Connect with us

Orlando City

Orlando City vs. Real Salt Lake: Final Score 3-1 as Lions Set Club Win Streak Mark in MLS

Goals from Dom Dwyer, Lamine Sané, and Yoshimar Yotún bring Orlando from behind yet again.



Carlos Romero, The Mane Land

For the fourth time in six matches, Orlando City fell behind but rallied to win. After conceding a Corey Baird goal just 12 minutes into a battle with Real Salt Lake at Orlando City Stadium, the Lions got second-half goals from Dom Dwyer, Lamine Sané, and Yoshimar Yotún to win a club-record sixth straight game since joining Major League Soccer.

Orlando City (6-2-1, 19 points) improved to 2-0-2 in the all-time series with RSL (3-5-1, 10 points), having won the last two in a row. The announced attendance of 23,258 saw the Lions climb to within a point of second-place New York City FC in the Eastern Conference standings with a game in hand.

“Another afternoon or evening that I’m really, really pleased with the players’ mentality and their character,” Head Coach Jason Kreis said after the game. “It says a lot that we can continue to come back from difficult situations. Being a goal down in the first half after I thought we started so incredibly brightly was difficult for the guys. And I think the beginning of the second half there were some difficulties again but we continued to push, we continued to believe, we continued to stay together and we get the result I think in the end we deserved.”

Amro Tarek was fitted with a face mask this week to protect his broken nose but he was not in the team’s starting lineup, after sustaining a lower body injury in training on Saturday. Chris Schuler made his Orlando City debut — against his old team — alongside Sané on the back line, giving Orlando its fifth different center back combination on the season. The rest of the starting XI was the same as last weekend at Colorado, and the only change on the bench was PC in for Josué Colmán, who was pulled out of the 18 after an undisclosed violation of team rules in the locker room before the game, according to Kreis.

Real started the game brightly, working in an early cross and pressing high up the pitch, creating some nervous moments for the Orlando City defense. At the same time, Orlando was able to create some near chances but couldn’t quite put them away as the wet ball skipped off feet in front of goal.

Yotún found Chris Mueller in space in the seventh minute, and the rookie made mincemeat of left back Pablo Ruiz, working his way into the box before crossing the ball for Justin Meram. Meram was beaten in the air by Justen Glad, but the ball fell perfectly for Yotún, who blasted just wide.

RSL was able to get on the board first in the 12th minute when Damir Kreilach played a through ball that allowed Baird to get in behind Sané. The French-Senegalese defender stuck out a foot but it was inches out of reach and he could not match Baird’s pace. Goalkeeper Joe Bendik was late in recognizing the danger, allowing the RSL forward space to chip the ball into the wide-open goal and give the visitors a 1-0 lead.

Orlando responded to the goal with an attack of its own, quickly winning a corner after the restart. The Lions took the set piece quickly and Sacha Kljestan drove into the box and crossed a ball for Dwyer, who mishit his shot then got a second opportunity and saw his second chance beat Nick Rimando, but it was cleared off the line by Brooks Lennon.

Yotún then found Dwyer in the box in the 15th minute. He laid it off for Kljestan, but the shot was well over the bar.

The Lions kept pressing, with Dwyer again whiffing at a pass at his feet. The ball continued on for Will Johnson, who fired his shot straight at Rimando for the easy save in the 18th minute. Joao Plata tested Bendik on the break from 25 yards out with a powerful, swerving shot that Orlando’s keeper fought off and then collected before it could cross the line for a corner just moments later.

Meram’s best opportunity came in the 24th minute when he found himself alone just inside the left edge of the penalty area. He had time to line up his shot but then blasted it just inches wide of the near post.

Ruiz fired over the bar on a good free kick opportunity in the 26th minute, after Baird was brought down from behind by Mohamed El-Munir. Real nearly doubled its lead six minutes later when El-Munir appeared to be fouled near midfield — but when nothing was called, the visitors were able to break two-on-two against the Lions’ center backs. Baird ended up on the right side with the ball from Jefferson Savarino and he beat Bendik with his shot but it found the far post and stayed out.

Much of the remainder of the first half was played in the middle of the park, with Orlando on the attack but breaking down through sloppy passes that were either poorly weighted or behind their intended targets.

The visitors took their 1-0 advantage to the locker room despite owning just 37% of the possession and being out-shot, 10-8. Real Salt Lake did get five of its eight shots on frame compared to Orlando’s two, which was largely the difference in the opening half.

RSL came out of the break looking to put the game to bed, and Albert Rusnak’s blast off the post in the 49th minute was inches from doing so. Rusnak faked to his right, then cut left to create space from Schuler and fired his shot off the woodwork. Two minutes later, Savarino’s header off a Kyle Beckerman pass was well saved by Bendik, conceding just a corner.

“We know that they’re good on the counter attack but a lot of the chances came from angles or from distance so I thought overall it was a pretty good night,” Bendik said of his defense.

After that opening flurry to start the second period, the Lions started getting more of the game, but continued to lack the quality in the final third they’d shown throughout the first half. Meram had a shot deflected out for a corner in the 56th minute and Kljestan fired wide off a quickly taken free kick a minute later. A dangerous corner kick cross from Yotún needed just a touch in the 59th but it sailed harmlessly through the six-yard box.

The Lions finally broke through in the 60th minute, but it was off another opportunity that was nearly wasted. Kljestan got forward and had an opportunity to shoot but instead tried to cross for Dwyer and his pass was blocked. But the acting captain regained possession and lifted a ball to the back post that Dwyer nodded home to tie the score. That’s six goals in six matches played on the year for Dom.

Kljestan has either scored a goal or assisted on one in every game of the Lions’ six-game win streak.

RSL nearly pulled the goal right back. Plata’s cross cleared Schuler by inches and fell onto Baird’s foot. The Real Salt Lake forward settled it with a deft first touch and blasted a shot that forced a sliding kick save from Bendik. It was a huge stop in the 62nd minute, because the Lions took the lead seconds later. Yotún’s corner kick cross found Sané’s head, and the defender powered his first MLS goal past Rimando to make it 2-1 in the 63rd minute.

“I’m very happy for the team. For us it was a glad day, particularly for me, it was a first goal and it helped,” Sané said when asked about his goal.

The goal by Sané gave Orlando City six consecutive games scoring more than one goal, which is another club record since joining MLS. The overall record is seven by the USL Lions in 2014. Yotún earned his fifth assist on the year by delivering a perfect ball.

Orlando City wasn’t done, controlling the ball and the play, against the young RSL side. Shortly after Mueller was subbed out for Stefano Pinho after cramping up, the Lions put the game away. Kljestan sent Dwyer down the left in the 78th minute and Dom saw his shot saved by a diving Rimando. The ball fell perfectly for the onrushing Yotún, who smashed it into the gaping net to make it 3-1.

A few substitutions didn’t change much. Real Salt Lake seemed to lose its energy after the third Orlando goal and in fact the Lions had a couple of half chances, with Uri Rosell firing over the bar on one occasion and forcing a Rimando save on another shot.

Bendik saw very little attack from the visitors over the final 10 minutes, plus four more minutes of injury time. The whistle finally blew and Orlando held all three points yet again.

“As a coach you’d probably much prefer not having to come back so many times — not to be suffering the first goal in so many matches — but at the end of the day it doesn’t matter. It’s about 90 minutes,” Kreis said. “Over the 90 minutes our guys continued to work and stay together and get the result. I think we deserved that result and we got it.”

“Our power is a good character and in the second half we did the job to win this game,” Sané said.

The Lions finished with 53% of the possession, allowing more of the ball to RSL after the second goal, but staying organized and allowing very little room in the defensive third. Orlando out-shot the visitors, 19-16 (but 7-9 on target), passing at an 84% rate to RSL’s 81%.

The Lions return to the pitch next Sunday when first-place Atlanta United visits at 6 p.m. ET.

Lion Links

Lion Links: 12/2/23

The Pride sign a new keeper, the MLS playoffs continue, the USWNT is in action, and more.



Dan MacDonald, The Mane Land

Salutations on this satisfactory Saturday, Mane Landers. We’re heading for the home stretch of 2023, and what a year it has been. Make sure that you are catching all of our Season in Review articles for both the Orlando City and Orlando Pride players. Things tend to happen personnel-wise in December, so be prepared. Until then, let’s check out today’s links. But first, let’s wish a happy 26th birthday to Orlando City goalkeeper Mason Stajduhar.

Pride Sign a New Keeper

The Orlando Pride signed Finnish goalkeeper Sofia Manner from FC Honka of Finland’s top flight, the Kansallinen Liiga. With the addition of Manner, the Pride have four keepers on the roster heading into 2024. Manner is expected to compete for the starting job, though the same could be said of both Anna Moorhouse and Carly Nelson. It is unlikely all four netminders will be on the Pride once the season starts. Manner has international experience and was the best keeper in the Kansallinen Liiga.

MLS Conference Finals Tonight

I wouldn’t blame you if you decided not to watch the remainder of the MLS playoffs after last weekend’s disappointing result. However, if you are going see how it all sorts out, you might want to study up on the matches. We’re all too aware that the Columbus Crew will be facing FC Cincinnati to see which club wins the Eastern Conference. Over on the other side, LAFC will take on the Houston Dynamo to determine the Western Conference champion.

MLS Player Moves

As the playoffs come to a close, the signings and transfers around the league are ramping up, but who will stay and who will go? New York Red Bulls midfielder Dru Yearwood is heading to Nashville SC as reported by The Athletic (paywalled) since Dax McCarthy is out of contract there and won’t be returning.

The Philadelphia Union have signed midfielder Jesus Bueno to a new three-year contract through 2026 with an option for 2027. Meanwhile, Gustavo Bou won’t be returning to the New England Revolution. So, um…maybe he’d like to come south and score goals for Orlando City rather than against the Lions? Before anyone gets too crazy, it should be on a non-DP deal.

USWNT Hosts China

The USWNT is back in friendly action against China this afternoon in Ft. Lauderdale at 3 p.m. and then on Tuesday, Dec. 5 at 8 p.m. in Frisco TX. Interim head coach Twila Kilgore will be in charge since newly-named Head Coach Emma Hayes doesn’t start until the 2023-2024 Women’s Super League season in England is over. Hayes is the current head coach of Chelsea FC Women’s. This is the first match between the two teams since 2018, and a lot has changed. The USWNT has been very solid on defense in 2023, allowing only two goals back in the SheBelieves Cup.

Free Kicks

  • If you haven’t heard of a “sin bin,” think of it like a penalty box in hockey. The idea has been getting a runout in lower league matches in English football by the International Football Association Board (IFAB) with some good results. It’s not yet confirmed, but MLS may institute the change in 2024. The idea is to reduce dissension by having a player sit for 10 minutes during a match. Tottenham manager Ange Postecoglou has spoken out against the idea. What do you think of the concept?
  • Real Salt Lake has promoted Kurt Schmid to sporting director and interim chief soccer officer.
  • Cristiano Ronaldo will have to deal with a $1 billion class-action lawsuit for his role in promoting NFTs for Binance. Maybe that’s why he signed for Al-Nassr in the Saudi Pro League?
  • Speaking of the Saudi Pro League, it looks like Mohamed Salah may not be leaving EPL side Liverpool anytime soon. The prolific striker is looking for a new contract to stay at Anfield.
  • I’ll take things Pedro Gallese would not do for $400, Alex.

That will do it for today. Please go forth and enjoy your weekend!

Continue Reading

Orlando City

2023 Orlando City Season in Review: Kyle Smith

Let’s look back at The Accountant’s fifth MLS season.



Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Fullback Kyle Smith was originally signed on Dec. 21, 2018 when James O’Connor was Orlando City’s head coach. He proved to be a valuable Swiss Army knife-type player and earned a new contract on March 29, 2021 through the 2022 season with a 2023 club option. Orlando City picked up his 2023 option at the end of the 2022 season but then signed Smith to a new one-year contract for 2023 just weeks later with an option for 2024.

Let’s have a look back at The Accountant’s fifth MLS season.

Statistical Breakdown

Smith appeared in 25 matches during the 2023 regular season, starting 17 times and logging 1,501 minutes. It was his third-most appearances but his second-most minutes since making the jump from Louisville City to MLS ahead of the 2019 season. He scored one goal and assisted on three others, setting a new career high in the latter category. Smith attempted seven shots, putting two on target. He passed at a 78.7% clip, including nine key passes, five successful crosses, and 36 successful long passes. Defensively, Smith recorded 35 tackles, 16 interceptions, 40 clearances, and two blocked shots. He drew eight fouls while committing 20 and was booked five times on the year.

The 31-year-old appeared in all three of Orlando City’s three playoff matches — both off the bench — and logged 65 minutes. He did not score a goal or assist on one, attempting one shot, which he put on frame. He passed at an 82.5% rate in the postseason. He posted two tackles and a clearance defensively. He did not commit a foul or draw one and he wasn’t booked.

In the 2023 Concacaf Champions League, Smith came off the bench in the first leg at Tigres, playing minutes, passing at just a 25% rate (small sample size), did not attempt a shot, did not draw or concede a foul, and was not booked.

During Leagues Cup play, Smith appeared in all three of Orlando’s matches (all starts), logging 150 minutes. He did not contribute to a goal or attempt a shot in the tournament, committing four fouls and earning two yellow cards. Smith did not play in Orlando City’s lone U.S. Open Cup match.

Best Game

Smith’s best match of 2023 came in Orlando City’s 1-1 home draw against Atlanta United on May 27, and not only because that’s when he scored his lone goal of the season, although that doesn’t hurt. El Soldado started and went the full 90 minutes. He fired two shots on the night, putting one on target (and in the net), and passed at an exceptional 90.3% rate on 31 attempts, which was his third-best passing night of the season. He completed two successful long balls on two attempts, chipping in four clearances (second only to Antonio Carlos), a tackle, and an interception on the night. His big moment came in the 30th minute, when a well-worked attack up the left kicked out to him on the right side. Smith was perfectly positioned and made no mistake in putting the Lions ahead 1-0.

Although the match was spoiled by a late equalizer, Smith turned in one of his best performances since joining Orlando City and if not for his goal, the outcome might have been a lot more somber than a 1-1 draw.

2023 Final Grade

Smith received a composite score of 6 out of 10 for his 2023 performance from The Mane Land staff. This is an improvement over the 5.5 he earned last year but slightly below the 6.5 he earned for the 2021 season. Previously, Smith was given a 5.5 in 2020 and he got the same score after the 2019 season. The staff awarded Smith for his effort, versatility, and willingness to do whatever it takes to win. He is the quintessential team player. But beyond all of the above, he simply played well most of his minutes on the pitch. At his age, he’s going to struggle to contain the league’s speediest wing players, particularly when playing on his weaker left side, but his ability to adapt is unquestioned. The perfect example of that was when he was tucking inside from his fullback spot earlier in the season to add an additional player to the midfield and freeing Facundo Torres up to have more space in which to operate on the right side.

2024 Outlook

Smith’s return may ultimately rest with whether or not Oscar Pareja stays on with the Lions, although a decision might need to be made earlier than that, as the club must make a decision on his option. Pareja has valued Smith’s versatility and work ethic over the last few years, and with more competitions and matches than ever before, it’s always good to have a depth player who can plug and play in multiple positions. He played his second-most MLS minutes in 2023, so he’s still seeing the field plenty.

If I had to guess, and this section is for exactly that, I’d say the club will either exercise his option or sign him to a new one-year deal with an option year for 2025. However, what complicates matters is that Smith is over age 24 and has played five MLS seasons, which means he’s eligible for free agency. If he’s back in 2024, I would expect him to again be a key backup at both fullback positions, getting some spot starts in U.S. Open Cup or when fixture congestion is heavy.

Previous Season in Review Articles (Date Posted)

Continue Reading

Orlando City

2023 Orlando City Season in Review: Abdi Salim

We continue our Orlando City player retrospectives with a look at one of the Lions’ 2023 draft picks.



Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Orlando City used its third pick of the 2023 MLS SuperDraft to select Abdi Salim with the 17th overall pick. Salim played his college soccer at Syracuse and the Lions picked up the center back to help with depth at a position that didn’t really have a ton of established bodies behind Antonio Carlos, Robin Jansson, and Rodrigo Schlegel. He was then signed to a one-year deal in February that contained three option years for the 2024, 2025, and 2026 seasons.

Let’s have a look at Salim’s first season as a professional.

Statistical Breakdown

Salim made his Major League Soccer debut at home against FC Cincinnati on March 4. It was Salim’s only start of the year and he went the full 90 minutes as the Lions drew 0-0 against the eventual Supporters’ Shield winners. He made two other appearances in away games against D.C. United and Charlotte FC, both of which ended as 1-1 draws as he finished with 148 MLS minutes on the year.

Defensively he recorded four tackles, four interceptions, three clearances, a block, and won two aerial duels. He did not record any offensive statistics, but was solid with his distribution as he averaged 87.3% passing accuracy and completed one cross and one long ball each.

Given that it was only his first season as a professional, he spent the bulk of his time in MLS NEXT Pro with Orlando City B. With the Young Lions he played in 16 matches, starting 14 of them and racking up 1,162 minutes. He finished with 11 interceptions and a tackle while committing seven fouls and drawing 11 and picking up one yellow card. Salim took nine shots, put two of them on target, and scored a goal on each one he got on frame. He passed very well, finishing with a 90.2% success rate, two key passes, and 18 long balls.

Best Game

The honor of his best game goes to his first ever professional appearance, when he started and played the whole game in the aforementioned 0-0 draw against FC Cincinnati. Salim finished with three tackles, three clearances, and an interception while passing with 87% accuracy, completing a long ball on his only attempt, and helping the Lions keep a clean sheet at home. He was a bit shaky at first, as he was deployed as the third center back in a three-man back line, but he settled down in the second half and finished with a grade of 5.5 out of 10 from Nic Josey.

2023 Final Grade

Given that Salim didn’t crack 200 minutes and we require a minimum of 450 to award a grade for the season, he receives an incomplete for the 2023 season. He did some good things when down with Orlando City B, and filled in well enough with the senior side when called upon, but we simply need to see more of him in order to figure out what he’s really able to do.

2024 Outlook

It’s likely that Salim will spend more time with Orlando City B next season, but with no one seemingly laying claim to the fourth center back position, he should have a chance to show what he’s capable of during preseason. He seemed to be in competition with Thomas Williams for the back up spot not occupied by Rodrigo Schlegel, but he may have moved past him in the pecking order as he made more appearances than the Homegrown signing, both with OCSC and OCB. Regardless, as an inexpensive young player with potential, there’s no reason to think he won’t be here next year.

Previous Season in Review Articles (Date Posted)

Continue Reading