Orlando City hammers Charlotte Eagles 7-4 for 2013 USL Pro Championship

Orlando City Soccer Club defeated the Charlotte Eagles 7-4 to claim their second USL Pro Championship in three years Saturday night. Playing before a league record 20,886 fans at Fifth Third Bank Field, the Lions and Eagles put on a veritable fireworks show combining for a USL Pro record 11 total goals. Leading the barrage for Orlando City was Dom Dwyer with a hat trick plus a penalty.  Dennis Chin chipped in 2 additional goals and Adama Mbengue scored his first goal of the season. Charlotte was led by Christian Ramirez with 2 goals and Christian Meza and Fejiro Okiomah with one each.

Orlando City had launched Operation 15k to try to get the fans out in force and were wildly successful with an attendance figure that proved higher than every MLS match played this weekend except for the normally crazy Seattle crowd. The crowd was so large that the start of the match was delayed to allow time for the majority to make their way into the Citrus Bowl.

The result along with the raucous spectators pleased Orlando City President Phil Rawlins, “I think it is a night that people will remember forever and it just shows the strength of the market and the appetite for soccer here in Central Florida. It’s not as if it was fans turning up to watch Newcastle or Fluminense or another star team. It was 20,000 turning up to watch Orlando City.

“We’ve set ourselves up as a professional organization, even if this is still a minor level, and we’re definitely ready to take the next step. Our fans our unbelievable and have a real passion for this team. And, once we go up to MLS level, I think we will see this kind of success there as well.”

After Orlando failed to capitalize on two corner kicks early on, Charlotte opened the scoring at the 20th minute by finishing on a corner kick of their own with a Fejiro Okiomah header from the far post. Sporting Kansas City loan Dom Dwyer equalized at the 33rd minute sending red, purple and white streamers skyward from a roaring supporters section. The Lions pulled ahead at the 42nd minute when Dwyer sent a spectacular header to the left corner of the net off a cross from Erik Ustruck. Charlotte was unfazed however responding immediately one minute later when Ben Newman snuck a cross past Orlando Goalkeeper Miguel Gallardo which Christian Ramirez slotted home to even things up. The half ended 2-2 making for a tense atmosphere permeating the Central Florida night air.

Things didn’t seem to be working out for Orlando City when at the 57th minute Charlotte took the lead when Ramirez slipped behind the Orlando City defense to take a kick from goal keeper Eric Reed and stick it to the left corner past Gallardo. But again with the theme of the evening being All Offense and No Defense, Dwyer responded by calmly slotting a penalty shot to the left corner of the net to notch both sides at 3.

From there, Orlando went on an unanswered tear of three goals from Dwyer, Chin and Mbengue at the 69th, 70th, and 85th minutes respectively to grab a 6-3 lead. Unbelievably, the scoring wasn’t finished as Charlotte came right back at the 88th minute with a Meza header off a Tommy Smith cross. Dennis Chin closed out the high scoring affair in the 90th minute with a left footed shot to the right corner of the goal.

Commenting on the bizarre game and even more surprising crowd, Orlando City Head Coach Adrian Heath remarked, “It’s a little bit surreal because I’ve never been involved in an 11-goal game in my life, not even one where we scored seven. And to play in front of more than 20,000 was amazing. I’ve been up to Portland where they regularly get big crowds and to hear 25,000 screaming from the rafters is something you’re envious of. Well, we equaled that tonight.”

With this victory, Orlando City has won two Championships and two Supporters shields in three years. The next steps for the club on its quest to join MLS should occur in the next month or so as the City of Orlando and Orange County vote on a plan to partially use Tourism Taxes to fund a soccer specific stadium downtown.

Orlando City                                                        7-4           Charlotte Eagles
Dwyer goal 33’, goal42’, goal61’ (Pen.), 69’                           Okiomah goal20’
Chin goal70’, goal90’                                                                    Ramirez goal43’, goal58’
Mbengue goal85’                                                                       Meza goal88’

Red Cards: None
Yellow Cards:
Orlando City: Boden  yellowcard 71’
Charlotte: Asante  yellowcard 86’

Location: Orlando, FL
Stadium: Citrus Bowl
Attendance: 20,886
Referee: Ismail Elfath