On a day that featured three Eastern Conference matchups with five of the six teams within five points of each other jockeying to climb the table, Orlando got the job done by picking up three massive points, impressively on the road, and were rewarded handsomely with that dramatic leap up the standings.
“Just like every other team, our goal is ultimately to win MLS Cup and you can’t win if you’re not in the playoffs,” said game-winning goalscorer Tesho Akindele. “It feels good to get in there and give ourselves a little bit of a cushion, but it’s still tight. If you fall asleep for a week or two all of a sudden you’re out of it. We know that and we’re going to keep our foot on the gas.”
It played out like a playoff match, with neither team giving an inch through the first 45 minutes. In the second half, however, the game broke wide open with Ercan Kara opening the score in the 62nd minute, leaving Charlotte to respond four minutes later through Orrin Gaines, only for the comeback to be undone when Akindele scored dramatically in the 89th minute.
It had all the feel of a postseason clash with over 30,000 in attendance in Charlotte, too.
“[It's] the urgency of the two teams in playoff mode,” Orlando City head coach Oscar Pareja said. “We are in that age of getting points and the energy in the stadium was very good.”
Now just over two weeks away from hosting Sacramento Republic FC in the final of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, Orlando are in prime position to build on a successful season, and in good form with two consecutive wins following a pair of losses to D.C. United and the New England Revolution.
For Akindele, scoring his first goal of the season couldn’t come at a better time.
“We’re in a really good spot with that win. We’re growing momentum and it’s a good time to be an Orlando City player.”