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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.”

Lion Links

Lion Links: 4/19/24

Orlando Pride host the San Diego Wave, Orlando City B faces Crown Legacy FC, Europa League action, and more.

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Image courtesy of Orlando Pride

Happy Friday! Make sure to get your night plans in order as both the Orlando Pride and Orlando City B have games tonight. Figure out your drink of choice, charge those devices if you don’t plan on heading to the stadium for the Pride game, and knock out any chores before things get rolling. It should be a fun day, so let’s get it started with some links!

Orlando Pride Host the San Diego Wave Tonight

After earning their first win last week in Utah, the Orlando Pride are back in the City Beautiful for tonight’s game against the San Diego Wave at 8 p.m. The Pride’s four-game unbeaten run is on the line and will be put to the test against a Wave team that has four points from three games. San Diego has only scored two goals this season, but it has also secured a pair of clean sheets so far. The biggest storyline heading into the match is whether or not Barbra Banda will make her Pride debut. Hopefully Orlando can light it up at home and keep former Pride forward Alex Morgan and the rest of the Wave’s offense in check.

Orlando City B Takes On Crown Legacy FC

The Young Lions are also in action tonight at 7:30 p.m., with a match against Crown Legacy FC in North Carolina. Crown Legacy is only a point behind OCB, but is still searching for its first win of this MLS NEXT Pro season. OCB has played every game away from the Orlando area so far and ground out a 1-1 draw against Philadelphia Union II last weekend. Orlando hasn’t won a game since its season opener on March 16, but has been proven capable of getting points on the road. Wilfredo Rivera and Yutaro Tsukada linked up for the equalizer in that match, so hopefully they can keep that momentum rolling into tonight’s game.

Americans to Watch This Weekend

European soccer seasons and tournaments are nearing their ends and there are many Americans in important games this weekend. Haji Wright’s heroics put Coventry City into the FA Cup semifinals, and he will have a chance to impress again on Sunday against Manchester United. Elsewhere in England, Fulham duo Antonee Robinson and Tim Ream could put a dent in Liverpool’s title hopes, while Nottingham Forest’s Matt Turner and Giovanni Reyna will square off against Everton, as both sides aim to avoid relegation. Over in Italy, AC Milan duo Christian Pulisic and Yunus Musah will try to stop Inter Milan from claiming the Serie A title in a rivalry match at San Siro. There’s also a showdown between Americans in the Scottish Cup semifinals, with Celtic’s Cameron Carter-Vickers going up against Aberdeen and Dante Polvara.

Europa League Quarterfinals Come to a Close

The Europa League quarterfinals are done and dusted and only four teams remain in contention for some silverware. West Ham United took the lead against Bayer Leverkusen, but couldn’t overcome the aggregate deficit and the German club advanced. Leverkusen also scored a late equalizer to make it a 1-1 draw and extend its unbeaten streak to 44 games. Marseille scored at home against Benfica to send the game to extra time and then won the eventual penalty shootout. Atalanta did enough in a 1-0 loss to Liverpool to advance on aggregate, with Liverpool’s lone goal coming from an early Mohamed Salah penalty kick. AS Roma is also through to the semifinals after a 2-1 win against AC Milan, despite a red card in the first half. In the semifinals, Marseille will face Atalanta and Leverkusen will take on Roma.

Free Kicks

  • Houston Dynamo Head Coach Ben Olsen has agreed to a new contract that will keep him with the club through 2026. Olsen has quietly dragged the Dynamo out of the Western Conference’s basement and won last year’s U.S. Open Cup as well.
  • New York Red Bulls defender Andres Reyes was suspended an additional match for violent conduct in the team’s match against the Chicago Fire. This means Reyes will miss tomorrow’s match against LAFC and the home game against the Vancouver Whitecaps on April 27.
  • American left back Jorge Villafana is hanging up his cleats. He won the MLS Cup with the Portland Timbers back in 2015 and the Concacaf Gold Cup with the U.S. in 2017.
  • Replays won’t be a part of the FA Cup for the next six years. This will ease some of the schedule congestion for English Premier League teams, but it denies lower-division sides the chance at more revenue.
  • The folks over at Stars and Stripes FC shined a spotlight on forward Jubilo Iwata, who currently leads Japan’s J1 League in scoring after eight games. It’s always cool to learn more about some of the lesser-known players in the U.S. player pool.
  • An NFL game between the Philadelphia Eagles and Green Bay Packers will be played in Brazil at Corinthians Arena. However, there’s an unofficial rule at the stadium that green can’t be worn, as it is the color of Corinthians rival, so we’ll see if that’s adhered to come September.
  • Megan Rapinoe and Sue Bird’s production company will adapt Cleat Cute, a romance novel by Meryl Wilsner about love between teammates on a women’s soccer team. As someone who’s read it and loved it, I’m pretty excited for the show to say the least.

That’s all I have for you today. Stay hydrated and enjoy the games today. Go Orlando!

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Orlando City at CF Montreal: Three Keys to Victory

What does Orlando City need to do on the road against CF Montreal to take home all three points ?

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Dan MacDonald, The Mane Land

Orlando City opened the season against CF Montreal, playing to a 0-0 draw at Inter&Co Stadium back in February. Now, the Lions head to the Great White North to play the pesky Canadian club again. There’s no Concacaf Champions Cup competition to worry about this time, so hopefully Orlando City can get a victory.

What does Orlando City need to do to follow up the D.C. United victory with another win?

Just Say No

Outscoring your opponents while giving up two goals is all well and good, but outscoring your opponents while also keeping a clean sheet is much better. Orlando City has given up 13 goals over seven matches. It’s actually worse than that considering that the club has two clean sheets meaning those 13 goals came in just five matches. The Lions need to do better at not conceding goals.

Of course, one of those clean sheets came against Montreal to start the season, and the entire defense is seemingly healthy and ready to go. Our old foe Josef Martinez is always a threat and Matias Coccaro has three goals for Montreal so far this season. Stopping them is crucial. If Orlando City can maintain the same defensive discipline it showed in the previous match against Montreal, it will make earning points on the road much easier.

Designated Player Goals

Orlando City has scored seven goals so far this season. Duncan McGuire leads the team with three goals, thanks to his goal last week. Do you know who hasn’t scored yet? If you said any of Orlando City’s Designated Players, you would be correct. I’m not going to ring any emergency bells just yet, but it’d be a lot cooler if Luis Muriel, Martin Ojeda, or Facundo Torres scored a goal this week.

I think they are all close to breaking out. Torres has scored this year, just not in the MLS regular season. Muriel has been getting closer each match, and is still contributing in other ways. The same can be said of Ojeda. My point is that the goals are coming. Perhaps a trip to another country is exactly what they need to get off the mark.

The Battle on the Wings

Orlando City will be playing against former Lion Ruan. He lines up on the right for Montreal and will be a challenge for either Rafael Santos or Kyle Smith, depending on who gets the start. Of course, if Ivan Angulo is playing in his usual role on the left side of Orlando City’s attack, there could be some interesting races between the two speedy players.

I think that the other side of the field is where the match might be won or lost. Since Orlando City fell out of the Concacaf Champions Cup, the team has been on a more regular schedule. That has allowed Dagur Dan Thorhallsson to regain his form in the right fullback position for the Lions. He scored a goal last week, has an assist on the season, four crosses, and 10 key passes. He is an integral part of Orlando City’s attack and if he can win the battles against Raheem Edwards and Joaquin Sosa on the right side of Montreal’s lineup, he could have another big night.


That is what I will be looking for Saturday night. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below. Vamos Orlando!

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Lion Links

Lion Links: 4/18/24

Barbra Banda’s opportunity in Orlando, Omar Gonzalez’s mental health struggles, UEFA Champions League quarterfinals finish, and more.

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Image courtesy of Orlando Pride / Mark Thor

How’s it going, Mane Landers? I hope this week has been treating you well as we gear up for another weekend packed with Orlando soccer. It’s been a fairly busy week for me as I juggle work with keeping an eye on my cat. He’s a bit of a menace, but at least in a cute way. I’ll spare you my rambling on how great he is, and instead give you today’s links from around the soccer world.

Opportunity Knocks for Barbra Banda

Orlando Pride forward Barbra Banda landed in the City Beautiful and spoke on how her first week with the team has been going. While there’s plenty of buzz surrounding the Pride on how Banda should improve the team’s offense, playing in the NWSL will also help the 24-year-old further develop her game.

“I think the league is quite good. I’ve been following it from way back,” she said. “I think it’s a very interesting league, very strong. All the teams are very physical, fast. So I think it’s good for myself to improve.”

Now that she’s with the Pride, soccer fans around the world will now have better access to watch one of the best forwards in women’s soccer. Banda also talked about the warm welcome she received at the airport and you can check out more of her reaction to that and some of her first few days in Orlando in the video below.

Portland Thorns Head Coach Reassigned

Mike Norris is no longer the head coach of the Portland Thorns after the club made him a technical director instead. The Thorns have never had a worse start to an NWSL season, losing three of their four games this year and still searching for their first win. Rob Gale will serve as the team’s interim head coach while the club does a global search for a replacement. I’m a bit surprised that Norris wasn’t given a few more weeks to turn things around, considering Portland is just a win away from being back in the thick of things. We’ll see if the Thorns will get that win with Gale at the helm when they take on the struggling Houston Dash Saturday.

Omar Gonzalez Shares His Mental Health Journey

American defender Omar Gonzalez discussed the difficulties he’s had over the course of his year and the toll it has had on his mental health. His own goal in the USMNT’s loss to Trinidad & Tobago that cost the team its chance to qualify for the 2018 World Cup would be rough for any player to overcome, but Gonzalez stated that head injuries made a stressful few years of his life much more difficult. Gonzalez admitted that he had daily suicidal thoughts until he reached out for needed help while with Toronto FC. Things have since improved and he’s currently with his hometown team, FC Dallas. I think it’s helpful for players like Gonzalez to be open about the mental health problems athletes face. Hopefully this lets other athletes know they aren’t alone in these struggles and encourages them to reach out for help if needed.

UEFA Champions League Semifinals Are Set

Only four teams are still standing in the UEFA Champions League after the quarterfinals wrapped up with plenty of dramatic soccer. The matchup between Real Madrid and Manchester City lived up to expectations with a penalty shootout following a 1-1 draw in England. Real Madrid prevailed and ended City’s run, with Andriy Lunin making two saves in the shootout. In the other quarterfinal, Bayern Munich advanced after beating Arsenal 1-0, thanks to Joshua Kimmich’s head.

It all sets up for a thrilling pair of semifinals and potential storylines for the final. Will Bayern and Borussia Dortmund reach the final for a rivalry match for the ages? Can Kylian Mbappe finally give Paris Saint-Germain a Champions League title, and will it be at the expense of Real Madrid? If the semifinals are anything like the quarterfinals, it will be great soccer to enjoy.

Free Kicks

  • Orlando City Director of Equipment Operations Charles Raycroft received some deserved recognition after reaching an impressive milestone in his career.
  • Romario, who was named FIFA World Player of the Year in 1994 after helping Brazil win a World Cup, has registered himself as a player for America Football Club. The 58-year-old has been the president of the club since 2009 and now has the chance to play alongside his son Romarinho.

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

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