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Intelligence Report: Orlando City vs. New York City FC

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Orlando City enters the weekend on a rare two-game home losing streak. Things won’t get any easier for the Lions with New York City FC coming to town. The soccer Yankees have been among the Eastern Conference leaders most of the year and have rounded into fine form since Frank Lampard remembered he was Frank Lampard.

The margin for error is gone. If the Lions are going to play postseason soccer they must get home results and probably steal a point or two on the road that they have no business getting.

Here to help us scout tomorrow night’s opponents is Jake Gofman from SB Nation’s New York City FC blog, Hudson River BlueAnd if you want to see how I responded to their questions, you can head over to their place.

The Hudson River Derby is the biggest event on the NYCFC schedule, but Major League Soccer is now pitting New York City and Orlando City against each other on Rivalry Week. Does this mean this is now an official rivalry? Was it ever? Was it always? How do NYC fans view these meetings?

Jake Gofman: As you are probably aware, MLS and MLS-related media has an insatiable urge to create rivalries for it’s large clubs. My guess is they see this as a way to grow the brand and bring national attention to their big clubs. Whatever the reason, they have put lots of marketing into the Hudson River Derby and now into promoting our game this Sunday. Do I think we have a real rivalry with Red Bulls? Not really, since we can’t seem to beat them. Do I think we have one with Orlando? I don’t think so either, but for another reason. 

In my opinion, rivalries comes from the unity of competition and contempt: when your players (and by extension, your fans) despise losing to the opposing team (and its fans) and vice versa, you get the kind of atmosphere that you need for a rivalry. We have this atmosphere with RBNY; however, we have five losses and one solitary win in all matches against Red Bulls, so calling it a rivalry seems like a stretch. 

With Orlando, I’m not sure if I see the hatred of losing when the two teams get together. We’ve played some close games, with Orlando ahead in the series (2-1-2), and I recall incidents from last season and some minor ones from this one, but I don’t see a rivalry, yet. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of rivalries — I think they can elevate the seemingly ordinary into something great — but I’d rather they come about in a more organic way. If Orlando and New York are to have a rivalry, let’s see it on the field first, and then talk about it after.  

Although these two 2015 expansion teams have met twice this season, it’s been a while since the last meeting, in which the Lions came back from two goals down after David Villa’s missed penalty. Since then, New York City has spent a lot of time at the top of the conference. How in the world has that happened while the team has simultaneously allowed 43 goals? Is winning that way sustainable?

JG: The 43 goals conceded is a nasty number to look at, but somewhat easier to stomach when you consider that an unusual amount of goals came from a few games. In our two losses to Red Bulls we conceded 11 total goals, while in two games against Columbus Crew we’ve allowed six: that’s 17 goals in 4 games. Not great, Bob! We can save our discussion about why we have problems with these teams for another day. The point is, we are a more below average defensive team once these lopsided numbers are addressed. If we can move into the middle of the league defensively, which seems possible, I think the winning can be sustainable. 

What took us to the top of the Eastern Conference was not defending, but goal scoring, and the emergence (or re-emergence) of two players: Frank Lampard and Jack Harrison. We’ll address Lampard in the next question, but the inclusion of Harrison in the squad as an outsider midfielder has had a twofold effect. Firstly, Jack has been excellent as an attacking player. He looks dangerous on the ball in space, has the vision of a CM (because he is/was one), and a goal scoring touch I’m sure many (including myself) didn’t expect. His secondary impact is just as important as his primary contribution on the field; however, and it’s something that I believe goes unnoticed. As a midfielder playing in an attacking role, Jack is asked to cover back more than the typical winger. The same goes for Tommy McNamara, who, not coincidentally, is also a midfielder by trade. These two provide additional coverage for our creative midfield, Pirlo and Lampard, and support for Iraola, who plays a CDM role. Jack (and Tommy as well) enable us to get these two seasoned internationals on the fielder together in a way that does not expose us defensively.

In all, the transition to this formation has been the catalyst for our success. It’s provided balance in our defense but enabled us to keep several dangerous and talented offensive players on the field simultaneously.  

Frank Lampard has gone from being a punchline around MLS to…well, Frank Lampard. How vital is he to what New York City FC does and has he surpassed David Villa as the team’s most important player?

JG: I’ll address the later half of this questions first — no, he has not yet surpassed David Villa as the team’s most important player. Not only are Villa’s contributions on the pitch over the last two seasons greater than Frank’s excellent run of form, but Villa is also the team’s emotional leader and has taken this role with gusto. For fans that have been here since the team was announced, Villa is someone who has stuck around through the good and bad times and been a massive contributor all along (the same cannot be said for Frank). He speaks on behalf of the club, and has even improved his English considerably to do so. Frank is transitioning smoothly from villain to favorite, but Villa will also be the captain and leader. 

That being said, Frank’s play over the last several months has been nothing short of spectacular and an ode to his days back at Chelsea. Credit to Vieira, who took it upon himself to tactically find a way for Frank the Tank to excel in the same ways he did when at Chelsea. In moving to the formation I described in the previous question, Frank is once again free to roam box-to-box and be an effective and efficient player in the final third. More and more we are seeing Frank getting on the end of service or finding himself in the right place at the right time to convert. He seems to be in considerably better fitness in comparison to last season, but I think the way he’s enjoying his football has been most vital to his success. 

For New York, having a midfield player behind Villa that can make goal-scoring runs, as well as killer passes, is massive. It forces the defense to have to worry about two players coming forward through the middle instead of one, and it has allowed Villa to exploit more space in this area than he’s had before. 

Can you please give us your current injuries, suspensions, a projected lineup and a final score prediction for Sunday?

Connor Brandt and Shannon Gomez are out. The club has no suspensions to report. 

Lineup: Saunders; Matarrita, Brillant, Chanot, Hernandez; Pirlo, Iraola, Lampard; McNamara, Villa, Harrison

NYC FC continue to ride their good form and win, 2-0. Goals from Harrison and Lampard. 


Big thanks to Jake for taking time to answer some questions about this weekend’s visiting foes.

Orlando City

Orlando City vs. NYCFC: Player Grades and Man of the Match

How did your favorite Lions perform in Orlando City’s 1-1 draw with NYCFC?

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Sometimes a draw can feel like a win and sometimes it can feel like a loss. On Saturday night, the draw felt like a draw, pronounced in a southern drawl to really draw out the effect. Each team had its moments, but in the end neither really felt like they deserved all three points, and as they say, ball don’t lie. So, in the end, the final score was 1-1, and both teams took home one point.

Orlando City probably should feel more disappointed since the Lions were playing at home, but the offense just looked out of sync all evening, and in some ways they are lucky they even earned their one point. That they did though, and now the MLS season takes a break for the Leagues Cup, which starts Friday.

I have my purple pen out, and I am ready to issue some grades, so here we go. Let’s take a look at how Orlando City’s players rated individually in their Eastern Conference matchup.

Starters

GK, Pedro Gallese, 6 — NYCFC only managed eight shots on the night, so Pedro was not called on to make a lot of saves, but he did make a few on well-struck balls from NYCFC attackers — in particular, one from Hannes Wolf in the 34th minute that was headed for the lower corner before El Pulpo pushed the ball out wide with his gloves. Unfortunately, Wolf got the better of Gallese later in the match on a shot from close range that left the Peruvian with very little chance to save the ball, though on the angle from inside the goal it did look like he was a little too far to his left when he came out and perhaps had he taken a better line he might have gotten a hand on it. However, I think that goal is tough to pin on Gallese, and aside from that, he was solid in the back, though he did only complete 56% of his passes.

D, Rafael Santos, 5.5 — Saturday night was not one of the Brazilian’s better games, as while he did mix in a few dangerous crosses, I thought on the whole he was lacking some precision offensively, and defensively there were several plays down NYCFC’s attacking right side that were scary and left him scrambling to recover. I do not think the goal was his fault. Though it did happen on his side of the box, it came off a completely unexpected turnover from Wilder Cartagena, and Santos was caught pushing up the field and could not recover in time. He made a huge block on a shot from Santiago Rodriguez in the 75th minute, but that block came because he had given the ball away moments earlier, so he had darn well better have hustled to block the shot that came from his turnover. He also committed an unnecessary foul in a dangerous area late in the match, though thankfully nothing came of the resulting free kick. Santos completed 82.5% of his passes on the night, including three accurate long balls on five attempts. None of his three crosses found their targets and his lone shot was blocked. Defensively, he finished with two tackles, two interceptions, the aforementioned block, and one clearance. He made way for Kyle Smith in stoppage time.

D, Robin Jansson, 6.5 Orlando City’s captain had a quiet match. Though he was second on the team in completed passes, with 48 (at 87.8%, including completing four of seven long balls), he had zero tackles, which now makes three consecutive games where that has been the case. Just because you make zero tackles does not mean you had a bad game, and Jansson did not, but it does mean that when you are a center back and the other team does not run at you that there are not a lot of highlights to write about in your player grades. The Beefy Swede won one aerial ball and had one interception and one clearance, and he drew three fouls on the opposition. But NYCFC did not have a lot of the ball (45% possession) and did not really tread aggressively near Jansson’s area.

D, Rodrigo Schlegel, 6.5 — I could copy and paste most of Jansson’s comments and apply them to Schlegel, but of course I will so no such thing. Besides, Rodri was first on the team in completed passes, with 51, and completed them at a 92.7% rate, so that is a differentiator worth noting, and unlike Jansson he did have one tackle to go with two clearances. NYCFC’s heatmap from Saturday night, courtesy of whoscored.com, is instructive in evaluating the performance of both of Orlando City’s center backs, because you can see that NYCFC tried to attack down the sides much more than in the middle. That indent right above the top of the 18 yard box on the left (NYCFC is attacking right to left in this heatmap) is where Jansson and Schlegel patrol, and NYCFC just stops cold and gets very few touches in the middle of the field from about 35 yards out all the way to the goal. Schlegel and Jansson really locked down the center of the field, and while they did not generate a lot of stats on the night I thought both were solid.

D, Dagur Dan Thorhallsson, 6 — As it always is, Dagur Dan’s work rate was extremely high Saturday night, but the finishing touch just eluded the Icelandic right back during this game. Orlando City struggled to create chances all game long and Thorhallsson was complicit in some of that, as he was unable to open up the defense with one of his trademark cutbacks and he was unable to get on the end of any of the many crosses that came from left to right. He did complete 91.2% of his passes and had one successful take-on, and might have had two had he not been fouled toward the end of the first half. Defensively, he had two interceptions and two clearances, and unlike his counterpart on the other side of the defense, he did not cause me to pound my couch in frustration at any point during the match, which was good for the Lions and good for my upholstery.

MF, César Araujo, 7 — I was a little concerned when Araujo earned a yellow card in the 13th minute, knowing that he was now one foul away from putting Orlando City down a man for the rest of the match, but he played a clean game the rest of the way, and what a strong defensive game it was. He had nine loose ball recoveries, five tackles, four interceptions, three wins on take-on attempts by NYCFC, and he won two aerial balls. On the offensive side, he led the team in touches with 70, completed 46 passes at an 80.7% completion rate (including three of his six long balls) and drew two fouls. Araujo also contributed to the heatmap I shared above, as his presence also helped Orlando City to stop NYCYC from progressing the ball through the middle of the attacking third of the field.

MF, Wilder Cartagena, 6.5 — If there was a stat for goal culpability then Cartagena would definitely have earned the highest percentage for NYCFC’s one goal on Saturday night, as his misplay of a ball led directly to a counterattack and NYCFC scoring the equalizer. I do not want one misplay to completely overshadow the whole of the match for Wilder though, because aside from that he did contribute throughout the match, and his low rocket from 31 yards out in the 83rd minute nearly beat NYCFC goalkeeper Matt Freese to give the Lions back the lead. He also led the team in tackles with six, made four recoveries of loose balls, and won four of the five take-on attempts tried against him. He completed 34 passes at a 79.1% completion rate and had the aforementioned shot on target, one of only five shots on target for Orlando City. Goals change games, and Wilder definitely cost the Lions with his misplay, but on the whole I thought he played well, though not as well as his midfield partner Araujo did.

MF, Iván Angulo, 6 — Angulo worked hard in the heat on Saturday night, making runs up and down the field and coming achingly close to turning the corner or unlocking the defense with a pass several times but to no avail. He made a darting run in the 35th minute that led to his only shot on target, but he did not get a ton on it, and it was saved rather comfortably at the near post. The Colombian completed 93.5% of his passes, including one key pass, made one tackle, and he went the full 90 on a hot and humid night, running at full acceleration deep into stoppage time as the Lions chased a winner.

MF, Martín Ojeda, 7 — We will never know if Ojeda’s shot in the 52nd minute would have gone in, but we do know that it turned into an unlikely assist by deflecting off Ramiro Enrique and going straight into the back of the net to give Orlando City a 1-0 lead. It was another solid, but not spectacular, offensive performance by Ojeda against NYCFC, as he led the Lions in crosses (11), progressive carries (4) and key passes (3); won both of his take-on attempts on the dribble; and completed 22 passes, though at only a 78.6% completion rate. His work rate was excellent, and he left it all on the field, departing in stoppage time for Jeorgio Kocevski.

MF, Nico Lodeiro, 6 — Lodeiro was the one change from Wednesday night at Nashville, as he started instead of Facundo Torres. Orlando City’s offense did not create a lot of chances in the first half and Nico did play a part in that, but it took Orlando a period of time to figure out NYCFC’s game plan. I did not think it was a poor performance, just more of a quiet one devoid of any major moments. He completed 19 passes at a 82.6% completion rate, with one key pass among those completions. Lodeiro connected on one of two crosses and one of three long balls. Defensively, he chipped in two tackles. He was subbed out at halftime for Torres. 

F, Ramiro Enrique, 7.5 (MotM)— The scoring streak continues, and now there is a dance! Enrique scored in his fourth straight game on a goal that I am not sure if he ever saw, but without his deflection it may not have gone into the net. Whether he saw it or not does not matter. What matters is it gave Orlando City a 1-0 lead and then Ramiro and Angulo participated in a slightly out of sync, but still enjoyable, celebratory dance — one that I look forward to seeing again, hopefully as soon as in the next match. Enrique completed 11 passes, created two chances, and got both of his shots on target, with NYCFC’s Matt Freese making a nice save on his second attempt. He also recorded an interception. I thought it was another solid start for Enrique, as he contributed all over the field, including with some hold up play, before making way for Luis Muriel in the 73rd minute. 

Substitutes

MF, Facundo Torres (46′), 6 — Facu came on at halftime for Lodeiro, and helped to breathe some life into the Orlando City offense. He did not have his best stuff, and he had the benefit of Oscar Pareja’s halftime tactical adjustments, but he was active and engaged throughout the second half and helped to create some chances. During the pregame show the announcers mentioned he had picked up a bit of a knock during the week, which likely contributed to his coming off the bench and for his decent, but not memorable, performance. He took one shot, which was well struck but ended up far off target, and completed 11 passes at a 78.6% rate with one key pass. He tried several passes that were full of flair, but alas none of them connected, and on the whole things just did not click for him.

F, Luis Muriel (73′), 6 — Muriel came on for Enrique and he was looking to make plays from the moment he stepped on the field. He showed tremendous skill on several dribbles, led the team in aerials won (3), and though he only played five passes, he completed them all, including one key pass and one accurate long ball. The defining moment for Muriel though was on the final attack from Orlando City, and he was able to turn and get a shot off on goal, but there just was very little on it, and Freese easily made the save to his left. I expect that he will see some more minutes in Leagues Cup matches to see if he can get himself going, because thus far he just has not contributed enough to justify his role as a Designated Player.

D, David Brekalo, (85’), N/A As he has been doing during the last few matches, Brekalo subbed in late, this time coming in for Schlegel and taking over his role as center back. I thought he looked active and strong during his few minutes, but the only play of his that really stood out was when he was a little too strong on an attempt to get his head onto a ball into the box on a cross from Araujo, committing a foul on the play. Brekalo completed both his pass attempts on the night, but he did not have the opportunity for much else.

D, Kyle Smith (90′ + 3), N/A — Kyle came in on the dying minutes of the game to replace Santos at left back, and in his few minutes he did not have the opportunity to contribute much to the match. He attempted three passes but completed none, and did not have the opportunity to do much else in his few minutes on the field.

MF, Jeorgio Kocevski (90′ +3), N/A — The rookie from Syracuse came on at the same time as Smith, replacing Ojeda, and was able to complete one pass and make one tackle while on the field. That one pass was on the final attack of the game, and it might have earned him a secondary assist had Muriel been able to get a little more on his shot or place it in the corner in the final minute, but alas he did not and the final whistle blew moments later.


That’s how I saw the individual performances on Saturday night. What did you think? Be sure to let us know in the comments, and vote in the poll below for your Orlando City Man of the Match.

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Lion Links

Lion Links: 7/22/24

All three Orlando squads finish with 1-1 draws over the weekend, and much more.

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Image courtesy of Orlando Pride / Jeremy Reper

Hello, Mane Landers! I hope all is well with you down in Florida. I’ve just been busy at Under Armour and working the Def Leppard concert and Cubs baseball games at Wrigley Field within the past week. All of our teams, Orlando City, the Orlando Pride, and OCB, picked up 1-1 draws in their matches. It’s not often that all three teams pick up the same exact result. We’ve got plenty to cover today, so let’s get to the links. 

Orlando City Trades Goals in 1-1 Draw vs. NYCFC

Orlando City and New York City FC split the points in a 1-1 draw at Inter&Co Stadium on Saturday. After a scoreless first half, the Lions struck first with a goal from Ramiro Enrique — his fourth consecutive game finding the net. New York City FC got an equalizer five minutes later to tie the match, and neither side could find a winner. Orlando’s four-game winning streak ends but its unbeaten run now stands at five matches. New York City FC is fifth in the Eastern Conference with 38 points, while Orlando City stays seventh with 34 points. There will be a break in league play as the Leagues Cup kicks off this week after Tuesday’s MLS All-Star Skills Competition and Wednesday’s MLS All-Star Game, and the Lions’ next match is at home against CF Montreal on Friday.

Lions Acquire 2025 MLS SuperDraft Pick

Orlando City has acquired the higher 2025 second-round MLS SuperDraft pick and $50,000 in 2026 General Allocation Money in exchange for the right of first refusal to sign former Orlando City forward Benji Michel. Real Salt Lake announced the club had added Michel last week. Following his departure from Orlando, Michel was with FC Arouca in Portugal. Michel played 118 matches across all competitions as a Lion, scoring 19 goals and adding nine assists.

Pride Draw North Carolina Courage Away

The Orlando Pride came from behind to snatch a 1-1 draw against the North Carolina Courage in their NWSL x Liga MX Femenil Summer Cup opening match Saturday at WakeMed Soccer Park. The Courage struck just before halftime to take a 1-0 lead, but Celia scored the equalizer for the Pride late to earn Orlando its second point at North Carolina this season and its first-ever Summer Cup result. The Courage won 5-4 in the ensuing penalty shootout to claim a second point. The draw extends the Pride’s unbeaten run to 17 matches across all competitions. Orlando sits third in their group after the first round of games in the Summer Cup and will face Monterrey at Inter&Co Stadium on Saturday.

OCB Picks Up Late 1-1 Road Draw at New York Red Bulls II

Orlando City B and New York Red Bulls II also battled to a 1-1 draw at Montclair State University Soccer Park. After a scoreless first half, New York Red Bulls II took the lead early in the second half, but Justin Ellis scored a stoppage-time equalizer for the Young Lions. The Baby Red Bulls won 8-7 in the shootout to secure the extra point. OCB remains 10th in the Eastern Conference with 24 points, and its next match will be on the road Saturday at Finley Stadium against Chattanooga FC.

Free Kicks

  • Orlando City studio host Gabrielle Amado announced over the weekend she was leaving the club after four seasons and will be moving to Spain to work for LaLiga TV.

That will do it for me today, Mane Landers. Enjoy your Monday and I’ll see you next time.

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Orlando City

Orlando City vs. New York City FC: Five Takeaways

What did we learn from Orlando City’s 1-1 home draw against NYCFC?

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Orlando City was riding a four-game winning streak when the Lions returned home for their second match of the season against New York City FC. The Lions were looking to avenge their most recent loss, which coincidentally came against the same opponent, however, despite taking the lead in the second half, the team was unable to gain to all three points at home.

The good news is that Orlando City kept its unbeaten streak alive. What follows are our five tawkways from a 1-1 draw.

Squad “Rotation” on the Wing

Despite Orlando playing its third game in eight days, Head Coach Oscar Pareja only made a single change to the lineup, substituting Nicolas Lodeiro for Facundo Torres. This did not cause much of a change in game plan as the veteran midfielder slotted into Torres’ usual position. Lodeiro provided a few quality runs in the first half but was otherwise ineffective in the buildup with his fellow attacking players against a compact and organized NYCFC defense. He was substituted off for Torres in the second half and the Orlando City attack appeared to show a bit more bite with the youthful Designated Player back on the pitch, but that may have less to do with the personnel change than figuring the opponent out, as Lodeiro and Torres finished with virtually the same number of touches (the official stat packet had both with 29, while whoscored.com gave Torres 31 to Lodeiro’s 29). Both players finished with one key pass, while Torres had one off-target shot, while Lodeiro did not record an attempt.

Defensive Struggle

The match wasn’t an advertisement for the excitement of the game of soccer in the first half. There were few shots and even fewer decent chances in the opening 45 minutes. Whether this was an intentional cagey start from both teams, the fact they were playing in the Florida heat in their third matches in eight days, or both, the opening 45 minutes produced only six total shots, and none of them were big chances. Pedro Gallese had to make two saves to Matt Freese’s one. The game was a bit more open in the second half, but both teams’ defenses played well. Cesar Araujo stood out by dispossessing NYCFC’s most dangerous attacking threat, Santiago Rodriguez, on multiple occasions. Araujo finished with four tackles and nine ball recoveries.

Red-Hot Ramiro

Ramiro Enrique kept up his hot streak by putting the Lions ahead in the second half on the slightest of touches. The age-old adage of ‘put the ball on target and good things will happen’ rang true in the 52nd minute on the breakthrough goal of the match. Martin Ojeda drove toward the top of the penalty area and fired the ball on target. A shot that looked to be heading toward an easy block by the defender or a save by Freese deflected off Enrique’s foot, catching the NYCFC goalkeeper leaning the wrong way. The goal gave Orlando a 1-0 lead at the time. Enrique has now scored in four straight matches and the Lions are undefeated over that stretch (3-0-1). While Duncan McGuire is away representing the United States in the Olympics, and with a potential transfer looming during the MLS secondary window, Enrique’s surge couldn’t come at a better time.

Cartagena Coughs Up the Lead

Orlando City didn’t lead long. Just five minutes after Enrique’s opener, the Lions gifted the visitors a tying goal. NYCFC had pressed Orlando high much of the game, and although the Lions mostly figured out how to deal with it, it was Wilder Cartagena’s blind pass just outside his own area that proved costly. The usually secure Peruvian took the ball while facing goal, turned, and sent a blind pass to the right, looking for fullback Dagur Dan Thorhallsson. However, he didn’t account for Rodriguez, who didn’t even have to move to intercept the ball. Rodriguez switched the play quickly to Alonso Martinez on the right, creating an overload against an Orlando defense that thought it was transitioning forward. Martinez played in Hannes Wolf on the right. Pedro Gallese tried to come out and pressure the shot, but Wolf calmly chipped it over the goalkeeper and inside the far post to tie the match in the 57th minute.

Foiled By Freese

Sometimes you simply have to tip your hat to a good performance by the opponent. Saturday night produced such a time, as Orlando City had a couple of good looks that New York City FC’s goalkeeper stopped. Cartagena and Enrique each had a good opportunity denied by good diving stops by Freese, who has excellent lateral movement. Enrique had a good shot at a brace when he blasted a shot from outside the area in the 67th minute. The shot was toward the right side of the net, and Enrique hit it with a lot of pace, but he didn’t quite get it far enough toward the corner. Still, Freese did well to get his left hand to it moving to his left, to keep it out. Cartagena nearly atoned for his giveaway on the tying goal in the 83rd minute, unleashing a cannon toward the bottom left corner in the 83rd minute. This time, Freese made an outstanding stop, fully extending to deflect it just wide of the post. The goalkeeper landed hard on his shoulder and needed treatment before continuing. A final opportunity in the last minute of stoppage by Luis Muriel again was saved by Freese, but the Colombian wasn’t able to generate a lot of power on his spinning shot and it was a more routine stop.

Freese’s performance not only prevented the Lions from taking all three points, but also stopped Orlando City’s streak of multi-goal games at seven, which is a club record.


Orlando City now heads into the All-Star and Leagues Cup break. The above items give the basics of what happened Saturday night in a tight, playoff-style match. Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

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