EURO 2012 stars Jonathan Walters and Glenn Whelan experienced mixed fortunes as Stoke City claimed a hard-earned victory in the second game of their pre-season tour of the United States at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando on Saturday night.
Republic of Ireland international Walters scored his second goal in as many pre-season appearances when he volleyed home a Peter Crouch knock down, but fellow countryman Whelan saw red after being involved in a second half flashpoint which earned him two yellow cards in quick succession in what proved to be a highly-charged encounter.
Walters, who had headed City into a first half lead against Columbus Crew on Tuesday evening, was on hand to fire the ball home on the stroke of half time after Orlando City, buoyed by their USL PRO title success, had caused plenty of problems.
Indeed, it required Danish international Thomas Sorensen to be at his best on a number of occasions to keep Adrian Heath’s men at bay, especially after the Potters had been reduced to ten men by the sending off of Whelan for two yellow cards.
To make matters worse for City, they saw Cameron Jerome and Marc Wilson limp off with injuries in the closing stages of the 1-0 victory.
Sorensen, having been handed a place in the starting line-up, was soon involved in the action, but as the players tried to adjust to the artificial pitch, he probably didn’t appreciate having to clear two backpasses under pressure.
The conditions probably played a part in City wasting the first chance in the opening stages as Walters burst forward and then threaded a pass into Etherington’s path, but he scuffed his shot and Gallardo saved quite comfortably.
Orlando then threatened for the first time when Mbengue sent over a cross from the right and when the Potters failed to clear, Chin dragged it back for Molino to force Sorensen into making his first save of the night low down.
The Chin-Molino combination caused City more problems moments later, but City were relieved to see the eventual shot from Orlando’s two-goal hero from the previous night flash just wide of the target as Sorensen dived to his right.
City were awarded a free kick when Walters was bundled over, but Whelan’s curling effort was spectacularly saved by Gallardo.
There was a scare for the Potters when Mechak advanced forward from right back and unleashed a long range shot which flashed over the bar.
Orlando were certainly showing no signs of fatigue after the exertions the night before and they caused more problems after Whelan lost his footing on the pitch and it took a vital interception from Shawcross to halt Molino in his tracks.
City were indebted to Sorensen when the Lions carved out an opening down the right hand side once again and Mbengue unleashed a ferocious shot which was beaten away by the Danish international with an instinctive save.
There was a promising moment for the Potters when Huth read the danger as Orlando pushed forward and he released a pass which sent Walters away down the left. He cut inside Mechak initially, but as he was shaping to shoot from just inside the box, the Lions defender recovered to get a foot in and produce a vital interception.
Although City had been given some anxious moments in the first half, they went in front shortly before the break with a well-worked goal.
Ness’ challenge teed up Wilson to send over a deep cross from the left where Crouch’s knock down at the far post was brought under control by Walters who swiftly lashed his volley beyond the reach of Gallardo and inside the far post.
Just as they had done in the second half against Columbus , City made a succession of changes after the break as first Upson, Whitehead and Tonge were introduced followed shortly afterwards by Higginbotham, Jones and Jerome.
Sorensen made his first important contribution of the half when he got down smartly to smother a low shot from one of Orlando’s substitutes Davis after he had found the space to try the attempt at goal from 20 yards out.
As City adjusted to the reshuffle, they then had to come to terms with being reduced to ten men after a flashpoint involving Whelan, who fouled Lopez and then got involved in a brush with O’Connor which led to his dismissal.
Pulis had been about to replace the Republic of Ireland international with Arismendi when he was shown the two yellow cards in quick succession, so the Uruguayan came on for Shotton instead to plug the gap in midfield.
Both Jerome and then Jones showed neat footwork to get themselves into shooting positions, but both their efforts from tight angles were comfortably saved by Gallardo at his near post to prevent City going further in front.
The Potters were dealt a further blow when Jerome pulled up sharply with what looked like a knee problem, but there was a delay when the referee initially prevented Pulis from re-introducing Shotton.
However, after the intervention of Orlando coach Heath, the official relented and Shotton was allowed to return to the action.
City were having to work hard to protect their lead and Sorensen was called into action to save at the legs of Ustruck when he burst into the box.
A further blow to City came with ten minutes remaining when Wilson went the same way as Jerome as he limped off with an injury, meaning that Ness returned to the action.
The hero of the night was undoubtedly Sorensen and he made two more crucial reflex saves to keep fiercely struck shots from Davis and then Campbell.