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Orlando City

Orlando City vs. New York City FC: Five Takeaways from the Lions’ Season-Opening Win

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Each of Orlando City’s previous two MLS season-opening matches have been special, but this one felt even more so. In front of a crowd of 25,527, the still-to-be-corporately-named Orlando City Stadium was broken in with a 1-0 win over New York City FC courtesy of a strike from — who else? — Cyle Larin.

The atmosphere was electric, and while the squad didn’t look in mid-season form by any means, the Lions did enough to take three points off their expansion and Eastern Conference rivals to start the 2017 season on the right foot. Here are five of the more important observations from the night.

The Stadium is All It Was Cracked Up to Be

This was perhaps a no-brainer coming in, but the new digs provided a completely different atmosphere than the stadium formerly known as the Citrus Bowl had over the past two seasons. While Camping World Stadium had the edge in sheer size and capacity, the new Orlando City Stadium provides a truer home-field advantage, courtesy of a more intimate environment that sets up 25,500-plus supporters right on top of the pitch and uses canopy-style overhangs to reverberate sound back down directly onto the playing surface.

Despite holding fewer spectators, the match against NYCFC felt more like an authentic experience than even the most-intense matches that took place at CWS, and — however much of a foregone conclusion it was — the beautiful new stadium is something to be excited about. If you were unable to attend, make sure you make it out to a Lions home match as soon as you can. The sheer verticality of The Wall in all its glory is a sight to behold.

The New-Look Defense Wasn’t Perfect — But It Delivered

Center back Jonathan Spector was largely solid in his debut for Orlando City, cleaning things up nicely in the center of defense and marshaling well next to the strong José Aja in his first career appearance in purple. Donny Toia was excellent at times, and he did well against the dangerous Jack Harrison for NYC, a former No. 1 overall SuperDraft pick that tallied four goals and seven assists last season. Will Johnson, a midfielder by trade, fared well at right back in the absence of Rafa Ramos and Kevin Alston.

Orlando still allowed twice as many shots as it attempted, though, seven of which were on target and six of which came from inside the 18-yard box. Joe Bendik still had to make a number of big saves to preserve the 1-0 scoreline, most notably against Harrison and a pair against Sean Okoli in the latter stages of the match. New York could have probably done better on some of those chances, but the fact is that they didn’t, and credit must be given where it’s due. A Lions’ defense that was the leakiest in MLS last season started 2017 off with a clean sheet against an attack that features the lethal David Villa. Job well done.

Cyle Larin is Still Cyle Larin

After totaling 31 goals in his first two MLS seasons, Larin entered 2017 fully on the radar of opposing defenses and, reportedly, on the radars of many European teams as well. It only took the Canadian 15 minutes to score the new Orlando City Stadium’s first goal — one that would turn out to be the winner — and start his 2017 campaign off in similar goal-scoring fashion. Orlando City only controlled 31% of the possession in the contest, so Larin’s opportunities weren’t plentiful, but he turned one of his two shots into the game’s only score with a powerful, downward header off an aerial ball from Giles Barnes to give NYC goalkeeper Sean Johnson no chance of stopping it. The instinctive back-post run that set up Barnes’ pass was more evidence of the third-year forward’s off-the-ball prowess. Larin exited after 74 minutes with what appeared to be cramps, but as long as he bounces back quickly, you can’t be too displeased with his first outing of the ’17 campaign.

Kaká is Still…Kaká

That is to say, brilliant when he’s on his game, but also still 34 years old — and on the brink of turning 35 next month. It’s always a stretch to count on the consistent health of a player with as much mileage on his legs as Ricky has accrued, but there was hope coming into the year that he’d be able to stay a bit healthier than he did a season ago when he played in just 24 of 34 league matches. Those hopes were dashed almost immediately, as the Brazilian play-maker went down with a hamstring injury just 10 minutes into the match.

There were depth concerns for Orlando coming into Sunday’s season-opener, and the loss of Kaká, which seems like it could be for a considerable length of time according to Head Coach Jason Kreis’ post-match comments, is another big blow to the Lions’ depth. New addition Giles Barnes finished the last 79 minutes of the match and brought energy and dished out the night’s only assist, but it’s a disheartening start for Orlando City’s star man, to say the least, and a sign that this might be another year of injury troubles for the Brazilian superstar.

Encouraging News in the Midfield

While the aforementioned loss of Kaká was unfortunate, there was a bit of good news on the evening in the middle of the park: Crisitian Higuita returned for a 16-minute cameo in place of Cyle Larin. Higuita’s return was encouraging considering it came only three weeks after suffering an adductor injury in training, the kind of knock one might not be expected to come back from in time for the season-opening clash when it happened so late in preseason camp.

Higuita came on and helped solidify things for the Lions as they tried to close out the match while nursing their 1-0 advantage, and he did it alongside Antonio Nocerino and Servando Carrasco, both of whom played well in their 2017 debuts. While there may be a need for answers in attack with Kaká sidelined, the central midfield appears to be in good shape with the return of No. 7.

Lion Links

Lion Links: 6/18/24

Euro 2024 roundup, MLS transfer happenings, U.S. stars on Copa America prep, and more.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Happy Tuesday, everyone. It was a mixed bag for Orlando’s soccer teams over the weekend, as none of Orlando City, the Orlando Pride, or Orlando City B managed to win, with a loss and two draws. The only way out is through though, and there are plenty of chances to get back to winning ways this week. Before we get to today’s links, let’s all wish a happy birthday to Pride defender Rafaelle!

Euro Results Roundup

It was another pulsating day of action at Euro 2024, with the theme of early goals and exciting contests continuing. The early contest saw Romania beat Ukraine 3-0 with a trio of very well-taken goals. Nicolae Stanciu opened the scoring in the 29th minute and a pair of second-half goals just four minutes apart sealed Romania’s first win at the Euros in 24 years. In the second game of the day, Slovakia grabbed a goal in the seventh minute courtesy of an ill-advised Belgian attempt to play out of the back, and managed to hang on for a 1-0 win. The game wasn’t without controversy, as Romelu Lukaku missed several excellent chances, and also had two goals correctly ruled out by video review. The last game of the day saw France beat Austria 1-0 courtesy of an own goal in the first half, but the biggest talking point was Kylian Mbappe’s broken nose that will reportedly require surgery.

MLS Transfer Happenings

We have several important MLS transfers to catch up on this morning. First, the Houston Dynamo have broken the club’s transfer record to sign Argentine striker Ezequiel Ponce from Greek club AEK Athens. The 27-year-old will be a Designated Player, and although he can’t play for Houston until the secondary transfer window opens on July 18, he should help a Dynamo team that’s scored the fewest goals in the Western Conference. Moving to the Eastern Conference, the Columbus Crew are reportedly closing in on a trade to acquire Aziel Jackson from St. Louis City in exchange for $650,000 of General Allocation Money, in addition to other incentives.

Finally, Tom Bogert has identified Brighton and Hove Albion’s Marc Leonard as a player who could move stateside this summer. His loan spell at Northampton Town last season saw him named the club’s player of the year.

U.S. Players Speak About Copa America Prep

The Copa America kicks off on Friday, and Weston McKennie and Tyler Adams recently spoke about how they and the rest of the United States Men’s National Team have been preparing for the tournament. McKennie spoke on how this team has never been in camp for this long before, and that the extra time is helping them iron out little issues. He also talked about his willingness to fill in wherever needed on the field, something that could be relevant for both him and Adams given the injury to Sergino Dest. For his part, Adams discussed how a bright spot to missing so much time last year due to injury was that it allowed him to spend plenty of time with his newborn son.

UEFA Investigating Racism at Euro Match

UEFA is probing an alleged incident of racial abuse that took place in the match between England and Serbia. While the complaint did not come from the English Football Association, UEFA released a statement that it was investigating Serbia for objects that were thrown and the “transmission of a provocative message.” If the charges are proven, then Serbia could face sanctions from UEFA.

Free Kicks

  • The sensor placed inside the ball was instrumental in overturning what would have been an equalizing goal for Belgium.
  • Polish television is doing some very cool things with its soccer coverage.
  • An English fan woke up still in the stadium well after his team’s win over Serbia.

That does it for me this morning. Vamos Orlando!

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Orlando City

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

How did your favorite Lions perform in Orlando City’s home loss to LAFC?

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Despite dominating most of the game and nearly all of the second half, Orlando City fell 3-1 to LAFC Saturday night. The Lions continue their troubles at home, with the last win in front of their home fans coming on March 23. It’s more frustration for a team and fanbase that has had plenty this season.

Let’s take a look at how the players performed individually in the loss.

Starters

GK, Mason Stajduhar, 5.5 — With regular starting goalkeeper Pedro Gallese on international duty with Peru, Stajduhar got the nod for the second time this season. Conceding three goals is a bad night for any goalkeeper, though he wasn’t the only one at fault for any of them. The first was a penalty and the other two were breakaway counterattacks. The goalkeeper made four saves on the night but wasn’t challenged much. He completed all of his 14 passes, which included six long balls, and had to clear the ball once.

D, Rafael Santos, 5.5 — Santos had 101 touches in this game, second on the team. The left back completed 94.8% of his 77 passes, but only two of his 13 crosses. One of his passes was a key pass, but his poor crossing haunted the Lions in this game. Defensively, Santos recorded one tackle and one clearance.

D, Robin Jansson, 6 — Jansson was terrific for the first 85 minutes of this game, recording 88 touches. He completed 89.9% of his 79 passes, including four of his six long balls. Defensively, he added four tackles and a clearance. Unfortunately, he got caught up field in no-man’s land on LAFC’s second goal and got beat by Nathan Ordaz, resulting in a counterattack on the third. He was my Man of the Match until the final few minutes.

D, Rodrigo Schlegel, 6 — Schlegel was on the ball less than Jansson, recording 60 touches. He completed 96.4% of his 56 passes and two of his three long balls. Defensively, he only had a tackle. Overall, it was a solid night by the center back. While he didn’t have a part in the first two goals, he was unable to clear the ball on a tackle in the box on the third, allowing LAFC to take a 3-1 advantage.

D, Dagur Dan Thorhallsson, 5.5 — Thorhallsson started in his usual right back position, recording 66 touches. He completed 89.4% of his 47 passes, including a key pass, one of his five crosses, and none of his three long balls. He was among the most active players defensively with four tackles and interceptions. Additionally, he recorded one shot and had one successful dribble. Like other players in the team, his crossing struggles impacted the final result.

MF, Ivan Angulo, 5.5 — The Lions’ attack mainly went through the opposite side of Angulo, so the midfielder only had 47 touches, second-fewest of the 11 starters. He completed 87.6% of his 30 passes, including one of his four crosses and two key passes, but was plagued by some heavy touches in the final third. The attacker also helped out defensively with two successful tackles before being replaced by Martin Ojeda in the 61st minute.

MF, Cesar Araujo, 5 — Araujo was the only natural defensive midfielder in the starting lineup for Orlando City. He recorded 84 touches and completed 95.5% of his 67 passes. However, he only completed one of his two long balls, neither of his crosses, and didn’t record any key passes. He took two long distance shots but both were off target. Defensively, he recorded three tackles and one interception. It was a tough night for Araujo as he had a part in all three LAFC goals. He conceded the penalty, failed to keep up with Mateusz Bogusz on the second, and allowed Denis Bouanga to dribble around him on the third, although it’s perhaps harsh to fault a player for not being as fast as another or handle a player like Bouanga in space.

MF, Nico Lodeiro, 6 (MotM) — Lodeiro was unquestionably the most active player in this game, recording a team-high 132 touches. He completed 93% of his team-high 114 passes, but none of the seven crosses. The midfielder took three off-target shots and contributed defensively with two tackles and a clearance. He would’ve had a higher grade if he had completed some of his crosses, but his inability to do so hurt his team. Despite those missed crosses, Lodeiro gets my Man of the Match.

MF, Facundo Torres, 6 — Torres was often involved in the Lions’ buildup play, recording 89 touches. He completed 89.7% of his 68 passes, including a team-high five key passes. Two of his eight crosses failed to find teammates and his one long ball was incomplete. He took three shots, tied for second on the team, but none hit the target. Like some other players in this game, his grade would’ve been higher but he completely missed the target with his penalty in the 33rd minute. It was the first missed penalty of his professional career, but it had a major impact after LAFC converted one of its own 11 minutes later.

F, Luis Muriel, 5.5 — As usual, Muriel played a deeper role than Duncan McGuire, recording 69 touches. He completed 88.7% of his 53 passes, including three key passes. He failed to connect on his one cross and one of his two long balls. Additionally all five of his shots were off target. Muriel’s biggest problem in this game was attempting to dribble through multiple players, which resulted in him losing possession in dangerous positions. However, his perfectly weighted ball for Ojeda set up the game-tying goal in the 69th minute. While his assist was beautiful, it wasn’t enough to overcome his constant turnovers in the LAFC third of the field.

F, Duncan McGuire, 5 — McGuire played the target position in this game, recording 28 touches. He completed 81.8% of his 22 passes, but failed to connect on his lone long ball. Strikers are judged by goals and McGuire didn’t participate in any in this game, failing to hit the target on his only two shots. It was a forgettable performance that came to an end in the 78th minute when he was replaced by Jack Lynn.

Substitutes

MF, Martin Ojeda (61’), 6 — Ojeda came on in the 61st minute for Angulo and made an immediate impact. He provided a burst of energy for the team and the Lions quickly began creating dangerous chances. The attacking midfielder had 31 touches and completed 85% of his 20 passes. While he didn’t complete any of his four crosses, he scored the equalizing goal in the 69th minute. In addition to his goal, he had a late chance that hit the side netting. While I gave Lodeiro my Man of the Match, there’s an argument for Ojeda because of the impact he made.

F, Jack Lynn (78’), N/A — Lynn came on with 12 minutes to go for McGuire, who clearly had no more energy. The Lions were looking for a game-winning goal, but Lynn was unable to help. He only touched the ball three times and completed two of three passes without taking any shots. It was easy to forget he was on the field as the minutes wound down.


That’s how I saw the individual performances in Orlando City’s disappointing loss to LAFC. Let us know how you saw the game and don’t forget to vote on your Man of the Match below.

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Lion Links

Lion Links: 6/17/24

Lions fall to LAFC, Pride draw on the road, Euro 2024 roundup, and 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 and had a great Father’s Day for all you dads out there. I was busy at Under Armour all weekend, but I try to catch some action from the Euros when possible. As for our teams, the Lions lost at home while the Pride drew on the road. Before we get started, let’s wish Orlando Pride midfielder Summer Yates a happy 24th birthday. We’ve got plenty to cover today, so let’s get to the links. 

Lions Fall at Home to LAFC

Orlando City lost 3-1 to LAFC on Saturday at Inter&Co Stadium, extending its winless streak to four matches. The Lions also remain winless against LAFC. Facundo Torres missed a penalty kick that would have put Orlando ahead before LAFC grabbed a goal late in the first half, converting a penalty of its own. Martin Ojeda scored an equalizer for the Lions in the second half, but LAFC countered with two more goals to put the match away. LAFC has won six straight league matches and is second in the Western Conference with 33 points. Meanwhile, Orlando dropped to 14th in the Eastern Conference with 17 points. It will be a quick turnaround for the Lions with a midweek matchup on the road Wednesday at Charlotte FC.

Pride, Courage Split Points in Scoreless Draw

The Orlando Pride played the Courage to a scoreless draw on the road Saturday in North Carolina at WakeMed Soccer Park. The Pride had chances throughout the match but could not score a goal for the first time this season. Still, Orlando remains unbeaten this season and is the first team this year to take any points away on the road against the Courage. After all the action across the NWSL over the weekend, Orlando and the Kansas City Current are still tied at the top with 29 points, but Kansas City is in first on goal differential. The Pride will return home Friday at Inter&Co Stadium to take on the Utah Royals.

Euro 2024 Roundup

The 2024 European Championship kicked off in Germany over the weekend with seven matches. We haven’t had any upsets yet, as Germany cruised past Scotland 5-1 in the opener on Friday. On Saturday, Switzerland beat Hungary 3-1, Spain shut out Croatia 3-0, and Italy bounced back after being down 1-0 to beat Albania 2-1. On Sunday, Slovenia and Denmark battled to a 1-1 draw. Orlando City defender David Brekalo came off the bench for a cameo appearance during stoppage time. The Netherlands overcame a 1-0 deficit to defeat Poland 2-1, and England defeated Serbia 1-0, with Jude Bellingham scoring the lone goal. In today’s matches, Romania takes on Ukraine, Belgium faces Slovakia, and Austria takes on France.

MLS Weekend Recap

It was another busy weekend of MLS action. The lone Friday matchup saw the Columbus Crew beat New York City FC 3-2. On Saturday, the New England Revolution defeated the Vancouver Whitecaps 3-2. It was the Revs’ third straight win. Charlotte FC shut out D.C. United 1-0, Inter Miami escaped Subaru Park with a 2-1 victory over the Philadelphia Union, and the Chicago Fire stunned Toronto FC with a 4-1 win on the road. Peter Luccin got his first win as interim head coach as FC Dallas defeated St. Louis City 2-0 and snapped a five-match winless streak. Atlanta United and the Houston Dynamo battled to a 2-2 draw, CF Montreal and Real Salt Lake ended in a scoreless draw, and the New York Red Bulls and Nashville SC also played to a scoreless draw. In the later matches, the Colorado Rapids and the Seattle Sounders defeated Austin FC and Minnesota United FC, respectively, by identical 2-0 scorelines. Finally, the LA Galaxy handed Sporting Kansas City a 4-2 defeat, while FC Cincinnati needed a a Yuya Kubo hat trick to defeat the San Jose Earthquakes 4-2 on the road.

Free Kicks

  • Major League Soccer has placed Sporting Kansas City midfielder Felipe Hernandez on administrative leave as the league investigates allegations that he violated the league’s gambling policy.

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

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