookie striker Duncan McGuire left the match with a shoulder injury in the first half – a worrisome sign after he's been a revelation up front with eight goals and two assists. But the level didn’t drop as Ramiro Enrique came off the bench to set up Torres’ decisive goal.

Pareja said it’s too soon to assess the severity of McGuire’s injury, but what's clear is if Orlando continue on this path, a deep postseason run could be in order.

“I think it says that Orlando is a very competitive team and we want to win every single game that we're in,” Enrique said through a translator. “We go after that every single game, we want to be champions. That's the objective and that's what we're gonna try and do every single time we play.”