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Orlando City vs. D.C. United: Five Takeaways

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Orlando City survived and advanced in the U.S. Open Cup after a lightning-delayed, rain-soaked night in Boyds, MD, at the Maryland SoccerPlex. A nervy 120 minutes in the round of 16 ended in a 1-1 draw and a place in the quarterfinals went to the coin flip of penalty kicks, which the Lions grabbed decisively, 4-2.

What did we learn from the first night of the second Bobby Murphy era?

New Shape Mostly Effective

In four previous matches in charge of Orlando City, Murphy trotted out a 4-2-3-1 – a familiar shape the club has used most of this season. No matter. Murphy went with a 3-4-3, opting to use the team’s three top center backs across the back line; two fullbacks, a defensive midfielder, and an attacking midfielder in the middle; and two wings and forward Stefano Pinho up at the top of the formation. D.C. coach Ben Olsen said after the game that it was a change that United didn’t expect. For the most part, the experiment was a success. The three central defenders provided cover on a night when the wingbacks were a bit sloppy (more on that below) and when the midfield was a bit outnumbered.

Murphy’s lineup was full of delightful surprises, starting with a missing starter’s return. Lamine Sané hadn’t played since May 18 at Toronto but there was no easing him back into the lineup. Murphy isn’t coddling anyone. He put the French-Senegalese defender right into the starting lineup on a rainy night that ended up lasting more than 120 minutes. Speaking of missing starters, Scott Sutter didn’t play, but he did make the 18. Again, Murphy isn’t coddling anyone. Oh, you can play? Get in there!

While most of Murphy’s starters were regulars, there were exceptions in goal, where Earl Edwards Jr. was deployed, and up top, where Pinho replaced Dom Dwyer, who was rested in this match. It will be interesting to see how the team lines up on Saturday, particularly after riding defenders Sané, Amro Tarek, and Jonathan Spector, and midfielders Justin Meram, Sacha Kljestan, and Chris Mueller for 120 minutes on a heavy pitch.

Lions Continue Wasteful Ways

Orlando City peppered the D.C. goal with 21 shot attempts, but only three were on target. This continues a worrying trend of poor finishing from the Lions, who had ample opportunities to put the game away with several good looks. Pinho sent a shot badly wide in the 19th minute after Sacha Kljestan threaded a gorgeous through-ball to him that covered about 30 yards. Justin Meram and Kljestan fired over the bar on decent looks from just outside the area in the 53rd and 61st minutes, respectively. Pinho’s free header went just wide in the 69th minute and RJ Allen’s effort missed by even less two minutes later. Through normal time, only one shot was on frame and that was Meram’s shot right at Steve Clark, who let it slip through his grasp for Orlando’s only goal.

In extra time, Mueller got a high, arcing header on frame but Clark scrambled back to catch it. Colmán missed an empty net — albeit from a tight angle — in the 99th minute. Will Johnson missed the net two minutes later from inside the area. At least Colmán forced a good save from Clark in the 105th, but Johnson’s header was off frame in the 107th and Colmán fired over the bar in the 120th.

This lack of accuracy simply isn’t good enough and we’ve already seen it cost the Lions multiple games over the past month.

Lions Locked in During PKs

On the other hand, Orlando was locked in when the match went to penalties. Four of Orlando’s five shooters found the net and the only one who didn’t — Jose Villareal — fired his shot on target but Clark guessed correctly and the height was comfortable for him to make the save while diving to his right. If the Lions can translate the accuracy from the penalty shootout into the run of play, this will be a much better offense. Sure, there is less to worry about in terms of defenders and angles when it comes to penalties, but the key with the shootout was composure. Showing some in the run of play would allow the team to return to the win column on a regular basis.

Wayward Wingbacks

Mohamed El-Munir and RJ Allen should have been in a great position to contribute offensively in the 4-3-4. With more defender coverage behind them than usual, they were free to roam up the pitch and get involved, but things didn’t go as well as they should have. Below is their passing chart from the match.

As you can see, the passing accuracy in the final third was a mess. Mo failed to produce one accurate cross, while Allen had one, which created a chance. El-Munir had very few completed positive passes — just a few square balls and mainly back passes. Allen had several cross attempts blocked, but at least he had more success linking up with Kljestan and Mueller on his side.

El-Munir also made a ton of defensive miscues in the match and was lucky not to be sent off in the 116th minute, when he lost the ball and grabbed a D.C. player, before angrily kicking the ball at him. This could easily have been two yellows instead of one, though it may not have played a role in the outcome so close to the end.

If Orlando is going to play this shape again, the Lions will need to be sharper on the wings.

The Landlord Knows Penalties

Earl Edwards Jr. came up huge on the first D.C. United penalty kick, denying Yamil Asad’s attempt after Will Johnson had put the Lions ahead in the shootout. It was a big momentum builder for Orlando, which scored on its first three attempts.

We first saw Earl save a penalty back on May 2, 2015, when he did it in a 3-2 friendly victory over Brazilian side Ponte Preta. That night, Edwards denied Biro Biro’s spot kick in the first half to keep the Lions just a goal down at the time, allowing his team to rally. That was nothing compared to what he did on June 17 of that inaugural MLS season, when he made three saves in a 10-round penalty shootout at Charleston that allowed Orlando City to advance past the Battery and into the fifth round. That night, he stopped Taylor Mueller, Dante Marini, and Zach Prince from the spot and City eventually won the shootout, 8-7, after a 4-4 draw in the U.S. Open Cup’s fourth round.

Last year, he stopped a penalty against Ottawa’s Gerardo Bruna in a nine-save effort for Orlando City B in a 3-0 home win. He also denied former USL Lion Aodhan Quinn from the spot in a 2-2 draw at FC Cincinnati last August.

The takeaway here is this: If you have to face penalty kicks, leave it up to “The Landlord” to evict those shots.


That’s what I saw in Orlando’s rain-drenched effort last night. What stood out to you?

Orlando City

Orlando City Can Build Valuable Momentum in April

The last two games of April present a good chance for the Lions to keep building momentum ahead of a challenging May.

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Dan MacDonald, The Mane Land

Orlando City got back to winning ways last Saturday and started a mini-undefeated streak in the process, as the Lions have now gone three games on the bounce without tasting defeat. OCSC has two more games to play during the month of April, and the scheduling gods have given the men in purple a chance to keep building on the recent run of good form, as a tricky and packed May schedule looms on the horizon. The last two April fixtures won’t be easy by any stretch, but an opportunity has presented itself if the Lions can play well and take advantage of it.

First, let’s turn our attention to Saturday’s game against CF Montreal up in Canada. Montreal currently has a record of 3-3-1 which is good for 10 points and eighth place in the Eastern Conference. These two teams faced each other in the very first game of the season, and it ended as a 0-0 draw, thanks largely in part to some shaky finishing on Orlando’s part and a couple excellent Pedro Gallese saves. Since then, Montreal has defeated a struggling FC Dallas team, an Inter Miami team that has looked equal parts unbeatable and extremely vulnerable at the back, and an FC Cincinnati side that so far has struggled to replace the goals of Brandon Vazquez. In other words, the wins haven’t come over bad teams, (aside from maybe Dallas) but rather teams that have had flawed, uneven starts to the season.

To be fair, many of the same criticisms could be leveled at Orlando City’s record. OCSC’s wins have come against Austin FC and D.C. United — two teams with leaky defenses that have each had uneven starts to the season — and the Lions have suffered losses that have ranged from uninspiring against Atlanta, to abhorrent against Miami. Where the two teams differ is that Orlando started the year battling on two fronts and then had key players missing through a combination of injury and international call-ups afterward. The Lions now have a nearly clean bill of health and looked much more cohesive with Wilder Cartagena and Cesar Araujo partnered in midfield once more — a welcome sight after some of the struggles that were endured when one or both were missing at various times.

The Canadian side also hasn’t kept a clean sheet since that opening game of the season against the Lions, a fact that could bode well for an Orlando side which has scored six goals in its last three games. As long as the defense can tighten up and not make the sorts of mental errors that led to goals against D.C. and the New York Red Bulls, there will be opportunities at the other end of the field for an attacking corps that has done a better job at putting the ball in the net than we saw during the first game of the season. In short, the game is a winnable one, and while getting road results in MLS is never easy, OCSC should feel reasonably confident about its chances to get points on its trip north of the border.

That leaves Toronto FC’s visit to the Purple Palace on Saturday, April 27. The Reds currently sit one spot below CF Montreal, in ninth place, with a record of 3-4-1 and 10 points. TFC’s victories have been over a New England team that has been struggling mightily, a Charlotte FC side that has had a decent but slightly inconsistent start to the year, and an Atlanta United outfit that can have the same said of it as Charlotte. The wins have all been solid ones, and the team looked pretty good in those three games.

On the flip side of things, the last of those wins came on March 23, with Toronto dropping its last three games in a row and conceding 10 goals in the process. They’ve got the second leakiest defense of any of the nine teams in the playoff places, while being tied with Cincinnati for scoring the fewest goals.

Then there’s the issue of player availability. The Reds’ injury list is a long one, with six players currently listed as out and an additional one as questionable. Among those listed out are Lorenzo Insigne, Richie Laryea, Brandon Servania, and Shane O’Neill. In other words, they’re likely to be missing guys that are key contributors for the team when healthy, and part of the recent losing streak can be attributed to dealing with the injury bug that’s bit the team with a vengeance. Playing on the road without a number of important key players is rarely a recipe for success, and Orlando City should have another good chance to pick up three points.


Now, this isn’t to say that taking all six points from these games is a foregone conclusion. MLS is a tricky league to get results in, and we have no way of knowing how the fortunes of Orlando, Montreal, and Toronto will change in the next eight days. But given the leaky defenses of the two Canadian sides, TFC’s injury situation, and Orlando City seemingly starting to find a better patch of form, the Lions have an opportunity to keep picking up points and climbing the Eastern Conference standings. Vamos Orlando!

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Lion Links: 4/19/24

Orlando Pride host the San Diego Wave, Orlando City B faces Crown Legacy FC, Europa League action, and more.

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Image courtesy of Orlando Pride

Happy Friday! Make sure to get your night plans in order as both the Orlando Pride and Orlando City B have games tonight. Figure out your drink of choice, charge those devices if you don’t plan on heading to the stadium for the Pride game, and knock out any chores before things get rolling. It should be a fun day, so let’s get it started with some links!

Orlando Pride Host the San Diego Wave Tonight

After earning their first win last week in Utah, the Orlando Pride are back in the City Beautiful for tonight’s game against the San Diego Wave at 8 p.m. The Pride’s four-game unbeaten run is on the line and will be put to the test against a Wave team that has four points from three games. San Diego has only scored two goals this season, but it has also secured a pair of clean sheets so far. The biggest storyline heading into the match is whether or not Barbra Banda will make her Pride debut. Hopefully Orlando can light it up at home and keep former Pride forward Alex Morgan and the rest of the Wave’s offense in check.

Orlando City B Takes On Crown Legacy FC

The Young Lions are also in action tonight at 7:30 p.m., with a match against Crown Legacy FC in North Carolina. Crown Legacy is only a point behind OCB, but is still searching for its first win of this MLS NEXT Pro season. OCB has played every game away from the Orlando area so far and ground out a 1-1 draw against Philadelphia Union II last weekend. Orlando hasn’t won a game since its season opener on March 16, but has been proven capable of getting points on the road. Wilfredo Rivera and Yutaro Tsukada linked up for the equalizer in that match, so hopefully they can keep that momentum rolling into tonight’s game.

Americans to Watch This Weekend

European soccer seasons and tournaments are nearing their ends and there are many Americans in important games this weekend. Haji Wright’s heroics put Coventry City into the FA Cup semifinals, and he will have a chance to impress again on Sunday against Manchester United. Elsewhere in England, Fulham duo Antonee Robinson and Tim Ream could put a dent in Liverpool’s title hopes, while Nottingham Forest’s Matt Turner and Giovanni Reyna will square off against Everton, as both sides aim to avoid relegation. Over in Italy, AC Milan duo Christian Pulisic and Yunus Musah will try to stop Inter Milan from claiming the Serie A title in a rivalry match at San Siro. There’s also a showdown between Americans in the Scottish Cup semifinals, with Celtic’s Cameron Carter-Vickers going up against Aberdeen and Dante Polvara.

Europa League Quarterfinals Come to a Close

The Europa League quarterfinals are done and dusted and only four teams remain in contention for some silverware. West Ham United took the lead against Bayer Leverkusen, but couldn’t overcome the aggregate deficit and the German club advanced. Leverkusen also scored a late equalizer to make it a 1-1 draw and extend its unbeaten streak to 44 games. Marseille scored at home against Benfica to send the game to extra time and then won the eventual penalty shootout. Atalanta did enough in a 1-0 loss to Liverpool to advance on aggregate, with Liverpool’s lone goal coming from an early Mohamed Salah penalty kick. AS Roma is also through to the semifinals after a 2-1 win against AC Milan, despite a red card in the first half. In the semifinals, Marseille will face Atalanta and Leverkusen will take on Roma.

Free Kicks

  • Houston Dynamo Head Coach Ben Olsen has agreed to a new contract that will keep him with the club through 2026. Olsen has quietly dragged the Dynamo out of the Western Conference’s basement and won last year’s U.S. Open Cup as well.
  • New York Red Bulls defender Andres Reyes was suspended an additional match for violent conduct in the team’s match against the Chicago Fire. This means Reyes will miss tomorrow’s match against LAFC and the home game against the Vancouver Whitecaps on April 27.
  • American left back Jorge Villafana is hanging up his cleats. He won the MLS Cup with the Portland Timbers back in 2015 and the Concacaf Gold Cup with the U.S. in 2017.
  • Replays won’t be a part of the FA Cup for the next six years. This will ease some of the schedule congestion for English Premier League teams, but it denies lower-division sides the chance at more revenue.
  • The folks over at Stars and Stripes FC shined a spotlight on forward Jubilo Iwata, who currently leads Japan’s J1 League in scoring after eight games. It’s always cool to learn more about some of the lesser-known players in the U.S. player pool.
  • An NFL game between the Philadelphia Eagles and Green Bay Packers will be played in Brazil at Corinthians Arena. However, there’s an unofficial rule at the stadium that green can’t be worn, as it is the color of Corinthians rival, so we’ll see if that’s adhered to come September.
  • Megan Rapinoe and Sue Bird’s production company will adapt Cleat Cute, a romance novel by Meryl Wilsner about love between teammates on a women’s soccer team. As someone who’s read it and loved it, I’m pretty excited for the show to say the least.

That’s all I have for you today. Stay hydrated and enjoy the games today. Go Orlando!

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Orlando City

Orlando City at CF Montreal: Three Keys to Victory

What does Orlando City need to do on the road against CF Montreal to take home all three points ?

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Dan MacDonald, The Mane Land

Orlando City opened the season against CF Montreal, playing to a 0-0 draw at Inter&Co Stadium back in February. Now, the Lions head to the Great White North to play the pesky Canadian club again. There’s no Concacaf Champions Cup competition to worry about this time, so hopefully Orlando City can get a victory.

What does Orlando City need to do to follow up the D.C. United victory with another win?

Just Say No

Outscoring your opponents while giving up two goals is all well and good, but outscoring your opponents while also keeping a clean sheet is much better. Orlando City has given up 13 goals over seven matches. It’s actually worse than that considering that the club has two clean sheets meaning those 13 goals came in just five matches. The Lions need to do better at not conceding goals.

Of course, one of those clean sheets came against Montreal to start the season, and the entire defense is seemingly healthy and ready to go. Our old foe Josef Martinez is always a threat and Matias Coccaro has three goals for Montreal so far this season. Stopping them is crucial. If Orlando City can maintain the same defensive discipline it showed in the previous match against Montreal, it will make earning points on the road much easier.

Designated Player Goals

Orlando City has scored seven goals so far this season. Duncan McGuire leads the team with three goals, thanks to his goal last week. Do you know who hasn’t scored yet? If you said any of Orlando City’s Designated Players, you would be correct. I’m not going to ring any emergency bells just yet, but it’d be a lot cooler if Luis Muriel, Martin Ojeda, or Facundo Torres scored a goal this week.

I think they are all close to breaking out. Torres has scored this year, just not in the MLS regular season. Muriel has been getting closer each match, and is still contributing in other ways. The same can be said of Ojeda. My point is that the goals are coming. Perhaps a trip to another country is exactly what they need to get off the mark.

The Battle on the Wings

Orlando City will be playing against former Lion Ruan. He lines up on the right for Montreal and will be a challenge for either Rafael Santos or Kyle Smith, depending on who gets the start. Of course, if Ivan Angulo is playing in his usual role on the left side of Orlando City’s attack, there could be some interesting races between the two speedy players.

I think that the other side of the field is where the match might be won or lost. Since Orlando City fell out of the Concacaf Champions Cup, the team has been on a more regular schedule. That has allowed Dagur Dan Thorhallsson to regain his form in the right fullback position for the Lions. He scored a goal last week, has an assist on the season, four crosses, and 10 key passes. He is an integral part of Orlando City’s attack and if he can win the battles against Raheem Edwards and Joaquin Sosa on the right side of Montreal’s lineup, he could have another big night.


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

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