Orlando City SC has made huge strides off the field to show it belongs in MLS. The Lions proved Wednesday night they might belong at the top level on the field as well.
Long Tan scored in the opening minute of the game and Orlando held on the rest of the way to stun the defending US Open Cup champion Sporting KC in what Orlando City manager Adrian Heath called the biggest win in club history.
“We believed,” Heath said. “We obviously believed before the game we could get a result.”
Heath said he thought his team played with a chip on its shoulder after talk about whether the Lions could cope with the drop off in quality by playing without four of Sporting’s loaned players dominated the lead up to the game.
“It’s human nature,” he said. “People forget we broke all the records last year for the most goals, most wins, most points. Some of the guys came into tonight with a bit to prove.”
Prove themselves they did.
Barley 75 seconds into the match, KC turned the ball over after a quick restart in its own half and Orlando capitalized.
“The goal was a terrible mistake on our part,” said Sporting manager Peter Vermes. “Giving that goal away breaks you because it’s not an earned goal. It’s a goal that we’re sleeping on.”
KC pressed hard for an equalizer after Tan shocked the 15,981 in attendance at Sporting Park, but the home side couldn’t find the back of the net despite 10 first-half shots.
Orlando had two shots in the first half, but was unlucky not to be two up at halftime. Only a brilliant save of Tan’s close-range effort by Sporting goalkeeper Eric Kronberg kept the score at 1-0.
“I thought our counter-attacking football was excellent,” Heath said of his team’s first half.
Vermes brought on CJ Sapong for Josh Gardner at halftime and Lawrence Olum for Benny Feilhaber shortly after as Sporting carried play in the second half, but continued to waste chances.
Seth Sinovic forced a diving save from Gallardo in the 59th minute and skimmed the top of the net with another long-range shot minutes later.
It was part of a 10-shot flurry that also saw Sapong volley from six yards out with the goal at his mercy and Claudio Bieler missed an open header at the back post.
Ike Opara had the best chance to equalize deep into stoppage time, but he couldn’t stretch enough to poke home a deflected header.
Heath said Orlando’s strong league standing (currently 1st in USL Pro) means the team can prioritize the tournament going forward as the Lions attempt to become only the second lower-division side to win the Cup since MLS teams entered the competition.
Orlando City 1:0 Sporting KC
ORL: Long Tan (Adama Mbengue) – 2nd min.
71’ Yellow card (Anthony Pulis)
Sporting Kansas City:
46’ CJ Sapong for Josh Gardner
58’ Lawrence Olum for Benny Feilhaber
76’ Teal Bunbury for Jacob Peterson
Orlando City SC:
71’ Erik Ustruck for Dennis Chin
73’ Oumar Diakhite for Justin Clarke
92’ Freddie Braun for Adama Mbengue
Sporting – 18
Orlando – 5
Shots on goal
Sporting – 4
Orlando – 3
Sporting – 2
Orlando – 4
Sporting – 15
Sporting – 5
Orlando – 1