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Intelligence Report: Orlando City vs. Columbus Crew SC

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Orlando City returns to Camping World Stadium tonight for a brief appearance before heading back out on the road for matches at D.C. United and Toronto FC. It’s our one opportunity to give the lads in purple a friendly environment this month.

The Lions (7-8-13, 34 points) are licking their wounds from a 4-2 loss at LA Galaxy last Sunday, but before that the team turned in two complete performances in wins over Montreal and New York City FC. Can the team regain its winning ways and relegate that Galaxy loss to a mere speed bump in the playoff chase? Columbus (5-11-11, 26 points) provides a tempting target, but we’ve seen Orlando City squander points against bottom-dwelling teams before. Another full 90-minute team effort will be required to secure a victory.

Back with us again to help us learn more about the visitors tonight is Pat Murphy from SB Nation’s Crew blog, Massive Report. Pat was kind enough to answer my questions about his team and I did the same for him. You can find my answers over at their place.

Columbus has been an enigma this season. After reaching the MLS Cup final last season, the team can’t seem to sustain any positive momentum in 2016. With time running out on the playoff chase, how do you assess the team’s chances to make a late run in a weak Eastern Conference and sneak into the postseason?

Pat Murphy: In most other years, Crew SC would be done and dusted. The Black & Gold have not played well enough through 27 games to deserve a spot in the playoffs. As you mentioned though, it’s a weak Eastern Conference and Columbus remains only eight points back of Orlando for the final spot and has games in hand over the teams around that position.

It’s really crazy how the season has played out. With the injuries and poor form of players that were vital to the success last year, it’s incredible that we’re still talking about a chance to make the playoffs for this club. While I think last week’s 3-1 loss to the Vancouver Whitecaps at home likely spelled the end for postseason dreams, the team will continue to fight (or so they say) until they are mathematically eliminated. We’ve seen MLS teams get hot and make up eight points before. It’s a tall task, likely too tall, but it’s possible. 

Federico Higuain is a great player but he’s had some injury issues on and off this season. How likely is he to see the field Saturday night in what might be the Crew’s last chance to climb back into the playoff chase?

PM: I’m not sure I’ve ever been asked a more difficult question to answer. Let’s go back a bit to properly (attempt to) answer this question.

Higuain suffered a sports hernia and had surgery to repair it before Crew SC’s June 18 match with the Montreal Impact. He missed six games before coming off the bench against the Lions for 19 minutes. Everything seemed fine as Higuain started the next few matches, playing 90 minutes once and 89 in another. Then he was not even in the game day 18-man roster for Columbus’ 2-0 win over the San Jose Earthquakes, which was a surprise to all.

Following that game, Gregg Berhalter revealed Higuain was dealing with some swelling in the area of the injury but he came off the bench for 45 minutes in the next match. Last week, Higuain was again left off the 18-man roster.

The team has been rather secretive about Higuain’s status. Berhalter doesn’t allow the media to see much of training, but it’s been even less while the No. 10 has dealt with this injury. As you mentioned, the season is more or less on the line, so it wouldn’t surprise me to see him take part, but it also wouldn’t shock me if he doesn’t.

Now, is that not a great answer that gives you very little information?

Is Gregg Berhalter sticking with his usual formation and tactics these days, or has he been shaking things up to try to get results? Is his job in jeopardy if the Crew fail to reach the playoffs?

PM: No, there has been little to no shakeup in how the Black & Gold play. Berhalter believes in his system and has seen it work in this league over the last two years as the team’s head coach. Until recently, the players were all on board with it, but winger Justin Meram said this week that the team needs to change the way it plays when it has a lead in order to not give up goals.

As for Berhalter’s job, he’s not going anywhere. He took the team to the playoffs for the first time in three seasons in year one and to the MLS Cup Final in year two. He has a vision for this team and one season, filled with injuries, is not going to change ownership’s belief in him and what he does.

Something that sort of touches on both questions — Berhalter has said that he wants this year to allow the players that lost the Cup to try and get back to the postseason and make another run. He followed that by saying if that does not work out (as it appears it is not) there will be changes. What that means exactly, we may found out soon. 

Can you please update us on any injuries or suspensions that will keep players out? What are your predictions for the Crew’s starting XI and for the final score on Saturday night?

PM: The team is finally starting to get healthy again. Higuain and midfielder Wil Trapp (concussion) are the two question marks. Midfielder Tony Tchani is suspended for this match after receiving a red card last game.

Best guess at a starting lineup: Steve Clark; Harrison Afful, Michael Parkhurst, Gaston Sauro, Corey Ashe; Ethan Finlay, Mohammed Saied, Nicolai Næss, Justin Meram; Hector Jimenez; Ola Kamara.

Final score prediction: 3-1 Orlando.


Big thanks to Pat from Massive Report for giving us some insight on tonight’s visitors from the Buckeye State.

Orlando City

Orlando City vs. Chicago Fire: Preview, How to Watch, TV Info, Live Stream, Lineups, Match Thread, and More

The Lions continue their search for a win at home as the Fire make their annual visit to Orlando.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Welcome to your match thread and preview for a Saturday night matchup between Orlando City (4-8-6, 18 points) and the Chicago Fire (4-8-6, 18 points) at Inter&Co Stadium (7:30 p.m., MLS Season Pass on Apple TV+). This is the second and final scheduled meeting between the Eastern Conference rivals in 2024 and the only matchup in Orlando.

Here’s what you need to know about the match.

History

The Lions are 7-5-7 in 19 MLS meetings with the Fire and 7-6-7 in all competitions. Orlando City is 4-2-3 against the Fire at home.

These two teams just met a few weeks ago on May 29 at Soldier Field, playing to a 1-1 draw. Facundo Torres opened the scoring early with a scrappy goal in traffic, and the Lions should have had a penalty late in the first half when Ivan Angulo was clipped while in alone on a goal after rounding the goalkeeper, but the video assistant referee did not overturn the no-call and referee Malik Badawi did not look at the play himself. The Fire tied the match in the final 20 minutes on a Hugo Cuypers goal.

The Lions swept the two-game season series in 2023 by identical 3-1 scorelines. On Aug. 21, Orlando City got goals from Wilder Cartagena, Ivan Angulo, and Torres (from the penalty spot) to overcome a 1-0 deficit supplied by Mauricio Pineda, winning 3-1 on the road.

When the teams met in Orlando, the Lions rode a Torres brace to a 3-1 win on July 1. Xherdan Shaqiri pulled a goal back from the penalty spot after a Kyle Smith foul in the box against Brian Gutierrez, but Ramiro Enrique added an insurance goal.

Orlando City claimed a 1-0 victory at Exploria Stadium on April 9, 2022 on Ercan Kara’s first MLS goal. The two sides met at Soldier Field just over a month prior to that match and played, officially, to a 0-0 draw on March 5. The game is another Orlando City match that will live in infamy due to the Professional Referee Organization’s statement after the game that Junior Urso’s goal should not have been overturned upon video review by Ismir Pekmic due to Kara not having clearly and obviously handled the ball in the buildup in any of the available replay angles. Alas…

The teams met in Orlando on Aug. 21, 2021, with a second-half Benji Michel strike lifting the Lions to a 1-0 victory. Tesho Akindele set up the play by forcing a turnover. In that year’s meeting at Soldier Field, the Fire got the better of the Lions to the tune of 3-1 on July 7. Andres Perea scored his first career MLS goal to open the scoring, but a defensive lapse in first-half stoppage allowed Boris Sekulic to equalize just before the break. Chicago rode that momentum, adding goals by Robert Beric and Chinonso Offor.

The Lions were 0-4-4 in the eight meetings before smashing the Fire 4-1 in Orlando on Sept. 19, 2020. Orlando City withstood two Chicago penalties and saw two Fire goals overturned by video review in that rain-soaked match. (Weird things usually happen when Chicago visits Orlando.) The Lions got goals from Chris Mueller, Nani, Urso, and Michel, while Chicago had only a Beric penalty to show for an otherwise good offensive performance.

The last meeting of 2019 was the last time the Fire won on the road in the series. It was a debacle for the Lions, who lost defender Robin Jansson to a back/neck injury early and shipped a handful of goals in a 5-2 home loss in the regular-season finale. Orlando got goals from Akindele and Michel but largely played like a team that couldn’t wait to end its season. Chicago got an own goal from Orlando’s Smith and strikes from CJ Sapong, Aleksandar Katai, and Przemyslaw Frankowski (twice) in the rout.

Orlando City was seconds away from a road win on March 9, 2019 before Sapong’s free header in the 95th minute leveled things in a 1-1 draw in Chicago. Dom Dwyer scored Orlando’s goal.

In 2018, the Fire swept the season series. Orlando fell 2-1 at home on May 26, 2018, with Alan Gordon’s wondergoal breaking a 1-1 deadlock. The return leg in Chicago that September was an abysmal performance by Orlando in a 4-0 Fire victory.

Chicago went 1-0-1 in 2017, with the teams playing to a 0-0 draw on June 4, 2017, with the Lions reduced to nine men. The previous 2017 meeting was the Fire’s 4-0 beatdown of Orlando on June 24 of that year. David Accam figured in all four goals, with a hat trick and an assist on Nemanja Nikolić’s goal.

The teams split the points in 2016, drawing both meetings. Cyle Larin and Accam traded goals in a 1-1 draw in Orlando on March 11. The Fire again came from behind to draw, 2-2 in the return leg that August.

The teams met once in Orlando in 2015, with the Lions and Fire battling to a 1-1 draw. You may recall that five-hour, weather-delayed affair with Eric Gehrig’s own-goal canceling out an Accam strike. The other three meetings came in Chicago, with City winning 3-2 and 1-0 in MLS matches and falling 3-1 in U.S. Open Cup quarterfinal action.

Overview

The Lions are coming off a 2-2 road draw at Charlotte FC Wednesday night. The hosts scored early off an Orlando defensive gaffe but went down a man late in the first half. Orlando took initial advantage when Duncan McGuire tied the match in the second half, however, another defensive mishap led to Charlotte regaining the lead late. Torres tied the game again but the Lions could not find a winner. It was Orlando’s fifth consecutive game without a win (0-3-2) but the team’s first point since the last game against Chicago. Orlando is an abysmal 1-5-3 at home this season, so the club is starving for three points at Inter&Co Stadium.

Conversely, Chicago is 2-0-0 since hosting Orlando City last month. The Fire are coming off a 4-1 dismantling of Toronto FC last Saturday and will be on a full week’s rest. That win was Chicago’s first on the road this year (1-3-4), so the two teams with identical overall records have been headed in opposite directions than when they last met. Cuypers has gotten hot and leads the Fire with six goals on the season, while Gutierrez has four. Fabian Herbers and Maren Haile-Selassie pace the team with four assists each. USMNT midfielder Kellyn Acosta has two goals and two assists.

“We played them not too long ago. Chicago is a team that has been evolving too. We understand that evolution since we have information [and analysis] in our game against them in Chicago, but I think we played them well there and I think we had another good game,” Orlando City Head Coach Oscar Pareja said ahead of the match. “We’ll try to improve some things and see if we can get better at those things that we’re talking about, being more precise and taking advantage of that volume that we had in front of the goal, but also just being cautious and smart defending them.”

The Lions list Mikey Halliday (knee), and Tahir Reid-Brown (thigh) as out on the availability report, along with international players Pedro Gallese, Wilder Cartagena, and David Brekalo. Ramiro Enrique (personal matter) and Felipe (foot) are listed as questionable. Chicago will be without Chase Gasper (leg), Andrew Gutman (leg), Tobias Salquist (leg), and Xherdan Shaqiri (international duty), while Federico Navarro (leg) is listed as questionable.

Match Content


Official Lineups

Orlando City (4-4-2)

Goalkeeper: Mason Stajduhar.

Defenders: Rafael Santos, Robin Jansson, Rodrigo Schlegel, Dagur Dan Thorhallsson.

Midfielders: Facundo Torres, Cesar Araujo, Nico Lodeiro, Ivan Angulo.

Forwards: Luis Muriel, Duncan McGuire.

Bench: Javier Otero, Kyle Smith, Alex Freeman, Thomas Williams, Jeorgio Kocevski, Felipe, Wilfredo Rivera, Martin Ojeda, Jack Lynn.

Chicago Fire (3-4-3)

Goalkeeper: Chris Brady.

Defenders: Mauricio Pineda, Carlos Teran, Arnaud Souquet.

Wingbacks/Midfielders: Jonathan Dean, Kellyn Acosta, Fabian Herbers, Allan Arigoni.

Forwards: Brian Gutierrez, Hugo Cuypers, Maren Haile-Selassie.

Bench: Spencer Richey, Rafael Czichos, Wyatt Omsberg, Gaston Gimenez, Javier Casas, Chris Mueller, Tom Barlow, Georgios Koutsias.

Referees

REF: Natalie Simon.
AR1: Corey Rockwell.
AR2: Kevin Klinger.
4TH: Chris Penso.
VAR: Sorin Stoica.
AVAR: Mike Kampmeinert.


How to Watch

Match Time: 7:30 p.m.

Venue: Inter&Co Stadium — Orlando.

TV/Streaming: MLS Season Pass on Apple TV+.

Radio: FM 96.9 The Game (English), Mega 97.1 FM (Spanish).

Twitter: For rapid reaction and live updates, follow along at @TheManeLand, as well as Orlando City’s official Twitter feed (@OrlandoCitySC).


Enjoy the game. Go City!

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Orlando City

Intelligence Report: Orlando City vs. Chicago Fire

Get caught up on the Chicago Fire courtesy of someone who knows them best.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Following a midweek draw on the road that was filled with plenty of intrigue, Orlando City returns to the welcoming confines of home to take on the Chicago Fire in the second meeting of the season between the two teams.

A matchup with Chicago means I caught up with Ruben Tisch, who runs the show over at The Lantern. As always, he was kind enough to give us some valuable insight into how the Fire have fared since these two teams last met.

Hugo Cuypers was Chicago’s big off-season signing, how has he looked so far?

Ruben Tisch: He’s been good so far and it’s finally paying off on the score sheet. He’s scored a goal in each of the Fire’s last three matches and has turned into a real asset on the counter-press, something I didn’t see happening. When he was brought in, we knew we were getting a poacher — someone with an eye and foot for goal but not someone who could create his own opportunities. However, he’s shown to be more than his player profile and the Fire are cashing in the dividends.

He’s also starting to figure out how to play with Brian Gutierrez and Maren Haile-Selassie. Early on in the season, there were problems. The quality of service was poor, and as a result, the coordination between he and the midfield was bad. In recent games, things have gotten better. The passing has improved, and as a result, the chance creation has gotten better. Cuypers is getting in better spots and his shots are going in. 

Former Lion Chris Mueller is now in his third season with the Fire. What sort of season has he had in 2024?

RT: Honestly, he hasn’t had much of one. Part of it is that tactically, the Fire have moved away from traditional wingers to wingbacks and Mueller isn’t someone you can trust to defend with any regularity. He’s an attacking demon, but the way the Fire are trying to play, he’s just not as useful as someone like Allen Arigoni, who can attack and defend. 

The other bit is speculation on my part, but he doesn’t seem to have recovered completely from the season-ending surgery from last season. He looks a step slower when on the field and he’s having trouble playing meaningful minutes. I expect that he’ll get better as he continues to recover, but I don’t expect him to regain his starting role anytime soon, especially if the Fire goes out and gets a DP wide player in the summer.

The Fire have hit a nice patch of form, and the team is unbeaten in its last four games. What’s been working well for Chicago during that stretch?

RT: The switch to three center backs has been a boon for a team that struggles with defensive focus for 90 minutes. They now have cover, so that small mistakes don’t become big mistakes, and Carlos Teran is determined to play himself into a transfer to Europe, so every game he’s in he gives his 100%.

Mostly, though, I think it’s Xherdan Shaqiri’s exit from the club. It looks like a huge weight has been lifted and the team is playing a lot freer with him gone. The move never worked out for a lot of reasons, but a large part of it was he just isn’t the player the club needed him to be. He’s not a good fulcrum. The game cannot run through him, and he’s best when he can float in and out of the action. He can’t run a team, and when the Fire signed him, that’s what they really needed. And they never got it.

Will any players be unavailable due to injuries, suspensions, call-ups, etc.? What is your best guess at a starting XI and a score prediction?

RT: It’s probably going to be the same as their win over Toronto. Part of the big problem with the Fire over the last decade has been lineup consistency. They didn’t have a midweek game, so there’s no reason to rotate the squad.

Chris Brady; Jonathan Dean, Rafael Czichos, Carlos Teran, Arnaud Souquet, Allan Arigoni; Kellyn Acosta, Fabian Herbers, Brian Gutierrez; Hugo Cuypers, Maren Haile-Selassie.

No score prediction provided.


Thank you to Ruben for the update on the Fire. Vamos Orlando!

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Lion Links

Lion Links: 6/21/24

Facundo Torres earns praise, Orlando Pride play the Utah Royals tonight, FC Cincinnati linked with Weston McKennie, and more.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Happy Friday! This weekend is what soccer fans dream of, with NWSL, MLS, Copa America, and Euro 2024 matches to enjoy. The Orlando Pride are in action tonight, Orlando City plays Saturday, and the U.S. begins its Copa America campaign on Sunday. But first, let’s all wish a happy birthday to Orlando Pride Vice President of Soccer Operations and General Manager Haley Carter!

Facundo Torres Makes MLS Team of the Matchday Bench

Orlando forward Facundo Torres earned a spot on the bench of the MLS Team of the Matchday after providing a goal and an assist in Orlando’s 2-2 draw against Charlotte FC. Both contributions were crucial to Orlando getting a point on the road. It was only Torres’ third goal of the season, so hopefully this gets him going. If the Lions are to claw their way up the Eastern Conference table, they’ll need more performances like this from their talisman.

Orlando Pride Host the Utah Royals Tonight

The Orlando Pride will aim to get back in the win column tonight when they take on the Utah Royals at home. The last time these two teams squared off was on April 12, with Orlando winning 1-0 in the first of eight straight victories for the Pride. Another match with the Royals could be just what the doctor ordered for an Orlando side that’s been held to draws in its past two matches. While Utah is having a difficult season and sits last in the league standings, it did get its first road win on Sunday against Bay FC.

FC Cincinnati Reportedly Wants Weston McKennie

American midfielder Weston McKennie could be coming to the U.S., as FC Cincinnati has reportedly made an offer to sign him from Juventus. Cincinnati is willing to spend up to $15 million to bring McKennie on as a Designated Player. The 25-year-old has one year left on his contract with Juventus, but he’s likely leaving the Italian club this summer if reports are to be believed. McKennie was part of FC Dallas’ academy, but never actually played in an MLS game before heading to Europe.

Spain Wins to Advance in Euro 2024

Spain booked its spot in the knockout stage of Euro 2024 after beating Italy 1-0 in a match that didn’t quite live up to its billing. It does set up for an intriguing matchup between Italy and Croatia on Monday, though. England and Denmark traded first-half goals but neither team could find a winner in a 1-1 draw. In the other Group C match, Orlando City defender David Brekalo came on as a late substitute in Slovenia’s 1-1 draw against Serbia.

As for today’s slate of games, Slovakia will face off against Ukraine, Poland plays Austria, and France takes on the Netherlands. We’ll see if Kylian Mbappe will play after breaking his nose in France’s opening match.

Latest FIFA Rankings Unveiled

Despite losing 5-1 to Colombia in a friendly, the U.S. didn’t drop enough points to be unseated from 11th in the latest FIFA rankings. The U.S. remains the highest-ranked Concacaf nation, and Mexico dropped to 15th after losing to both Uruguay and Brazil in friendlies. Argentina is still at the top of the rankings, while Brazil leapfrogged England for fourth place. The rankings usually don’t matter all too much, but they are used to determine pots for the World Cup. With Euro 2024 and Copa America going on, things could shake up a bit for some of the world’s best teams.

Free Kicks

  • Peter Musa was named MLS Player of the Matchday for his hat trick in FC Dallas’ 5-3 win against Minnesota United. It was the Croatian striker’s first hat trick since he joined Dallas this past off-season, and he now has eight goals this season.
  • Now with Cruz Azul, former Atlanta United forward Georgios Giakoumakis took some parting shots at MLS in regards to how losses are OK compared to Liga MX. I find it a pretty oblivious thing to say considering Atlanta fired its head coach a day after losing to Charlotte FC earlier this month.
  • Steve Cooper, who was sacked by Nottingham Forest six months ago, was hired as Leicester City’s new manager.
  • Of the 47 goals scored so far in Euro 2024, five have been own goals and only Germany’s Jamal Musiala has scored more than once. None of the goals have been scored from the penalty spot as well.
  • Burnley is reportedly in talks with Ruud van Nistelrooy to be the club’s next manager after Vincent Kompany’s departure.

That’s all I have for you today. I hope you all have a fantastic Friday and rest of your weekend. Go Orlando!

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