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Orlando City

Orlando City vs. Los Angeles FC: Final Score 4-1 as Lions Drop Ninth Straight

Lions had a tying goal overturned for…reasons?…and LA grabbed two late goals to pad the score line.



Carlos Romero, The Mane Land

The James O’Connor era has begun and — like Adrian Heath and Jason Kreis before him — he’s already had to deal with a rash of injuries and an unbelievable officiating decision that went against his team. Despite playing a better-looking brand of football for the majority of the 90 minutes at Banc of California Stadium, the Lions still dropped a lopsided 4-1 decision to LAFC (10-4-4, 34 points).

Orlando City (6-11-1, 19 points) has now lost nine consecutive MLS matches and although it appears that there’s no end in sight, the team did play better for the most part, only faltering after captain Jonathan Spector left with a first-half injury and again late after a pair of decisions — one overturned by the video assistant referee in the booth rather than the referee reviewing the video, and the other seemingly not even looked at whatsoever. But some of the same issues were still prevalent, such as finishing opportunities in front of goal.

Hey, at least it wasn’t a shutout, thanks to Sacha Kljestan.

O’Connor didn’t have Scott Sutter (adductor), Cristian Higuita (adductor), Lamine Sané (quad), or Will Johnson (yellow card suspension) so he lined up his squad in a 4-2-3-1.

The Lions did well early to weather LAFC’s notorious early attack. In fact, neither team got a good look at goal for a while, with each firing shots from distance or having deflected chances roll in on the keeper. The hosts got the first good opportunity in the 20th minute with Latif Blessing firing over the bar on a scramble in Orlando’s penalty area. Donny Toia tried to clear a cross but it hit Adama Diomande and stayed in the box for Blessing to track down.

Spector went down with an apparent injury in the 23rd minute and had to be subbed out for Chris Schuler and things quickly unraveled for the Lions’ defense as it took a few minutes to adjust to the captain’s absence. Diomande put the ball in the net in the 26th minute, but the play was offside. Amro Tarek looked to lose the big scoring machine so it was fortunate he was a half a step behind the line. But, just two minutes later, Diomande got his goal.

It started with a Steven Beitashour cross from the right that found the head of Blessing. Bendik appeared to have time to smother the shot but he parried it away instead, allowing LAFC to regroup. Blessing tracked it down and crossed it in, where Tarek whiffed on his clearance attempt, which fell right onto the foot of Mark-Anthony Kaye, who fed Diomande right in front for the easy finish in the 28th minute.

Orlando’s costliest missed opportunity of the match could have tied it and altered the trajectory of the rest of the game. In the 31st minute, Kljestan fed a perfect through ball for Dom Dwyer’s well-timed run. Dwyer was in behind with only Tyler Miller to beat but he couldn’t get his shot past the big goalkeeper.

A minute later, LAFC doubled the lead.

Poor defensive rotation allowed Aaron Kovar to get down the right behind the back line and cross in for Blessing to finish into an empty net. Blessing was a handful for RJ Allen all night on that flank and LAFC punished the Lions severely for not scoring on Dom’s chance just moments earlier to make it 2-0.

The Lions tried to respond before the interval. Josué Colmán sent a curling effort from the top of the area in the 34th minute that forced a diving save from Miller.

In the 43rd minute, Chris Mueller found himself with the ball from a tight angle after Miller muffed a punch attempt. The rookie fizzed his shot through the area, but it was off target and went out for a goal kick. The Lions headed into the locker room down a pair of goals but really only played poorly for a spell of about five minutes after Spector’s injury — notwithstanding the poor finishing.

Orlando started the second half on the front foot, looking to get back into the game. Dwyer was played in early but was offside, then the striker headed wide off a cross from Allen. Finally, Dwyer drew a foul above the penalty area that nearly had the Lions on the board. Kljestan fired on target but Miller made a great save to keep the two-goal lead. All of this happened in the first six minutes of the second half.

Yoshimar Yotún, seeing his first action since returning from World Cup duty with Peru, fired just wide from the top of the area in the 53rd minute.

LAFC appeared to have a 3-0 lead a minute later. Kaye sent in a deflected shot that Bendik completely botched, allowing Diomande to run onto it and crack it into the net from point-blank range. Bendik was saved by the fact that Diomande was offside when the shot was taken by Kaye.

The Lions pulled one back in the 59th minute. Toia broke up an LAFC attack and found Kljestan up the field. LAFC center back Walker Zimmerman raced out to try to defend the play and fell down, allowing Sacha to waltz in and fire home from the top of the area into the far corner to make it 2-1.

LAFC nearly got that goal right back through Blessing’s lightning attack on the restart. The ball cycled around the area before finding Kovar, who fired on frame, but Bendik made the save.

After Bob Bradley introduced substitutes Diego Rossi and Carlos Vela, LAFC had a prolonged period of possession but didn’t offer much menace in the attack. Orlando City eventually got a hold of the ball and looked to tie the game.

Kljestan played a ball to the right for second-half sub Justin Meram, who cut his cross back behind him to Dwyer for the easy finish and the game was tied at 2-2, apparently. Until it wasn’t. After a lengthy delay before the restart, referee Chris Penso signaled that VAR Alex Chilowicz overturned the goal due to an offside call. Replays and photos indicated that Meram appeared even with the back line, if possibly off by just his lower arm. Dwyer was offside when the pass was played to Meram but the winger’s play put the striker back on. Penso never went to look at the replay and took the VAR’s word. Does this look like a clear and obvious error? Because, though I may be biased, it doesn’t look like a clear and obvious error to me.

The Lions kept coming. Dwyer got inside the defense again in the 80th minute but again Miller was able to make the save. That was the last opportunity for the Lions to change their fortunes, as just two minutes later LAFC scored again to put the game to bed.

This one came off a corner header that Bendik got a piece of and Meram cleared off the line. The ball popped back out in front to Diomande, who went to ground for a bicycle-type kick that hit the crossbar, fell to the ground, and appeared to be cleared off the line again. Penso signaled the goal — and it very may well have been completely over the line — but the restart came quickly without any lengthy delay this time. Go figure.

I’m not saying the ball didn’t cross the line, but can we not hurry one team back to play while we dissect the film for the other team? The word I’m looking for here — and so is the Professional Referee Organization — is consistency.

Anyway, the game was effectively over with Diomande’s second goal at the 82-minute mark, but that didn’t stop LAFC from adding another moments later through Rossi. The play started on a routine back pass to Tarek, but he took a horrible first touch and then got muscled off the ball by Diomande. Blessing ran onto it, leaving Schuler to defend two players, and that’s a tall ask when those players are Blessing and Rossi, who scored into an empty net to make it 4-1.

Miller rubbed salt in the wound with a pair of big saves in the 90th minute on Uri Rosell and Mohamed El-Munir. First Uri tried his luck from above the semicircle and Miller made a diving stop. Mo ran onto it and tried to go near post when the far post may have been the better option, but it was still a screamer and Miller made a good reaction save.

The four minutes of stoppage were eaten up quickly, much of it while Orlando City debated a free kick just outside the area. After all the debate, the training ground play was a disaster and no shot even came out of it. That about summed up the night — a night which could have gone much differently without Mr. Chilowicz’s involvement.

On the balance, LAFC was the better side, out-shooting Orlando City, 19-14 (13-9 on goal), keeping 63% of the possession, and passing at an 88% accuracy compared to the Lions’ 75%. But the 4-1 score line is a bit misleading, especially with Orlando’s second goal being curiously disallowed. Who knows where a 2-2 match ends up over the final 18 minutes? Still, Orlando wasn’t sharp enough in front of goal — and credit Miller for a lot of this — and didn’t need to concede those two late scores.

Overall, it wasn’t a bad first effort under O’Connor’s tutelage but it appears it’s going to take some time.

The Lions are home next Saturday night when Toronto FC comes to Orlando City Stadium.

Orlando City

Intelligence Report: Orlando City vs. Colorado Rapids

Familiarize yourself with the Colorado Rapids, courtesy of someone who knows them best.



Image courtesy of Orlando City SC

Another Orlando City game is almost upon us, as the Lions look to both extend their five-match unbeaten run and pick up two wins in a row. This week sees the Colorado Rapids come to town for the first home game of June.

A match with the Rapids means I spoke to Matt Pollard, of Burgundy Wave. That’s another site that has gone independent and the folks over there are continuing to provide great coverage of the Rapids, so make sure to check them out!

What were some of the big incoming and outgoing transfers for the Rapids ahead of this season?

Matt Pollard: The three biggest incoming players in terms of expectations were Kévin Cabral, Connor Ronan, and Andreas Maxsø.

Cabral is probably the highest-risk, highest-reward signing when it comes to the Rapids going after distressed assets. So far, it hasn’t panned out. He presses well, but that’s about it. The same issues he had at LA Galaxy (getting called offside, not finishing) are present here in Colorado. The difference is, he’s the focal point instead of the third player opposing defenses worry about.

Ronan and Maxsø have been great. Ronan was brought in to play alongside Jack Price. When Price went down for the season, Ronan stepped into the No. 6 role and adjusted well. He’s tidy at the back, works hard off the ball, and is one of the better assist providers on the team. Maxsø has been good defensively in the air and good at emergency defending. The Rapids typically give up goals by making a series of small errors. Rarely is the Great Dane one of those players who makes a mistake on a goal.

It’s hard to say if there were any significant departures from last year’s team. Most fans weren’t surprised or bummed out when Gyasi Zardes signed for Austin FC. The left back position has been an issue, so maybe Lucas Esteves. But he had some attitude issues and was hot headed. Robin Fraser’s such a culture guy, he wasn’t worth the headache.

It’s been a difficult start to the season for Colorado, what has been the biggest reason for the team’s struggles?

MP: Injuries. Injuries. Injuries. Price went down for the season in his second appearance. Diego Rubio has had three separate injuries. Maxsø was under concussion protocol for two games. I’ve lost count of how many players have had hamstring issues. As I’ve written about previously for Burgundy Wave, the infrastructure at Dick’s (Sporting Goods Park) is showing its age. The team had a really bad stretch in March and April with practice fields and winter sticking around. They’ve missed key players. They’ve had limited depth. All while playing eight games in May. Hopefully a full week of training has them healthy and refocused for Saturday.

With plenty of games left to play and only sitting six points out of the play-in spots, the Rapids are far from dead and buried. What needs to happen for Colorado to turn the season around?

MP: Get healthy and get going offensively. Rubio is still their only reliable chance creator. All their goal scorers have been streaky. If Rubio comes back healthy and can give the Rapids the production he had last year (a club-record 16 goals and seven assists), that would be fantastic. Add in Cabral, Jonathan Lewis, and Braian Galván having a good finishing streak, and they could be ok. Orlando fans should be wary of Michael Barrios coming off the bench tomorrow. All 12 of his goals for the Rapids have come in the second half.

Are there any players who will be unavailable for selection due to call-ups, injuries, suspensions, etc? What is your projected starting lineup and score prediction?

MP: The injury report just came out and there are only four players on it. That’s tied for the lowest of the season! Rubio is questionable, and Fraser’s been really cautious with his key players coming back from injury. I can’t see him getting more than 20 minutes Saturday. Moïse Bombito is suspended for a harsh second yellow against San Jose, so expect Lalas Abubakar to start at center back. Price is out, as mentioned previously. Max Alves is still removed from team activities as he’s under investigation for participation in a sports gambling scheme in his native Brazil.

Marko Ilic; Danny Wilson, Andreas Maxsø, Lalas Abubakar; Sam Nicholson, Keegan Rosenberry; Connor Ronan, Bryan Acosta, Cole Bassett; Jonathan Lewis, Darren Yapi.

I think Orlando wins a tight, ugly game. Oscar Pareja knows how to poop-house the Rapids. 1-0, Facundo Torres scores. I do think we’ll see one of the better performances from the Rapids of this winless stretch for what that’s worth. 

Thank you to Matt for the excellent info and helping get us up to speed on the Rapids. Vamos Orlando!

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Lion Links

Lion Links: 6/9/23

Orlando City gets ready for the Colorado Rapids, OCB faces FC Cincinnati 2 on Sunday, U-20 World Cup final is set, and more.



How’s it going, Mane Landers? I hope this Friday finds you well as we gear up for a weekend filled to the brim with Orlando soccer. My friends are taking me out for teppanyaki and scorpion bowls tonight, so it should be a pretty nice day on my end. Hopefully your Friday goes smoothly as well. Now, let’s dive into today’s links from around the soccer world.

Orlando City Prepares for the Colorado Rapids

The Lions are on a five-game unbeaten run as they get ready for a home match tomorrow night against the Colorado Rapids. Facundo Torres scored twice in the team’s 3-0 win over the New York Red Bulls last weekend. Hopefully he can keep the momentum rolling against a Colorado team that’s allowed 25 goals this season and sits last in the league in points per game, with just two wins in 17 matches. Pedro Gallese also recorded his 26th clean sheet for Orlando in last week’s win, and could make his 100th appearance as a Lion tomorrow night. The Lions will have to keep an eye on Irish midfielder Connor Ronan, who has six assists in his first season with the Rapids.

Orlando City B Aims to Bounce Back at Home

After a 3-0 defeat to Toronto FC II in Canada this past weekend, Orlando City B will look to right the ship on Sunday at home against FC Cincinnati 2. The Young Lions are unbeaten at home this season, winning four of their six games at Osceola Heritage Park. The last time these two teams played was in August of last year, with Cincy winning in the penalty shootout following a 2-2 draw. Although he didn’t score in that match, OCB forward Jack Lynn scored three goals against Cincinnati last year and currently leads OCB with six goals this season. Sunday’s match should be a good opportunity for OCB’s offense to bounce back against a leaky Cincy defense.

USMNT Players Focused Despite Coaching Search

With European seasons over, American players who have been plying their trade abroad are back in the U.S. to prepare for the Concacaf Nations League and Gold Cup this month. The team will be coached by B.J. Callaghan in an interim capacity while the search for a head coach continues. Although not having a permanent head coach for these tournaments isn’t ideal, Nashville SC center back Walker Zimmerman spoke on how the team still knows how to get the job done.

“We’re a team that has a very strong team chemistry, strong culture within our group. And we know that for us, not much has changed right now,” said Zimmerman. “We know the same principles, style of play, expectations, accountability – all those things are the same. So I think that’s player-driven, to hold each other accountable to the standards that we’ve set over the past four years. BJ, he’s on top of it. He’s knowledgeable about what we want to do, how we’re going to go about these games.”

The roster includes many of the players who featured in the World Cup last year, but the striker position is one to watch due to the new faces involved. Folarin Balogun is with the team for the first time and it will be interesting to see how he measures up against Ricardo Pepi, Alex Zendejas, and Jesus Ferreira. We will get to see who spearheads the USMNT’s attack next Thursday, when the Yanks take on Mexico in Las Vegas.

Italy and Uruguay Reach U-20 World Cup Final

Only two teams remain in the U-20 World Cup after Italy and Uruguay each won their semifinals. Uruguay, which beat the U.S. in the quarterfinals, beat Israel 1-0, thanks to a goal in the second half from Anderson Duarte. In Italy’s semifinal against South Korea, Cesare Casadei’s terrific tournament continued as he gave Italy the lead in the 14th minute. South Korea equalized soon after with a penalty kick, but 17-year-old forward Simone Pafundi scored a nice free kick to send Italy into the final.

The final will take place on Sunday at 5 p.m., with the third-place match set for 1:30 p.m. It will be Italy’s first time playing in a U-20 World Cup final, while it will be Uruguay’s third time after losing in 1997 and 2013.

Free Kicks

That’s all I have for you today. Have a fantastic Friday and rest of your weekend!

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Orlando City

Orlando City vs. Colorado Rapids: Three Keys to Victory

What does Orlando City need to do to earn all three points at home against the Rapids this Saturday night?



Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Orlando City is back home in Exploria Stadium and hosting the Colorado Rapids this Saturday night. The Lions are coming off a big road win over the New York Red Bulls, and will want to extend the five-match unbeaten streak. What does Orlando City need to do to secure all three points at home this weekend?

Survive the First Half

Colorado has been better in the first half of matches this season than in the second half. The Lions can expect the Rapids to come out strong, looking for an early goal. If Orlando City can play smart on defense, maintain possession, and limit Colorado’s chances for the first 45 minutes, plus stoppage time, the odds of winning at home go up. 

I’m most worried about the first 15 minutes and the last five minutes of this half. It’s going to be contingent upon the effective midfield pairing of Cesar Araujo and Wilder Cartagena to break down the Rapids’ attack. Araujo was in training this week despite going off injured in the last match, indicating it wasn’t that serious and he may be available. Cartagena has quietly been fantastic the last few matches, and there’s no reason to think that won’t continue. 

Behind that pair is another line of defense, including Robin Jansson and Antonio Carlos, that can clean up anything else that gets through. Carlos has mostly been great, although he’s had a few less-than-stellar matches, and Jansson has been excellent. If Orlando City weathers the first half in good shape, I’ll feel better about the Lions getting three points.

Ride the Hot Feet

Oscar Pareja has trotted out the same starting lineup the last couple of matches, and I don’t expect he will mess with the success. After the last match, Ivan Angulo and Facundo Torres will be feeling pretty good, and we don’t want those confidence-boosting performances to be wasted. There will be plenty of time to let them rest if they can help provide the team with a two-goal lead after the 60 minute mark.

The same goes for Ercan Kara. No he didn’t have a goal last match, but that had more to do with dealing with the New York Red Bulls press than anything else. His last goal was three matches ago against Inter Miami, but he is putting the work in regardless, and I think he’s primed to find the back of the net against Colorado. 

Regardless of the scoreline, look for Pareja to bring on Martin Ojeda and Duncan McGuire to either put the match away or look for a positive result. Duncan can be a terror against a team that doesn’t play well in the second half, and Ojeda seems due for a goal. He certainly isn’t shy about taking chances, and eventually one of them is going to result in a goal.


Too many times in Orlando City history, the Lions have played a team on a winless streak — the Rapids haven’t won in their last six matches — and been the team to let the opposition get back on track. The Lions are also riding a five-match undefeated streak heading into Saturday’s match. It’s the type of match that tends to worry scarred Orlando City supporters, and I have those bad thoughts and feelings as well. As Michael Scott said on The Office, “I’m not superstitious, but I am a little stitious.” If Orlando City could not feed into that phenomenon, it would be great.

I think that sometimes the Lions want to give the home crowd a win so badly that they get nervous and end up pressing too hard, or trying to slip a pass into too tight of a window. When that happens, the natural flow of an offense that is looking better, passing better, and scoring goals will give the ball away cheaply. My suggestion is for the players is to just relax. Pretend it’s a road match if necessary, but just keep calm and let the match develop naturally. 

That’s what I’ll be looking for this Saturday night from my seat in Exploria Stadium. Since I’ll be down for this one, please make sure to say hello if you see me.

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