ORLANDO, Fla. - Orlando City SC captured its second USL PRO Championship as Dom Dwyer claimed Most Valuable Player honors after a four-goal performance earned his side a 7-4 victory against the Charlotte Eagles on Saturday night. The victory came in front of a USL-record crowd of 20,886 at the Florida Citrus Bowl, with the Sporting Kansas City loanee sending the Lions’ fans into wild celebrations at the end of a wild contest.
The Lions came out strongly in front of their raucous support, and forced a pair of corners in the opening three minutes, the second of which saw Renan Boufleur send a shot over the crossbar. Charlotte was able to withstand the early pressure, however, and grabbed the lead in the 20th minute as a corner from the left by Jorge Herrera went to the back post, where Fejiro Okiomah was on hand to head home and momentarily silence the Citrus Bowl.
Orlando maintained its high tempo, and found an equalizer in the 33rd minute through Dwyer as he took possession off strike partner Dennis Chin 16 yards from goal as Chin held off a defender, and drove a low left-footed shot into the right corner of the net.
Dwyer struck again three minutes before halftime as he was able to rise highest to meet a cross by Erik Ustruck from the right for a header that went just past the outstretched hand of Eric Reed into the left corner. Orlando’s lead was short-lived, however, as a minute later Charlotte hit back when Ben Newnam found space on the left and centered crisply to Christian Ramirez, who fired home for his third goal of the USL PRO Playoffs to send the teams to the break all square.
The start of the second half proved more subdued than the first, but the game exploded into life in the 57th minute as Ramirez beat the Lions’ offside trap and fired home his second goal of the night to put the Eagles back up 3-2. Just four minutes later the Lions were back on level terms, though, as Adama Mbengue was brought down in the penalty area and Dwyer shot home into the left corner to record his hat trick.
Dwyer bagged his fourth with just more than 20 minutes remaining as a corner kick from the left by Anthony Pulis was headed home to restore the Lions’ lead. Less than a minute later, Dennis Chin made it 5-3 as he struck a fine curling shot from 20 yards out into the right corner.
Charlotte pushed to try and get back on even terms in the final 15 minutes, but was caught on the counter-attack with five minutes to go as Dwyer added an assist to his goals with a pass that slipped Mbengue into the left side of the penalty area for a low finish into the right corner. The Eagles found a consolation goal in the 88th minute as Christian Meza flicked in a header from a cross by Stefan Smith, but Chin capped the game with his second in the final minute as he drove home a left-footed shot as Charlotte defenders backed off and gave him space.