Orlando City

Match report: Martín Ojeda's first goal not enough to push Orlando City past Charlotte FC

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Tincho time finally struck on Saturday night. Unfortunately for Orlando City, it wasn't enough to get past Charlotte FC.

Martín Ojeda scored his first career MLS goal for the Lions in the 56th minute, but a two-goal, first-half deficit proved too steep to overcome in a 2-1 defeat before 18,123 at Exploria Stadium.

It was the first loss of the season for Orlando (1-1-2), snapping the club's three-match point streak to open the young campaign.

“It's a moment where we lost three points at home in a match that we all assumed that we should win," Orlando City coach Oscar Pareja said. "You could see in the two halves and the way the game ended. ... The effort in the second [half] was fantastic. I just kept that image. I have to move forward, once again, I take that responsibility of being very unorganized [in the first half].”

The Lions came out firing to open the match and looked to have gotten on the board in the fourth minute when Ojeda deflected home a feed from Michael Halliday in front of the net. But the goal was called back for offside, keeping things scoreless.

From there, however, Orlando unraveled and Charlotte capitalized, getting goals from Enzo Copetti in the 26th minute and Kerwin Vargas in the 37th to seize control.

“We started the game off really strong, we were making the right decisions, the game was going our way, according to our plan," Orlando defender Rafael Santos said. "And then once we hit around the 15-minute mark, they started to really put us in danger in terms of, on the counterattack, primarily. And from that point on, we really just got caught out and then they punished us as a result of that.”

Orlando pushed hard for a rally down the stretch, finally turning momentum in its favor with Ojeda's marker to cut Charlotte's advange in half. The club's prized offseason acquisition -- who signed a three-year contract as a designated player from Godoy Cruz in January -- Ojeda rifled a left-footed shot off a rebound from Duncan McGuire that trickled past Charlotte keeper George Marks.

An elated Ojeda put an exclamation mark on the moment by pumping his fists into the air, high-fiving Halliday and blowing a kiss toward the home stands in celebration.

But at the final whistle, it was Charlotte celebrating as the second-year club held off the Lions late for its first victory of the season.

Orlando City finished with 19 shots (seven on goal) to Charlotte's eight shots (four on target). Charlotte also received six yellow cards in the match.

Orlando City bested Charlotte in two previous meetings last season -- both by 2-1 scores.

"This is going to be a learning lesson," Santos said. "We're always going to fight for this shirt, for the club. We're always going to look for the victory and chase the victory just like we did on Wednesday [against Tigres], just like we did today again. But again, there isn't going to be an easy opponent.

"Each and every one of our opponents is going to be difficult and we just learn game by game.”

Up next

Orlando hits the road to face the Philadelphia Union on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. ET (MLS Season Pass on Apple TV; Real Radio 104.1 FM and Acción 97.9 FM).

The Lions defeated the 2022 Eastern Conference champions in U.S. Open Cup play last season, but dropped both MLS contests -- including a 5-1 defeat at Subaru Park in September.