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Orlando City vs. Portland Timbers: Final Score 3-2 as Lions Roar Back from Two-Goal Deficit

Down 2-0, Orlando City got three late strikes to win its second straight game.

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Carlos Romero, The Mane Land

These late-game comebacks are fun, but how many of these can our hearts take? Orlando City scored three times in a span of seven minutes to erase a 2-0 deficit and beat the Portland Timbers, 3-2. The smallest MLS crowd so far at Orlando City Stadium (22,337) was treated to a wild finish with goals from Chris Mueller, Sacha Kljestan, and Dom Dwyer in the 80th, 82nd, and 87th minutes, respectively.

Those three markers allowed the Lions to overcome strikes by Diego Valeri (pen.) and Bill Tuiloma.

The Lions (2-2-1) won consecutive games for the first time in 2018 and, indeed, in about a year, improving to 3-1-0 all-time in MLS play against the visiting Timbers (0-3-2, 2 points). And even though Orlando City out-passed, out-possessed, and out-shot Portland, Head Coach Jason Kreis said he was pleased with the result and effort but not the overall performance.

“I kind of feel like this week is very similar to last week in many ways,” Kreis said. “Incredible work rate by the guys, incredible that they stick together, incredible that they come back from two goals down. The effort and all those things are fantastic. I still think we’ve got a long way to go. We’ve got a lot of improvement to make. So we cannot kind of let this result take us to a place where we start to feel comfortable. We have to improve.”

With nearly everyone available, Kreis started a 4-2-3-1 lineup full of expected starters. Only Oriol Rosell was not in the lineup.

Orlando City started on the front foot, with lots of possession in the attacking half and great movement in building up from the midfield. The Lions earned a corner in the first minute and Kljestan’s service fell to Lamine Sané, whose header flew just a foot or so wide of the back post.

Portland got the next good opportunity, as Scott Sutter was caught upfield on the attack. Will Johnson tried to cover for him but Andy Polo blew past him with a burst of speed and fired a shot that Joe Bendik got a piece of but the ball still went through his legs. Jonathan Spector was there to clear it off the line for a corner in the fourth minute.

Kljestan went for goal in the seventh minute on a free kick and got his shot through the wall, but it was straight at goalkeeper Jake Gleeson. Four minutes later, Justin Meram found Josué Colmán in the penalty area, but the Paraguayan’s shot was blocked by a defender. Seconds after that, Kljestan passed up a good opportunity to shoot and instead tried to find Colmán, but the pass didn’t get through.

Disaster struck in the 19th minute, when an initial call for embellishment and what would have been a second yellow card to Sebastian Blanco was overturned by video review and instead Portland was awarded a penalty due to a foul in the area on Mohamed El-Munir. Valeri stepped up and put the visitors ahead, 1-0, even though Bendik guessed the correct direction of the kick.

After the goal, it took Orlando City about 10 minutes to settle down again, with a period of sloppy play keeping the Lions from getting anything going.

Dwyer went just wide with a free kick that took a deflection in the 31st as Orlando looked to get back into rhythm. Kljestan’s shot in the 41st was tough for Gleeson to handle but he did just enough to make the save and concede a corner.

The last good opportunity came in first-half stoppage time, when a corner kick delivery from Kljestan was headed on by Spector and fell for Meram at the back post, but his shot was saved by a diving Gleeson.

Portland took its 1-0 lead to the break.

The Lions held 57% of the first half possession, passed at an 83% rate compared to Portland’s 78%, and out-shot the Timbers (14-4) in the opening period (but only 3-2 on target). The Lions had nine first-half corners compared to just one for Portland. Aside from an inability to finish off a play, it was a mostly dominant half, but the visitors led on the Valeri penalty.

If the Timbers were fending off most of the attack in the first half, they came out of the locker room looking in the mood to score again. Portland twice hit the woodwork in the first five minutes through Blanco and Valeri, and had another shot blocked by the defense that surely would have doubled the lead.

Orlando started to settle down and earn some set pieces, and Kljestan nearly tied the game in the 56th when he went for goal on a free kick to the left of the penalty area. However, his shot fizzed just wide of the back post. But it was a set piece at the other end three minutes later that allowed Portland to double its lead.

Sané was whistled for bundling over Blanco in the 59th minute, and Valeri’s cross found defender Tuiloma, who went over two Lions to head home his first goal and double the visitors’ lead.

The Lions brought on offensive reinforcements in Mueller and Stefano Pinho and pressed numbers into the attack. That allowed the Timbers a few half chances on the counter, but good recovery runs from El-Munir, Spector, and Sané preserved the score as it stood.

Mueller looked dangerous from the time he stepped onto the pitch for Colmán in the 67th minute, and he freed himself up for a shot in the 78th that went inches wide and found the outside netting. Three minutes later, the rookie finally found his first MLS goal. Dwyer earned a corner kick and Yoshimar Yotun delivered a perfect near-post ball for Mueller to flick home with his head to throw the Lions a lifeline.

“You dream about your first goal but most importantly we got the three points,” Mueller said. “I’m happy to have gotten the goal that kind of catapulted us forward. Just a great day.”

Just one minute after Mueller’s goal, Orlando came on the attack again and Dwyer was fouled in the box by Alvas Powell, who threw a shoulder into Dwyer and knocked him down, prompting referee Baldomero Toledo to point to the spot.

Kljestan, not Yotun, stepped up and sent Gleeson the wrong way to level the score. It was Kljestan’s first goal as a Lion and it was a new game for the final eight minutes plus stoppage time.

In the 85th minute, there was a delay as both Powell and Gleeson needed treatment, possibly both for cramping issues. During the stoppage, Dwyer was screaming encouragement to his teammates. They responded, and so did he.

Second-half sub RJ Allen read Dwyer’s timed run and floated a perfect long ball over the back line. Dwyer looked to be in alone but the Portland center backs recovered and converged on the Orlando City striker. Dwyer slipped and went to ground, but maintained possession, got up, switched feet and blasted home the eventual game-winning goal with his right foot in the 87th minute.

“Tremendous character from the boys to come back from two down,” Dwyer said.

Portland nearly pulled the goal right back. Dairon Asprilla managed to get in behind the defense on the right side, but he fired his shot right at Bendik. After four tense minutes of stoppage time, the Lions had their second win of the season and second on the bounce.

City ended up with more possession (58.2%-41.8%), better passing (84.5%-78.1%), more corners (12-1), and more shots (24-13, 7-6 on target), but there were still moments of missed opportunities, as players like Kljestan, Meram, and Colmán continue to figure out where the others are about to go while in transition or in the final third.

“I think we need to bundle up all the positivity from the performance — again, just the effort and the commitment and the work rate — and we need to remember that and put that in our pocket, because that could be really useful as the season goes along,” Kreis said. “But then we also have to be humble and know that we need to make some improvements from front to back. A lot of work to be done.”


Orlando City’s next match will be Friday at Philadelphia against the Union at 8 p.m.

Orlando City

Orlando City vs. Cavalry FC, Concacaf Champions Cup: Preview, How to Watch, TV Info, Live Stream, Lineups, Match Thread, and More

The Lions play their first competitive match of 2024 north of the border in the Concacaf Champions Cup.

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Dan MacDonald, The Mane Land

Welcome to your match thread for a Wednesday night Concacaf Champions Cup matchup between Orlando City and Cavalry FC of the Canadian Premier League at Starlight Stadium in Langford, British Columbia at 10 p.m. (FOX Sports 2, TUDN). It’s the first meeting ever between the teams and Orlando City’s first ever match against a CPL team.

Here’s what you need to know ahead of the match.

History

There isn’t any. These teams have never met, nor has Orlando City faced anyone in the Canadian Premier League before.

The Lions will be experiencing their fourth international cup competition and their second foray into Concacaf Champions League/Cup, having drawn twice against Tigres UANL last season. Orlando bowed out of last year’s competition due to the away goals tiebreaker. Orlando City has also competed twice in Leagues Cup.

Overview

Both teams will be playing their first competitive match of the 2024 season. Orlando City is coming off a 4-0-1 preseason, drawing 1-1 against Flamengo before reeling off four straight wins against Rhode Island FC, the New England Revolution, the Houston Dynamo, and the Colorado Rapids. City reached the Eastern Conference quarterfinals in 2023 and is looking to build on its most successful season to date in MLS.

Cavalry FC is coming off a season in which it finished top of the table in the regular season, but fell 2-1 after extra time in the CPL championship match against Forge FC. As far as CPL teams go, the Lions will be facing one of the league’s best, as you’d expect in a competition called “Champions Cup.”

“We’re very proud and very happy to bring Orlando City to this beautiful city and this excellent competition,” Orlando City Head Coach Oscar Pareja said. “(We’re) Feeling proud of playing in Champions Cup in Concacaf and obviously aiming for the best prize, and here we are starting the season with obviously a very competitive game.”

Pareja is suspended for tonight due to his red card in the second leg against Tigres in 2023.


Projected Lineups

Orlando City (4-2-3-1)

Goalkeeper: Pedro Gallese.

Defenders: Rafael Santos, Robin Jansson, Rodrigo Schlegel, Michael Halliday.

Defensive Midfielders: Cesar Araujo, Wilder Cartagena.

Attacking Midfielders: Ivan Angulo, Nico Lodeiro, Facundo Torres.

Forward: Duncan McGuire.

Cavalry FC (4-2-3-1)

Goalkeeper: Marco Carducci.

Defenders: Bradley Kamdem, Daan Klomp, Eryk Kobza, Fraser Aird.

Defensive Midfielders: Charlie Trafford, Jesse Daley.

Attacking Midfielders: William Akio, Sergio Camargo, Ali Musse.

Forward: Myer Bevan.

Officials:

REF: Juan Gabriel Calderon (Costa Rica).
AR1: William Arrieta (Costa Rica).
AR2: Henri Pupiro (Nicaragua).
4TH: Keylor Herrera (Costa Rica).
VAR: Oscar Mejia (Mexico).
VAR1: Erick Miranda (Mexico).


How to Watch

Match Time: 10 p.m.

Venue: Starlight Stadium — Langford, British Columbia.

TV: FOX Sports 2, TUDN.

Streaming: The match can be streamed on FOX Sports GO, the FOX Sports app TUDN.com, and the TUDN app.

Twitter: For rapid reaction and live updates, follow along at @TheManeLand, as well as Orlando City’s official Twitter feed (@OrlandoCitySC).


Enjoy the match. Go City!

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Lion Links: 2/21/24

Orlando City takes on Cavalry FC tonight, Lions sign Jeorgio Kocevski, USWNT wins in Concacaf W Gold Cup, and more.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Hello, Mane Landers. I hope all is well with you in Florida as we get to watch the Lions in action tonight in the Concacaf Champions Cup. There’s not much new with me this week other than staying busy covering high school basketball and hockey. Let’s wish a happy birthday to Orlando Pride forward Amanda Allen. There is plenty to cover today, so let’s get to the links.

Orlando City Takes on Cavalry FC Tonight

Orlando City will be in action tonight in the first round of the Concacaf Champions Cup, as it takes on Cavalry FC at Starlight Stadium at 10 p.m. This matchup will be the Lions’ first competitive match of 2024, with their MLS season opener against CF Montreal set for Saturday. The Lions were knocked out by Tigres due to away goals in last year’s Concacaf Champions League. Cavalry FC will make its debut in this competition tonight and qualified by winning the 2023 Canadian Premier League Shield. The second leg between these two sides will be on Feb. 27 in Orlando.

Orlando City Signs First-Round Draft Pick Jeorgio Kocevski

Orlando City signed 2024 MLS SuperDraft pick Jeorgio Kocevski to a contract through the 2024 season with club options for 2025, 2026, and 2027. Kocevski scored the game-winning goal in stoppage time in Orlando’s final preseason match against the Colorado Rapids this past weekend. The midfielder was selected 21st overall in the first round of the MLS SuperDraft by the Lions in December. He played four years for Syracuse, recording seven goals and 18 assists in 71 matches. Kocevski is the only player the club has signed from the Lions’ 2024 draft class and will likely get some minutes with Orlando City B this season.

St. Louis City and Philadelphia Union Win in Champions Cup

Orlando City isn’t the only MLS team kicking off its Concacaf Champions Cup campaign this week. St. Louis City edged out the Houston Dynamo 2-1, with rookie Hosei Kijima scoring the winner in stoppage time. The Philadelphia Union were on the road in Costa Rica to face off against Deportivo Saprissa and won 3-2, thanks to a hat trick from Julian Carranza in the second half. As for other tournament matches this week, the New England Revolution face Independiente in Panama tonight, with Nashville playing Moca FC in the Dominican Republic and FC Cincinnati taking on Jamaica’s Cavalier SC tomorrow.

USWNT Beats the Dominican Republic in W Gold Cup

The United States Women’s National Team got its Concacaf W Gold Cup campaign off to a great start with a 5-0 win against the Dominican Republic in Group A. Olivia Moultrie scored her first USWNT goal to give her team an early lead, with Lynn Williams giving the U.S. another goal before halftime. Moultrie scored another in the second half to earn her brace, and Jenna Nighswonger converted a penalty for her first USWNT goal as well. Former Pride forward Alex Morgan replaced Mia Fishel on the roster due to injury and scored from the penalty spot in stoppage time. The USWNT’s next game will be against Argentina on Friday at 10:15 p.m.

UEFA Champions League Roundup

The UEFA Champions League had plenty of drama as the round of 16 continued. Inter Milan won 1-0 in its first leg against Atletico Madrid at home, with Mark Arnautovic scoring the only goal in the match. In the Netherlands, PSV Eindhoven and Borussia Dortmund played to a thrilling 1-1 draw. The second legs for both matchups will be played on March 13. There is more Champions League action today, as FC Porto hosts Arsenal while Napoli takes on Barcelona.

Free Kicks

  • The latest MLS power rankings are out just before the regular season begins. Orlando City begins the season in the fifth spot.
  • Orlando City and the Orlando Pride announced fan experience upgrades at Inter&Co Stadium featuring Amazon’s Just Walk Out technology in merchandise shops, stadium Wi-Fi upgrades, and a jersey history experience.
  • The MLS Players Association released a statement on the ongoing referee lockout.
  • Here is the list of MLS Season Pass commentator assignments for opening week.

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

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Orlando City

Orlando City Signs First-Round Draft Pick Jeorgio Kocevski

Orlando City signs its first-round draft pick Jeorgio Kocevski to a one-year deal with three option years.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Orlando City SC announced the signing of first-round 2024 MLS SuperDraft pick Jeorgio Kocevski today. The deal is through the upcoming 2024 season with club options for 2025, 2026, and 2027. The Lions selected the Syracuse midfielder with the 21st overall pick in the draft in December.

“Jeorgio has had a really strong preseason camp with us, demonstrating everything we saw in him when we were scouting him and analyzing his game in college,” Orlando City Executive Vice President of Soccer Operations and General Manager Luiz Muzzi said in a club press release. “He’s done well working his way into the group, even starting in our friendly against Flamengo and holding his own against some of the best in Brazil, and we’re excited to have him with us this season.”

The box-to-box midfielder made three appearances this preseason, starting against Brazilian club Flamengo and the following scrimmage against USL Championship side Rhode Island FC. He came on at halftime against the Colorado Rapids last weekend, scoring the winning goal in the 90th minute.

Prior to being selected by the Lions, the Liverpool, NY, native made 71 appearances with 65 starts and logged 5,599 minutes for Syracuse in four years. He scored seven goals and recorded 18 assists, putting 33 of his 93 shots on frame. Additionally, he was part of Syracuse’s 2022 NCAA national championship team, playing 90 minutes in the 2-2 draw, but missing in the team’s victorious shootout over Indiana.

Kocevski had a breakout junior year, being named to the United Soccer Coaches’ All-South Region third team, All-ACC third team, NCAA All-Tournament team, and ACC All-Tournament team. During his senior year, he wore the armband for the Orange and was named All-ACC first team and ACC Co-Midfielder of the Year.

What It Means for Orlando City

Kocevski was the most likely pick from this most recent draft to be signed by Orlando City. The departure of club captain Mauricio Pereyra left a spot in the midfield and Head Coach Oscar Pareja seemed to feel the rookie could fill it from early on. His start against Flamengo was in the place of regular starter Cesar Araujo, who was on international duty with the Uruguay U-23 national team. He played against Flamengo’s best lineup and did quite well in almost an hour on the field in his first minutes of play at the professional level.

While a spot was open for the signing of Kocevski, he likely won’t see much of the field for the first team this season. In addition to being behind starters Araujo and Wilder Cartagena, the defensive midfielder will be behind Felipe on the depth chart. In all likelihood, the rookie will slot in with Orlando City B in MLS NEXT Pro to get some minutes, but there is room for him to start regularly with that team.

Kocevski is currently the only player signed by the club from the Lions’ 2024 draft class. West Virginia midfielder Yutaro Tsukada, Pittsburgh midfielder Filip Mirkovic, and Charlotte midfielder Riyon Tori remained unsigned, with the latter opting to return to school for his senior season.

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