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Orlando City

Orlando City vs. D.C. United: Final Score 3-2 as Lions Drop Eighth Straight Road Game

Lions fall again in an inventive new way to get punched in the gut.



Nick Leyva, The Mane Land

A hell of an effort went to waste by Orlando City at Audi Field in a 3-2 loss to D.C. United. Down a man for more than 40 minutes, the Lions saw Luciano Acosta complete a controversial hat trick at the death, providing D.C.’s game-winner in the 96th minute.

Orlando City (7-15-2, 23 points) had Cristian Higuita sent off after video review in the 55th minute, Acosta’s second goal was initially called offside and then awarded after another video review on a close play, and a final video review of Acosta, who appeared to be offside when Wayne Rooney delivered a cross from midfield, was not overturned, as the calls all went the way of United (5-9-6, 21 points) whether they were clear and obvious errors or not.

The really frustrating part is that the winning goal for D.C. came seconds after an opportunity for Orlando to steal an improbable win. United goalkeeper David Ousted came up for a corner kick with about a minute to play. The Lions cleared the ball way out and Will Johnson busted his lungs to try to reach the ball just ahead of Rooney. Rather than try a low-percentage left-footed effort from midfield, he tried to spray a pass across the field for Stefano Pinho, who had a much more open look, but Rooney blocked the pass, got up first, and made the game winning assist.

It was maybe the toughest of all the 2018 losses to swallow, but it was yet another loss in a growing season of them. Orlando City lost its ninth consecutive road match in league play and the current winless streak is five games (0-4-1).

James O’Connor had no Sacha Kljestan (ankle) or Yoshimar Yotún (suspension) available, so he decided to free all of his defensive midfielders with this formation:

An often dull and plodding first half was just what Orlando City was going for, as the majority of play took place between the two penalty areas. Orlando dropped into a five-man back line on defense and took on a bunker mentality. Moving forward, the attack, such as it was, looked like a 4-3-2-1 or a 4-2-3-1, depending on how many Lions got forward. But in that final third, things often broke down, as they often do. The passing quality of Kljestan and Yotún was definitely missed, and, as you’d expect from a plethora of defensive midfielders, very few runs were made into the area.

It was a back-and-forth opening period. The Lions got the first look at goal in the game’s opening minute, with Higuita smashing a shot that stung Ousted’s palms.

D.C. countered six minutes in with a shot over the bar by Yamil Asad. Tony Rocha tried to go straight at goal on a set piece but his shot wasn’t close in the eighth minute and Zoltan Stieber fired well wide for D.C. in the 11th minute.

Stieber again missed the target in the 22nd minute off a Higuita turnover in the defensive half. After a few crosses from Chris Mueller were either deflected away or were off target, Mueller had a go himself in the 28th minute, and his blast forced a good save from Ousted at the near post.

The hosts thought they went ahead in the 44th minute on a Rooney header but the pass to Rooney came from an offside Asad. The flag came up but the referee went over himself to check the replay and correctly ruled no goal.

That was only momentary, however. With just seconds remaining in the three minutes of first-half stoppage time, Mohamed El-Munir got cute near the sideline rather than blast the ball down the field. It was costly. On the throw-in, the ball found Acosta, who worked a give-and-go with Rooney, continuing his run into the box and beating Amro Tarek and El-Munir. Rooney’s return pass found him but he still had a lot to do from a tough angle. Joe Bendik left Acosta too much room at the near post and the United midfielder blasted the first of his three goals inside that post to put D.C. ahead 1-0 at the death of the first half.

Shots in the first half were even at 6-6, with Orlando holding a 3-1 advantage in shots on frame. United held a slight possession advantage, with 51%, and Orlando connected on 88% of its passes to D.C.’s 85%.

Stieber nearly doubled the lead in the 47th minute but his left-footed effort found the post instead of the net.

The Lions equalized in the 50th minute out of nowhere. Uri Rosell made a good play to push the ball into a wide area, then ran it down and tried to cross for Dom Dwyer. Ousted stuck out a leg to block the cross and it deflected into his own net to make it 1-1.

The game changed in the 54th minute, when Orlando City came forward and Higuita crossed the ball over everyone and out of play. Behind the play, Asad was on the ground and after referee José Carlos Rivero spoke with Video Assistant Referee Jorge Gonzalez, he went over to take a look at the replay. He decided that Higuita intentionally swung an elbow at Asad and sent the Colombian off. Whether Higuita was trying to elbow Asad or trying to get inside of him into the counter doesn’t matter now — he’ll miss the Atlanta United match along with Yotún.

Oniel Fisher fired over the bar off a corner kick in the 61st minute as D.C. began to dominate possession with the manpower advantage. Three minutes later, the ball was served to the back post where Acosta scored his second goal. Only he didn’t. The flag was up for offside and no goal was given. Again Rivero spoke with Gonzalez and went to look at the video. He awarded the goal on what looked to be a very close play. Personally, I think it was onside, but it doesn’t matter what I think. What matters is whether a clear and obvious error was made. Rivero decided it was, and United led, 2-1.

It didn’t seem Orlando had a chance at that point but the Lions kept fighting (and mostly defending). City struck back in the 71st minute off a brilliant run by Dwyer. Rosell found him and the striker scooped a shot over Ousted and into the net for his 11th of the year to make it 2-2. It was the kind of pass we’ve been expecting from Rosell when he was signed in the off-season and he delivered perfectly. Everything looked good at full speed and on replay but Rivero took a look at the replay anyway and quickly decided the goal was good.

Orlando was a bit energized by the goal and made a few efforts to try to take the lead. Substitute PC had his shot blocked just wide in the 77th minute. Then Scott Sutter fired off a short corner a minute later and his effort was also just outside the post.

After that flurry, D.C. brought on Darren Mattocks and Ulises Segura, changed shape, and went for the win. The moves put Orlando on the back foot and Bendik was forced into big saves in the 83rd and 85th minutes. Dwyer got forward on the counter and looked to steal the three points in the 86th minute but Kofi Opare blocked his shot.

Bendik made another big save off a Russell Canouse header in the 93rd minute as the Lions tried to hold onto a big road point. Defending heroically, Orlando City was about a minute from getting that point when D.C. won a corner in the 95th minute. Despite having a good minute remaining, United brought Ousted up and went all out for the win. It should have backfired.

The ball was cleared out to the left, where Johnson ran it down just ahead of Rooney. He took a touch to cross midfield and saw Pinho across the field. With Rooney closing him down, Johnson tried to knock it across the field to a wide-open teammate but the former Manchester United and England star blocked the attempt, then got up and carried the ball back into Orlando territory. He looked up and sent a back-post cross to Acosta. Mueller tracked the ball in the air but didn’t sufficiently close down Acosta, who nodded it back across and into the goal. Rivero again went to the review but this time he decided he did not make a clear and obvious error, although Acosta did look a step offside this time.

It was just a brutal and awful finish to a game that saw a tremendous road effort from the Lions, missing several key players. The silly mistake by El-Munir just before halftime, the failure to get a shot off on the open net from distance, and several officiating decisions helped send Orlando City to yet another defeat.

Shots ended up 19-11 to D.C. (6-4 on goal) and United won the possession battle, with 60%, mostly due to being up a man for about 42 minutes. D.C. was more accurate in passing, 88%-83%.

After getting next weekend off, Orlando City will look to regroup at home against Atlanta United on Friday, Aug. 24. But seriously, how does a team regroup from that?

Lion Links

Lion Links: 11/27/23

Western Conference final is set, Jim Curtin wants Alejandro Bedoya to stay, action from top European leagues, and more.



Dan MacDonald, The Mane Land

Happy Monday, everyone. Orlando City’s season might not have ended the way any of us wanted, but 2023 was still a year with a lot to enjoy and be proud of for Lions fans. Before getting into today’s news, let’s wish Martin Ojeda a happy 25th birthday!

Western Conference Final is Set

The Western Conference final is now set, as the Houston Dynamo will be facing LAFC. Houston grabbed a 1-0 win at home over Sporting Kansas City in the first game of the night. Franco Escobar got the home team on the board in the 39th minute and that proved to be enough for Houston to book its ticket to the next round.

In the late kickoff, LAFC went on the road and got its own 1-0 win over the Seattle Sounders. Denis Bounga did what he does best and got the game’s only goal in the 30th minute, and LAFC was able to see out the remainder of the match. Seattle didn’t go down without a fight though, and Maxime Crepeau produced a string of outstanding second-half saves to deny the Sounders an equalizer.

Jim Curtin Wants Alejandro Bedoya Extended

Last month it was being reported that the Philadelphia Union were not planning on extending Alejandro Bedoya, whose contract expires now that the season is over. Following the Union’s exit from the playoffs, Jim Curtin did not mince words when expressing his belief that Bedoya’s time with the club should be extended, saying that Bedoya is bigger than anyone and that his work on the field speaks for itself. Things got really interesting when he appeared to take a shot at Philly’s front office, saying “I think anywhere in the world, the head coach would have a say in what’s up with this captain. I think there was a miscommunication for sure.”

Action Packed European Weekend

It was a busy weekend in the top European leagues, and there’s a lot to catch up on. We’ll start in the Premier League, where Aston Villa beat Tottenham 2-1 to hand a third straight loss to Spurs. The victory saw Villa leapfrog Tottenham into fourth place and only two points behind Arsenal at the top of the table.

In Italy, Juventus and Inter Milan battled to a 1-1 draw in a clash between the two teams at the top of the table. The result means that Inter maintains its spot in first place, and keeps a two-point lead over Juve, and a six-point gap between AC Milan in third.

Finally, Rodrygo scored a brace and Jude Bellingham got yet another goal as Real Madrid beat Cadiz 3-0 to retake first place in La Liga from Girona.

Transfer Rumor Roundup

As always, the transfer rumor mill is turning 24/7, and that means there are some interesting stories to cover today. First up, Victor Osimhen is reportedly Chelsea’s top transfer target during the upcoming January window. The Blues would likely need to break their transfer record to get the job done, but they’ve struggled to start the year and Todd Boehly isn’t shy about whipping out his checkbook.

Arsenal is said to be interested in signing Douglas Luiz in January, but Unai Emery has made it clear that Aston Villa want to keep him, which is unsurprising given how important he’s been for the team this season.

Finally, Steven Bergwijn says he’s happy at Ajax despite interest from West Ham and Saudi Arabia.

Free Kicks

  • Alejandro Garnacho scored a completely absurd goal to spark Manchester United’s 3-0 win over Everton.

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

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Orlando City

Orlando City vs. Columbus Crew: Player Grades and Man of the Match

How did your favorite Lions rate in Orlando City’s 2-0 defeat in the conference semifinal against the Crew?



Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

It is with a heavy heart that I bring to you the final player grades article of the season. After an outstanding regular season, the best by any margin in team history, the Lions fell 2-0 to the Crew in front of a sold-out Exploria Stadium, exiting the 2023 MLS Cup playoffs in the conference semifinal round. There were individual moments of strong technique but ultimately finding the back of the net which had plagued Orlando City at various times throughout the year turned out to be the difference between joy and sorrow.

Let’s take a look at how Orlando City’s players rated individually in the last match of the 2023 season.


GK, Pedro Gallese, 7 (MotM) — It’s not often you give a good score and Man of the Match honors to the losing goalkeeper, but without several herculean saves by El Pulpo, the match may very well have never made it to extra time in the first place. For the vast majority of the match, his positioning was spot on, and he did well coming off of his line to win several balls from Crew corner kicks. The first goal was a bouncer through the six yard line across his box and while he initially got a touch on it, the rebound unfortunately was too close to the onrushing Christian Ramirez, who was able to get just enough of it to bundle it home. For the second goal, Gallese was about as far off his line as a keeper could be, but to no fault of his own. The minutes were winding down and with City down a man and a goal, the Lions had to push numbers forward and use him as a sweeper. Gallese’s distribution could have been better, as he passed at a 67.6% rate and only completed eight of his 20 long balls. He also recorded a clearance and was credited with five saves on the evening.

D, Rafael Santos, 6 — This game seemed like a bit of a mixed bag for the young Brazilian defender. He got forward and tried to build the attack with either Ivan Angulo or Facundo Torres but his crosses more often than not sailed over heads and were far from threatening. Defensively, he was sound, nothing flashy, but put in a decent shift. He was 0-for-5 on crossing accuracy and just one of his seven long balls found its target. His passing rate was 71.4%. Defensively, he contributed two interceptions, two clearances and a tackle.

D, Robin Jansson, 6.5 — Jansson put in the type of performance that Orlando City fans have grown to expect match in and match out. That is not to say that it was a perfect performance as the Beefy Swede found himself out of position a few times which luckily amounted to nothing from the Columbus attack. Jansson passed well at 87% and 10 of his 17 long balls were accurate. Jansson led the team in touches (90) and total passes attempted (77) which probably goes a long way to speak to how the game was played from the Orlando perspective. Defensively, he recorded two tackles and three clearances and three blocked shots. Jansson was also credited with one shot, which was not on target and suffered one foul while not committing any.

D, Rodrigo Schlegel, 5 — Schlegel went full Schlegel in this one and you never want to go full Schlegel. The center back, who had been a staple of the starting 11 throughout the second half of the season, got the nod once again next to Jansson after the extended time off during the international window. After picking up a yellow card in the 16th minute of the match, Schlegel did well not to draw another serious call for 61 minutes. The problem is that the match still had 13 minutes to go and Schlegel was shown a second yellow for dragging down Diego Rossi to prevent him from getting to a long ball. Prior to being sent off, Schlegel led the team in passing accuracy by completing 94.1% of his passes while completing one of his three long ball attempts, and he was credited with a key pass. Defensively, he led the team in clearances, with five, and logged one interception, one tackle, two aerials won, and two blocked shots.

D, Dagur Dan Thorhallsson, 6.5 — I am not sure what the Icelandic national did prior to the match to the referee but it seemed clear that the two were not fans of one another and probably won’t be following each other on Myspace any time soon. Thorhallsson grew into the fullback role quite well throughout the season and had what could be his best defensive moment of the year, when he broke into a full sprint to catch up and deflect a breakaway opportunity. Defensively, he recorded one tackle, one interception, a blocked shot, and three clearances. He passed at a 79.3% rate, and he was successful on one of two crosses and two of six long balls. He was shown a yellow in the 104th minute for subtly disagreeing with a foul call that went against him.

MF, Cesar Araujo, 6.5 — It was another solid night from the Uruguayan who was tasked with silencing both Rossi and Cucho Hernandez. His passing was a solid 88.9%, including a perfect three for three on long ball attempts, and he recorded one shot which was off target. The defensive midfielder recorded a team-high six tackles and one blocked shot. Araujo committed four fouls on the night and was issued a yellow in the 71st minute for persistent infringements. He was partly responsible for the Crew’s opening goal by not getting rid of the ball, but to be fair to the Uruguayan, he appeared to get caught for a foul that wasn’t given on the turnover that led to Ramirez’s goal.

MF, Wilder Cartagena, 6 — The second part of the Lions dynamic defensive midfield duo failed to leave as much of a mark against Columbus as he did against Nashville. Cartagena passed at an 85.7% clip, contributing a key pass and completing four of his five long balls. He recorded one interception and one blocked shot while committing a team-high five fouls. Oscar Pareja, perhaps afraid of going a man down if Cartagena picked up a second yellow, sacrificed him in the 62nd minute to send more fire power onto the pitch by introducing Designated Player Martin Ojeda.

MF, Ivan Angulo, 6 — Angulo got into several dangerous places throughout the night using his speed as a weapon but failed to connect the dots when he could have put City on the front foot and in the lead. Despite getting a clear-cut breakaway, Angulo was not credited with a shot. He passed at a 90.9% rate, which was the best percentage of all midfielders. He was credited with one key pass, setting up an early chance for Facundo Torres, and did not attempt a cross or long ball. Defensively, he chipped in with two tackles. Angulo was subbed off in the 82nd minute as the Lions looked to shore up their defensive shape after going a man down.

MF, Mauricio Pereyra, 5.5 — The captain was unspectacular throughout much of his time on the pitch, especially in the first half, when it seemed like Columbus was running free through a large expanse of the Orlando midfield. Offensively, he did not attempt a shot and completed 78.1% of his passes. He was unsuccessful on his lone crossing attempt, completed two of his three long balls and was credited with a key pass. Pereyra won two aerial duels. He chipped in one interception while committing two fouls and drawing two as well. Pereyra came off in the 72nd minute for Junior Urso.

MF, Facundo Torres, 6 — Torres had the best early chance to put Orlando ahead in what was otherwise an ugly first half when he recieved a pass from Angulo and then peppered the ball just a few inches above the crossbar. He nearly set up a game-winning goal for Martin Ojeda, but his fellow DP just missed the net deep in stoppage time. Facu contributed two shots, which were both off target, and recorded two key passes while passing at an 82.6% rate, completing two of his three long balls. He won an aerial duel and was fouled once. Defensively, he contributed two tackles and one clearance.

F, Duncan McGuire, 5.5 — The breakout star from the 2023 campaign failed to leave much of a mark on the final game of the year. In a win-or-go-home scenario, one shot which failed to even fall on frame doesn’t cut it. His passing rate of 66.7% was lowest out of the starters and he only won one aerial duel. He did manage to draw three fouls and contributed one tackle and once clearance. McGuire was subbed off in the 71st minute for Ramiro Enrique. His next task will potentially be the toughest of his young career…proving that a 13-goal, three-assist year was no fluke once the calendar turns to 2024.


MF, Martin Ojeda (62′), 6 — Orlando City fans will be left wondering what could have been as the DP super sub took a great through ball from Torres in stoppage time and shot it just wide of the corner post. Ojeda passed at a 68.8% rate and despite coming on as a substitute was credited with a team-high three key passes. Ojeda completed three of six crosses and one of three long balls. Defensively, he contributed one interception.

F, Ramiro Enrique (71′), 6.5 — Arguably the most potent of the substitutes, Enrique was brought on as fresh legs in an attempt to unlock the over-the-top game. Both of his shot attempts were on target (which now that I realize it, is the first time that I am writing that tonight) and he won four aerial duels. He completed 50% of his 10 passes and was not accurate on his lone crossing attempt. If not for some outstanding goalkeeping, Enrique may have once again been the sparkplug that Orlando desperately needed. On defense, the forward contributed one tackle and two clearances.

MF, Junior Urso (72′), 6 — The bear subbed on for the captain with a little less than 20 minutes to go in the match but wound up playing for nearly a full hour when extra time was taken into account. He demonstrated strong ball control and did well in his time on the pitch. He passed a a 79% success rate and was credited with a key pass, which should have unlocked god-tier Kyle Smith if not for an outstanding save from the Crew keeper. Urso was unsuccessful on both of his crossing attempts and on defense was credited with a lone tackle.

D, Antonio Carlos (82′), 6.5 — AC came onto the pitch with Orlando down a man, looking to desperately force the game into extra time, and he helped accomplish just that. Carlos completed 76.7% of his passes, including two out of four long ball attempts. Offensively, Carlos logged two shots, both which missed the target, and was fouled twice. Defensively, the Brazilian added two interceptions and two timely clearances while winning a team-high five aerial duels.

D, Kyle Smith (82′), 5.5 — The American defender had a terrific chance to bring Orlando level and hit a shot after a brilliant run with pace in the 100th minute. Unfortunately, Patrick Schulte was able to make the save to keep Columbus ahead. On the defensive side, Smith was caught up in the play which led to the first goal of the match, as he was just a step slow at being able to poke the ball out of bounds for a Crew corner kick instead of a Crew goal. He completed 84% of his passes in a little over 40 minutes of action but failed to connect on either of his two crossing attempts and only completed one of his four long balls. Defensively, Smith recorded one tackle and one clearance.

That’s how I saw the individual performances on Saturday night as Orlando City was eliminated at the hands of the Columbus Crew. Let me know what I got right and wrong in your opinion. 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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Orlando City

Orlando City vs. Columbus Crew: Five Takeaways

Here are the five biggest takeaways from Orlando’s playoff loss to the Columbus Crew.



Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Orlando City’s playoff run has come to an end after a 2-0 loss to the Columbus Crew at Exploria Stadium. The Lions were reduced to 10 men in the second half and conceded twice in extra time. It’s Orlando’s second Eastern Conference semifinal loss — both at home — and also the second time it’s had a player sent off in one.

Here are my five takeaways from Orlando’s last match of 2023.

Red Card Dents Orlando’s Chances

Orlando City’s night got much tougher once Rodrigo Schlegel was shown a second yellow card and was sent off in the 77th minute. The center back received his second booking after fouling Diego Rossi on a hopeful counterattack by the Crew, despite having Robin Jansson there to help defend, closing from the other side. His first yellow card wasn’t much better, as he came into the midfield like a freight train and fouled Rossi on an unnecessary challenge. Although Antonio Carlos was able to come off the bench to replace Schlegel, having to play a man down turned the match into a marathon for the Lions. The red card did galvanize the Lions to a degree, but Schlegel’s exit dealt a hefty blow to their chances of reaching the Eastern Conference final.

Heroic Defending Keeps the Lions Kicking

Apart from Schlegel’s bookings, the defense did incredibly well in this match. Goalkeeper Pedro Gallese came up with five saves, bailing the Lions out time and time again. The back line wasn’t perfect while going up against a potent Columbus attack, but the players made great plays to put out fires. The best defensive effort of the day belonged to Dagur Dan Thorhallsson, who chased down Rossi on the break to disrupt his shot without committing a foul. The two goals conceded in extra time while down a man were a brutal way for the Lions to be eliminated, with the first coming from Gallese unluckily deflecting an incoming cross into a sliding Christian Ramirez, and the second coming while Orlando had Gallese up the field to create more desperate chances while trailing.

Lions Fail to Finish Fast Breaks

Orlando City certainly had its chances to score in this one, particularly when on the counter. However, the Lions squandered great opportunity after great opportunity and did not get a shot on target until extra time. Facundo Torres sent a shot just over the crossbar after Ivan Angulo fed him the ball in the box, Angulo couldn’t punish Columbus on a different counter, and there was a disconnect later in the match between Torres and Duncan McGuire that cost the rookie a chance to shoot. The miss that will keep Orlando fans up at night will be Martin Ojeda’s in stoppage time right before extra time. It wasn’t an easy angle and Ojeda still nearly tucked it in the far corner for what likely would’ve been a winner that would’ve etched his name in the club’s history books. Unfortunately, it skipped wide of goal and we’re all left thinking of what could have been. Kyle Smith and Ramiro Enrique also had golden opportunities to tie the match after Ramirez’s goal.

Orlando Didn’t Get Foothold in the Midfield

Part of it was due to the general strategy to withstand Columbus’ strong attack and then spring forward on the counter, but the Lions had a hard time controlling the midfield in this match. It was a bad time for Wilder Cartagena to have an off night after such a strong season and he was subbed off in the 62nd minute while on a yellow card. He committed five fouls and Cesar Araujo had four fouls in what was a chippy match with plenty of stoppages. The Crew limited Torres and Mauricio Pereyra’s effectiveness on the ball, which in turn kept McGuire from getting much service despite some good movement off the ball. The Lions started to see more of the ball after conceding, but they had trouble building possession for a majority of the match.

Substitutes Provide a Spark in Extra Time

Of Orlando’s 13 shots in the match, six came from substitutes and they led the attacking charge in extra time. Enrique, who had a brace in Orlando’s memorable win over Columbus in the previous match between these two, did well to chase down a barrage of long balls and create some chances. His best opportunity came from a header after a nice run in the box, but Crew goalkeeper Patrick Schulte made a great save to deny him. With Ercan Kara in Turkey, it was nice to see Enrique prove effective off the bench, even if his efforts came up short in the end. Smith and Junior Urso also had strong outings in what could be their final matches in purple (the club holds options on both players for 2024). It was always going to be an uphill battle once Schlegel was sent off and the substitutes did well when putting those fresh legs to use.

It’s unfortunate that this is the end of the road for the Lions this year, but they didn’t play particularly poorly. An inability to get the ball in the back of the net has plagued this team often and the Lions paid the price in a single-elimination game. It will be interesting to see how different this team will look when we see it in action next year.

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