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Orlando City vs. NYCFC: Final Score 2-1 as Lions Keep Postseason Hopes Alive Thanks to Cyle Larin Brace

In a nerve-wrecking match that went down to the wire, Orlando City managed to scrape out a win over NYCFC to remain in contention for the MLS postseason.

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Nick Leyva, The Mane Land

It seems like we’ve been saying this for weeks now (because we have), but Orlando City (12-13-8, 44 points) played the biggest game of its inaugural season on Friday night against New York City FC at the Citrus Bowl. Needing three points to keep their perpetually slim playoff hopes alive, the Lions overcame a first-half deficit and registered a 2-1 win over NYCFC (10-16-7, 37 points), thanks to rookie striker Cyle Larin’s brace, to keep the pressure on Montreal as the season draws to a close.

The match got off to a feisty start, with physical play from both sides causing some early stop-and-start action. The first half was characterized by missed opportunities for the Lions, who failed to convert on a number of dangerous chances, most of which were created by left winger Carlos Rivas.

The Colombian — who appeared to have tweaked his ankle in pre-game warm-ups — looked explosive, and used curling left-footed crosses to trouble NYCFC defenders. Rivas created chances for City twice in the first 15 minutes, the best of which was scuffed wide right of goal by Larin after a deflected Rivas through ball found the rookie’s right foot in the box. Perhaps Rivas’ finest play of the half came on 40 minutes, when he sent in another perfectly placed left-footed ball towards Larin, who connected on a header right at the edge of the 6-yard box but could not get any direction on his effort, which went straight into the hands of NYCFC ‘keeper Josh Saunders.

Just three minutes later, Rivas beat two defenders on the left edge of the box and played a nice low cross in front of goal, but once again Larin was barely unable to reach it for what would’ve been a certain goal.

OCSC manager Adrian Heath was understandably pleased with Rivas’ performance following the match, saying that the Colombian “was a problem for them all night.”

Orlando would pay for its missed chances in stoppage time just before half, when an NYCFC corner, which probably shouldn’t have been awarded in the first place, resulted in a deflected shot in the box that landed at the feet of defender Kwame Watson-Siriboe, who slotted home past Tally Hall just before the break to put NYC ahead 1-0 despite being out-performed in the opening 45.

If the first half was marked by missed opportunities, the Lions made up for those missed in the second.

After taking a few minutes to regain their pep following the gut-punch NYC goal that ended the first half, Orlando leveled the score in minute 61, thanks to its rookie sensation, Larin. City right back Corey Ashe made a run up the flank and sent in a beauty of a cross to Larin, who was charging toward the right, about seven yards from the goal. The likely MLS Rookie of the Year redirected a great header toward the far post, easily beating Saunders and sending the City faithful into a frenzy.

Larin notched another less than 10 minutes later, as OCSC took advantage of an injury to NYCFC’s Javier Calle. As the defender lay in NYC’s own 18-yard box, Larin and Winter charged forward on the break. The Canadian played it to Winter on the right, who was stoned by Saunders’ great one-armed save. Unfortunately for the NYCFC stopper, Winter was able to corral the rebound and pull it back in front of goal to a wide-open Larin, who put the ball home and gave Orlando the 2-1 advantage. The prone Calle kept Larin onside.

Heath was adamant about the decision to play on despite Calle being down, noting the circumstances surrounding the game and City’s need for three points, as well as injuries simply being a part of the game.

“It would have been a brave man to have kicked the ball out in the circumstances with us needing to win the game,” he told reporters post-match.

It was an admirable second-half performance by the Lions, who responded well after falling behind on New York’s late first-half goal.

“The response from the players was incredible,” Heath said. “[We were] really unfortunate to go in at the break behind, but we really deserved the win.”

Larin came within inches of another hat trick against NYCFC in the 73rd minute, when he put another ball across the line (or so it appeared), but the backside of defender Jefferson Mena was on top of the ball, obstructing referee Allen Chapman’s view (presumably), and play was allowed to go on after NYC had cleared the ball off the goal line.

With the brace, Larin now sits at 17 goals on the season, six more than the previous rookie scoring record in MLS and level with star NYCFC striker David Villa.

The bad news for City came late on, when Hall went down grabbing his right knee and had to be subbed off in minute 84 as he charged to claim a long ball. If Hall’s injury is serious — he previously tore the ACL in that same knee last season — the Lions will be depending on Josh Ford for the remainder of the season between the posts.

With the victory, Orlando City is guaranteed to finish higher than its expansion counterparts from New York and closes to within a point of Montreal, which plays at New England on Saturday. When asked what he would be doing during the Montreal vs. New England match, Heath responded with a smile.

“I will probably be out to dinner with my wife.”

Heath praised the Orlando City supporters afterwards, as the crowd of 43,179 was City’s second-largest of the season and set a new MLS record for total attendance by an expansion club in its first season.

“We’ve got the best fans in the league. To have this support after one year in MLS amazes me. The atmosphere in the stadium was electric.”

Orlando City

Orlando City vs. Nashville SC: Five Takeaways

What did we learn from the Lions’ 3-0 victory over Nashville SC?

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Orlando City traveled to Tennessee to take on Eastern Conference foe Nashville SC. The Lions came into the match riding a three-match winning streak, while Nashville had lost four in a row. Fortunately, the streaks continued as Orlando City defeated Nashville 3-0 in the midweek match. What follows are my five takeaways from a definitive win in Music City.

Back-Post Beauty

It only took Orlando City 19 minutes to take the lead against Nashville. Ramiro Enrique was fouled by Alex Muyl, setting up a free kick opportunity just outside the box. Martin Ojeda delivered a perfect kick to the back post for Cesar Araujo to head into the back of the net. Of course, if Araujo hadn’t gotten it, Facundo Torres was there to back him up, as the two were completely unmarked. It was a major defensive lapse by Nashville that the Lions were able to take advantage of to take the lead.

Muyl Gets Faced

Amazingly, Ojeda was fouled very close to where Muyl fouled Enrique, setting up yet another free kick. Ojeda once again took the kick, sending it into the box where Nashville’s Jack Maher tried to head it out, but only managed to bounce it off Muyl’s face and in for an own goal in the 40th minute. Two free kicks, two goals, too much fun for an Orlando City squad that has scored at least two goals in seven straight matches.

Satisfying Set Pieces

Orlando City may have scored two goals from set pieces, but the team also needed to defend several Nashville set pieces, including six corners. Fortunately, the Lions were able to keep Nashville out of the net with solid defending on corners and free kicks. This used to be a challenge for Orlando City, but has now become a strength, as was demonstrated against Nashville.

Enrique’s Streak Continues

Enrique scored Orlando City’s third goal of the night, and his third goal in three matches in the 81st minute. Ivan Angulo passed the deflection from Luis Muriel’s blocked shot straight to Enrique on the right side of the box. Enrique took one touch and then smashed it past Joe Willis and off the bottom of the crossbar into the goal. This is the type of production the Lions need from Enrique while Duncan McGuire is with the USMNT Olympic squad.

A Confident Team

What we saw on the pitch at Nashville was a comfortable, confident Orlando City. This is a club that has now won five of its last six matches, scoring 19 goals while only giving up eight over that span. Once again, the players were finding spaces, completing passes, creating chances, and defending as a team. Whatever Oscar Pareja is telling these guys is working, because you can see the belief.


The Lions finished the match a player up because Nashville’s Tyler Boyd was stretchered off due to injury. We wish him a speedy recovery. Otherwise, that is what I saw in Orlando City’s 3-0 victory at Nashville SC. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below and as always, vamos Orlando!

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Lion Links

Lion Links: 7/18/24

Orlando City beats Nashville SC, Ally Watt signs new contract, Mauricio Pochettino linked with USMNT job, and more.

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Image courtesy of Orlando Pride / Jeremy Reper

An Orlando City midweek win makes this Thursday morning feel a bit more like a Friday. It’s been a pretty busy week for me as I get all my ducks in a row before a weekend trip to Maine. But for now, let’s get this morning started off on the right foot with today’s links from around the soccer world.

Orlando City Wins Fourth Straight

The Lions went on the road and claimed all three points in a 3-0 victory against Nashville SC. Orlando took care of business against a Nashville team that struggled on both sides of the ball. The offense has also continued to enjoy its renaissance this summer, and Orlando’s goal differential is now a positive number. The Lions have won their past four games, only conceding two goals during that stretch. There’s not much time to celebrate though, as they will host New York City FC on Saturday.

Ally Watt Signs New Orlando Pride Contract

Forward Ally Watt is the latest player to sign a new deal with the Orlando Pride. She’s agreed to a new contract through the 2025 season, with an option for 2026 as well. Watt has been a versatile part of Orlando’s attack this year and has two goals and an assist to her name so far. Her speed is a lethal weapon, no matter if it’s when starting up top alongside Barbra Banda or providing fresher legs as a substitute. The Orlando Pride have been taking care of business during this break in the NWSL season, also signing Bri Martinez, Summer Yates, Cori Dyke, and Viviana Villacorta to new deals.

Mauricio Pochettino Linked With USMNT Coaching Job

Another interesting name has been thrown into the mix for the United States Men’s National Team’s head coaching gig. Mauricio Pochettino, who left Chelsea in May after just one season, is reportedly a candidate for the job. He’s had success at the club level with Tottenham Hotspur and Paris Saint-Germain, but he does not yet have experience coaching at the international level. If he does become the next USMNT coach, I’d be interested to see how well he can elevate the U.S. attack. His past teams have featured plenty of pressing and attacking, but he’s also been fortunate to coach the likes of Kylian Mbappe, Harry Kane, and Neymar.

New Owners Claim Majority Stake in Angel City FC

Willow Bay and Bob Iger have bought a majority stake in Angel City FC at a $250 million valuation, making the NWSL club the most valuable women’s sports team in the world. Iger is the CEO of the Walt Disney Company and Bay is the dean at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. Bay will have full control of the club’s board of directors and she’ll represent the club on the league’s board of governors. This valuation is a testament to how much the NWSL and women’s soccer as a whole has grown in recent years.

Free Kicks

  • Cucho Hernandez won MLS Goal of the Matchday for his weekend strike from distance in the Columbus Crew’s 5-1 win over LAFC. Orlando’s Facundo Torres finished last in the voting, despite his nice goal against the New England Revolution.
  • Cavan Sullivan became the youngest player to make his MLS debut after coming on late in the Philadelphia Union’s 5-1 win against the Revolution. The midfielder is 14 years old and broke the the record set by Freddy Adu by 13 days.
  • The LA Galaxy is reportedly close to signing German attacker Marco Reus as a free agent. Reus and LAFC’s Olivier Giroud joining the league during the same summer makes me glad that rivalry is in the Western Conference.
  • American forward Alex Zendejas will miss some time after suffering a calf injury in Club America’s match on Friday.
  • Germany will be without one of its best players for the upcoming Olympics, as midfielder Lena Oberdorf will miss out due to a knee injury. It makes things a bit more difficult for Germany in a group that also includes the U.S., Zambia, and Australia.
  • Mexico is on the hunt for its next head coach after firing Jaime Lozano following a disappointing Copa America campaign.
  • There were reports that English defender Lucy Bronze was eyeing a move to the NWSL, but she will be staying in Europe for a while longer after signing a two-year deal with Chelsea.

That’s all I have for you this time around. I hope you all have a wonderful Thursday and rest of your week!

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Orlando City

Orlando City vs. Nashville SC: Final Score 3-0 as Lions’ Offense Continues to Roar

The Lions climbed to .500 on the season with their fourth consecutive victory and picked up their fourth straight shutout win over Nashville.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Orlando City scored two first-half goals on set pieces and added an insurance goal late, beating Nashville SC 3-0 at Geodis Park in Nashville, TN. Cesar Araujo and Ramiro Enrique scored for the Lions (9-9-6, 33 points), who also got an own goal off Alex Muyl’s face in the first half, as Orlando won its fourth straight match overall and its fourth consecutive game — all via shutout — against Nashville SC (6-10-8, 26 points).

The Lions improved to 6-4-3 on the road this season, remain unbeaten on the road against Nashville in the regular season (2-0-3), and also kept their second clean sheet in three matches.

“We are really happy indeed with the results, but most importantly with the seriousness of the team, the discipline, the responsibility that the boys have had in bouncing back from those difficult moments,” Orlando City Head Coach Oscar Pareja said after the match. “I thought we played a very serious game.”

Pareja made just one change from the starting lineup that beat the New England Revolution on Saturday. Pedro Gallese started in goal behind a back line of Rafael Santos — replacing Kyle Smith at left back — Robin Jansson, Rodrigo Schlegel, and Dagur Dan Thorhallsson. The central midfield pairing of Araujo and Wilder Cartagena lined up behind an attacking midfield line of Ivan Angulo, Martin Ojeda, and Facundo Torres, with Enrique up top.

The opening moments were sloppy for both teams, but Nashville handled it better, getting a couple of early shots away. Helping the hosts out a bit with that was Santos’ two early turnovers. Araujo blocked Teal Bunbury’s effort in the third minute and Hany Mukhtar sent a blast right at Gallese from outside the box a minute later.

Orlando’s first promising attack came in the 11th minute, with Ojeda finding Torres in the box. The Uruguayan got onto it but got under it and sent it over the bar. Five minutes later, Thorhallsson sent a good ball across the field outside the box for Cartagena to run onto, however, the Peruvian got well under his effort and sent it high into the stands.

The Lions found the opener on a set piece won when Alex Muyl pulled back Enrique on a promising attack and the Nashville winger picked up a yellow card. Ojeda delivered a great ball to the back post, where both Teal Bunbury and Sean Davis expected the other to track Araujo’s run. Neither did, and Araujo headed the ball down and past Joe Willis to score his first goal of the season in the 19th minute.

“It’s always great to be able to score, but when you go into a game, the first thing you want is to help your team win in any way possible,” Araujo said. “With Martin, I knew very clearly the type of touch that he has, especially when he hits the ball like that. So, I just ran to the area that they always ask me to run to, and when I saw the ball coming to me, I just tried to get my head to it, and thankfully it went in.”

Following the goal, Nashville had a spell of attacking pressure, winning a few set pieces. The hosts should perhaps have leveled the game when Jack Maher was left unmarked on a pick play during a corner kick cross. The big defender had a free header but sent it wide to the left of goal in the 25th minute.

Angulo showed off his wheels in the 29th minute, blazing past defender Josh Bauer down the left channel Bauer reached out and grabbed him, picking up a yellow card, but this time Nashville was able to clear Ojeda’s service.

Ojeda made a great move in the corner to discard Shaq Moore in the 31st minute before crossing the ball into the box for Torres. The Uruguayan got his shot on target but couldn’t get much on it and Willis was able to save it.

Orlando doubled the lead in the 40th minute. Ojeda did well to shield the ball and win a free kick on the left. The Argentine then sent in a beautiful cross for Torres. Before it could reach Torres, the ball hit off the head of Maher, bounced off the face of Muyl, and ricocheted past Willis to make it 2-0. Own goal or not, it was Ojeda’s cross that created problems for Nashville.

“What’s happening with Martin now is that he’s performing with consistency,” Pareja said. “And the dedication that he has for his work and for his team is bringing those results. I have to recognize that Martin has helped us a lot in this part of the season that we needed to bounce back, and he has been a protagonist.”

The goal was a historic one for Orlando City, as it gave the club a seventh consecutive match scoring multiple goals — the longest such streak in club history. Orlando City has scored an incredible 21 goals in its last seven matches, averaging three per game since starting the multi-goal-game streak at Charlotte June 19.

Neither side got a clear-cut look for the rest of the opening period, and the Lions took their two-goal advantage to the lockerroom.

The Lions held the advantage at the break in possession (52.6%-47.4%), passing accuracy (87.4%-86.2%), and shots on target (2-1). Nashville won more corners (3-0), and both teams attempted four shots in the half.

The teams played a disjointed first 15 minutes of the second half. Orlando City looked to be intentional in its attack with the lead on the road, waiting for counterattacking opportunities. At the least sign of resistance, the Lions recycled the ball backward and probed for a cleaner opportunity. However, Orlando did well during that spell to limit Nashville’s attack as well. Neither side was able to register a shot.

Shortly after the hour mark, both teams got chances. Bunbury sent a volley attempt over the bar on a Nashville long throw in the 67th minute. Moments later, Angulo won a ball and sent in Torres on the right but Willis was able to smother his shot in the 69th.

Each team got another chance in the 72nd minute. Off a corner kick, the Lions cleared the ball to the top of the box. Amar Sejdic got to it and fired a shot between Schlegel’s legs, but Gallese caught it and ignited the break with a long outlet to Angulo. The Colombian found second-half sub Nico Lodeiro breaking but again Willis got big and couldn’t be beaten.

Enrique sealed the deal in the 81st minute. Angulo did well to get forward and played a ball for Muriel at the top of the area. Muriel’s shot was blocked by the defense, but Angulo picked up the rebound and poked it through traffic to Enrique on the right. The Argentine smoked a shot past Willis, off the bottom of the crossbar, and in from a tight angle to make it 3-0. It was the third straight match with a goal for Enrique.

“Enrique had a very rocky season so far, because first he got hurt. He had some physical problems with injuries. After that he had to go and receive his green card and it took a little bit of a time longer than we wanted,” Pareja said. “But his attitutde in the training ground and, similar to Martin (Ojeda), his dedication to the group is fantastic. So, I’m so happy to finally see the player that we brought here —the player that has instincts to score goals, but the player that is working for his teammates all the time. And that’s the characteristic of our team. That’s the culture that we had seen in this club, and he’s representing it well.”

Bunbury did well to take in a hot cross from Shaq Moore in the 86th minute, held off Jansson, and fired a shot, but it was off line and hit teammate Mukhtar.

It was a quiet night for Mukhtar, who managed only two shot attempts, putting one on frame, but he failed to threaten goal as he has done against Orlando so often prior to the Lions’ current four-game streak in the series.

“We know that Hany Mukhtar is a great player. He’s certainly one of the best players in the league, and we know how dangerous he can be,” Araujo said. “So, whenever we go to play him, we know that between Wilder and myself, one of us always has to be on him when they have the ball. And if it’s me, then I know Wilder is behind me, ready to take him. If Wilder’s there, I’m ready, moving into position to help defend. If he’s able to get by both of us, we know the defense is ready to step in and cut the ball away from him and really take him out of the game as much as possible.”

Defensive substitutions Jeorgio Kocevski and David Brekalo came on to help Orlando City see out the match.

Nashville had more misfortune than the loss, as second-half substitutions Dru Yearwood and Tyler Boyd each had to leave the game with injuries in the second half. Boyd was stretchered off in stoppage time and Nashville was out of subs. The hosts had to finish the match with 10 men.

It appeared that Forster Ajago pulled one back late in stoppage time, but he was clearly offside. The flag came up immediately after the ball went in and it was confirmed on review by the video assistant referee. That was about the last action of the match and the Lions had their fourth consecutive victory and fifth in six games.

Nashville turned around the possession advantage by the end of the game (50.3%-49.7%) as the hosts were chasing the match throughout the second period. The hosts also had more corners (6-1). Orlando City finished with more shots (9-8) and shots on target (5-2). Both teams passed at the same 85.5% success rate.

“We knew we had to come into this game continuing to put the work in and continuing to elevate the level that we have been playing,” Araujo said. “We started off the game really well, and we continue to raise the level of what we had been, and this team has never stopped working hard, even when the results weren’t falling for us. We continue to work hard and really just continue to push as one group.”


The Lions have another short week as they return home to host New York City FC on Saturday.

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