Fairwinds History 2

It was 2011 and a young Kevin Molino pushed the Lions to glory in an international friendly against Newcastle United. It was a 1-0 victory.

Four years later, the 24-year-old midfielder—and one of the institutional players who made the MLS transition from USL Pro—embraces the opportunity to face the oldest club in Brazil Ponte Preta.
It marks the team’s seventh international friendly in five years with new and old teammates.

Included among those friendlies are giant clubs such as AS Roma, Fluminense, Newcastle United, and São Paulo – a remarkable feat for a team in the minor league.

With the Ponte Preta match approaching, takes a look back at each of Orlando City’s friendlies, dating back to the Club’s inaugural season in Orlando.

July 17, 2011 – Bolton Wanderers FC  
Orlando City’s first-ever friendly took place against former English Premier League side, Bolton Wanderers. Boasting the likes of Martin Petrov, Kevin Davies, Ricardo Gardner and U.S. International Stuart Holden, who was injured at the time. Bolton put on a show for the fans in attendance – scoring three goals in a comfortable 3-1 victory. Orlando City held its own in the team’s first-ever match of that caliber though, showcasing impressing spells of possession. Former Orlando forward Matt Luzunaris scored the lone goal for the Lions, running in behind experienced defender Zat Knight before calmly slotting the ball away.

July 23, 2011 – Newcastle United FC
Shortly after its defeat to Bolton, the Lions responded in typical Orlando City fashion, producing an inspiring performance to defeat Newcastle 1-0 in front of over 11,000 fans. With the Premier League season set to begin less than a month after the game against Orlando, Newcastle put forth a squad that was close to their first team for the season – a campaign where their first loss came to Manchester City 12 weeks into the season. Nevertheless, Orlando dominated the run of play against one of the oldest teams in the world – capping off an impressive performance when Kevin Molino finished Dennis Chin’s assist for the only goal of the game.

July 28, 2012 – Stoke City
In year two, Orlando City continued its series of friendlies against English Premier League teams, battling Stoke City at the Orlando Citrus Bowl. For many involved with the Club, this particular match had more of a special feeling than the previous two exhibition matches. Not only was President and Founder Phil Rawlins an owner of his childhood club Stoke City, but head coach Adrian Heath previously starred for the Potters, which was also his hometown team. In addition, James O’Connor and Anthony Pulis were held lengthy careers with the club. The Lions once again showed they were able to compete with high level teams, however, Jon Walters’ lone goal proved to be the difference maker.

January 2, 2013 – AS Roma
As the push to MLS intensified, City opened the New Year with a contest against one of the most storied clubs in the world – AS Roma. Roma, who were in the middle of their Serie A campaign, fielded a very strong roster, including Francesco Totti, Alessandro Florenzi, Miralem Pjanic, Daniele de Rossi, Michael Bradley, and Matti Destro. Unlike their previous friendlies, the Lions hadn’t even begun their preseason training – comprising a roster mixed with signed players and local collegiate players. As a result, the Italian giants delivered a convincing 5-0 performance.

June 22, 2013 – Fluminense
Later that year, Orlando took on Brazilian super-club Fluminense in an exciting fixture that featured seven goals. Former City striker Dom Dwyer, who set the USL record for goals in 2013, opened the scoring in the 17th minute, employing a crafty turn before firing the ball into the bottom corner. However, Fluminense managed to score four unanswered by the 75 the minute. Nevertheless, City continued to battle as Adama Mbengue and Jean Alexandre both scored to bring the game within one.

May 23, 2014 – AS Roma
City’s annual friendly against the Italians continued in 2014, when the Lions took on Roma at ESPN Wide World of Sports. With the Lions further in their season this time around, the second match against Roma featured a much closer game. City played well throughout the game, despite going up against some of the best players in Serie A. However, in the end, Roma and Italy National Team legend Francesco Totti showed his brilliance, scoring a screamer from the edge of the box. Side note, Totti’s screamer made SportsCenter’s top 10 that night.

June 20, 2014 – São Paulo
After the 1-0 win over Newcastle, City’s 0-0 draw against São Paulo is certainly the Club’s next best result in their list of friendlies. Not only did the Lions show they could possess the ball against one of the most successful clubs in Brazil, but they came close to scoring on several occasions as well, putting legendary goalkeeper Rogerio Ceni under immense pressure. São Paulo didn’t take the match lightly either, putting out a roster that included Luis Fabiano and Paulo Henrique Ganso.