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Orlando City

Orlando City vs. D.C. United: Final Score 1-1 as 10-Man Lions Strike in Stoppage Time

Stefano Pinho’s dramatic first MLS goal pulls back a point for City after PC was sent off in the first half.

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Nick Leyva, The Mane Land

After 10-man Orlando City’s unlikely come-from-behind 1-1 draw in the 2018 season opener, Justin Meram said he didn’t expect his first match here to feature a penalty against and a player sent off. Welcome to Orlando, Mr. Meram.

The Lions conceded on a set piece out of nowhere and then went down a man before rallying the troops and setting up Stéfano Pinho’s first MLS goal in the 93rd minute to send the sellout crowd of 25,527 home with a happy point. Pinho’s goal was his fourth in two games at Orlando City Stadium, but this time he was the hero instead of the villain as he lifted the Lions to a hard-fought point in a match fraught with adversity.

“I think this was a fantastic example of what our team is capable of,” Head Coach Jason Kreis said after the game. “There was some very good soccer tonight. We out-possessed D.C. United on a night when we were down a man for 60 minutes, so that says something. But I do believe that there’s still lots of room for improvement, obviously.”

The visitors sat back with the lead — provided by new boy and former Atlanta United midfielder Yamil Asad — and the extra man throughout the second half, and it proved their undoing.

With several regulars out with injury or suspension, Kreis turned in a lineup sheet that featured some surprises, including a pair of rookies and Victor “PC” Giro in the midfield. Joe Bendik was no surprise in goal, behind a back line of Mohamed El-Munir, Amro Tarek, Jonathan Spector, and Scott Sutter. Cam Lindley played holding midfield in his first MLS start behind Will Johnson and PC on either side of Yoshimar Yotun in the No. 10 role. Chris Mueller and Meram made up the strike force in the 4-4-2. The actual shape varied throughout the match, however, as players wove in and out, playing off of each other and it was sometimes interesting to see where everyone was on the pitch.

D.C. got on the front foot first, with a dangerous cross into the box just seconds into the match. Rookie Lindley then gifted the visitors a scoring chance with a turnover with perhaps his first touch. United broke in alone, 4-on-2. Ulises Segura got on the end of it and took a shot, but Spector recovered to force a bad attempt.

Orlando’s first good opportunity came in the seventh minute when a free kick nearly fell for Meram in the box, but it skipped away and D.C. cleared. From there, the Lions started climbing into the match and creating some half-chances but had trouble beating Steve Birnbaum and Frederic Brillant in the box.

United got the best early opportunity when video review overturned a no-call and awarded the visitors a penalty in the 19th minute for a Johnson handball just inside the box. It seemed a bit harsh, as Johnson was only a few yards away from Darren Mattocks.

“Initially I thought there would be no way that the penalty decision would go against us,” Kreis said, “because from my point of view it looked like arms were down and anytime there’s a ball that’s played that quickly from somebody’s foot to somebody’s arm in the penalty box on really what looks like a non-decisive situation…ask yourself a question, if it doesn’t hit his hand, where does it go? But I haven’t seen any video on it so I could be completely wrong.”

Joe Bendik came to Johnson’s rescue with a fantastic save to tip the ball off the crossbar. Spector dove to head the rebound out of danger.

D.C. broke through in the 32nd minute. Lindley was late on a challenge and caught Asad out wide of the penalty area. Asad took the ensuing free kick and it curled toward the back post, narrowly clearing two would-be United headers and it froze Bendik and skipped into the corner of the net to make it 1-0.

Late in the half, the game turned on another video review. PC caught Asad while in the air and referee Fotis Bazakos thought about it and eventually booked the Orlando midfielder. Then, just as D.C. was taking the ensuing free kick, a call from VAR Geoff Gamble prompted Bazakos to take a second look. For the second time, he changed his mind, showing PC a red card in the 41st minute for violent conduct.

“I think my player’s fouled first, honestly,” Kreis said of the challenge that sent off PC. “He was pushed from the back going up on an aerial challenge. Once he gets pushed from the back he’s just fighting to try to get his balance back. But sure, an arm was flailing and hit the opponent’s head.”

The Lions were able to see out the remainder of the first half, plus five added minutes, and go into the break down by a goal. Possession was nearly 50/50 at that point but United had a 7-4 advantage in shots (3-0 on goal). Paul Arriola’s 44th minute shot that Bendik stopped was the final good opportunity for either team in the first half.

Neither team made halftime changes and United felt comfortable to not press. The Lions took advantage, holding the ball for 61% of the second period and generating some excellent play through the midfield despite their numbers disadvantage.

The first warning sign for D.C. came in the 51st minute when Mueller smashed a shot from a tight angle off the outside netting. Meram nearly got to a cross from Mueller in the 54th but David Ousted’s outstretched arm got in the way and Bazakos gave a foul even though it was anyone’s ball and Meram had the better position.

Meram almost set up Yotun for the equalizer in the 57th minute. His cross fell onto Yotun’s left foot and only Brillant’s last-ditch intercession to clear it off the line kept the visitors on top.

Pinho came on a minute later for Mueller, making his MLS debut. Three minutes later, he appeared to be fouled by Birnbaum in the penalty area on a cross into the box and needed a minute to collect himself after a clash of heads got him just under the eye. Birnbaum appeared to get his arms up over Pinho’s back as the ball came in but no foul was called.

Meram and Yotun continued to work magic in the midfield, and Kreis sent Richie Laryea on for Lindley to try to add to the attacking flow. For about the next 10 minutes, it seemed the Lions were just a foot or so from finding the perfect pass or cross, but nothing quite materialized.

Then El-Munir made perhaps the play of the game to keep it a one-goal game.

After a cleared free kick, the ball fell for Mattocks already behind the defense around midfield but on his own side of the line, keeping him onside. Mattocks, one of the faster players in the league, seemed sure to have a breakaway chance on Bendik. But El-Munir ran him down at the end and knocked the ball away before the United striker could worry Joe with a shot.

“I’m speechless to be honest,” Meram said of the El-Munir recovery. “That’s pure determination, that’s pure heart of ‘I’m going to leave everything on the line for my teammates.’ Without that play we don’t tie this game.”

The ensuing corner kick pinged dangerously around the box before Bendik caught it.

Time wound down and the game entered five minutes of added time that proved to be D.C.’s downfall. In the 93rd minute, Spector got forward and played a give-and-go with Meram, who slotted a beautiful ball behind the defense. Spector had continued his run and the center back got all the way to the end line before squaring a perfect pass to Pinho at the top of the six. The Brazilian took just one touch to equalize.

“I’m so happy to score and help Orlando,” Pinho said. “I saw the fans go crazy. It was amazing for me.”

“That’s how we drew it up in training,” Meram joked about the tying play. “That’s a heads-up play by Spector to make a run and keep going and that just shows the determination and the heart of this team and I love that.”

The stadium erupted as the Lions scored their third opening day stoppage-time tying goal in four seasons. Neither team got a final good look for a game-winner but the draw definitely felt more like a win to Orlando City all things considered.

“Really pleased with the performance,” Kreis said after the match. “Really pleased with the effort level, the commitment level, the togetherness the team showed. The never giving up. The true grit that was shown by our squad was second to none. I couldn’t be happier. Obviously we ended up getting a point out of the affair, but had we not gotten that last-minute goal, I’d be just as happy.”

“It’s a great way to start the season when our backs were against adversity for a little bit,” added Meram.


Orlando City will be back in action next Saturday when Adrian Heath returns to the City Beautiful with Minnesota United.

Orlando City

Intelligence Report: Orlando City vs. New York City FC

Get all the information you need on NYCFC, courtesy of someone who knows them best.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Another Orlando City match is right around the corner, and the Lions will try to keep the good vibes going during what has been a productive July. It won’t be easy though, as they welcome New York City FC to the familiar confines of the purple palace.

A date with the Pigeons means I caught up with Matthew Mangam, of the excellent Hudson River Blue. As always, he was very helpful in bringing us up to speed on New York City.

When last we talked, you said that this team needed to find its offensive spark again. It certainly managed to do that when it put four past Orlando City. Has that trend continued in the games since then?

Matthew Mangam: It definitely did not happen in the two matches after the win against Orlando. NYCFC did score first against Austin but ultimately lost, and couldn’t even manage two shots on goal against Chicago, drawing 0-0. Last game, NYCFC came back from 2-0 down to tie 2-2 with Atlanta United. The goals came from unusual scorers, Mounsef Bakrar and Talles Magno. So, the offense hasn’t been great recently but with the return of Magno, it can only get better. Players like Hannes Wolf and Santi Rodríguez have slowed down as of recently, resulting in guys like Alonso Martínez to see less of the ball and get fewer scoring chances.

With 29 goals conceded, NYCFC has one of the stingiest defenses in the league, what has made that unit so good?

MM:  NYCFC’s defense is solid, but it wouldn’t be complete without Matt Freese. The All-Star snub has made tons of amazing saves this season to earn NYCFC results and he seems to get better and better as time goes on. Also, the back line of Birk Risa and Thiago Martins has been consistent throughout the season, allowing for the two to get comfortable playing together. Although the right back spot has changed every so often, Kevin O’Toole has stayed as the starting left back. James Sands as the defensive midfielder does a great job in winning the ball back and protecting Martins and Risa. The defensive unit is the same from last season, so it’s only getting stronger with every game played.

It’s always fun to check in on former Lions, so tell me a bit about Andres Perea. How has he performed this season?

MM: Andrés Perea has been good this season, but not as good as he was last season during his loan spell. Perea does have two goals this season and one assist, but he’s given the ball away more than last season. He’s also not been as accurate passing-wise but I am still a huge advocate for him. He just suffered an injury against Chicago and may be out for some time, but I have no doubt that when he returns he’ll be back to his usual self. We’ve seen Nick Cushing use Perea in a three-man midfield with Keaton Parks and Sands as well. He doesn’t seem to be a certain starter, but he’s one of the few midfield depth pieces NYCFC has.

Will anyone be absent due to injuries, suspensions, call-ups, etc.? What is your projected starting XI and score prediction?

MM: NYCFC had five players out against Atlanta. The only set returner is Sands, who is back from yellow card suspension. I’m not sure if Cushing will want to rush back players such as Tayvon Gray, O’Toole, and Perea with such a quick turnaround. Malachi Jones had surgery after the injury he suffered against Orlando and will be out for several months. So, to guess a starting XI that I don’t think will be right, this is definitely the hardest one to predict yet this season.

4-2-3-1: Matt Freese, Christian McFarlane or Kevin O’Toole, Birk Risa, Thiago Martins, Ilenič or Tayvon Gray, James Sands, Keaton Parks, Agustin Ojeda, Santi Rodríguez, Hannes Wolf, Alonso Martínez.

I think the final score will be 2-2, it’ll be an entertaining game.


Thank you to Matthew for the information on NYCFC. Vamos Orlando!

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Lion Links

Lion Links: 7/19/24

Dagur Dan Thorhallsson signs new contract, Orlando Pride sign National Team Replacement Players, MLS roster rules change, and more.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Happy Friday! I’ll be spending a majority of the day traveling, as I have a flight to Boston this morning and then a drive up to Maine. It should be a nice weekend with friends, and I’m planning on consuming as much lobster as possible while I’m up there. Let’s dive into today’s links!

Dagur Dan Signs New Contract

Orlando City has signed Dagur Dan Thorhallsson to a new contract that will keep him in the City Beautiful through 2026, with an option for 2027 as well. The versatile player joined Orlando before the 2023 season and has flourished at right back since moving there. He’s locked down the position, so it makes all the sense in the world that Orlando would want to keep him around. Thorhallsson has two goals and three assists to his name so far this season and is a key part of the team’s game plan when attacking.

Ramiro Enrique Makes Team of the Matchday Bench

Forward Ramiro Enrique earned a spot on the bench of the latest Team of the Matchday for his efforts in Orlando’s 3-0 win over Nashville SC on Wednesday. Enrique’s rocketed strike capped off a solid performance, as he was also a force in the air and looked dangerous at the top of Orlando’s offense. The 23-year-old forward was also selected as Man of the Match in our Nic Josey’s player grades for the game. Enrique now has three goals in his past three games, so it’s nice to see him get some deserved recognition.

Orlando Pride Sign National Team Replacement Players

Midfielder Claire Winter and goalkeeper Kenna Caldwell were signed by the Pride as National Team Replacement Players for this international break. The Pride are without seven players due to the Olympics and Winter and Caldwell are available for selection for the upcoming  NWSL x Liga MX Femenil Summer Cup. Caldwell was a non-roster invitee to the Pride’s preseason and has been training with the team since. Winter has played in Denmark, Spain, Ireland, and Puerto Rico over the course of her career, and she was also a National Team Replacement Player for NJ/NY Gotham FC back in 2021.

MLS Makes Changes to Roster Rules

MLS clubs will have a bit more flexibility in terms of roster construction after the league announced changes that go into effect now that the secondary transfer window is open. Teams can now use all three Designated Player slots and all three U22 Initiative slots, eliminating the limitations that hamstrung some of those slots in the past. There’s also now an option for teams to build their roster with two DP slots, four U22 Initiative slots, and $2 million more in General Allocation Money. Speaking of GAM, up to $3 million of total transfer revenues can be converted into it, which is more than double the amount that it was before.

Only time will tell if these changes are enough to make the league more competitive with others, both on the field and in the transfer market. I feel like the increased flexibility is a positive, and I suspect savvy general managers will find ways to optimize their rosters fairly quickly. Let’s hope Luiz Muzzi can work some magic this transfer window.

USMNT Falls in Latest FIFA Rankings

After a disappointing Copa America that included a group stage exit, the United States fell five spots to 16th in the latest men’s FIFA rankings. While the U.S. underperformed, I do think it’s worth noting that strong tournaments from Uruguay, Germany, and Switzerland also played a part in them rising above the U.S. in the rankings. Mexico dropped two spots to 17th, while Panama and Canada both jumped up eight spots to 35th and 40th, respectively.

Spain moved up five places to third in the rankings following its dominant Euro 2024 run, while Argentina remained at the top after winning Copa America. Colombia jumped up three spots to claim ninth place, while Croatia fell out of the top 10 and is now in 12th.

Free Kicks

  • Former Lion Benji Michel will reportedly sign with Real Salt Lake. The Homegrown Player left Orlando on a free transfer to join FC Arouca in Portugal in January of 2023. It’s definitely going to be weird seeing him play for another MLS team if this comes to pass.
  • The Houston Dynamo made a splash by signing German winger Lawrence Ennali as a U22 Initiative Player. The 22-year-old joins from Polish club Gornik Zabrze for a reported transfer fee of $3 million and should give the Dynamo some needed firepower to compete in the Western Conference.
  • The Philadelphia Union traded away $150,000 in 2024 GAM to St. Louis City in exchange for Samuel Adeniran. The 25-year-old forward scored eight goals for St. Louis last season and the club can receive another $300,000 in GAM if conditions are met as well.
  • Toronto FC added American defender Henry Wingo as a free agent. although it gave $75,000 in 2025 GAM to D.C. United for his discovery rights. The 28-year-old has spent the past four years with Ferencvárosi and has MLS experience due to his time as a Homegrown Player with the Seattle Sounders.
  • The three divisions of the English Football League can be watched through CBS Sports this upcoming season. It’s notable news for those who want to watch Wrexham AFC or Americans like former Lion Daryl Dike.
  • Manchester United has officially signed 18-year-old defender Leny Yoro from Lille. Yoro started in 30 games for Lille last season and United reportedly paid a $67.6 million transfer fee for his services.
  • Patrick Vieira and Strasbourg have parted ways, leaving the French club without a manager just a month before the Ligue 1 season starts. Strasbourg finished 13th in the standings in Vieira’s first year with the club last season.
  • Borussia Dortmund has signed Serhou Guirassy, who scored a whopping 28 Bundesliga goals for Stuttgart last 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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Orlando City

Orlando City Signs Dagur Dan Thorhallsson to New Contract

The Icelandic midfielder-turned-fullback extends his deal to stay in Orlando through at least 2026.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Orlando City announced this afternoon that the club has re-signed Icelandic midfielder/fullback Dagur Dan Thorhallsson to a new contract. The new deal will keep the 24-year-old in purple through the 2026 MLS season with a club option for 2027.

“Since Dagur has arrived at the club, he has proven himself to be someone who is adaptive and versatile in all situations, showing a willingness to do whatever the team requires of him in any scenario,” Executive Vice President of Soccer Operations and General Manager Luiz Muzzi said in a club press release. “His dedication to hard work and to his teammates is visible every day. He’s a consummate professional, both on and off the pitch, and we’re excited to have him representing our club for the foreseeable future.”

The Lions signed Thorhallsson on Jan. 31, 2023 to a two-year contract with a pair of option years. He joined OCSC from Breidablik in Iceland’s top flight and made his first appearance for the club less than a month later, coming off the bench in Orlando City’s 1-0 opening day win over the New York Red Bulls on Feb. 25, 2023, coming on in the 78th minute to replace Martin Ojeda. After spot duty to start his Orlando career, Thorhallsson converted to fullback and has developed his game and has become a regular starter.

In his career with Orlando City, Thorhallsson has made 54 appearances (34 starts), playing 2,998 minutes. He’s scored four goals and added six assists, passing at an 85.7% rate. He was a part of one of the league’s best defenses in 2023 and has been a key part of a recent improvement by the Lions in their own end. Counting all competitions, Thorhallsson has participated in 65 games (40 starts), adding an assist in non-MLS games to go along with the numbers above. After his first season with Orlando City, The Mane Land staff gave Thorhallsson a solid grade of 6.5 out of 10 for the 2023 season.

“I am so happy to have extended my contract with this amazing club,” Thorhallsson said in the club’s release. “Since I came to Orlando, it has felt like home, and I will be forever grateful for the opportunity I have gotten to play for the best fans in the country. There’s nothing better than a warm, Orlando night at Inter&Co Stadium, so I can’t wait for many more to come. The fans deserve the best, and that is what I will continue to try to give while I am here in Orlando.”

Prior to joining Orlando City, the native of Hafnarfjörður, Iceland native scored 11 goals and added seven assists in 40 appearances with Breidablik, helping the club win the Icelandic championship in 2022. He has appeared in four matches with Iceland’s national team and represented Iceland previously at the U-16, U-17, U-18, U-19, and U-21 levels, scoring two goals at the youth international level.

Thorhallson spent his youth career with Icelandic clubs Fylkir and Haukar, as well as Belgian side Gent from 2013-2018. He began his senior career with six appearances at Haukar in 2016 in his mid-teens. He returned to Iceland from Belgium and appeared in 16 matches with Keflavik, scoring one goal during the 2018-2019 season and appeared in one league match and four cup matches on loan with Norwegian side Mjøndalen IF. He signed with that club in 2019 and made 12 appearances in league play over two seasons from 2019-2021. During that time, he also played 12 games on loan with Kvik Halden FK in 2019, scoring five goals, and played in 20 matches on loan with Fylkir, scoring once.

What It Means for Orlando City

Thorhallsson arrived as a potential midfield replacement for Junior Urso at the beginning of 2023, but with his versatility and willingness to play anywhere, he cemented himself into the right back position around the Leagues Cup break in 2023, helping the Lions go on a successful final run that lifted the club to second in the Supporters’ Shield standings. While he is still developing at the position, and is sometimes still prone to errors, he’s only 24 and has plenty of upside.

Able to tuck inside and help in the midfield, play on the wing, and serve as a wingback or a fullback, Thorhallsson can plug into a lot of spots across multiple formations. He provides Oscar Pareja with some tactical options on how to use him. Thorhallsson has already equaled his goal (2) and assist (3) totals from 2023 in fewer games (albeit more minutes). He has a good rapport with winger Facundo Torres on the right side of Orlando City’s attack and possesses good instincts about when to overlap and when to cut inside.

The signing extends a promising Orlando City career. He should be in the midst of his prime years over the next two seasons, and provides a solid and dependable player.

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