Orlando City look to end slow start against Minnesota United

League: MLS

Posted on: 09 Mar, 2024 at 04:29 AM

Credit: Morgan Tencza-USA TODAY Sports

After finishing second in the Supporters' Shield standings in 2023, Orlando City was expected to make a strong run for the MLS Cup this season.

However, going into their third game of the season against visiting Minnesota United on Saturday, the Lions aren't looking only for their first win but also for their first goal of the campaign.

Orlando, which scored 55 goals in 34 games in 2023, opened the 2024 season with a 0-0 home draw against CF Montreal and followed that with an ugly 5-0 loss at in-state rival Inter Miami on March 2, when Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez both had braces.

The Lions (0-1-1, 1 point) are in the middle of a busy stretch. They earned a 0-0 draw against Tigres UANL in the first leg of a CONCACAF Champions Cup round-of-16 series on Tuesday. They face the Loons (1-0-1, 4 points) on Saturday and then play the second leg Tuesday in San Nicolas de los Garza, Mexico. That's four matches in 11 days for those keeping score.

Although his team didn't pick up a win against Tigres, Orlando coach Oscar Pareja was happy with the bounce-back effort from his squad after the lopsided loss to Inter Miami.

"There were points in the second half where we thought we could have won the game," Pareja said. "We fought and we played well. The most remarkable thing for me was the personality of the team throughout the match and overcoming the difficult (result to Miami) that we had over the weekend. ... It was a great response and put the team back on the surface and we are ready to keep going."

Minnesota United come into the contest in a five-way tie for first place in the Western Conference thanks to a 2-1 season-opening win at Austin FC followed by a wild 1-1 draw with defending MLS Cup winner Columbus Crew last weekend.

Minnesota's Tani Oluwaseyi scored the tying goal in the 95th minute, his first career MLS goal, and Dayne St. Clair made five saves to lead the Loons.

What made Oluwaseyi's score even more dramatic was that the officials announced only four minutes of stoppage time. His sharp-angle left-footed shot from the right side of the box into the top far corner came well into the fifth minute.

"I kept looking at the ref to make sure he's not moving the whistle to his lips," Oluwaseyi said. "I saw that wasn't happening and I said, 'We are going to get one more.' I just tried to be in a position where I can hit the ball first time off a clearance, or in that case, take a touch and aim for goal."

Midfielders Bongi Hlongwane (fitness) and Robin Lod (calf) will both be available to play Saturday for the Loons, but two of the team's top goal-scoring threats, midfielder Emanuel Reynoso (knee) and winger Franco Fragapane (calf), were ruled out.

--Field Level Media