Charlotte FC hands Orlando City it’s first defeat of the 2023 season with 2-1 win

ORLANDO, FL – The Orlando City Lions faced off against Charlotte FC on Saturday night in front of 18,123 fans at Exploria Stadium. The result was a 2-1 loss for the Lions, their first loss of the season.

Orlando, Florida, USA, March 18, 2023, Orlando City SC forward Facundo Torres #17 during the second half at Exploria Stadium. (Photo Credit: Marty Jean-Louis)

Orlando City comes fresh off of a 1-1 draw in the CONCACAF Championship tournament, against Tigres UANL, who the result advancing Tigres to the quarter final round.

Orlando returns to their home pitch, where they remain undefeated.

The action started as early as the 3rd minute when Martin Ojeda put one into the back of the net, only to be called offside.

Charlotte returned the favor in the following minute when they got a shot in close in the following minute, but it was wide and also called offside.

Charlotte was the first to score in the 26′ when Enzo Copetti got one off of Robin Jansson and sent a shot in past Gallese for the 1-0 lead.

In the 37th minute, Kerwin Calderon Vargas sent a grounder that deflected past Gallese. for the 2-0 Charlotte lead.

Orlando, Florida, USA, March 18, 2023, Charlotte FC forward Kerwin Vargas #18 celebrate goal during the second half at Exploria Stadium. (Photo Credit: Marty Jean-Louis)

Orlando’s momentum at the beginning of the game was gone, and they resulted in relying on long kicks into the other side, while the pressure on the comfortable Charlotte side lessened.

At the half, a weary Lions squad went into the locker room with their heads down. Looks like Wednesday’s match against Tigres had an effect on the team.

It was all on Orlando’s second half to make this a positive night.

In the second half, Orlando brought in Kyle Smith and Ivan Angulo for more energy and offensive punch.

In the 57th minute, Duncan McGuire fired a shot into the Charlotte goal that was blocked by goalkeeper Adilson Malanda, but Orlando’s Martín Ojeda was Jonny on the spot to put it in the net for the Lion’s first goal of the match.

Orlando, Florida, USA, March 18, 2023, Orlando City SC defender Robin Jansson #6 attempt to score with a header in the first half at Exploria Stadium. (Photo Credit: Marty Jean-Louis)

Following the goal by “Tincho”, Orlando played with renewed energy and fight.

Orlando crated many chances in the second half, with 11 shots, thought only four were on target. 

Robin Jansson, Rodrigo Schlegel and Mauricio Pareyra had the most touches for the Lions, with Jansson touching the ball over 100 times. 

In the end, the damage was done, as Orlando could not get that second goal.

Lions Head Coach Oscar Pareja immediately took responsibility for the loss.

“It’s a moment where we lost three points at home in a match that we all assumed that we should win.” Said Pareja. “You could see in the two halves and the way the game ended; I have to say that I’m very proud of these players. It’s my responsibility to create a lineup and to create a game plan and in that part, I have to analyze what occurred in the first half and it did not help the boys. The effort in the second [half] was fantastic. I just kept that image. I have to move forward, once again, I take that responsibility of being very unorganized [in the first half].”

The win is the first for Charlotte this season, and marks the first defeat for Orlando, including it’s games in the CONCACAF tournament.

Despite another heroic effort by Gallese, who kept Charlotte from increasing the lead with several solid saves, the Lions didn’t have it in them.

They had many passing miscues, which is common for early in the season.

When asked if this loss was a result of fatigue or even emotional fatigue from this weeks loss to Tigres, Pareja refused to accept that as an excuse.

“Right, no excuses at all are something that will come from my mouth. We were prepared, we’re young, we’re good, we’re professionals. It was a heaviness from the game, [but] we’ve got to overcome it. It’s normal. Obviously, we had a good game against Tigres, a good series, but couldn’t advance and all those things, but we’re professionals and especially this group. This group is very professional in that part because they showed it in the second half. It was a easy night to give up on the effort when things didn’t bounce our way, or we couldn’t play the way we normally played in the first half and that did not happen. That just shows that we don’t need to think about that game as an influence or nothing, no excuses. That game was over. This one was a new game with different things.”

Orlando City next heads out to face the Philadelphia Union on March 25th.






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