ORLANDO, Fla. — Orlando City has a history of game-tying goals in stoppage time on opening day, and Saturday night was no different.
A 10-man Lions side came back at the death to steal a point from D.C. United with a 93rd minute goal finish 1-1 at Orlando City Stadium.
Yamil Asad scored the only goal of the night for the visiting side, which didn’t arrive in central Florida until about eight hours before kickoff due to bad weather up north delaying their flights. The midfielder slipped a free kick from about 20 yards out through everybody in its path to open the scoring.
But the goal that everybody will remember came from Stefano Pinho, the NASL’s 2017 Golden Boot winner who tucked home a cross from Jonathan Spector to level the game and send the home fans off happy.
Orlando City, which was without five key players for the match, including Dom Dwyer (injury) and Sacha Kljestan (suspension), jumped out of the gates with a promising start, controlling the majority of possession and build-up chances. Signs were pointing towards it being the Lions’ night up until the 17th minute, when Video Assistant Referee was called upon look at a potential handball in the box by Will Johnson, a review that was decided on in D.C.’s favor with the penalty awarded. Darren Mattocks stepped up to take the kick, but was denied by Joe Bendik, who jumped to his left and got a hand on the ball to knock it off the crossbar and back into play.
The save brought a jolt of energy into the stadium, pulling momentum strongly to Orlando, but all of that ended abruptly in the 32nd minute when Asad, who had drawn a foul just outside of the box on a foul by Orlando’s Cam Lindley a moment earlier, tucked home the free kick and put D.C. up 1-0.
Orlando was sent down to 10 men less than 10 minutes later when Victor “PC” Giro was called for a foul, again on Asad. PC was initially shown a yellow card for the play, but the head referee, Fotis Bazakos, again decided to check with the VAR before changing his call to a red card, ending PC’s night on the pitch.
D.C. absorbed a barrage of Orlando City chances in the second half, including a couple of close scoring chances by Chris Mueller, who’s shot from close range flew wide in the 51st minute, and Yoshimar Yotun, who saw his shot cleared off the goal line six minutes later by Frederic Brilliant, but couldn’t keep out Pinho, who entered the game as a second half sub in the 58th minute.
Man of the Match
Yamil Asad, who D.C. acquired in the offseason after a dazzling 2017 campaign with Atlanta United, drew five fouls in the match, including that one that set up his free kick goal in the first half.
Moment of the Match
The PC red card changed the game for Orlando City, but Stefano Pinho’s last-gasp winner stole a point from a difficult opener.
Match to Forget
No player likes to leave their team hanging, which is what it must feel like to be sent off in the first half of the match. PC will serve his one game suspension next week and try to put this one behind him.