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Orlando City vs. Montreal Impact: Five Takeaways

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Well the fat lady eventually decided to start singing yesterday on Orlando City’s playoff chances with the final curtain having been coming for weeks. But it was finally decided by a 1-0 loss to the Montreal Impact. The team still has two games left in the season, but here are my five takeaways from what I consider to be the season-ending game for our beloved team.

Molino Goes Missing

In a must-win situation for Orlando City on Sunday, after victories by both the New England Revolution and D.C. United on Saturday increased their gaps over the Lions, Trinidad and Tobago international Kevin Molino was nowhere to be found in this contest. The 10-goal, seven-assist playmaker had zero shots, zero key passes, zero dribbles and accounted for one of Orlando’s City offside calls (we only had two) and provided no aggression for the team that needed a W. Molino was rightfully withdrawn at halftime to make way for Julio Baptista, who did provide more of an offensive spark for the Lions in the second half.

Good Stats Don’t Always Bring Good Results

On paper, Orlando City had a terrific game on Sunday. With 66.8% possession and 74.2% in the second half, out-shooting the Impact, 22-4, dominating 12-1 on corners, with more accurate passing and more victories on duels. Analysts years from now could look at those figures and expect a very different score line. But anyone who sat on the edge of their seats on Sunday, urging the Lions on, will know that what sounded like a one-sided battle, was indeed, just not for the team Orlando City fans were hoping for. Montreal made the most of their limited touches and passing, clearly benefiting from a goalkeeper who ate his Wheaties (and then some) and remembered the adage that goals win games. They had one shot on goal, which they converted — nothing else. It was enough.

Home Field Advantage Doesn’t Hold Under Kreis

Not too many months ago, pundits and opponents would talk about the Orlando City home field advantage as the 12th man to be feared. Adrian Heath’s unbeaten-at-home record and huge attendance numbers made for an intimidating opponent. However, Sunday’s 12th man was a tiny kitten purring instead of a lion roaring. Just over 26,000 (season average has been 31,762) people showed up for a sweltering 1 p.m. game, for a team whose new coach has now lost four out of the last five home appearances.

The scorching heat, which required mandatory water breaks (in October), clearly diminished both sides, but Montreal — which plays in much cooler climes than Orlando, who practices in this heat year-round — nullified that particular advantage that the Lions usually capitalize on. To know that fans were preparing for the worst –€” yet still optimistic –€” going into today’s performance should have rallied the boys to put out the performance of their lives, but instead the fans were sent home with sunburns and frustration for the wasted chances, lack of final product, and missing the playoffs for the second consecutive season. Kreis talked after the game about how disappointed he was in the home record this year, so expect that to be a point of emphasis going into his first full season as head coach.

Leadership Wanted

Before last week’s game against Toronto, FS1 reporter Julie Stewart-Binks asked Kaká, “After allowing 12 goals in the last three games, Jason Kreis said, ‘There’s a leadership problem.’ What did he mean and how do you fix it?” Kaká responded that he didn’t see a leadership problem on this team. However, I beg to differ with the former world player of the year and firmly reside in the Kreis camp. Yesterday’s game needed a leader to step up, control the game and lead the Lions to victory. It required a wartime consigliere who would make the tough plays and help the team run roughshod over the opponents. Yet instead, our best player was Antonio Nocerino, our defensive midfielder — a position where games are rarely won, but more often lost. This game highlighted our lack of leadership that is clearly evident regardless of what Kaká thinks.

Lions Victims of Their Own Making

In the end, the Lions’ defeat at home and inability to make the playoffs came down to being the victims of their own circumstances. Like last season, the final playoff spot will prove to have been just out of reach for the purple-clad lads, but the one glaring difference is there is no one to blame but themselves. Last season’s losses were chalked up to first-season jitters, bad refereeing, and the extensive travel and international and friendly injury losses to the roster. This season, the blame sits on a consistent lack of point scoring in games at home and within the conference, bad attitudes, and stupid mistakes, leading to missed game eligibility, and a palatable lack of passion and, at times, perceived indifference.

Instead of supporters getting a team that went out and gave it their all to prove they could roar back in their second season, we got a team who the new coach deemed was physically unfit to perform to his standards and players whose bad attitudes alienated fans and resulted in numerous red card suspensions and yellow card accumulations. All in all, this off-season is going to need to be an evaluation of not just the ability of talent to perform technically but also to keep their heads in the game for the long haul.

That was how I saw the game and my five takeaways from yesterday’s match. Let us know your takeaways in the comments section below.

Lion Links

Lion Links: 3/4/24

Lions lose big, Tigres is up next, the USWNT wins, USMNT news, and more.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Merry Monday morning, Mane Landers. No, I’m not feeling very merry either, but it’s a tradition at this point. The good news is that we don’t have to wait long for Orlando City to get a chance to make us forget about Saturday. In an effort to help with that, let’s get to the links.

Massacre in Miami

If you’re like me, you turned off Saturday’s Orlando City match at some point. It was easily the worst showing by an Oscar Pareja-coached Orlando City team. Typically, these Lions are mentality monsters and do not give up. I’m not saying that any of the coaches or players will say they did, but the results speak for themselves. I think it best to just put it behind us and move on to the Tigres match, but if you want to revisit it — or if you were fortunate enough not to watch but still want the details — you can read our match recap.

Up Next: Tigres

The early part of the season doesn’t get any easier for Orlando City as the Lions are set to face Liga MX giant Tigres UANL in a Round-of-16 match in Concacaf Champions Cup. Our own Nic Josey touched on the upcoming match. Unlike the previous matches against Cavalry FC, the Lions will play the first leg at home. The match is tomorrow night at 9 p.m. at Inter&Co Stadium. Tigres is coming off a 2-1 loss to Toluca in Liga MX competition. Hopefully, the Lions can shake off the Miami result and take it to Tigres.

USMNT News

It couldn’t happen before the Orlando City match, but Inter Miami is reportedly trading DeAndre Yedlin to FC Cincinnati. Good timing, guys.

In happier news, Malik Tillman scored a very nice goal for PSV against Feyenoord in the 2-2 draw. Tillman made a nifty move through the defender and then slotted it inside the left post.

Tillman isn’t alone in scoring for the Eredivisie club, as both Ricardo Pepi and Sergino Dest have also scored goals this season. In all, the three have 24 goal contributions so far. That ties Mexico for the most by players from another country.

Brentford will be looking to replace departing striker Ivan Toney, and Norwich City striker Josh Sargent is a contender to make the move. Sargent has 11 goals for Norwich so far this season. Christian Pulisic received online death threats after he goaded two Lazio players into receiving red cards in AC Milan’s 1-0 win over the Serie A opponent.

USWNT Rebounds, Blanks Colombia 3-0

The USWNT bounced back from a 2-0 loss to Mexico in the group stage to defeat Colombia 3-0 in a quarterfinal match in the Concacaf W Gold Cup. The U.S. started early with a converted penalty kick by Lindsey Horan. Former Orlando Pride player Alex Morgan drew the foul in the box for the USWNT. Jenna Nighswonger and Jaedyn Shaw added two more goals in the first half. There were no second-half goals, nor were any needed. The U.S. will face Canada in the semifinals on Wednesday.

Free Kicks

  • Xabi Alonso’s Bayern Leverkusen moved 10 points clear atop the Bundesliga after their 2-0 win over Cologne. It’s a little bit funny that Harry Kane made the move to Bayern Munich and the club might not win a trophy because of Leverkusen’s amazing season.
  • NWSL Commissioner Jessica Berman spoke about the growth of women’s soccer in the U.S. amid the joint bid with Mexico for the 2027 Women’s World Cup.
  • In a result that everyone hated other than Manchester City fans, Manchester United wasn’t able to help out the rest of the world, falling 3-1 to City on Sunday.
  • Catarina Macario scored a goal in her first match back from injury in Chelsea’s 4-0 win over Leicester City.
  • The match between Real Madrid and Valencia ended in a 2-2 draw. It also ended on a controversial call when the referee blew the whistle just as Jude Bellingham was scoring what would have been the winning goal.

That will do it for today. Check back for our coverage of the upcoming Tigres and Minnesota United matches later this week. Vamos Orlando!

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Orlando City

Orlando City vs. Inter Miami: Five Takeaways

What did we learn from a thoroughly unenjoyable outing in South Florida?

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Well. Orlando City’s second league game of the season was a thoroughly unenjoyable one, as the Lions got played clean out of South Florida by Inter Miami. As much as I hate to do it, we need to talk about this one, so what follows are my five thoughts from a horrific showing in SoFlo.

Early Mistakes Seal Orlando’s Fate

The Lions barely had a chance to get their feet underneath them before Pedro Gallese was picking the ball out of his net. Cesar Araujo received the ball in Orlando’s defensive third and immediately tried to play a blind pass backwards, but it went straight to a Miami player. Once the ball made its way from Lionel Messi to Julian Gressel to Luis Suarez, the latter made no mistake and scored to put OCSC into an early hole from which it would never recover.

Tough Night for Two Lions

Speaking of mistakes, that wasn’t the only one that Araujo made during this game. Miami’s second goal came as a result of Rodridgo Schlegel getting pulled out of position and Araujo failing to track the run of Suarez, who found it all too easy to fire past Gallese and double the deficit for Orlando. Schlegel was also culpable for the third goal, as he was too slow to step up with the rest of the back line, and prevented the tally from being called back for offside as a result. Almost no player in purple had a good game, but it was a particularly rough night for two guys who are normally so good for OCSC.

Offensively Anemic

The Lions didn’t look bad going forward for a lot of this one. They managed to get the ball into some good areas, but just had trouble getting the final ball right that would lead to a chance. The introduction of Luis Muriel and Nico Lodeiro after halftime helped provide a spark early in the second half, but Orlando ultimately couldn’t find a way through and the score only got more and more lopsided as a result. When OCSC finally did fashion a clear-cut chance for Ramiro Enrique, the forward didn’t place his shot far enough in the corner and Drake Callender made a good save as a result.

Lack of Effort Worsens Scoreline

Somewhere around the 53rd minute, things really started to devolve for the Lions. Multiple turnovers in the team’s own half led to chance after chance for the home team, and Miami eventually made Orlando pay. The fifth goal will make for extremely unpleasant viewing, as Dagur Dan Thorhallsson decided to not close down Suarez on the wing, giving him way too much time to put the ball on a plate for Messi to head home, while the rest of the team took their time jogging back as Miami broke forward in transition. Orlando kept coming forward doggedly, but the lack of effort on display at times at the back was shocking and uncharacteristic to see.

Wake-Up Call

I have no idea what happened in this match. As soon as the first goal went in, almost the entire team looked slow, out-of-sorts, and on its heels when Miami had the ball. That sort of thing is unacceptable in any game, but especially in this particular fixture. Yes, the match against Tigres is looming large on Tuesday, but the lineup Oscar Pareja put out was not one that suggested the Lions were punting on this game to throw everything they had at Tigres. Instead, an almost first-choice XI turned in perhaps the worst performance we’ve ever seen from an Orlando team coached by Oscar Pareja. It’s possible that we’ll look back on this game as the moment that this team came together and kicked onto bigger things, but in order for that to happen the Lions need to take a good, hard, brutally honest look in the mirror.


I’m sorry to say that’s the worst Orlando City performance I’ve seen in a very long time. Thankfully, the season is a long one and the Lions have plenty of time to right the ship and get back to playing in the manner we’re used to seeing. I think we’ll learn a lot about what we should expect from this team on Tuesday against Tigres. OCSC has a chance to respond the right way and make a statement, and you can bet I’ll be looking for one. Until then, vamos Orlando.

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Opinion

Strong Early Season Competition an Opportunity for Growth

Schedule congestion and tough opponents present opportunities for growth.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

It is hard to imagine a more intense start to the season than the Lions have faced competing in both the regular season and the Concacaf Champions Cup at the same time, yet that is exactly the task that the boys in purple find themselves dealing with only days into the season. With both away and home matches already in the books, let’s examine how strong early season competition can be a key factor in the growth of the squad as the season progresses.

For comparison we can look back to one year ago, as thanks to winning the U.S. Open Cup, the Lions found themselves in the Concacaf Champions League for the first time in club history. During their short foray in the 2023 version of the competition, they were matched up against Mexican powerhouse Tigres UANL in a two-leg competition. Orlando did something that many MLS sides can not boast by coming out of the first leg in Mexico without conceding a goal and only failed to advance because of the competition’s away goals rule.

At the time, and even looking back through rose-colored glasses, those two performances demonstrated the quality that Orlando City was ultimately capable of, and it was a form which Orlando showcased in the later stretches of the 2023 season.

This year, once again Orlando is faced with stiff competition throughout its early season matches, which present a grand opportunity to build team chemistry and fortitude that will only truly manifest itself as the season progresses. While Cavalry FC may have not presented much a challenge on the pitch, the logistics of starting a season off thousands of miles away in the Pacific Northwest were challenges that the Lions had to face before a 48-hour turnaround to open the regular season against a CF Montreal side which some are projecting to be a surprise force in the Eastern Conference. Sandwich in the close-out leg against Cavalry in the CCC at home some 72 hours later, and you once again have a recipe for tired legs but early season growth through adversity.

Up next was Saturday’s forgettable trip to square off against archrival Inter Miami. A year ago, Orlando City was one of the only MLS sides to truly frustrate one of the world’s best and unfortunately for players, coaches and fans alike, the first meeting between the rival sides in 2024 ended with a landslide victory for Messi and friends. Still, despite the frustrating loss, there are lessons to be learned and mistakes to correct which can only help the squad grow as the season progresses.

As if all of the schedule congestion was not enough, Orlando learned that its prize for dispatching Cavalry in the CCC was a rematch against Tigres, once again in a two-match, survive-and-advance format. The first game will be played two and a half days after having been beaten down by Miami and the second will come a week later, with yet another MLS regular-season match crammed in between.

All in all, once Orlando City is done facing off against Tigres, the team will have traveled roughly 9,700 miles for matches in the first 21 days of the season and played a match roughly every 60 hours. These matches and the quality of the opponents present Orlando and its players with numerous chances for individual and squad growth, and the experience, especially for still a somewhat young team, is something OCSC can draw upon once the late season and playoff push portion of the calendar arrive. I truly believe this early in the season the importance of the results of the matches come secondary to the opportunities for growth when faced with so many challenges so quickly.


Let us know in the comments below if you think that the early season match ups against quality opponents will ultimately hurt or benefit Orlando City and, as always, vamos Orlando!

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