Orlando City’s first trip to D.C. United’s new home at Audi Field saw two squads fighting to catch up with the rest of the Eastern Conference. It also saw a fairly eyebrow-raising starting XI from the Lions, considering suspensions and injuries. So how did the individual players fare tonight in the 3-2 loss against United?
GK, Joe Bendik, 5 — Long ball distribution just does not work when your target forward is a good foot or more shorter than the average center back. Not sure his position was correct on the first or third, and he may have been shielded until fairly late on the second goal. He may have been able to come off his line and grab the cross on the final goal. Never seemed comfortable, always leaving his line late, so late in fact he was in no man’s land on the game-winning goal.
D, Mohamed El-Munir, 5 — Excellent run up the left in the 12th minute, went to cross to a streaking Dom but was pushed off the ball, and the ref turned a blind eye. The physicality of play the ref was allowing may have gotten under his skin, because for the remainder of the first half saw him flustered a bit. He got a bit too fancy near the sideline late in the first half to allow D.C. a throw and United ended up scoring the first goal at the death of stoppage time as a result. This continued in the second half, with mixed moments of brilliance and then moments of poor judgement. I am sure it did not help that the club played with 10 men for some time.
D, Amro Tarek, 5.5 — Amro was solid, fluid, and didn’t make too many mistakes, even after a taking a ball in what appeared to be the jumbly bits. He was a bit slow at times, as when he was beaten on the first goal, but his reactions were generally good. He did pick up a yellow, for a very “professional” foul, which was the absolute right thing to do. All in all, a fair night for Amro.
D, Shane O’Neill, 6 — Found himself defending Wayne Rooney multiple times, and did a great job standing him up, letting the rest of the defense get back and find shape. Another decent performance, as much as you can say for a back line working for a decent portion of the game on their heels down a man.
D, Scott Sutter, 5.5 — worked the right side well, and played the connection game with both Johnson and Rosell very well. Fired a shot just wide of goal in the second half off a short corner.
MF, Oriol Rosell, 7 (MOTM) — Probably his best performance to date as a Lion. Great job standing up Rooney in the 22nd minute. Had numerous switch balls across the field from the right side to spring El-Mo on the left, as well as give-and-go plays across the midfield. He had the biggest impact both defensively and offensively tonight, notching an assist and one could argue that the goal should have been his, and not an own goal.
MF, Will Johnson, 6 — Despite what I am sure will be a week of blaming Will for what happened in the last 30 seconds of that match, Johnson played a really good game. He was all over the pitch as usual, running box to box, including having the third highest number of successful tackles, four, for the match. What happened in the waning seconds was unfortunate, but certainly not on him, considering the effort he put into the match for the previous 95 minutes, and 40 of it while a man down.
MF, Tony Rocha, 5.5 — Had a decent effort in the ninth minute on a free kick just outside the box, but sent the ball high. After starting the match as a player whose number seemed to be called often, he somewhat disappeared from the limelight until being subbed out early in the second due to the Higuita red card.
MF, Cristian Higuita, 5.5 — He came flying out of the gate, testing goal in the first minute, with a squirrely ball that David Ousted couldn’t just handle. Although he was listed in the formation as the central attacking midfielder, he found himself on the right half of the pitch a lot, and certainly played box to box as needed. Everything was fine until the VAR notified the referee to take a look at something and in the 55th minute, Higuita was shown red for what appeared to be contact to the face of Yamil Asad.
MF, Chris Mueller, 6.5 — As typical, Mueller started the match like he was on fire. Had a powerful shot in the 27th that forced a great reactionary save by Ousted at the near post. He did well working back to make the back line a five-man front when D.C. had possession, and got out quickly when possession changed hands.
F, Dom Dwyer, 6.5 — Wearing the captain’s armband for the first time for Orlando City in MLS play, Dom had a somewhat quiet first half. He did get a decent look in the 36th minute, but his time really shined in the second half. Bendik kept trying long balls to Dom, and he got a few, but the center backs of United were pretty successful muscling Dom out of position or off the ball. He got the Lions even in the 71st minute, on a lovely assist from Rosell.
MF, Dillon Powers (57’), 5 — Came on for Tony Rocha after the Higuita red card. Had one tackle, and helped to contain the United attack, only getting 13 touches in his 33 minutes on the pitch.
D, Victor “PC” Giro (67’), 5.5 — Came on for El-Mo, and worked hard for the 23 plus minutes he was on the pitch. had two tackles, had a shot deflect just wide of goal, and did a good job maintaining the coverage of the left side of the pitch.
F, Stefano Pinho (88’), N/A— Came on for Dom in the final moments and got one touch and had one successful tackle.
That is how I saw it, through tears of joy and sadness alike. That was easily one of the most difficult matches to watch, at least from recent memory. Regardless of the outcome, who was your man of the match? Let me know in the poll below, and then give me reasons why you agree or disagree with the grades in the comment section below. There were positives to take from this match, if you can put aside everything else, which is difficult in times like these.
Lion Links: 3/4/24
Lions lose big, Tigres is up next, the USWNT wins, USMNT news, and more.
Merry Monday morning, Mane Landers. No, I’m not feeling very merry either, but it’s a tradition at this point. The good news is that we don’t have to wait long for Orlando City to get a chance to make us forget about Saturday. In an effort to help with that, let’s get to the links, but first, let’s wish Orlando Pride rookie Ally Lemos a happy birthday.
Massacre in Miami
If you’re like me, you turned off Saturday’s Orlando City match at some point. It was easily the worst showing by an Oscar Pareja-coached Orlando City team. Typically, these Lions are mentality monsters and do not give up. I’m not saying that any of the coaches or players will say they did, but the results speak for themselves. I think it best to just put it behind us and move on to the Tigres match, but if you want to revisit it — or if you were fortunate enough not to watch but still want the details — you can read our match recap.
Up Next: Tigres
The early part of the season doesn’t get any easier for Orlando City as the Lions are set to face Liga MX giant Tigres UANL in a Round-of-16 match in Concacaf Champions Cup. Our own Nic Josey touched on the upcoming match. Unlike the previous matches against Cavalry FC, the Lions will play the first leg at home. The match is tomorrow night at 9 p.m. at Inter&Co Stadium. Tigres is coming off a 2-1 loss to Toluca in Liga MX competition. Hopefully, the Lions can shake off the Miami result and take it to Tigres.
It couldn’t happen before the Orlando City match, but Inter Miami is reportedly trading DeAndre Yedlin to FC Cincinnati. Good timing, guys.
In happier news, Malik Tillman scored a very nice goal for PSV against Feyenoord in the 2-2 draw. Tillman made a nifty move through the defender and then slotted it inside the left post.
Tillman isn’t alone in scoring for the Eredivisie club, as both Ricardo Pepi and Sergino Dest have also scored goals this season. In all, the three have 24 goal contributions so far. That ties Mexico for the most by players from another country.
Brentford will be looking to replace departing striker Ivan Toney, and Norwich City striker Josh Sargent is a contender to make the move. Sargent has 11 goals for Norwich so far this season. Christian Pulisic received online death threats after he goaded two Lazio players into receiving red cards in AC Milan’s 1-0 win over the Serie A opponent.
USWNT Rebounds, Blanks Colombia 3-0
The USWNT bounced back from a 2-0 loss to Mexico in the group stage to defeat Colombia 3-0 in a quarterfinal match in the Concacaf W Gold Cup. The U.S. started early with a converted penalty kick by Lindsey Horan. Former Orlando Pride player Alex Morgan drew the foul in the box for the USWNT. Jenna Nighswonger and Jaedyn Shaw added two more goals in the first half. There were no second-half goals, nor were any needed. The U.S. will face Canada in the semifinals on Wednesday.
- Xabi Alonso’s Bayern Leverkusen moved 10 points clear atop the Bundesliga after their 2-0 win over Cologne. It’s a little bit funny that Harry Kane made the move to Bayern Munich and the club might not win a trophy because of Leverkusen’s amazing season.
- NWSL Commissioner Jessica Berman spoke about the growth of women’s soccer in the U.S. amid the joint bid with Mexico for the 2027 Women’s World Cup.
- In a result that everyone hated other than Manchester City fans, Manchester United wasn’t able to help out the rest of the world, falling 3-1 to City on Sunday.
- Catarina Macario scored a goal in her first match back from injury in Chelsea’s 4-0 win over Leicester City.
- The match between Real Madrid and Valencia ended in a 2-2 draw. It also ended on a controversial call when the referee blew the whistle just as Jude Bellingham was scoring what would have been the winning goal.
That will do it for today. Check back for our coverage of the upcoming Tigres and Minnesota United matches later this week. Vamos Orlando!
Orlando City vs. Inter Miami: Five Takeaways
What did we learn from a thoroughly unenjoyable outing in South Florida?
Well. Orlando City’s second league game of the season was a thoroughly unenjoyable one, as the Lions got played clean out of South Florida by Inter Miami. As much as I hate to do it, we need to talk about this one, so what follows are my five thoughts from a horrific showing in SoFlo.
Early Mistakes Seal Orlando’s Fate
The Lions barely had a chance to get their feet underneath them before Pedro Gallese was picking the ball out of his net. Cesar Araujo received the ball in Orlando’s defensive third and immediately tried to play a blind pass backwards, but it went straight to a Miami player. Once the ball made its way from Lionel Messi to Julian Gressel to Luis Suarez, the latter made no mistake and scored to put OCSC into an early hole from which it would never recover.
Tough Night for Two Lions
Speaking of mistakes, that wasn’t the only one that Araujo made during this game. Miami’s second goal came as a result of Rodridgo Schlegel getting pulled out of position and Araujo failing to track the run of Suarez, who found it all too easy to fire past Gallese and double the deficit for Orlando. Schlegel was also culpable for the third goal, as he was too slow to step up with the rest of the back line, and prevented the tally from being called back for offside as a result. Almost no player in purple had a good game, but it was a particularly rough night for two guys who are normally so good for OCSC.
The Lions didn’t look bad going forward for a lot of this one. They managed to get the ball into some good areas, but just had trouble getting the final ball right that would lead to a chance. The introduction of Luis Muriel and Nico Lodeiro after halftime helped provide a spark early in the second half, but Orlando ultimately couldn’t find a way through and the score only got more and more lopsided as a result. When OCSC finally did fashion a clear-cut chance for Ramiro Enrique, the forward didn’t place his shot far enough in the corner and Drake Callender made a good save as a result.
Lack of Effort Worsens Scoreline
Somewhere around the 53rd minute, things really started to devolve for the Lions. Multiple turnovers in the team’s own half led to chance after chance for the home team, and Miami eventually made Orlando pay. The fifth goal will make for extremely unpleasant viewing, as Dagur Dan Thorhallsson decided to not close down Suarez on the wing, giving him way too much time to put the ball on a plate for Messi to head home, while the rest of the team took their time jogging back as Miami broke forward in transition. Orlando kept coming forward doggedly, but the lack of effort on display at times at the back was shocking and uncharacteristic to see.
I have no idea what happened in this match. As soon as the first goal went in, almost the entire team looked slow, out-of-sorts, and on its heels when Miami had the ball. That sort of thing is unacceptable in any game, but especially in this particular fixture. Yes, the match against Tigres is looming large on Tuesday, but the lineup Oscar Pareja put out was not one that suggested the Lions were punting on this game to throw everything they had at Tigres. Instead, an almost first-choice XI turned in perhaps the worst performance we’ve ever seen from an Orlando team coached by Oscar Pareja. It’s possible that we’ll look back on this game as the moment that this team came together and kicked onto bigger things, but in order for that to happen the Lions need to take a good, hard, brutally honest look in the mirror.
I’m sorry to say that’s the worst Orlando City performance I’ve seen in a very long time. Thankfully, the season is a long one and the Lions have plenty of time to right the ship and get back to playing in the manner we’re used to seeing. I think we’ll learn a lot about what we should expect from this team on Tuesday against Tigres. OCSC has a chance to respond the right way and make a statement, and you can bet I’ll be looking for one. Until then, vamos Orlando.
Strong Early Season Competition an Opportunity for Growth
Schedule congestion and tough opponents present opportunities for growth.
It is hard to imagine a more intense start to the season than the Lions have faced competing in both the regular season and the Concacaf Champions Cup at the same time, yet that is exactly the task that the boys in purple find themselves dealing with only days into the season. With both away and home matches already in the books, let’s examine how strong early season competition can be a key factor in the growth of the squad as the season progresses.
For comparison we can look back to one year ago, as thanks to winning the U.S. Open Cup, the Lions found themselves in the Concacaf Champions League for the first time in club history. During their short foray in the 2023 version of the competition, they were matched up against Mexican powerhouse Tigres UANL in a two-leg competition. Orlando did something that many MLS sides can not boast by coming out of the first leg in Mexico without conceding a goal and only failed to advance because of the competition’s away goals rule.
At the time, and even looking back through rose-colored glasses, those two performances demonstrated the quality that Orlando City was ultimately capable of, and it was a form which Orlando showcased in the later stretches of the 2023 season.
This year, once again Orlando is faced with stiff competition throughout its early season matches, which present a grand opportunity to build team chemistry and fortitude that will only truly manifest itself as the season progresses. While Cavalry FC may have not presented much a challenge on the pitch, the logistics of starting a season off thousands of miles away in the Pacific Northwest were challenges that the Lions had to face before a 48-hour turnaround to open the regular season against a CF Montreal side which some are projecting to be a surprise force in the Eastern Conference. Sandwich in the close-out leg against Cavalry in the CCC at home some 72 hours later, and you once again have a recipe for tired legs but early season growth through adversity.
Up next was Saturday’s forgettable trip to square off against archrival Inter Miami. A year ago, Orlando City was one of the only MLS sides to truly frustrate one of the world’s best and unfortunately for players, coaches and fans alike, the first meeting between the rival sides in 2024 ended with a landslide victory for Messi and friends. Still, despite the frustrating loss, there are lessons to be learned and mistakes to correct which can only help the squad grow as the season progresses.
As if all of the schedule congestion was not enough, Orlando learned that its prize for dispatching Cavalry in the CCC was a rematch against Tigres, once again in a two-match, survive-and-advance format. The first game will be played two and a half days after having been beaten down by Miami and the second will come a week later, with yet another MLS regular-season match crammed in between.
All in all, once Orlando City is done facing off against Tigres, the team will have traveled roughly 9,700 miles for matches in the first 21 days of the season and played a match roughly every 60 hours. These matches and the quality of the opponents present Orlando and its players with numerous chances for individual and squad growth, and the experience, especially for still a somewhat young team, is something OCSC can draw upon once the late season and playoff push portion of the calendar arrive. I truly believe this early in the season the importance of the results of the matches come secondary to the opportunities for growth when faced with so many challenges so quickly.
Let us know in the comments below if you think that the early season match ups against quality opponents will ultimately hurt or benefit Orlando City and, as always, vamos Orlando!
Lion Links: 3/4/24
Orlando City vs. Inter Miami: Five Takeaways
Strong Early Season Competition an Opportunity for Growth
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