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Orlando City

Orlando City vs. Real Salt Lake: Final Score 1-0 as Lions Hold On After Early Will Johnson Goal

Orlando City gets an important road win with a stout defensive performance.



Nick Leyva, The Mane Land

It’s amazing how much better a game feels when your team wins.

After a five-game stretch with no wins, Orlando City (8-6-5, 29 points) got a crucial road win in Jason Kreis’ second return to Real Salt Lake (5-12-2, 17 points) — and first with Orlando. The game was pretty even until Will Johnson powered in a rebound for a 17th-minute goal. What ensued was an all out defensive performance from the Lions.

The game reminded me a lot of Orlando’s first game of the season against NYCFC, where the Lions got the lead early and just held on for dear life for most of the match.

RSL had plenty of shots and the bulk of possession (61%), but at the end of the day, the Royals just didn’t have what it took to break through the rigid Orlando City defense. Perhaps the stat that sums up the game is RSL’s two shots on target from 11 attempts.

Kreis made four changes from the lineup that came out flat against the Chicago Fire, dropping Tommy Redding, Luis Gil, and PC, with Carlos Rivas missing out due to injury. The Lions played a lopsided 4-4-2 with Cyle Larin and Giles Barnes up front, though Barnes shifted out wide for a lot of the game. In midfield, from left to right, were Kaká, Cristian Higuita, Antonio Nocerino, and Johnson. The back line consisted of Donny Toia, Jose Aja, Jonathan Spector, and Scott Sutter, with Joe Bendik in his customary role in goal.

From the get-go, RSL was on the offensive, primarily attacking down the right wing. While the hosts were getting up the field quite effectively, they weren’t able to carve out any good shooting opportunities.

Orlando City’s first real chance came in the 17th minute off a long free kick which was won by Kaká after he was pulled down by Chris Wingert. Kaká sent a magnificent ball to the back post, which led to a powerful header by Aja that left the crossbar vibrating. The ball then bounced out slowly and fell to the feet of former RSL man Johnson, who rattled it in for the first and only goal of the night and Will’s second of the year. David Horst threw himself in front of the onrushing Johnson, but could only get a touch on the ball which deflected it into the top of the net.

After the goal, RSL had a small surge of chances which amounted to nothing. In the 21st minute, Higuita turned over the ball to Brooks Lennon — a dangerous man on the wing all night — who then sent a tempting ball across the face of goal. Joao Plata was the closest to the ball, after losing Sutter, but luckily he couldn’t get a foot on it. In the 25th minute, there was a free kick for RSL, which after bouncing off a few players, ended up finding Lennon, but he judged the ball wrong and whiffed on it.

As the game went on, Orlando City sat deeper and deeper just as RSL threw more and more players into the attack. It was great to see how Orlando City stayed compact the entire match. You couldn’t really say that RSL’s attack was that weak, it was just that Orlando’s defense was too organized and didn’t allow the Royals any space in the box, which is why they had to settle for bad shots.

As mentioned before, Orlando didn’t have many chances, but the Lions did have one in the 35th minute, when Barnes cut in from the right and fired a long shot straight at Nick Rimando. Then, from about the 36th to 40th minutes, RSL had a few of its best chances. The first one came from a Lennon cross, which went to Jefferson Savarino, who laid it off for Plata, but it ended up in a fairly simple save for Bendik. After that, they had two quick opportunities from Plata and Lennon getting to the byline and trying to square it, but Orlando’s defense stayed tight and dealt with the threat well.

In the 45th minute, Savarino had RSL’s best chance on a shot right outside of the 18 that swerved and caused an awkward save from Bendik, who fought it off for a corner.

The second half was more of the same from RSL except the hosts kept getting braver; it also saw Servando Carrasco come in for Nocerino due to an inflamed right hamstring. At one point late in the half, it seemed as if RSL was playing two in the back with almost everybody in Orlando’s half.

In the 53rd minute, Luis Silva got into the box and was one on one with Spector, but Johnson hustled back to poke it away. RSL then had a great chance to tie it up in the 63rd minute, after Savarino chested a ball down to Silva who was one on one with Bendik. I’m sure every Lions fan can agree that while that moment did evoke lots of nerves, you trusted that Bendik would take care of it. Bendik not only took care of it — as he has on so many occasions — he rushed in confidently and forcefully sent the ball back where it came from.

That was RSL’s last good chance, though it wasn’t for a lack of trying. The hosts pushed their whole team forward and made three offensive substitutions, yet they couldn’t even force Bendik to make one of the heroic saves we are so used to seeing from him. The 71st minute saw Kaká come off for Luis Gil. The Brazilian was likely taken off because of their midweek game with Toronto FC, but he did not look happy at all, walking directly into the locker room immediately without even acknowledging Kreis.

After a silly challenge from behind by Higuita in the 76th minute, Plata hit a low free kick which came dangerously close, but missed just wide to the left. Later on, in the 87th minute, Higuita picked up a yellow card for hitting an RSL player in the face. He will not be available for Orlando’s midweek clash with Toronto FC. He subsequently came off and was replaced by Richie Laryea. It was Laryea’s second appearance for the team and he made it count too by getting a shot off at Rimando’s near post in the 92nd minute.

The game ended 1-0, with Orlando City leaving with a well-deserved three points. The Lions will return home on Wednesday to face Toronto FC at 7:30 p.m.

Lion Links

Lion Links: 9/29/23

Orlando City prepares for CF Montreal, learning more about Duncan McGuire, Jack Lynn named to MLS NEXT Pro Best XI, and more.



Dan MacDonald, The Mane Land

It’s Friday, which means we’re just one day away from a pretty busy weekend of Orlando soccer. It should be a pretty fun next few days, with Orlando City, the Orlando Pride, and Orlando City B all in action. I don’t have many weekend plans beyond working and getting some writing and reading done. Let’s get to the links!

Orlando City Prepares for CF Montreal

Orlando City hosts CF Montreal tomorrow night in a showdown between two Eastern Conference teams with just four games remaining this season. It’s the second match between the two teams this year, with Montreal beating the Lions 2-0 in Canada on May 6. In the time since that game, the Lions have only lost three games this season and have not been defeated at home since April 22. Orlando’s next win will be Head Coach Oscar Pareja’s 60th with the Lions, and tomorrow’s match could also break club records for most wins and points in a season. A win for the Lions would be massive to put some breathing room between them and the other top teams in the Eastern Conference.

Get to Know Duncan McGuire

Orlando forward Duncan McGuire was the latest to go under the microscope as part of the club’s video series to learn more about the players. The rookie spoke on his upbringing as a middle child, as well as how he turned to soccer after struggling in other sports. McGuire also talked about his acrobatic goal celebrations and a clip is included of a time he didn’t quite stick the landing after scoring for Creighton. It’s a pretty fun interview, as he gave some details on how Mason Stajduhar is a quick learner when it comes to golf and how he wants to go out to dinner with Ana de Armas.

Jack Lynn Makes MLS NEXT Pro Best XI

Orlando City B forward Jack Lynn was named to the MLS NEXT Pro’s Best XI for the second straight year. Lynn fueled OCB’s offense this season, scoring 19 goals to help the Young Lions claim a spot in the playoffs. No MLS NEXT Pro player has scored more goals since the league’s inaugural season last year than Lynn, who has 34 goals under his belt. The 23-year-old is joined on the front line of this year’s Best XI with the two players he tied with for the Golden Boot, New York City FC II’s Matt Myers and Colorado Rapids 2 forward Remi Cabral.

Orlando City B Takes On Columbus Crew 2 This Sunday

The Young Lions will play their first MLS NEXT Pro playoff game this Sunday when they face Columbus Crew 2 on the road at 5:30 p.m. It will be the third and final match between the two sides this year, with each claiming a big win over the other earlier in the season. No team that qualified for the playoffs has lost more road games than OCB this season, which may be why Columbus elected to face Orlando. However, Orlando’s offense has been electric at times this year thanks to Lynn, Shak Mohammed, Wilfredo Rivera, and others. Sunday may be another wild game with the Young Lions involved and you can check it out on MLS Season Pass on Apple TV+.

Tahir Reid-Brown Called Up for Training Camp

United States U-17 Men’s National Team Head Coach Gonzalo Segares called up 20 players for a training camp in Brazil to prepare for the U-17 World Cup in November. OCB defender Tahir Reid-Brown was the lone Orlando representative called up for this camp. The 17-year-old was called up to the U-17 team earlier this April for a training camp in Florida. He’s had an impressive year, earning a spot in the MLS NEXT All-Star Game and making 10 appearances for OCB. The U.S. will take on Brazil on Oct. 4 and Oct. 6 in a pair of friendlies during this camp.

Free Kicks

  • Orlando City center back Rodrigo Schlegel unveiled the meaning behind his tattoos, including the ones for his parents and his biggest moments as a Lion.

That’s all I have for you today. Hopefully the weather plays nice this weekend and you’re able to do everything you have planned. Have a great Friday!

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Orlando City

Orlando City vs. CF Montreal: Three Keys to Victory

What does Orlando City need to do to earn all three points against CF Montreal this Saturday in Exploria Stadium?



Dan MacDonald, The Mane Land

Orlando City hosts CF Montreal in the second-to-last home match of the 2023 MLS regular season at Exploria Stadium this Saturday night. The Lions have already secured a spot in the playoffs but are now fighting for home field advantage. Montreal is currently sitting in eighth place in the Eastern Conference and is fighting for a playoff spot.

What does Orlando City need to do to secure three important points against the Canadian Club Foots?

Time to Make the Donuts

It had been a minute since Duncan McGuire scored a goal for Orlando City — and by a minute I mean since July 29. McGuire had a few opportunities against Inter Miami and managed to get one to equalize for the Lions and ensure a point at home. I do think he might have scored on another of those chances if he was fully back in form after his injury time, but I’ll take the goal. 

My hope is that getting that goal will remind him that he can score goals when given the opportunity, and he will be better about finishing the chances he gets against Montreal. Sometimes it just takes getting that first goal to open up the muscle memory and to unlock the confidence needed in a striker. It’s time for Duncan to score more goals, and the match against Montreal is the first and best opportunity to do so since Montreal starting center back Joel Waterman will be serving a red card suspension.

Switch up the Lineup

I propose a change to the starting lineup — something Oscar Pareja does not do very often. Due to injuries and other factors such a move wasn’t possible earlier in the season, but I think it could work now. I have a ton of respect for Mauricio Pereyra, but he could probably use a rest to be fresh for the playoffs as the regular season winds down. 

I suggest letting Martin Ojeda get the start in the 10 spot, moving Dagur Dan Thorhallsson up the wing, and having Michael Halliday take over at right back. Ojeda’s play as of late has been much improved, and with Halliday healthy again, why not take advantage of Dagur Dan’s versatility along the wing. I think this move provides energy, a surprise for opposing defenses, and allows Facundo Torres more freedom. 

Same Old Effective Defense

Orlando City’s defense has only allowed 37 goals this season — which is good enough to tie for sixth place in the Eastern Conference. On the flip side, Montreal has only scored 30 goals so far — which is only better than Toronto at 24 goals. Montreal has a goal differential of -15.If the Lions play their normally solid defense in front of the outstanding goalkeeping of Pedro Gallese, Montreal should not get too many opportunities to score. There’s no doubt that we will see Robin Jansson and Rodrigo Schlegel paired together with Rafael Santos on the left and either Dagur Dan — or Michael Halliday as I suggested — on the right. Cesar Araujo and Wilder Cartagena can stop most attacks before they get to the back line. If Orlando City plays defense as well as the club did against Miami, things should be fine.

That is what I will be looking for this Saturday as the Lions take on the boys from North of the border. Vamos Orlando!

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Lion Links

Lion Links: 9/28/23

Ajax is reportedly scouting Facundo Torres, Orlando Pride focus on upcoming matches, Houston Dynamo win U.S. Open Cup, and more.



Dan MacDonald, The Mane Land

How’s it going, Mane Landers? I hope this work week has gone smoothly for you as we get ready to bid farewell to September. It’s been a hectic week for me, but I started and then promptly devoured all of Fourth Wing by Rebecca Yarros. It was a nice read, albeit a bit intense at times. I’m not sure what I’ll read next as most of my reading list is packed up for a move, but if you have any recommendations then let me know in the comments below. Let’s dive into today’s links!

Ajax Reportedly Interested in Facundo Torres

Orlando City forward Facundo Torres has reportedly garnered the interest of Dutch club Ajax according to Fabrizio Romano.

It’s not too surprising that Ajax, which currently sits in 14th in the Eredivisie with just seven goals from five games, has scouts keeping tabs on Torres. The 23-year-old has scored 12 goals this season, powering Orlando to second in the Eastern Conference. It wouldn’t be the first time Torres has received attention from European clubs and likely won’t be the last as he continues to impress with the Lions

Orlando Pride Focus During Playoff Push

The Orlando Pride are back in action on Monday for a crucial road match with Angel City FC. Both teams have 25 points this season, one point from the sixth and final playoff spot currently held by the Washington Spirit. It will be the first of three remaining games for the Pride this season, with matches against fellow playoff hopefuls Racing Louisville and the Houston Dash set for later in October. As a result, there’s not much margin for error if the Pride wish to make the playoffs and Kylie Strom talked about how the team is focused for these games.

MLS NEXT Pro Playoffs Begin This Weekend

The first round of the MLS NEXT Pro playoffs kicks off this weekend with six matches that can all be watched on MLS Season Pass. Unlike last year, Orlando City B will be taking part and is set to face off with Columbus Crew 2 on Sunday at 5:30 p.m. Although the Young Lions have struggled on the road against Columbus, Jack Lynn and Shak Mohammed can make things difficult for the hosts. Hopefully we’ll see OCB make Columbus regret its choice of opponent in the postseason. I like the wrinkle and mind games to the playoffs the new rule gave and am interested to see which of the lower seeds plays with a chip on their shoulder. The playoffs begin on Friday when Sporting Kansas City II hosts Austin FC II in a battle between the third and fourth seeds of the Western Conference.

Houston Dynamo Win U.S. Open Cup

The Houston Dynamo have lifted the U.S. Open Cup trophy after winning 2-1 on the road against Inter Miami. A pair of goals in the first half were enough for Houston to win its second U.S. Open Cup title after also winning in 2018. A goal in stoppage time from Josef Martinez made things interesting, but the Dynamo defense did well to secure the win and deny Miami its second tournament title this year. It was a strong end to a solid tournament campaign from the Dynamo, as they beat four MLS sides before taking down Miami in the final.

Albertin Montoya Hired as Bay FC Head Coach

Ahead of its inaugural NWSL season next year, Bay FC named Albertin Montoya as the club’s first head coach. Montoya, who has lived in California for most of his life, served as the interim coach for the Washington Spirit in 2022 and also coached the U.S. U-17 women’s national team in 2011. Bay FC General Manager Lucy Rushton spoke on how Montoya’s name came up often while the club searched for a head coach, as well as how his skill at developing players will help build the club’s foundation.

Free Kicks

  • Orlando City Head Coach Oscar Pareja called for the supporters to continue filling Exploria Stadium and pushing the Lions forward for the team’s remaining home games this season.
  • St. Louis City midfielder Njabulo Blom won MLS Goal of the Week for his winner against Minnesota United. It was also the 23-year-old’s first professional goal.

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

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