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.

Orlando City

2023 Orlando City Season in Review: Alex Freeman

We start our Orlando City player reviews with a look at a Homegrown fullback who made his MLS debut this season.



Image courtesy of Orlando City B

Orlando City signed fullback Alex Freeman to a Homegrown Player contract on February 15, 2022. He became the Lions’ 12th Homegrown signing and his deal runs through the 2025 season with a club option for 2026, but the youngster did not see action in Major League Soccer last season. With the departure of Ruan, there was an opportunity for Freeman to win a job with the first team in camp but he wasn’t quite ready to make the jump, instead playing an important role with Orlando City B throughout the 2023 MLS NEXT Pro season.

Let’s take a look back at Freeman’s 2023 campaign.

Statistical Breakdown

Freeman made his MLS debut on April 29 in a 2-0 home win over the LA Galaxy. It was not just his debut with the first team, but it was also his only appearance with the senior squad in 2023, although he did make the substitutes’ bench a few times after that. Officially, he logged only one minute, entering in the 93rd minute. He was only on the pitch a matter of seconds, so it’s unsurprising that he registered nothing on the stats sheet.

The son of former NFL receiver Antonio Freeman, Alex starred with OCB in 2023. In MLS NEXT Pro play, Freeman appeared in 24 of OCB’s 28 matches, starting 22, and logging 1,855 minutes. He finished tied for third on the squad in goals (4), adding three assists and passing at a 79.1% success rate. Freeman attempted 25 shots, putting 11 on target, and contributed 10 key passes. He committed 22 fouls, drew 27 on the opposition, and was booked four times. He also started OCB’s playoff match at Columbus, playing 89 minutes in the Young Lions’ 2-1 road loss. Freeman didn’t contribute a goal or assist or attempt a shot in the match, but he passed at an 88% rate, created one scoring chance, and committed one foul.

Best Game

With only one MLS appearance to his credit, the default best game for Freeman came on April 29 in Orlando City’s 2-0 home win over the LA Galaxy. Freeman didn’t even officially touch the ball in the game, but it’s not every day a teenager gets to play in an MLS match, and I’m sure it was a special moment for him. It was certainly a milestone in his professional soccer career.

2023 Final Grade

As Freeman fell well short of the minimum 450 minutes played mark to receive a rating on our 1-10 scale, The Mane Land has no choice but to mark his grade as incomplete for the 2023 season. There are areas of Freeman’s game that need a bit of refining, but at the same time, it’s easy to see why he landed a Homegrown contract, why Orlando City would find him an intriguing prospect, and why he’s been getting called up by the United States for U-20 international duty. His attacking presence was huge for OCB in 2023 and he was one of the key players that led the Young Lions to the postseason.

2024 Outlook

I would expect Freeman to get more seasoning at OCB in 2024, although he’ll be given opportunities in preseason camp to show whether he’s closed the gap on the likes of Michael Halliday and Kyle Smith (assuming both return). If the club moves on from both Halliday and Smith, it’s not hard to picture Freeman starting the season providing depth at right back for the first team. Having just turned 19 in August, Freeman has a lot of potential and he should start to unlock that within the next year or so.

This is the first of our 2023 Orlando City Season in Review articles. Every player who played minutes this past season and who finished the year on the club roster will be reviewed (exceptions may be made for players let go when the club officially announces its roster moves). Players who logged fewer than 450 minutes (combined regular season plus playoffs, Concacaf Champions League, U.S. Open Cup, and Leagues Cup) will receive a composite score between 1 and 10 as determined by a panel of The Mane Land writers, while those who did not reach that threshold will receive an incomplete grade.

Continue Reading

Lion Links

Lion Links: 11/29/23

Orlando Pride players called up by Brazil, MLS announces 2023 Best XI, latest MLS roster moves, and more.



Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Hello, Mane Landers I hope all is well down in Florida. I’ve been very busy working throughout the holiday weekend at Under Armour. This week I’ll be working at Wrigley Field for Winterland while getting ready to cover high school wrestling tomorrow night. There is plenty to cover today, so let’s get to the links.

Pride Players Called Up By Brazil for Friendlies

Orlando Pride defender Rafaelle and forwards Marta and Adriana have been called up to the Brazil Women’s National Team for its upcoming friendlies.

Brazil will play two matches against Japan on Nov. 30 and Dec. 3 in Sao Paulo before playing Nicaragua on Dec. 6 at Estadio Fonte Luminosa in Araraquara.

MLS Announces the 2023 Best XI

Major League Soccer announced its 2023 Best XI, recognizing the league’s top players at each position. There were no Orlando City players selected for the team and eight players received the honor for the first time. Those players are St. Louis City’s Roman Burki and Tim Parker, FC Cincinnati defender Matt Miazga, Atlanta United duo Thiago Almada and Giorgos Giakoumakis, Houston Dynamo midfielder Hector Herrera, LAFC’s Denis Bouanga, and Columbus Crew forward Cucho Hernandez. Nashville SC’s Hany Mukhtar made the Best XI for the third consecutive time, while teammate Walker Zimmerman was named to it for the fifth time. MLS MVP Luciano Acosta of FC Cincinnati rounds out the list.

Latest MLS Off-season Roster Moves

The Colorado Rapids announced their latest roster changes as they prepare for the the 2024 season under new Head Coach Chris Armas. The club exercised its options for defender Andrew Gutman, midfielder Ralph Priso, and forward Calvin Harris. The Rapids declined contract offers to seven players, with the most notable names being defender Steven Beitashour and goalkeeper William Yarbrough, although the Rapids are in discussions about re-signing Yarbrough. Elsewhere, the New England Revolution exercised the permanent transfer option on forward Tomas Chancalay, signing him to a Designated Player contract through 2026, with a club option for the 2027 season.

UEFA Champions League Roundup

Champions League action returned in Europe, as we get close to wrapping up the group stage in a couple of weeks. Manchester City overcame a two-goal deficit to beat RB Leipzig 3-2 and win Group G. Newcastle United had a chance to qualify for the round of 16 but gave up a late penalty to Paris Saint-Germain, which Kylian Mbappe converted to end the match in a 1-1 draw. Borussia Dortmund beat AC Milan 3-1 to book its spot in the knockout stage. PSG, Newcastle, and AC Milan are all still alive in Group F heading into the final matchday in December. Shakhtar Donetsk won 1-0 against Royal Antwerp and also still has a shot to advance on the final matchday. Lazio, Atletico Madrid, Barcelona, and Young Boys all won their respective matches as well. Today’s matches include Manchester United on the road against Galatasaray, Real Madrid taking on Napoli, and Sevilla facing off with PSV Eindhoven.

Free Kicks

  • Concacaf has announced that BMO Stadium, Dignity Health Sports Park, Shell Energy Stadium, and Snapdragon Stadium will be the four venues that will host matches for the 2024 Concacaf W Gold Cup.
  • Barcelona midfielder Gavi will be sidelined for up to 10 months after undergoing knee surgery after suffering a torn ACL in his right knee.
  • The International Football Association Board approved a trial for sin bins, meaning players punished for dissent or specific tactical offense would be temporarily removed from the match for a set amount of minutes.
  • You have got to see this goal from Cwrt Rawlin FC in the Welsh seventh division.

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

Continue Reading

Lion Links

Lion Links: 11/28/23

Luciano Acosta named MVP, Americans in action, scheduling news for U.S. national teams, and more.



Dan MacDonald, The Mane Land

Happy Tuesday, everyone. I’m dragging a little today after having an extended period of time off for the Thanksgiving holiday, but there’s no rest for the wicked and the only way out is through. With that being the case, let’s get into today’s news.

Luciano Acosta Wins MLS MVP

In a piece of news that plenty of people likely saw coming from several miles away, Luciano Acosta has been named Major League Soccer’s Most Valuable Player. Acosta racked up 34 goal contributions during the regular season, finishing the 2023 campaign with 17 goals and 14 assists as the driving force behind his team’s run to the Supporters’ Shield. He was voted the best player in the league by quite some margin and won the award in a landslide, taking 60.37% of the votes to Denis Bouanga’s 14.97% and Thiago Almada’s 6.46%.

American Stars in Midweek Action

There are a number of United States Men’s National Team players that will be in action this week, with several UEFA Champions League clashes highlighting the viewing slate. Christian Pulisic, Yunus Musah and AC Milan will face Giovanni Reyna’s Borussia Dortmund today in a game with huge ramifications for both teams. Malik Tillman, Ricardo Pepi, and Sergino Dest may play in PSV Eindhoven’s match with Sevilla tomorrow, and a win would likely go a long way to securing a place in the Round of 16. Additionally on Wednesday, Brenden Aaronson and Union Berlin have a chance to make a big move towards a place in the Europa League, as a win over Braga would leapfrog the German club into third place in Group C.

USMNT & USWNT Scheduling News

The USMNT will open its 2024 slate of games with a match against Slovenia on Jan. 20 in San Antonio. The match will fall outside of an international window, meaning that the January camp roster will largely be made up of domestic-based players. The USMNT has faced Slovenia twice before, with the most recent time being a 3-2 win in Ljubljana courtesy of a Jozy Altidore penalty kick.

While we already knew that the United States Women’s National Team would play China PR on Dec. 5 in Frisco, we now know that one of the team’s legends will be honored before the game. The U.S. Soccer Federation has announced that former Orlando Pride defender Ali Krieger, who stated in March that she will retire following the NWSL season, will be honored before the match. Krieger played 108 games for the USWNT and is a two-time World Cup winner with the team.

Notable Women’s Players to Miss International Matches

A pair of high profile women’s players will miss upcoming international games. First up, Sam Kerr will not feature in Australia’s back-to-back friendlies against Canada due to a foot injury. Kerr has struggled with injuries this year and her availability was limited during this summer’s World Cup.

Alexia Putellas will miss Spain’s two Nations League matches against Sweden and Italy after picking up a left knee injury. Putellas had missed Euro 2022 due to an ACL tear, but was back to help her side win the World Cup several months ago. Fortunately for Spain, the team is well positioned atop its group and has enough players in the squad that it shouldn’t feel her absence too keenly.

Free Kicks

  • A pair of Willian penalties and an early Alex Iwobi goal helped Fulham beat Wolverhampton, with American defenders Antonee Robinson and Tim Ream also starting.
  • New York Red Bulls forward Tom Barlow is reportedly headed to the Chicago Fire.

That’s all I’ve got for you this morning. Y’all stay safe out there.

Continue Reading