Orlando City v Arsenal
Second-half goals from Eddie Nketiah and Reiss Nelson gave us another win in a hard-fought pre-season friendly in Orlando.
Gabriel Martinelli had given us an early lead, but the hosts, cheered on by a vociferous crowd, struck back before half-time.
We eventually overpowered our MLS opponents though, to make it four wins out of four in the close season.
Due to a ferocious thunderstorm pre-match, the kick-off was delayed by an hour at Orlando City’s Exploria Stadium.
When play eventually got underway it didn’t take long for us to open the scoring. In fact there weren’t yet five minutes on the clock when Martinelli swapped passes with Sambi Lokonga inside the box, and his shot beat goalkeeper Pedro Gallese via a deflection.
There were few chances after that, and although we looked comfortable in possession, Aaron Ramsdale was called up halfway through the half to deny Benji Michel after the winger sprung the offside trap. The keeper made himself big to save with his legs when one-on-one.
Ramsdale couldn’t keep out the next effort though. From 20 yards out, Facundo Torres tucked his shot low inside the post to equalise, and send the capacity crowd wild.
Orlando City are midway through their MLS season, currently sitting in fifth place in the Eastern Conference. Next week they will take on New York Red Bulls in the semi-final of the US Open Cup. Their sharpness was evident, as was their commitment. There were three yellow cards in the opening 20 minutes.
We started to respond. Rob Holding’s cushioned header from a corner fell to Nketiah, but he was closed down in the six-yard box as he got his shot away.
Just before half-time he again found space in the box, but this time dragged his shot just wide.
The boss made five changes at the break, including bringing on Gabriel Jesus, who tested the keeper within 60 seconds of his introduction.
He then turned his man in the box before seeing his shot from a narrow angle turned away.
Lokonga was the next to try his luck, before our extended spell of pressure finally led to the second goal.
Jesus – a livewire since coming on – spun his man in the box and appeared to be fouled, but either way, the ball fell to strike partner Nketiah who made no mistake.
Nelson, who had only just come off the bench, added a third when he converted from Bukayo Saka’s cross.
It was another job well done from Arteta’s men, who march on in pre-season.
The manager made eight changes to the side that started against Everton in Baltimore, with only Cedric, Tavares and Gabriel Martinelli. It meant a first run out in pre-season for Aaron Ramsdale, while Eddie Nketiah started up front.
Mohamed Elneny, Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Sambi Lokonga were in midfield in a 4-3-3 formation.
Our USA tour concludes on Saturday night when we take on Chelsea at the Camping World Stadium, here in Orlando, Florida.
The team will fly back home straight after the game, and we’ll round off our pre-season programme against Sevilla in the Emirates Cup next weekend. Then it’s all eyes on the big Premier League kick off against Crystal Palace on Friday, August 5.
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