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Orlando City

Orlando City vs. Vancouver Whitecaps: Final Score 2-1 as Lions Continue to Struggle Offensively

25 shot attempts, but only four on target.

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Nick Leyva, The Mane Land

Orlando City has probably never had a final stats sheet like the one members of the media received after the Lions’ 2-1 home loss to the Vancouver Whitecaps at Orlando City Stadium.

Possession: 72.5%. Shots: 25. Passing accuracy: 84.8% Total passes: 487 — that’s 384 more than Vancouver. The worst passer on the team, statistically — Yoshimar Yotun — still managed 75.4% accuracy. The team fired 40 (!) open-play crosses. And yet, the Lions lost.

But in the end, the Vancouver Whitecaps leave with all the points because again the Lions could not find much quality to go with all of that quantity. Orlando City mustered only four shots on target out of the 25 attempts. Giles Barnes hit the crossbar late in the game. Both goals against were gifts — an own goal by Tommy Redding within the game’s first 10 minutes, and a second-half giveaway that sprung a Vancouver counter, which ended in the eventual winning goal by Brek Shea, because of course it would be Shea.

Cyle Larin’s 10th goal of the season gave the Lions a lifeline but it turned out to be nothing more than consolation in the end.

All of the effort, possession, and scoring chances mean little if the team can’t convert. And on this night, like so many others we’ve seen recently, the end product didn’t match the effort. Orlando City has put together some good performances recently but the Lions sure aren’t getting rewarded for it.

That’s the kind of thing that eventually saps optimism, amplifies a lack of confidence, and leaves fans screaming for a change, when literally any change will do in order to create a feeling that lessens the helplessness of watching a team with one of the best starts in MLS history slowly bleed to death over the course of several months.

A somber Jason Kreis struggled to put into words after the game what it’s like to watch good performances result in so few goals and even fewer good results.

“The effort the guys are putting forward in the last five or six games now is second to none. The belief they have and the willingness to work until the bitter end is fantastic and I can’t be any more thankful for that,” Kreis said. “But for whatever reason, it seems like it’s bad luck after bad luck after bad luck. And to go through a game tonight where we gave them both goals and we weren’t able to finish one of the plethora of chances we had — it’s difficult. A really, really mentally and emotionally difficult time for us.”

“You look at the start of these games and there’s one team really putting the pressure on and in both of them one small error and we’re punished for it,” goalkeeper Joe Bendik said. “That’s the game in the grand scheme but at some point it’s got to go our way a little bit.”

Kreis sent out an interesting lineup, apart from the usual Bendik at the back and the same back four who have played since Jonathan Spector went out with a knee injury a few games ago. Cristian Higuita, Yoshimar Yotun, Giles Barnes, and Kaká provided a more offensive-minded midfield than we’re used to seeing, while Carlos Rivas joined Dom Dwyer in the starting strike partnership and Cyle Larin sat on the substitutes’ bench.

Orlando City gave up only one scoring opportunity in the first half and of course it was enough, as the Whitecaps got on the board when Redding flicked Nicolas Mezquida’s free kick with his head back into his own net just nine minutes after the start. The Whitecaps didn’t even need a shot on goal to take the lead. It was the second time in three games that the central defense partnership conceded an own goal — as Leo Pereira did at New York — and the second time in three games the Lions conceded a first-half goal without allowing a shot on target.

Dwyer nearly got on the score sheet in the 16th minute, when a cross came in that the keeper got a piece of just before Dom’s arrival. The deflection was just enough to put off the striker’s timing.

Orlando’s best opportunity of the opening period came in the 21st minute. From the left corner, Kaká sent a cross to the top of the box that Dwyer allowed to run through to Yotun. The Peruvian one-timed his shot but sizzled it just over the crossbar. Three minutes later, Yotun took a free kick from near the sideline about 10 yards inside of the midfield line. The Peruvian’s kick was headed on by Barnes and landed just over the bar on top of the net, although Stefan Marinovic appeared to have it well covered.

In the 31st minute, Scott Sutter sent a cross in that deflected off Vancouver fullback Jordan Harvey and nearly deflected in just under the bar, but Marinovic was there to tip it over. Two minutes later, off an ensuing corner, the ball pinballed around the Vancouver box after a Rivas shot attempt but no one could get it on frame, although it appeared Higuita was fouled in the process of heading it on goal.

The Lions dominated possession in the opening half (72.6%) and out-shot Vancouver, 15-1, but Orlando only mustered one effort that actually hit the target, and Marinovic stopped that.

The first half was largely an exercise in frustration as Rivas continually failed to do much of anything with conviction. His shots were further off target than usual, including one about five rows into the upper deck. His passes were rarely properly weighted for their recipients. And he wasn’t even able to use his speed to much effect. By halftime, Kreis had seen enough and Larin came on for the Colombian.

Kreis said after the match that his thought with starting Rivas was he wanted to use the Colombian’s willingness to drop into the midfield and to the sidelines to feed Dwyer as he ran into the box, but what occurred during the game was that there weren’t enough bodies getting into the area to provide other options.

The second half was pretty much an exact replica of the first. Orlando controlled the ball for nearly the same amount of time (72.5% rather than 72.6%). Again, Orlando had the ball, the shots, the chances, but could only hit the target three times. And again, a gaffe by an Orlando defender led to a Vancouver goal. This time Pereira ignited a break that ended up with Shea in alone on Joe Bendik and the former Lion chipped the Orlando keeper to give the guests a two-goal lead in the 53rd minute.

Shea’s goal came three minutes after Dwyer smashed a shot just wide of goal.

Larin pulled one back for the Lions at the 62-minute mark, seemingly reigniting the game. Yotun got down the left flank after taking a pass from Higuita and scorched in an inch-perfect cross for the Canadian to nod home to make it 2-1. It was Yotun’s first MLS assist on a night when the Peruvian played extremely well, creating six chances and getting on the ball often — he led all players with 99 touches.

Vancouver nearly made it 3-1 a couple of times. Second-half sub Alphonso Davies got a fortunate deflection on a counter off Higuita and it fell for him to be alone on Bendik, but he shot high in the 69th minute. The Whitecaps somehow completely bungled a 3-on-1 counterattack in the 73rd without even getting a shot out of it. And Higuita made a vital desperation lunge to block a shot attempt in the box on another dangerous counter.

But the Lions had more opportunities than Vancouver. Off a 78th-minute corner kick, Sutter ended up shooting from above the box. The ball fell in front of Larin with Marinovic on the ground. Larin took a touch and then could not get his foot back onto it to knock it into the gaping net. The ball skipped off Barnes’ attempt to knock it in and eventually came to Dillon Powers — making his Orlando City debut as a second-half sub — who fired a shot that deflected off a defender and out of play.

Dwyer nearly got his head to a cross from point-blank range in the 85th but got a punch to the side of the head from Marinovic just as the ball arrived. A minute later, Barnes drove a blast off the crossbar. Larin nodded a corner cross wide of goal in the 89th.

Referee Hilario Grajeda signaled a minimum of four stoppage minutes and with the Lions coming close time after time, it seemed like that might be enough time. But in the end, as usual, even that didn’t go Orlando’s way. Despite repeated time wasting efforts in injury time by Vancouver that drew warnings from the referee, Grajeda still blew the full time whistle a good 10 seconds before the four minutes were up.

To paraphrase a recurring bit from the old 1970s musical comedy show Hee Haw, if it weren’t for bad luck, the Lions would have no luck at all.

“A little bit of a loss for words, honestly, because I just have never felt like I’ve been in such an unlucky situation,” Kreis said. “We just can’t seem to get anything to go our way. I feel like if we get something to go our way right now we can get a lot of good results because we’re performing well and playing well. But the struggle continues.”

Bendik was visibly dejected after the game, lamenting the team paying for every small mistake while not being able to capitalize on its own opportunities.

“Disappointed. It’s a lot of effort, a lot of heart, and to just get punished for these tiny mistakes…last week Cyle runs with a guy on a free kick and heads it away, it hits the side of a guy’s head and goes in the net,” he said. “This week Tommy makes a challenge, wins the ball but can’t get enough on it and I can’t make the save. Really disappointed.”

The season is still mathematically alive, but with Columbus, Atlanta, and even Philadelphia earning points tonight, coupled with the way every break seems to be going this summer, it’s probably best for your sanity to just enjoy the games while we’ve got them and look forward to a good off-season at this point.


The Lions are at New England next Saturday to make up the postponed game from back in March. Hey, we’ll be here to cover it.

Orlando City

Intelligence Report: Orlando City vs. LAFC

Get some insider information on LAFC courtesy of someone who knows the team best.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

We find ourselves at the end of another week, which means that another Orlando City match is almost upon us. Following a two-week break, the Lions will return to action with a home contest against LAFC.

A date with LAFC means I got some insider info on the opposition from Trebor Tracy, the managing editor of Angels on Parade. They’re another former SBNation blog that has gone independent, and they continue to do excellent work covering LAFC, Angel City FC, and Orange County SC, so make sure you check them out!

Catch me up on some of LAFC’s off-season transfer business. Who are some names that were brought in, and who went out the door?

Trebor Tracy:  LAFC came into this season as close to a rebuild project as you can be for a team many expect to compete for championships and trophies each year. In the off-season the team saw 15 departures from the 2023 squad, and that’s not counting loans out. Among the bigger names leaving Los Angeles were both goalkeepers that helped lift LAFC to the 2022 MLS Cup, midfielder Kellyn Acosta, defenders Denil Maldonado and Diego Palacios, and of course, the departure of inaugural signing Carlos Vela. This was a team expected to look completely different this season and it has. As for the arrivals, the team spent the off-season loading up on the likes of goalkeeper Hugo Lloris, forwards Kei Kamara and Cristian Olivera, and defender Omar Campos. The rough start to the year for Los Angeles had a lot to do with the newness of the team and having to build that familiarity within the XI. 

Of the incoming transfers, who has made the biggest impression? Is there anyone who you’d like to see performing better than they have been so far?

TT: Its been hard for LAFC to replace a lot of the departures — not just in terms of production, but leadership and experience in several cases. While not technically an off-season arrival, Cristian Olivera, who arrived in summer window of 2023, really came into his own this season. With an entire off-season under his belt, he has by far been the best of the new arrivals for LAFC. He is producing goals, creating opportunities for others, and has that confidence this team thrives off of. On the other side of the coin, Hugo Lloris has been the biggest disappointment. In fairness to him, he has drastically improved during the team’s recent run, but the start of his MLS career had him easily one of the worst keepers in the league. 

LAFC is on a five-game unbeaten run in league play, what’s been working so well for the team during this stretch?

TT: Speaking of that run, the play of Lloris is why they have done so well recently. Well, that and Denis Bouanga appears to have found his soccer boots again. The 180 those two have done has been the catalyst for the team’s great run of form lately. 

Will any players be unavailable for selection due to injury, suspension, call-ups, etc.? What is your projected starting XI and score prediction?

TT: Availability reports come out night before the match, and we have the team presser this afternoon. with a few players set to return, I am unsure at the moment as to who exactly will be  ready to go.


Thank you to Trebor for helping get us caught up on LAFC. Vamos Orlando!

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Orlando City

Orlando City Needs to Start Using the Scoreboard Again

A deep statistical dive into Orlando City’s offensive struggles. We’re warning you…there will be math (but we do it for you).

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

One of the more memorable scenes in my favorite movie of all time, Bull Durham, is when the manager walks into the showers after another loss, yells at the team about their recent performance, and ends with “this (baseball) is a simple game: you throw the ball, you hit the ball, you catch the ball. You got it!?” Soccer is, of course, a little different but the concept remains the same. You pass the ball, you shoot the ball, you score the ball. Unless you are Orlando City, recently.

Anyone can look at the recent results for Orlando City and see that goals have been, shall we say, less than plentiful. But why is that happening? Well, one idea may be that another team in Orlando is using up all the goals, with the Orlando Pride having scored 19 (excluding opposition own goals) to Orlando City’s 15, with the Pride having played four fewer games to boot, but goals are not a zero-sum equation (I know you asked your math teacher for years when you would ever need to use equations in the real world; you’re welcome!), so let’s dive into what has been going on for Orlando City and take a look at what may be causing an average of 0.94 goals/game (again, excluding opposition own goals) in the 2024 MLS season after an average of 1.6 goals/game in 2023.

Wayne Gretzky famously said, “you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take,” but I do not think a lack of shots taken is the main culprit for this Orlando City team this season. Yes, in the last match against the Red Bulls the Lions only managed five shots (all stats in this article are courtesy of fbref.com,  in collaboration with Opta, which codes thousands of matches every weekend across hundreds of competitions all over the world), but for the 2024 season, Orlando City is averaging 11.8 shots/game, 1.1 shots/game fewer than the league average of 12.9 but actually 0.1 higher than Orlando City’s 11.7 shots/game from 2023. Orlando City’s 11.8 shots/game ranks 23rd in all of MLS — not great, but the team with the most shots/game, St. Louis FC at 16.8, has only earned one more point than Orlando City after playing the same number of games, and the correlation (I told you there would be math) between shots/game and goals is relatively weak (r = 0.25, a strong positive correlation would be an r between 0.7 and the maximum r value of 1.0), so a higher value of shots/game does not necessarily lead to more goals.

What does tend to lead to more goals is more shots on target. I know, I know, you never would have thought of that. And as we look into shots on target for Orlando City in 2024, lo and behold, this is where we start to really see where the problems have arisen this season. Orlando City ranks 26th in MLS this year with 29% shots on target, so when you combine a rank of 23rd in shots/game with a rank of no. 26 in shots on target, you get a team that has scored a low amount of Goals as compared to the rest of the league. Orlando City’s 29% shots on target rate in 2024 is an 18% decrease from its 2023 shots on target percentage of 36% (7% raw decrease (36%-29% = 7%) but an 18% percent decrease (29%/36% – 100% = -18%), and the Lions’ 29% shots on target percentage is 1.28 standard deviations below the MLS average.

This is probably the time for me to tell you I was that high school math teacher who students asked about using math in the real world, and I did teach AP statistics, where we frequently talked about standard deviations and 1.28 standard deviations below the average is, in this case, to use a technical term, u-g-l-y and they ain’t got no alibi.

Is it as ugly as Bubba Sparxxx rapped about back in 2000? Was that just a question to make a pop culture reference about a song I enjoyed when I was in high school? Yes and yes. The first time I ever heard former Orlando City coach Adrian Heath interviewed he said, “Goals change games,” which of course is obvious and means that those who are taking the most shots need to be game changers. Looking at the table below, we can see who has been taking the shots and the differences between 2024 and 2023:

At first glance there is some good news. Orlando City’s leading shot takers this year are generally shooting on target around the league average, but it is on the clinical side, the goals per shot on target and goals per shot attempt where we can see that Orlando City is struggling.

We do see that Duncan McGuire continues to be clinical when he gets his shots on target, but the big drop for him is that last year he put nearly three out of every four shots on target and this year he is down to something much closer to the league average of around one out of every three. Among players with at least 17 shots last year (I chose this number because it would be 0.5 shots/game across 34 games and because it is my father’s favorite number), Duncan ranked first out of 244 MLS players in shots on target percentage and in goals per shots on target, and though his numbers this year are still above average, he is down to 43rd and 13th out of the 108 players who have taken more than 17 shots, respectively (keeping the same shot volume threshold for consistency). Four other major takeaways from me on this chart:

  • Facundo Torres was second on the list for most shots taken in 2023 and was an excellent finisher (this does include penalties, but they are shots and you have to make them), but in 2024 he is tied for fifth in shots with Dagur Dan Thórhallsson at only 15 shots taken.
  • Martin Ojeda remains a high volume shooter, but he is looking much more like Jordan Poole than Steph Curry this year with a lot of shots on target but not a lot of makes. And by not a lot I mean, sadly, zero.
  • Orlando City as a whole is taking shots from slightly closer to the goal but the team’s most frequent shooters are shooting from farther away than last year, and you do not need me as a math major to tell you that goalkeepers would prefer long shots over close shots.
  • Ercan Kara was a somewhat maligned striker for Orlando City, but he was pretty lethal when he got a shot off, putting more than two out of every five shots on frame and scoring at twice the MLS average on goals/shot. His 2023 shot volume is low on this chart because he left halfway through the season, but in his two years in MLS he scored at 21% and 22% on goals/shot, which put him in the upper echelon of shooters in the league.

Going back to McGuire and where he ranked in all of MLS, here is a heat map, but with the corresponding percentile ranks of Orlando City’s players among players who took at least 17 (hi Dad) shots (red to green scale — 0% (dark red, very low performance) to 100% (dark green, very good performance).

The comparisons between 2024 and 2023 are the most stark again in the columns involving goals, as in 2023 Orlando City’s most frequent shooters were scoring in the upper echelons of all MLS players, and this year there is much more red/orange than green for those with at least 17 shots. The other biggest differences of course surround who is taking the shots. Luis Muriel has arrived and has taken the most shots in 2024, but looking at his career shooting stats there is not a lot of evidence that being a lethal finisher is something in his skillset. Barbra Banda he is not, but then again nobody is Barbra Banda (except Barbra Banda), and expecting Muriel to change his playing style to be more of a finisher rather than initiator while adapting to a new league and teammates is lot to ask for someone who joined after the season began.

The bigger need for Orlando City is to get McGuire back on the field and to get Torres going, Facundo’s shots/90 minutes is down more than 50% from last season (largely owing to playing a lot of wingback over the last several weeks), and for someone who was in the 94th percentile in goals/shot in 2023 to have decreased their shot volume by so much is the opposite of what you want. Plus, Facundo is my son’s favorite player and he misses seeing Torres’ selfie celebration.

I want to end with a positive, however, and that is wrapped around the concept of regression to the mean. In the case of Orlando City this would actually likely be a positive regression as opposed to a negative one. During the last four years, MLS has been remarkably stable in terms of goals/shot on target (35%, 32%, 33%, 33%) and goals/shot (12%, 11%, 11%, 11%). Just because the league has been stable does not mean that Orlando City automatically will improve, but with the talent of the players on the squad and their history, I think it is more likely than not that Orlando City’s low performance so far in 2024 will come back up towards league average — much like a Major League Baseball player’s batting average on balls in play often evens out over time based on their level of skill.

Orlando City has talented players, including many who led the team to the best record in the team’s history last season, and I believe it is likely that we will start seeing small increases in goals/shot on target and goals/shot as the season progresses. I certainly hope we do, because it is much more fun when Orlando City masters this simple game and scores the ball, scores the ball, and scores the ball.

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Lion Links

Lion Links: 6/14/24

Orlando City prepares to take on LAFC, Lions linked with Alan Saldivia, Orlando City B draws against Chattanooga FC, and more.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Happy Friday! I’m working for most of this weekend but am still looking forward to the absurd amount of soccer ahead of us. Both Orlando City and the Orlando Pride have games Saturday, and the 2024 Euros should give us some exciting matches from teams we don’t watch all too often. Let’s dive right into today’s links!

Orlando City Prepares for LAFC

The international break is over and Orlando City is back in action Saturday night for a home game against LAFC. It’s been a difficult season for the Lions so far, and they have been shut out in three of their past five games. Points have been hard to come by at home for Orlando and a match against one of the best teams in the Western Conference won’t make that any easier. With David Brekalo at the Euros, Rodrigo Schlegel is expected to start and it would be his 100th MLS appearance. Ramiro Enrique would also make his 50th appearance across all competitions as a Lion should he take the field.

Lions Linked Reportedly Bow Out of Bid to Sign Defender Alan Saldivia

With the MLS summer transfer window looming, a rumor surfaced of Orlando City making an offer to sign Uruguayan center back Alan Saldivia from Colo-Colo in Chile. The Lions reportedly offered $1.5 million for the 22-year-old, but that doesn’t reach the $2.2 million Colo-Colo wants at minimum. The Lions reportedly would not go higher. While center back isn’t exactly a pressing need for the Lions at this time, Saldivia would have given the team a young and talented player who could anchor the defense for years to come.

Orlando City B Drops Points in Disappointing Draw

OCB hosted Chattanooga FC and had to settle for a 2-2 draw after giving up a lead not once, but twice. The Young Lions had Chattanooga on the ropes late in the match, taking the lead just before the end of normal time, only to get punched in the mouth in stoppage time and then lose the penalty shootout. It was the second straight 2-2 draw at home for the Young Lions and they’re still on the hunt for their first win this month. OCB’s next game will be on the road against New York City FC II on Wednesday.

Getting Ready for the MLS NEXT Cup Playoffs

The MLS NEXT Cup playoffs kick off Saturday as the best teams across four age groups compete in a knockout format. Orlando City’s U-15 squad was recognized as one of the title contenders in its age group and will take on Real Salt Lake in the round of 32 on Saturday . The team also did well in MLS NEXT Flex, and Jakob Garcia, who has scored 18 goals in 21 games, is the kind of attacker who can make all the difference in knockout matches. Orlando’s U-17 team is capable of making a run as well, although it faces a tough first match on Sunday against the Philadelphia Union, which won the 2024 Generation Adidas Cup. It should be a fun tournament, and hopefully Orlando’s teams can advance far enough to be included in the games streamed on MLS Season Pass.

Free Kicks

  • Carl Robinson is back in MLS after Atlanta United hired him as an assistant coach. The 47-year-old played for Toronto FC and the New York Red Bulls to close out his playing career and also served as the head coach of the Vancouver Whitecaps.
  • Chicago Fire Designated Player Xherdan Shaqiri reportedly wants to return to Europe. The 32-year-old has been with the Fire since 2022 but hasn’t lived up to his billing and his contract is set to expire after this season.

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

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