Connect with us

Orlando City

Intelligence Report: Orlando City at Portland Timbers



Orlando City hits the Pacific Northwest for the second time this season (following the 1-1 draw at Seattle back in June), as the Lions head to Providence Park for the one and only meeting with the Portland Timbers on Sunday.

Cyle Larin will have fond memories of his last visit to Providence Park, where he scored his first professional goal in a 2-0 win back in April of 2015. The Lions kept Timber Joey’s chainsaw silent that day, but doing that again will not be easy.

Here to tell us more about the Timbers is Will Conwell from SB Nation Portland blog, Stumptown Footy. I’ve answered their questions as well,and you can check those out over at their place.

It’s been a long time since these teams have played. What’s different about the 2017 Portland Timbers?

Will Conwell: The last time that the Portland Timbers faced off against Orlando City was the end of Caleb Porter’s 4-3-3, with Darlington Nagbe at holding midfield. Nagbe has since reprised his role as a No. 8, but it was that loss that truly convinced Timbers fans that the MLS Cup run was over and that 2016 was a new year.

In 2016, Lucas Melano was still the hope of the Timbers, a $5 million signing with speed to burn and the potential to be a star. Now Melano is out and Sebastian Blanco is in. Where Melano was an up and coming youngster, Blanco is a player in his prime; where Melano’s game was all-out attack, Blanco is a two-way player who gets stuck in on both sides of the ball; and where the enduring image of Melano is of him walking back behind the play (despite being instrumental in the Timbers’ 2015 cup run and win), the image of Blanco is always of a player getting stuck in.

In 2016, the Timbers had replaced the injured Liam Ridgewell with Jamaican mainstay and MLS journeyman Jermaine Taylor. This year, the Timbers brought in Congolese international Larrys Mabiala, a TAM signing, to shore up their back line. A strong, ball-winning center back, Mabiala has already proven his worth to the Timbers, helping to strengthen a back line that has had significant issues this year.

In 2016, the Timbers were still struggling to sort out a lineup that had been gutted by their cup run, losing left back Jorge Villafana and left winger Rodney Wallace to the ravages of the salary cap. Early 2016 was a downswing for the Timbers; now Orlando faces a Timbers side on the upswing.

Diego Valeri is always good but he seems to have found another gear in 2017. How has he evolved into a strong MVP candidate?

WC: Over the last two years following the Timbers’ MLS Cup win in 2015, Diego Valeri has transformed himself from a master playmaker (23 goals and 35 assists in 86 games from 2013-2015) into a scoring machine (32 goals and 16 assists in 58 games from 2016 to 2017). That transformation has come as a result of significant changes in both Valeri’s game and the game of the Timbers as a whole.

The changes in Valeri’s game can largely be traced back to the arrival of Fanendo Adi in 2014 and Valeri’s extended absence at the start of the 2015 season as he recovered from a torn ACL. With Valeri out, still recovering in the beginning of 2015, and Adi providing the focal point of the Timbers’ attack as he came into his own as a target forward, opening up space for those playing off him, the Timbers’ shape changed dramatically. Rather than three forwards making runs for their No. 10 in the center of the pitch, the Timbers were now two wingers making runs off of their No. 9 and an attacking midfielder with space in which to work on the edge of the area, as Adi drew in two or three defenders at a time with his hold-up play.

With that sort of black hole for defenders at the top of the Timbers’ formation opening up space, it only made sense for Diego Valeri to shoot, rather than looking for the weighted pass with which he had prospered in his early days with the Timbers. Thankfully for Timbers fans, Valeri is very good at shooting.

Now focused on taking advantage of that space, rather than simply making space for others, Valeri changed his game up. And as the Timbers continued to mold their play around strong hold-up from their forwards, it paid off.

What tactics have been successful for teams who have taken points against Portland this season both on offense and defense?

WC: The Timbers have allowed a lot of goals this year, so narrowing it down is difficult on the defensive side of the ball, but even so there are three approaches that teams have taken this season that stick out.

First, the Timbers have struggled under high pressure at times this season. While the back line looks much improved from where it was in the middle of the season, the Timbers have still shown some significant cases of nerves when put under aggressive pressure from opposition forwards. (Hello, Dom Dwyer.)

Perhaps this is down to the team’s constantly rotating back six failing to gel — injuries, call ups, and suspensions have wreaked havoc on the Timbers this year — but that the sort of silly, errant passes under pressure are still happening this late in the season is a source of worry. Liam Ridgewell is certainly still in need of time to settle in after his most recent extended absence due to injury, but Timbers backups Roy Miller and Lawrence Olum have each seen plenty of minutes this year.

Second, the Timbers have shown a propensity for giving up free kicks, getting unsettled, and failing to clear the ball in a timely fashion. This is a far more erratic aspect of the Timbers’ game and one that seems to surface at the most unseemly of times. While the back line’s struggles elsewhere can be blamed on familiarity, this seems more like an organizational issue. 

Neither Jake Gleeson nor Jeff Attinella have looked particularly impressive in goal this year and a large part of that has come in these sorts of situations, sometimes failing to punch or grab a free kick into the box, or getting caught up in the chaos of the scrum. This would be less of an issue if the Timbers had a more vocal presence on the back line, but the side’s captain, Ridgewell, has been in and out of availability all year.

Finally, when it comes to shutting down the Timbers attack — particularly without Adi on the pitch — nothing beats packing it in and daring the Timbers to cross the ball. While the Timbers do have the highest scoring attack in the Western Conference, without Adi to toss around opposing center backs like leaves on the wind everything becomes just a little bit harder for everyone else on the team.

Denying space to Valeri is difficult but doable, but denying Darlington Nagbe and Sebastian Blanco space to work the ball into the box is much easier. Both players are capable of uncorking a shot from distance, but Nagbe has been notoriously goal-averse in recent seasons and Blanco seems to still be finding his legs in MLS, although five goals and seven assists as a first-year winger is nothing to scoff at. Without Adi to draw players away and create space, even the energetic runs of Darren Mattocks are rarely able to open up a gap for the Timbers’ wide players to squeeze through.

Injuries?/Suspensions?/Projected Starting XI?/Score Prediction?

WC: Injuries — Out: Gbenga Arokoyo, Chance Myers, Marco Farfan; Questionable: Jeff Attinella, Vytas Andriuškevičius, Fanendo Adi, David Guzman.

Suspensions — None.

Projected starting XI — Jake Gleeson; Vytas Andriuškevičius, Liam Ridgewell, Larrys Mabiala, Zarek Valentin; David Guzman, Diego Chara; Sebastian Blanco, Diego Valeri, Darlington Nagbe; Darren Mattocks.

Prediction — 2-1, Portland.

Big thanks to Will from Stumptown Footy for taking time out to give us some background on the Timbers.

Orlando City

Orlando City vs. LAFC: Three Keys to Victory

What do the Lions need to do to get a victory at home against LAFC?



Dan MacDonald, The Mane land

Orlando City is back in action Saturday against LAFC at Inter&Co Stadium. The Lions have struggled recently, but will hopefully be well rested as they take on the second-place club in the Western Conference. There is still time for Orlando City to get the season back on track.

What does Orlando City need to do to earn all three points at home against LAFC?

It’s Mason Time

Mason Stajduhar will be in goal for the Lions this week because Pedro Gallese is on international duty with the Peruvian Men’s National Team. Stajduhar has played in big matches against tough opponents in the past (notably, last season at Philadelphia), but with Orlando City’s current run of form, he may need to be perfect for the Lions to get a result.

It’s not going to be easy for the backup keeper to earn a clean sheet. LAFC has scored 28 goals this season, with Denis Bouanga leading the pack with 10 goals so far this season. He has also contributed five assists. Stajduhar will need to be on his toes against Bouanga and the rest of LAFC’s attack.

Dependent on Defense

The players in front of Stajduhar will be as important, if not moreso, than himself. David Brekalo will be with Slovenia playing in the UEFA Euros. Expect Rodrigo Schlegel and Robin Jansson as the center backs in a more traditional four-man back line with Wilder Cartagena joining Peruvian teammate Gallese on international duty.

Fortunately for Orlando City, Cesar Araujo did not get called up by Uruguay and will be in his usual spot in the defensive midfield. I also suspect we will see plenty of Dagur Dan Thorhallsson on defense. How well all of these defenders are able to deal with the LAFC attack will make Stajduhar’s chances at a clean sheet that much easier or harder.

I’d Like to Buy a Goal

Orlando City has two goals in the last five matches (0.4 goals/match), with a record of 1-2-2. To put it simply, that isn’t nearly good enough, especially since the team scored 14 goals in the previous 11 matches (1.27 goals/match). The results actually flatter the Lions given the lack of scoring.

Sadly, it’s not just the goals, but the chances created that have suffered as well. In the last five matches, Orlando City has 39 shots (7.8 shots/match) with 12 on target (2.4 SOT/match). In the previous 11 matches, the Lions had 154 shots (14 shots/match) with 49 on target (4.45 SOT/match). That is a precipitous drop in production.

Injuries, formation changes, and schedule congestion have all contributed to the problem, but Orlando City needs to find its mojo again. The earlier numbers indicate that the Lions have it in them to create chances and score more goals. There’s no better time that at home against LAFC. How can they do it? Cross-mojination, baby!

That is what I will be looking for Saturday night. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below. Vamos Orlando!

Continue Reading

Lion Links

Lion Links: 6/13/24

Orlando City B hosts Chattanooga FC tonight, USMNT earns draw against Brazil, MLS’ Juneteenth celebrations, and more.



Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

How’s it going, Mane Landers? Between my cat finally deciding I’m worth hanging out with and reading a pair of books that have been collecting dust on my shelf, I’ve been having a pretty good week. I’m looking forward to the feast of soccer both in Orlando and abroad over the next few days as well. But for now, let’s get this Thursday started with today’s links!

Orlando City B Hosts Chattanooga FC Tonight

In an enticing midweek match tonight at 7 p.m., Orlando City B will take on Chattanooga FC at Osceola Heritage Park. If not heading to watch OCB in person, you can catch the game on MLS Season Pass on Apple TV+. The last time these two teams squared off was on May 4, with Chattanooga winning the penalty shootout for an extra point after a 1-1 draw in Tennessee. The Young Lions are coming off of a 2-2 draw with one of the league’s worst teams this season, Carolina Core FC, but winning the shootout after a late rally could give them the kind of momentum needed to take down Chattanooga. Beating one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference would be quite the statement from OCB during what’s been a middling season so far.

USMNT Draws With Brazil in Orlando

Playing in Orlando at Camping World Stadium, the United States Men’s National Team drew 1-1 against Brazil in a friendly billed as the Continental Clasico. Brazil scored first, but Matt Turner and the USMNT didn’t collapse under the pressure and earned the team’s first ever draw against the South American powerhouse. All in all, it was a much better result than the USMNT’s 5-1 loss to Colombia on Saturday. This was the USMNT’s final match until Copa America later this month. The Yanks will start their campaign against Bolivia on June 23 before playing Panama on June 27 and Uruguay on July 1.

MLS Announces Initiatives for Juneteenth

In partnership with Black Players for Change and Adidas, MLS announced some of the ways the league will be celebrating Juneteenth. Pre-match shirts acknowledging the change players can provide will be worn during warm-ups and fans can buy their own shirts as well, with a portion of the proceeds going toward organizations focused on racial equity and social justice. There will also be a campaign highlighting the connection between professional and academy players, as well as educational content across the league’s social media to raise awareness of the holiday.

Euro 2024 Kicks Off on Friday

A loaded gauntlet of summer tournaments finally begins Friday, as Germany hosts Scotland for the first match of Euro 2024. From Cristiano Ronaldo’s potential swan song to a brutal group that includes Spain, Italy, and Croatia, storylines abound for the tournament and each team brings something worth watching to the table. For Orlando City fans, defender David Brekalo was called up by Slovenia, which was drawn in a group with England, Denmark, and Serbia. I’m looking forward to seeing which underdogs prevail and which players make a name for themselves in this tournament.

2026 World Cup Schedule Revealed

The full schedule for the 2026 World Cup was unveiled, which gives a slight glimpse at the paths each host nation could take in the tournament. If the U.S. wins Group D after matches in Los Angeles and Seattle, it will stay on the West Coast for a knockout game in San Francisco before a potential round of 16 game in Seattle and quarterfinal in Los Angeles. Mexico and Canada have similar incentives to win their groups, as they will then host in their country until heading to the U.S. for the quarterfinals, should they make it that far. Here in Florida, Hard Rock Stadium in Miami will serve as the venue for four group games, a round of 32 match on July 3, a quarterfinal on July 11, and the third-place match on July 18.

Free Kicks

  • Orlando Pride Assistant Coach Yolanda Thomas was announced as a panelist for the Black Soccer Coaches’ summer symposium on July 22. She will also have a field session at the event to discuss the role of the midfield when building out of the back.

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

Continue Reading

Lion Links

Lion Links: 6/12/24

Leagues Cup forgets Orlando’s U.S. Open Cup win, USMNT U-23 loses to Japan, NWSL expansion options, and more.



Image courtesy of Orlando City SC

Welcome to Wednesday, Mane Landers. The USMNT plays tonight in Orlando, and I hope that you have tickets. If not, we can still watch as we wait for the Orlando City and Orlando Pride matches this Saturday. On a personal note, this Friday will mark my ninth anniversary with The Mane Land. It’s been a heck of a ride, and I’m glad you’ve been there with us. Here’s to many more years to come. Let’s get to the links.

Leagues Cup Forgets Orlando’s U.S. Open Cup Win

Orlando City is playing in the Leagues Cup starting at the end of July and here’s a nice guide to Orlando’s group for the tournament. Of course, the Leagues Cup organizers want you to be pumped so that you watch and buy tickets. I think that is something we should do simply to support the club. However, I don’t think they went about promoting the competition in quite the right way. In a tweet that has since been deleted, the tournament’s social media team stated the Leagues Cup would be Orlando’s chance to win its first trophy. Did you catch the mistake? Taylor Twellman did.

Good on you, Taylor. Facundo Torres was indeed brilliant in that match, as was Benji Michel. Of course, there were others that caught the faux pas as well.

I think we should also be mentioning the USL Championships, but what do I know? Evidently, more than the Leagues Cup’s social media team.

USMNT to Honor Pulse Victims

There’s plenty of fake, corporate shows of support for Pride Month , but in general I think that the USMNT and USWNT have done a good job of being legitimate allies to the LGBTQIA+ community. Tonight, the USMNT will play a friendly against Brazil at Camping World Stadium on the anniversary of the Pulse nightclub shooting. The players will be wearing Pride jerseys to honor those who lost their lives so senselessly eight years ago.

In terms of the game, the USMNT will be without Josh Sargent for the match, and Tyler Adams will only get limited minutes if he plays, as both are coming back from injuries. Get well before the Copa America, lads.

Lions on International Duty

The United States U-23 Men’s National Team lost 2-0 to Japan in its final friendly match before the Olympics. Orlando City’s Duncan McGuire found himself on a bit of an island up top as the U.S. had difficulty moving the ball through the midfield. Hopefully, the U.S. got such play out of its system heading into the Olympics.

OCB’s Wilfredo Rivera made the most of his time playing in Puerto Rico’s World Cup qualifier against Anguilla, scoring a brace in the 8-0 victory. This win comes after a scoreless draw with El Salvador last week and Puerto Rico’s remaining group games during this round of qualifying will be next June.

Exploring NWSL Expansion Options

The NWSL will be expanding to 16 teams in 2026 with many cities vying for the next franchise. The leaders include Cleveland, Cincinnati, and Minneapolis. Atlanta, Denver, and Jacksonville are potential choices as well. If it was to be given to either Atlanta or Jacksonville they would be regional rivals for the Orlando Pride. The league is expected to make a decision by the fourth quarter of 2024.

Free Kicks

  • Congratulations to the U-15 United States Women’s National Team, which won 4-0 over Germany.
  • Did you ever have one of those dreams that was a little scary, but also absolutely hilarious? This preview of Inter Miami’s new mascot is a bit like that. To misquote Jaws: “Ever seen an Inter Miami mascot’s eyes, Chief? He’s got lifeless eyes, black eyes, like a doll’s eyes.”
  • The Cayman Islands Men’s National Football Team forfeited its match against Cuba because many of its players are on visas in the United States. If those players were to travel to Cuba, the U.S. may have canceled those visas due to travel restrictions.
  • This is one of the most ridiculous no-calls I’ve ever seen. India got royally hosed.

That will do it for today. Check back as we get you ready for the Orlando City and Orlando Pride matches this Saturday night. Vamos Orlando!

Continue Reading