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Orlando City vs. Atlanta United: Final Score 4-0 as Lions Drop Eighth Straight League Contest

The downward spiral continues for Orlando City after another loss, this time at the hands of the top team in MLS.



Dan MacDonald, The Mane Land

Orlando City was in a tough spot on Saturday night. The Lions were looking to put an end to a seven-game league losing streak, but they were challenged to do it against the top club in the MLS table, Atlanta United (11-3-4, 37 points), on the road in Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Those aren’t exactly the ingredients for a turnaround performance, but stranger things have happened.

Well, they didn’t happen on Saturday. Orlando (6-10-1, 19 points) left Atlanta with its eighth straight MLS loss, this time a 4-0 loss led by a brace from Miguel Almiron.

Bobby Murphy stuck with the 3-4-3, opting to play defensively and look for counter-attack opportunities.

Atlanta United didn’t let City hang around and build confidence at all, getting the party started right out of the gate in the third minute, thanks to the right foot of Josef Martinez. Orlando’s plan to absorb pressure quickly backfired as Julian Gressel played a pretty, curling ball in from the right flank that found its way past Amro Tarek and Lamine Sane before connecting with the on-running Martinez, who slotted it home into the bottom corner as he slid to ground. Joe Bendik had virtually no chance to stop it, and Atlanta went ahead very early.

The mission for the Lions very quickly became to withstand the onslaught, as United looked threatening after the early goal and appeared ready to bust the match wide open a number of times. After a careless Orlando turnover in minute five, Atlanta hit on the counter and missed a chance to make it 2-0 when a streaking Martinez played a low cross from the left that rolled all the way across the face of goal without finding a red and black foot. Once again, in minute 12, United created a dangerous situation that the Lions were fortunate to get out of when Almiron played a ball across the face of goal that deflected behind the goal off Jonathan Spector’s leg.

Things continued in the same vein for a while, with Orlando City playing on the back foot and Atlanta looking by far the more dangerous side. There were moments in the first half where the Lions appeared listless, reeling from their seven-game skid and deflated even more by Atlanta’s early goal. Things improved a bit toward the end of the half, however, and the Lions were actually a bit unlucky to go into the break a goal down.

In minute 38, Chris Mueller won a corner after corralling the ball off a set piece, spinning away from a defender, and sending the ball towards goal before it was deflected out behind for a corner. On the resulting corner, Mueller got a head on the ball that fell in the six-yard box for Spector, whose shot was deflected by Guzan and bounced around for Tarek to charge onto. The center back couldn’t put it home, however, as former Lion Mikey Ambrose got to it first and cleared it off the line. On the ensuing corner, Guzan charged out to punch the in-swinging cross but misjudged its path as he was beaten in the air by Tarek, whose header sailed just wide of the right post, and Atlanta escaped the sequence unscathed.

Will Johnson got a chance at a header at the death of the half after Hector Villalba turned it over and Tarek took advantage and sent a ball in from the left side. Johnson’s header looped over the bar, however, and the half ended 1-0 to Atlanta.

The Lions may have steadied the ship (relatively) in the first half, but a team like Atlanta, which is the highest-scoring club in MLS, can flip a game on its head quickly. A few minutes into the second half, that’s exactly what happened.

After Mueller and Tarek managed to get to the end line in the box for Orlando on back-to-back sequences, the latter managed to win a corner. The set piece went awry when Johnson whiffed on a pass and United was out on the break, and a few seconds later Almiron made it 2-0 after slotting past Bendik. Martinez had received the ball near midfield, charged forward, and dished the assist.

Just two minutes later, Ezequiel Barco made it 3-0, putting back a rebound after Almiron curled one onto the crossbar, and the rout that felt close early in the game was officially on.

Almiron put a bow on the win for Atlanta in the 78th minute when he beat a stumbling Spector and got himself into another 1-v-1 situation with Bendik, which he converted with a five-hole finish between Bendik’s legs from an acute angle.

Almiron was denied a hat trick by a Mohamed El-Munir block on a breakaway in the 85th minute and the AR’s flag was up anyway.

The Lions just couldn’t get on the scoreboard, missing a couple chances toward the end of the first half and blowing their most clear-cut chance of the night in minute 61 as well. After Uri Rosell fired a shot from distance that a diving Guzan parried back in front of goal, Johnson was unable to simply slot home into the resulting open net, instead scuffing it wide of the goal. So it went for Orlando on the evening, continuing the long run of futility that has now seen the Lions outscored 23-5 on aggregate since a loss to Atlanta started the losing streak in May. The shutout this week was the third on the spin for Orlando, which ties the club’s record.

Saturday’s match was the last that Orlando will play under Interim Head Coach Bobby Murphy, as new hire James O’Connor will take the reins and look to get things back on track following the dismissal of former Head Coach Jason Kreis. Murphy went 0-2-0 in MLS play and saw his team out-scored 6-0, but he did manage to get the team into the U.S. Open Cup quarterfinals with a penalty shootout win.

Orlando City’s last league win came way back on May 6 against Real Salt Lake.

Things could yet get worse before they get better for the Lions, who travel to Los Angeles next Saturday to face a tough LAFC side.

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.

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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.

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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.

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