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Orlando City vs. Toronto FC: Final Score 2-1 as the Lions End the Streak

James O’Connor’s homecoming leads to a win, his first, and a happy house.



Deon Cooper, The Mane Land

Head Coach James O’Connor’s homecoming could not have ended any better, maybe with the exception of a shutout. Chris Schuler scored his first goal as a Lion and Dom Dwyer doubled the lead as Orlando City (7-11-1, 22 points) snapped a nine-game losing streak with a 2-1 win over Toronto FC (4-11-4, 16 points) — just the club’s second win against the Reds.

“Obviously delighted that we were able to win. It’s really important that we got a win,” O’Connor said after the match. “First and foremost I’m really pleased for the players, the supporters and for the ownership group to be able to get that win. There were some lovely passages of play, but there’s lots of things that I think we can be sharper on, we want to be sharper on. But it’s going to take a little bit of time. ”

Staring down a schedule of five games in 15 days, including Wednesday’s USOC match against the Philadelphia Union, O’Connor came out with a few surprises in the Starting XI.

Earl Edwards Jr. got his first MLS start of the year and second overall, with Tony Rocha starting at left midfield. Notable to most was Justin Meram missing from the 18. Shane O’Neill suited up for the first time as a substitute. Of interest from the visitors, Jozy Altidore made the trip and started the match as an available sub.

Having Yoshi Yotún back in purple was huge from the very start of the match. He seemed to be playing with a bit of extra intensity, almost as thought his stint in Russia triggered a little something extra. Schuler also played with a different look, starting with a beautiful cutting run to intercept Sebastian Giovinco before he could make a break alone on goal.

Things got a little shaky in the sixth minute, as Schuler went shoulder to shoulder with Justin Morrow approaching the box, with Morrow going down and drawing the foul. Schuler was booked, but thankfully nothing came of the free kick, and the ball was cleared. The next few minutes were a bit uneasy, as the Lions continued to try to find their feet, but things changed rather quickly.

In the ninth minute, Rocha hit a solid shot towards goal, but it was blocked by a Toronto defender. That created a bit of chaos in the box, but the Lions could not capitalize. For the next several minutes, one thing that continued to stand out was the hustle of Chris Mueller and Yoshi. The Lions were plagued by misplaced passes. Mueller and Yotún crossed the pitch endlessly in recovery mode, working to win the ball back, fill passing lanes, and generally disrupt the Toronto midfield. The effort was obviously getting to some Toronto players, as Giovinco received a stern lecture from the referee after a late tackle, one of those frustration tackles, in the 15th minute on Yotún.

The Lions continued to look dangerous. Yotún tried to catch Alex Bono off guard when he sent a shot from just inside the Toronto half on goal that Bono flubbed, earning the Lions a corner. Unfortunately, the chance was a bit wasted as no one was on the far post when the corner was taken.

Edwards looked comfortable, coming off his line in the 24th minute to pounce on a cross into the box that could have been dangerous. Edwards also continued something that we saw from him during his play with OCB — those long throws to streaking players to start counters. He had a great leading ball to Sacha Kljestan, who found a streaking Mueller, who unfortunately took one touch to many and couldn’t get the ball out from under himself to get a solid shot on goal.

In the 25th, Morrow put a classic spin move on Schuler — possibly Schuler’s one big mistake of the night — to free himself to make a run into the box and find a wide open Giovinco. Thankfully, the Italian’s shot was not well taken and the threat was over. This was not the last time we heard from Giovinco, though. The next big chunk of minutes saw Toronto sustain some good possession, and take a bit of control of the game, including another shot from the Italian. The Lions were giving up possession way too easily at this point in the match, and Toronto was closing down the passing lanes with ease.

Dwyer finally got to go one on one with a center back in the 31st, beat him on the left side of the box, and got a shot off, but it was saved by Bono. Mueller almost got to the rebound, but it was cleared by the defense. A few more chances were generated by the Lions, but it appeared as though the nerves of needing a win might be present. Rocha had a great chance to bring the ball down and regain control with City in a good offensive position, but rushed to head the ball back into play, leading to Toronto gaining possession.

In the 34th, Yotún was fouled from behind by Michael Bradley. The free kick was taken somewhat quickly to Dwyer, who immediately sent a hard shot at goal. Bono punched the shot, and Schuler leaped to head the ball into the net, notching his first goal of the season and his first with Orlando City.

“I knew [Bono] wouldn’t be able to hold on to it so I just made a run through it expecting the rebound and it kind of worked out,” said Schuler.

RJ Allen went down on the pitch in the 37th minute, and it did not look good. Thankfully, after working with the trainers for a minute, he was able to return to play. It almost looked as though he was cramping already. It was good he was able to return as he had a distinct impact a few minutes later in the 44th when he was part of a great chance for City.

Rocha put a great ball in to Dwyer, who found Mueller streaking down the right side. The rookie once again had trouble getting the ball out from his feet, and his shot was blocked, falling to Allen. The right back put his laces through the ball, but the shot went just wide of the near post and into the side netting.

The Lions came out in the second half just as they had ended the first, looking solid and confident. In the 48th, Mueller found Dwyer with a perfect ball to the middle. Dom stood the defender up, got the ball onto his left foot, and smashed the ball low and away from Bono into the back of the net for another back flip and a 2-0 lead.

Toronto had some solid chances, but the Orlando back line and Edwards were up to the challenge. There were a few scary moments in the 58th when Toronto’s Jay Chapman picked up a stray ball at the top of the box. The defense was caught a little flat, but Edwards was able to make the save. In the 59th, Giovinco got in alone for the first time all night on a gorgeous long ball from Bradley but Earl made a point-blank stop to protect the two-goal advantage.

For the next 12 minutes, the Lions looked a bit shaky again, as tired legs looked to be taking hold. It wasn’t until the 70th minute when the tide swung back towards the Lions’ favor. Will Johnson stole the ball, drove into the box, and earned a corner. The corner was taken short, like so many during the match, ending up at the feet of Dillon Powers, who had subbed in for Rocha in the 56th. Powers put a beautiful cross into the box, but the linesman flagged Dwyer as offside. Many players from both sides looked tired as the evening heat was taking an obvious effect.

The next best chance happened in the 85th, when Mueller picked up a missed ball from behind the Toronto center backs, charged the box, and sent a strong cross over to a streaking Mohamed El-Munir, but the cross was too strong and just out of his reach. Mueller found himself with another golden opportunity in the 90th after a great pass from Kljestan that he should have buried, but again could not get the ball out from under his feet and sent a low shot straight at Bono.

The 92nd minute saw the last real attacking chance for the Lions, when Yotún had a beautiful turn, only to be fouled to stop the attack at the top of the box. Sacha stepped up for the free kick, and didn’t miss the top corner over the wall by much. Unfortunately, two minutes later Toronto pulled one back. After what appeared to be a fairly innocent collision at the top corner of the box involving Amro Tarek, the ensuing free kick by Giovinco led to Nick Haggland getting inside of El-Munir and getting a foot on it to send it inside the far corner.

That was just about the last kick of the game. The whistle blew seconds later and the Lions had mercifully ended their nine-game losing streak.

Orlando out-shot Toronto, 18-16 (7-4 on target) and the Reds held the possession advantage, 54%-46%. Toronto completed 90% of its passes compared to 85% for the Lions. Much of Toronto’s possession came in the middle part of the second half while Orlando nursed its 2-0 lead.

“It’s been a while,” Dwyer said of the win. “Obviously we put in a good performance tonight. We’re trying not to live in the past so much and move forward, it was a big result for us tonight. I wouldn’t say we are at our best but we are improving. I think we are back on track, which is important for us and we’ll keep moving forward.”

Orlando City will be back in action Wednesday in Philadelphia, facing the Union in the U.S. Open Cup quarterfinals.

Orlando City

Orlando City vs. Inter Miami: Three Keys to Victory

Here are three things the Lions need to do in order to set themselves up for a win over Inter Miami.



Dan MacDonald, The Mane Land

Wednesday’s match didn’t go the way anyone hoped it would, but now it’s time to turn our attention to a Sunday matchup with Inter Miami back in the comfortable confines of Exploria Stadium. What follows are three things that I believe will go a long way toward helping the Lions emerge victorious from the Tropic Thunder derby and keeping Florida purple.

Close Down Sergio Busquets

As many headlines as Lionel Messi has rightfully been getting since joining Major League Soccer, I think Busquets is just as important to Miami’s success. He remains an excellent midfielder and his ability to transition the team from defense into attack and link the two lines together is crucial. He has two assists and eight key passes in six MLS appearances and is passing with 92% accuracy —if you give him time, he will make you pay. Even if Cesar Araujo and Wilder Cartagena mark him tightly, he’ll still manage to find space at times and affect the game because he’s that good of a player. But the Lions cannot afford to repeatedly give him time and space to get on the ball, pick up his head, and play a pass or he’ll cut OCSC to ribbons. Getting tight to him and making his life difficult won’t stop him every time, but it’ll make life a hell of a lot easier. As soon as Orlando loses the ball in Miami’s half, someone needs to find no. 5 and close him down.

Play With an Edge, but Don’t Go Over It

This is likely going to be an extremely, fast, physical and heated game. These two teams don’t have any love lost for each other, and if last game is any indication, then Orlando is going to try to use its physicality to disrupt Miami from playing its brand of soccer. That’s not a bad strategy, and it’s one that was largely working during the aforementioned Leagues Cup match until the penalty kick call in the second half. If the Lions are going to try to repeat the tactic, then they need to play with physicality and intensity while toeing the line of what’s acceptable to do during a soccer game. Going down a man isn’t going to do OCSC any favors, so the boys in purple are going to have to flirt with the edge of the cliff without falling headfirst over it.

Stay Organized Defensively

We’ve seen some shaky defending during Orlando’s last two matches. Runners in behind were a particular problem during the match against the Columbus Crew, while Wednesday’s loss to NYCFC saw Talles Magno largely unmarked between two Orlando defenders to score the header that sealed the Lions’ fate. OCSC will likely still be without Antonio Carlos, but the Lions are capable of much better defending than they’ve done during the last week and they need to show it. Even if Lionel Messi doesn’t play, Miami has a whole host of guys who can hurt you in Josef Martinez, Leonardo Campana, Benjamin Cremaschi, Robert Taylor and Facundo Farias. The Lions need to be much more keyed in on defense than they have been the last two games, otherwise one or more of those guys is going to make them pay. Orlando has the firepower to put the ball in the back of the net, but it won’t matter if the team is giving up multiple preventable goals at the other end of the field.

If the Lions execute those three things then they’ve got as good a chance as any of getting a result on Sunday. Vamos Orlando!

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Lion Links

Lion Links: 9/22/23

Orlando City prepares for Inter Miami, MLS NEXT Pro Decision Day is Sunday, USWNT wins against South Africa, and much more.



Image courtesy of Orlando City B / Mark Thor

Happy Friday! It’s been a pretty busy week of apartment hunting and work for me, so I’m looking forward to some rest and relaxation this weekend. I don’t have many plans, but I did make sure to carve out a few hours to make a drink and get some reading done. My book club is fairly low maintenance, but I’ll be behind if I don’t finish Fourth Wing before the second book in the series comes out in November. Let’s get into today’s links!

Orlando City Takes On Inter Miami This Weekend

Following a 2-0 loss on the road to New York City FC earlier this week, Orlando City will aim to bounce back when it hosts rival Inter Miami this Sunday. Orlando has a chance to set club records for the most wins and points in a season since it joined MLS in 2015. It will be the third meeting between the two clubs this season, with Orlando beating Miami 3-1 in May before falling 3-1 in the Leagues Cup’s knockout stage. Although Miami will be without Lionel Messi and Jordi Alba according to Head Coach Tata Martino, the Herons still have plenty of attacking talent in the form of Sergio Busquets, Leonardo Campana, and Josef Martinez.

Orlando City B Readies for MLS NEXT Pro Decision Day

Sunday will also be the final day of the MLS NEXT Pro regular season, with nearly every team in action. Here’s everything you need to know about Decision Day across the league, with playoff spots still up for grabs. Orlando City B has already clinched its spot in the postseason, but can secure fifth in the Eastern Conference when it takes on FC Cincinnati 2. However, the difference between fifth and a lower seed won’t matter too much due to a new rule this year where the second and third seed in each conference choose which lower seed it wants to host in the playoffs. The Golden Boot race is competitive as well, with OCB’s Jack Lynn tied at the top with New York City FC II’s Matt Myers. We’ll see if Lynn takes part in Sunday’s match after giving the first team needed depth last weekend.

USWNT Beats South Africa in Julie Ertz’s Finale

The United States Women’s National Team won 3-0 against South Africa in the first of two friendlies this month. All three of the USWNT’s goals came in the first half, with Lynn Williams bagging a brace. In her final USWNT game, Julie Ertz started and earned plenty of applause from the crowd at TQL Stadium when she was subbed off in the 36h minute. M.A. Vignola made her USWNT debut in the match as well, coming on at halftime. The two nations will play again on Sunday in what will be forward Megan Rapinoe’s last game with the USWNT.

Europa League Group Stage Kicks Off

The first round of Europa League group stage matches is over, with all 32 teams getting things started across Europe. Brighton & Hove Albion’s first Europa League match was a rough one, as the English club fell 3-2 at home against AEK Athens. The Spanish clubs also struggled, with Villarreal getting shut out 2-0 by Panathinaikos and Real Betis losing 1-0 to Rangers. Elsewhere, AS Roma beat Sheriff Tiraspol 2-1 thanks to a winner from Romelu Lukaku, Liverpool won 3-1 over Austrian club LASK after trailing early on, and Marseille drew 3-3 with Ajax in a thriller. West Ham, Atalanta, Bayer Leverkusen, and SC Freiburg also won their group openers.

Free Kicks

  • Enjoy the sights and sounds from the Orlando City Foundation’s annual celebrity golf and footgolf tournament.

That’s all I have for you today, Mane Landers. I hope you all have a fantastic Friday and rest of your weekend!

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Orlando City

Orlando City vs. New York City FC: Player Grades and Man of the Match

How did your favorite Lions rate in Orlando City’s 2-0 loss against NYCFC?



Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Despite Orlando City being the best road team in MLS, the club fell 2-0 to New York City FC. The Lions still officially punched their ticket into the playoffs thanks to D.C. United drawing Atlanta United elsewhere in the Eastern Conference. The Lions battled throughout the night on the baseball diamond of Citi Field but were unable to find the soccer goal. It will be a quick turnaround now as the team needs to regroup before Sunday’s home match against rival Inter Miami.

Let’s take a look at how Orlando City’s players rated individually in the defeat.


GK, Pedro Gallese, 7.5 (MotM)  The foul in the box by by Ramiro Enrique led to Gallese needing to make a big play against Santiago Rodriguez’s spot kick. Unfortunately, Gallese couldn’t control the rebound on his diving save, leading to a tap-in header that he really could do nothing about. El Pulpo’s services were called upon four minutes in against former teammate Andres Perea from point-blank range, and then again in the 51st and 52nd minutes when the Octopus was able to make strong-handed saves. However, in the 68th minute, a perfectly placed Talles Magno header was placed where the Peruvian couldn’t make the stop. I don’t think either of the goals were his fault, nor would your favorite worldbeater goalkeeper abroad have stopped them. For that, Gallese is my Man of the Match for having made five saves in total and passing at an 81.1% rate while completing six of his 11 long balls.

D, Rafael Santos, 5.5 — The left back spent much of the first 20 minutes of the match getting faked and dribbled around down the channel. He continually jumped at a feinted cross or turned his back only for his man to dribble into an even more dangerous location inside the box. For a player who has been solid over the last few matches, Santos sure did look shaky and mentally unready for his matchup. His lone shot attempt was off target. He was 2-for-2 on crossing accuracy but just one of his four long balls found their target, while his overall passing rate was a lowly 65.4%, including one key pass. Defensively, he contributed two tackles, two clearances, and a foul while being fouled once himself.

D, Robin Jansson, 6 — It isn’t often that I look back on a match and can’t personally think of any Jansson highlights. He was definitely out there on the pitch, but he never stepped up above and beyond the call of duty like he is known to do. He likely escaped a garbage time yellow card while berating referee Ismail Elfath, but thankfully James Sands stepped in to push the Beefy Swede away to safety. Jansson had one tackle, a clearance, and a blocked shot. He passed at 84.6%, but only two of his 11 long balls were accurate. No wonder Facundo Torres was disappointed every time a deep ball came his way, as chance after chance was uncharacteristically wasted by Jansson.

D, Rodrigo Schlegel, 4.5 — It is never a great sign in a losing match when a center back doesn’t log a single tackle. It usually means they are whiffing, getting out-dribbled, or caught out of position. At times, it seems like each of those could have been the case for Schlegel in this match. Orlando might not get Antonio Carlos back this season, but if that is the case, then Schlegel has to do better, especially as he led the team with 92 touches. He was completely unaware of Magno on the second NYCFC goal and was part of a defense that fell asleep often on set pieces. He did offer one key pass, but his only shot missed the frame. He passed at an 84.5% rate, but like his counterpart, also struggled to connect on long balls. Rodri landed only three of 10 attempts. His two interceptions and two clearances might be the only things that help him save face on the night.

D/MF, Dagur Dan Thorhallsson, 6 — Dagur Dan’s first dangerous look of the night came in the 22nd minute as a ball deflected out to him just outside box. The hybrid wingback whipped a curling ball just inside the six-yard box that Enrique barely missed connecting on, which would have opened the scoring on the night. From that point forward, it was much of what we have been seeing from the Icelandic midfielder. He drifts wide to defend and then slides a bit more interior on the attack. I don’t hate it, but I also didn’t love it on a pitch where the small size already clogs the center of the park. He only offered one clearance in his defensive statistics. Offensively, he had a key pass, a through ball, and completed two dribbles. He also passed at an 88.6% rate on 44 attempts and was one-for-two on his crosses.

MF, Cesar Araujo, 6 — At times it seems the Uruguayan goes down softly despite being a bruiser in the defensive midfield on his own. I don’t necessarily hate it, as he does a great job slowing down the game at times when he rolls over, but there were a couple moments in this match where I wish he would have stood his ground and knocked the ball on forward to his teammates for a quick counter opportunity. Either way, Araujo drew a team-high four fouls yet again on the opposition. His passing was a respectable 86.8% on 53 attempts, and two of five long balls found their mark. His failure to properly mark Birk Risa on a set piece late in the game nearly cost Orlando City a third goal conceded. He made one clean tackle but also gave two fouls up. He took one shot on the night and would have done better to lay it off to a couple other Lions in the area.

MF, Wilder Cartagena, 5.5 — The Brazilian almost incited a riot on the pitch by running through a Pigeon after the whistle, but to be fair, it was a bang-bang play and he was coming in at full speed already. It didn’t take long after for Cartagena to earn his yellow card. He was fouled twice but gave three total himself. He also stepped up twice to clear the ball out of danger. With his 30 touches, he passed 20 times at 85% success but neither of his two crosses found a teammate.

MF, Ivan Angulo, 6.5 — I feel bad for players with attributes like Angulo when they have to play on the baseball fields. While he has the pace and could likely steal home, it doesn’t translate when you’re playing soccer in a compact outfield. His biggest strength is a push-and-go into space but that just isn’t available in Citi Field. Angulo did put his only shot on target when he was able to get involved in the attack. He also had one key pass in his 18 passing attempts (88.9%). Defensively, he made a pair of tackles and an interception. Angulo drew one foul.

MF, Mauricio Pereyra, 6 — The midfield maestro popped in and out of the half spaces throughout the night to distribute from one side of the pitch to the other. He led the team with three shots but not one of them was on target. With 53 touches on the ball, he was able to complete 80% of his 35 passes and one of two long balls, but he was sloppy in terms of staying on the ball too long at times, having two unstable touches and getting dispossessed twice. While it will go down in the match notes as a yellow card for persistent infringement, the referee was likely just trying to slow down a match that was beginning to get a little too chippy for his liking. The attacking midfielder put up a team-high four tackles in addition to his clearance and three fouls. Sometimes your skipper has to do the dirty work, and I’m ok with that.

MF, Facundo Torres, 6.5 — The Designated Player had a mixed bag in the first half, as his teammates seemed to miss him with their long passes. But down 1-0 at the start of the second half, Torres found a low driven cross slightly behind him just outside the six-yard box that he wasn’t able to put on frame. When he was on the ball though, he completed two dribbles and made three key passes to go with his two-for-three crossing and one-for-one long ball percentages. In total, 91.4% of his 35 passes completed which isn’t bad at all for only 46 total touches.

F, Ramiro Enrique, 4.5 — It wasn’t just the tackle in the box that caused Enrique to give up a penalty, but it was his errant pass that he attempted to lay off to Dagur Dan first. Ultimately, both errors equated to what was NYCFC’s first goal. I would like to say the poor play stopped there for him, but he blew what could have been a couple golden chances by dribbling too long and failing to see the open man to pass to. It truly is sad to see how a Player of the Matchday fell from his pedestal just days later. He was taken off after 58 minutes with just 16 touches to his name. Despite winning three aerial duels and making a clearance, his lowly 70% passing rating, missed cross, missed shot, and critical foul conceded really put a damper on his stats. If there was such an award that equates to opposite of MotM, I unfortunately have to cast it upon the MLS U22 Initiative forward.


MF, Martin Ojeda (59′), 6.5 — Ojeda replaced Cartagena as Orlando City had fallen behind by a goal and the Lions needed to create more offensive chances. While he did create one key pass, the Designated Player only found himself on the ball 22 times in his late minutes. He completed 66.7% of his 12 passes and completed his only long ball attempt, but was one-for-six with his crossing and didn’t attempt a shot. Defensively, Ojeda had one tackle and an interception.

D, Luca Petrasso (59′), 5.5 — The Canadian came on and just under 10 minutes later lost a 50-50 aerial battle in the channel which became a crossed ball to Magno that was headed in for the Pigeons second goal of the match. Petrasso took one shot that was blocked, but he had Torres standing right next to him, who would have been the better option. While he lost the only aerial that really mattered, he did win one of his own though, to go along with two tackles and a clearance. He missed his long ball and cross attempts but landed 88.9% of his 18 passes.

F, Duncan McGuire (59′), 5 — Big Dunc is back, but the Big Dunc Energy was not. With only six touches and no shots across more than half an hour, the striker should be disappointed with his impact. His only stats contributed were a successful long ball and an 83.3% success rate on just six passing attempts.

D, Michael Halliday (80′), N/A — The Homegrown right back came on to provide some late fresh legs while the Lions attempted to come from behind. It was a little too late for Halliday to make a real impact on his own. In his time, he managed 15 touches, won an aerial, passed at a 75% rate, and recorded a clearance.

MF, Gastón González (80′), N/A — The Argentinian winger made his return to the pitch after a lengthy injury period to garner a few minutes and get his legs back under him. His only shot was on target, which is hopefully a great sign for the future. He had seven total touches, completing both of his passes, but missed his only cross. He also gave up one foul.

That’s how I saw the individual performances on Wednesday night as Orlando City fell to expansion rival NYCFC. What did I get right/wrong in your view? Be sure to vote for your Man of the Match in our poll below and provide your thoughts in the comments section.

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