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Orlando City

Orlando City vs. Atlanta United: Final Score 2-1 as Martinez Breaks the Record with Game Winner

Atlanta once again breaks Orlando hearts with a second-half goal.



Dan MacDonald, The Mane Land

Orlando City put in a good performance for 45 minutes but could not maintain it for the full 90. Atlanta United (16-4-6, 54 points) got a second-half goal from Josef Martinez — his record-breaking 28th of the season — to snap a 1-1 deadlock and win, 2-1, in front of 25,058 fans at Orlando City Stadium. The Lions (7-16-2, 23 points) dropped to 0-4-2 in the all-time series and are now winless in six (0-5-1).

It was a workmanlike effort from Orlando City, which was missing midfielders Yoshimar Yotún and Cristian Higuita due to suspension, but the defensive shape throughout the match was mostly good and Atlanta didn’t get its usual number of great scoring chances, despite a final shot advantage of 19-6.

“Obviously very disappointed. It was a game we wanted to try and win for the supporters,” Head Coach James O’Connor said after the match. “When you look at the level of the performance, I think it wasn’t good enough. We need to be honest with ourselves. For where we want to get to and where we’re going to get to, we need levels of performance that are higher.”

O’Connor’s lineup included the return of Jonathan Spector from a hamstring injury and the debut of Carlos Ascues. Sacha Kljestan (ankle) and Mohamed El-Munir (coach’s decision) were not in the 18.

The Lions got the first good look at goal three minutes into the match. Chris Mueller took the ball up the left side and faked his way past three defenders across the top of the box before Atlanta closed on him. The ball deflected wide to Will Johnson, who fired a blast that forced a diving save by Brad Guzan.

Atlanta’s first decent effort came two minutes later when Jeff Larentowicz was left in space above the penalty area. The midfielder smashed a shot that forced Joe Bendik into a diving stop. Four minutes later, Bendik made a comfortable save on Hector Villalba, who cut inside of PC and fired from the top of the area.

Josue Colmán fired wide after a nice buildup play in the 13th minute. Dom Dwyer sprayed the ball wide for Mueller, who found Colmán just inside the area. Two minutes later, PC blasted a shot from the left that Guzan tipped over the net for a corner.

Atlanta broke the scoreless deadlock in the 21st minute after Uri Rosell was whistled for a foul in the defensive third, handing the visitors a free kick. Rosell tried to play a 50/50 ball and extended his leg, which Chris McCann ran into from the side. Ezequiel Barco took the set piece and fired a one-hopper right at Bendik. The Orlando keeper misplayed the hop and it deflected straight to Leandro Gonzalez Pirez, who bundled it in off of Bendik to make it 1-0.

The game slowed down a bit for the next 10 minutes or so before the next good opportunity. Miguel Almiron tried his luck from long range and Bendik didn’t seem to pick it up right away, eventually diving to keep the score at 1-0 in the 35th minute.

Orlando leveled the match four minutes later. As the attack switched from left to right, the ball found its way to Ascues, who gave it to Mueller. Mueller found Johnson, who flicked a backheel into the path of Scott Sutter. The fullback smashed a knuckling shot past Guzan to tie the game in the 39th minute.

“It was a good play by the guys,” Sutter said. “We knew that they were quite vulnerable if you switch the side quickly and I think we did that. I think it was Chris who played the ball inside and Will laid it off perfectly. I took it in my stride and closed my eyes and struck the ball. It was one of my better goals I’ve scored in my career but it all led to nothing, unfortunately.”

Atlanta nearly pulled that goal right back after the restart. An attack down the right managed to get in behind the defense and a pass to Martinez seemed to set him up for an easy goal to set the all-time MLS goal-scoring mark for a single season. Spector got back and did just enough to throw Martinez off and the shot trickled just wide of the right post. That was the last good opportunity for either team in the half and the teams went to their locker rooms all even at 1-1.

Atlanta led in shots (9-4), shots on target (6-3), possession (60%-40%), and passing accuracy (91%-88%), but if not for a big miscue by Bendik, the Lions would have led at the half.

The second half largely consisted of long spells of Atlanta possession above the Orlando City penalty area but not a lot of dangerous attacking movements.

Atlanta got the first dangerous chances of the second half, with Almiron firing a shot over the bar in the 47th minute and Gonzalez Pirez sending a header wide off a free kick two minutes later. In the 55th minute, Bendik made a vital save to deny Villalba and Spector cleared the rebound out of harm’s way. Martinez got onto a cross in the 58th but sent his shot right at Bendik.

Bendik then made back-to-back saves in the 61st minute to keep the game stalemated.

The visitors finally broke through on the counter in the 74th minute after Mueller lost the ball at the top of Atlanta’s penalty area. The ball was cleared out to Villalba, who found Gressel on the right side. Gressel slipped a ball past Rosell, who mistimed his challenge, allowing Martinez to get in behind, where he patiently waited for Bendik to commit and scored the game winner.

Orlando City’s best opportunity to pull a goal back came in the 79th minute. Second-half sub Pierre Da Silva — seeing only his second MLS game action ever — won a corner kick and Johnson delivered an excellent near-post cross to Dwyer, who flicked a header on target. Guzan stuck out a hand to get just enough of it to keep it out and preserve Atlanta’s lead.

From that point on, Orlando continued to try to throw numbers forward and Atlanta seemed destined to get a third on the counter but nothing materialized for either team and the Lions simply couldn’t maintain possession long enough to create anything on the offensive end.

Atlanta led the stat sheet in shots (19-6), shots on target (10-4), possession (62%-38%), and passing accuracy (91%-85%). Orlando managed only a measly two shots after halftime.

“They pinned us in and they were keeping the ball, so for us it needs to be better,” O’Connor said. “When we had the ball we were giving the ball away in needless areas. Our decision making was really poor and we’ve got guys who are better than they showed tonight. That’s the really frustrating thing.”

“Today I don’t think it was good enough,” Sutter said. “James let us know that at the end of the game. I think we just need to improve in every which way.”

One of the bright spots for Orlando City was Ascues, who played 67 minutes in his debut and looked solid after only a week of training with his new team.

“I thought to be fair to him, I thought he battled away,” O’Connor said. “I think all things considered he can be pleased. He gave a very encouraging performance for sure.”

“I feel very grateful for the opportunity to be a part of the starting (lineup) today,” Ascues said through a club translator. “I think that I had a good debut but I’m not happy that we weren’t able to get the result.”

The Lions are back in action next Saturday when the Philadelphia Union visit Orlando City Stadium at 7:30 p.m.

Orlando City

Orlando City at New York Red Bulls: Three Keys to Victory

What does Orlando City need to do to earn all three points on the road at Red Bull Arena this Saturday night?



Dan MacDonald, The Mane Land

Orlando City is back on the road this Saturday with a match against the New York Red Bulls at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, NJ. The Lions have four results in the last four matches, but only one win. That needs to change if this team is going to be a serious contender once the playoffs come around. 

Orlando City defeated the Red Bulls 1-0 to begin the 2023 MLS regular season at Exploria Stadium. Now the Lions have a chance to sweep the Eastern Conference rival in the regular season with another victory. What does Orlando City need to do to get all three points on the road this weekend?

Take Advantage of Tired Legs

The Red Bulls are coming off a midweek away match against Inter Miami, and a flight back to New Jersey. That means that new Red Bulls skipper Tony Lesesne won’t have as much time to game plan as Oscar Pareja will with a full week between matches. It also means that there may be some tired legs on the Red Bulls’ side of the pitch.

If Orlando City can get through the first half with either the lead, or at least even on the scoreboard, it will be tougher for New York in the second half, especially once the hour mark hits. Use possession and passing to make the Red Bulls run as much as possible and then hit them with the fresh legs of Duncan McGuire to finish them off.

Score First, Score Second

We saw what happens when Orlando City doesn’t find a way to get a second goal in the last match against Atlanta United. They don’t call them the Cardiac Cats for nothing. The Lions must get the early lead to make New York chase the match, but they also need to get a second goal before the Red Bulls can get their first.

If Orlando City can go up by two goals, it will be demoralizing for a team that is playing twice in four days, and will have the tired legs mentioned above. It will also give the Lions the mental confidence to potentially get a third goal, as the club did against Inter Miami. Finishing the chances and putting the match to bed early is a big key to victory.

Keep a Clean Sheet

The Red Bulls haven’t scored a ton of goals this season, nor do they have any player lighting things up on the offensive side of the ball. Orlando City hasn’t earned a clean sheet since the April 29 match against the LA Galaxy. The Red Bulls are the type of opponent that could help the Lions solve that dilemma.

Doing so will mean Pedro Gallese must continue being one of the best keepers in MLS. Many of the goals conceded this season are not on him — not all, but certainly many. Michael Halliday will still be with the USMNT U-20 squad this weekend and we might see Oscar Pareja employ three at the back in his absence. If so, it will be contingent upon whoever is lined up on the right to deal with John Tolkin when he presses up the pitch, which he will. 

If  the three center backs do their job, and if Cesar Araujo plays like he usually does, then the attack will likely come from the flanks. It is contingent upon the wingbacks to make sure they don’t neglect the defense, especially later in the match.

That is what I will be looking for this Saturday night as the Lions look for a fifth straight result. Please let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

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Lion Links

Lion Links: 6/1/23

MLS All-Star voting is underway, midweek MLS results, Sevilla wins Europa League, and more.



Dan MacDonald, The Mane Land

Welcome to June, Mane Landers! I hope May treated you well as we get ready for another month filled to the brim with soccer. The Florida summer is heating up, so make sure to stay hydrated out there as we break out the beach umbrellas and dust off the grills. But for now, let’s jump into today’s links!

MLS All-Star Voting Begins

Voting is underway for the 26 players who will be selected for the MLS All-Star Team this summer. Of those 26 players, 12 will be chosen from a combined vote from fans, media, and current players. Orlando City defensive midfielder Cesar Araujo was noted as a candidate who could make this year’s team. Personally, I think goalkeeper Pedro Gallese, center back Robin Jansson, and forward Ercan Kara have a real shot at playing in the All-Star Game if they keep up their form. This year’s MLS All-Star Game will take place against Arsenal in the nation’s capital, with D.C. United Head Coach Wayne Rooney at the helm.

MLS Midweek Action Brings Plenty of Goals

The Lions weren’t in action for this midweek round of games, but there was still plenty of soccer to enjoy from the other MLS teams. Atlanta United and the New England Revolution battled to a 3-3 draw at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Carles Gil and Bobby Wood gave the Revs a 2-0 lead heading into halftime. Atlanta then scored three times in the second half, only for Gil to find an equalizer in stoppage time. It wasn’t the only high-scoring game of the evening either, as the Columbus Crew won 3-2 over the Colorado Rapids thanks to a goal and two assists from midfielder Lucas Zelarayan. Elsewhere in the Eastern Conference, FC Cincinnati beat New York City FC 3-1 and D.C. United and CF Montreal played to a 2-2 draw. Orlando City’s next opponents, the New York Red Bulls, won 1-0 at Inter Miami.

Sevilla Wins Seventh Europa League Title

It took a penalty shootout to decide the winner of this year’s Europa League final, with Sevilla beating AS Roma in Budapest. It was the Spanish club’s seventh time lifting the Europa League trophy. This win salvaged a rough La Liga season for Sevilla and it will play in the Champions League next year. Paulo Dybala gave Roma the lead in the first half, but an own goal levelled things in the 55th minute. Chris Smalling nearly gave Roma the win in extra time, but his header hit the crossbar. It was Jose Mourinho’s first defeat in six European finals and Roma will aim to qualify for the Europa League again when it takes on Spezia in its final Serie A game of the season on Sunday.

More Teams Claim Spots in U-20 World Cup Quarterfinals

Host Argentina was bounced from the U-20 World Cup after a 2-0 loss to Nigeria in the U-20 World Cup. After a scoreless first half, Nigeria struck twice and will face either Ecuador or South Korea in the next round. The other South American nations in action fared a bit better than Argentina, with Brazil cruising past Tunisia, 4-1, in a match that included three goals in stoppage time, and Colombia beating Slovakia, 5-1. In a clash between European sides, Italy won 2-1 over England after Cesare Casadei scored from the spot in the 87th minute. In the quarterfinals, the U.S. will face the winner of today’s match between Gambia and Uruguay.

Free Kicks

  • St. Louis City midfielder Eduard Löwen won MLS Goal of the Matchday for his free kick goal against the Vancouver Whitecaps.

That’s all I have for today. I hope you all have a wonderful start to June!

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Lion Links

Lion Links: 5/31/23

Nani will return to Exploria Stadium for celebrity match, Amanda Allen scores again for Canada, U-20 USMNT defeats New Zealand, and more.



Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Hello, Mane Landers. I hope all is well with you down in Florida. There’s not much new with me up here in Chicago. Now that high school sports have finished up for the school year, I’ll be busy this summer working at Wrigley Field. There is plenty to get to today, so let’s get to the links.

Nani Will Return to Exploria Stadium for Celebrity Match

Former Lion captain Nani will return to Exploria Stadium on June 23 to participate in the celebrity soccer match called The Beautiful Game. The 36-year-old expressed his thoughts on his return to Orlando and taking part in this match next month.

“For me it is an honor to be back in Orlando and be with the fans one more time,” said Nani. “I can’t wait to see my friends from the club, The Wall and all Orlando City supporters again. I’m thankful for this opportunity to play one more time with Roberto Carlos, Ronaldinho, and so many legends.”

Nani played three seasons for the Lions, recording 28 goals and 23 assists in 77 appearances for the club. The match will feature icons such as Ronaldinho, Roberto Carlos, Carlos Valderrama, Javier Mascherano, and Rivaldo as well. The match will also have halftime entertainment, and more additions to the rosters set to be announced at a later date.

Amanda Allen Scores Again in Concacaf Women’s U-20 Championship

Orlando Pride forward Amanda Allen made the starting lineup again for Canada in the 2023 Concacaf Women’s U-20 Championship in the Dominican Republic. In Canada’s final group stage match against the U.S., Allen converted a penalty kick for Canada’s first goal in what finished as a 5-2 loss for her side.

It was Allen’s second goal of the tournament, but she was injured in this match as well. Canada finishes second in the group, with the U.S. on top. On Friday, the U.S. will play Costa Rica and Canada will face Mexico in the semifinals.

U-20 USMNT Advances to World Cup Quarterfinals

Orlando City defender Michael Halliday came on as a substitute in the 71st minute for the U.S. U-20 Men’s National Team in its U-20 World Cup match against New Zealand. The U.S. shut out New Zealand 4-0 to advance to the quarterfinals in Argentina. That victory gives the U.S. its fourth-consecutive shutout in the tournament. Austin FC midfielder Owen Wolff, San Jose Earthquakes forward Cade Cowell, FC Dallas defender Justin Che, and Hajduk Split midfielder Rokas Pukstas all scored for the Americans. In the quarterfinals on Sunday, the U.S. will face the winner of tomorrow’s match between Gambia and Uruguay.

Interim Head Coach Anthony Hudson Leaves USMNT

The U.S. Soccer Federation announced that Anthony Hudson is leaving his role as the USMNT’s interim head coach to pursue a new opportunity. Hudson is reportedly set to take a head coaching role with a club in the Middle East. He was the head coach of the U.S. U-20 team in 2020 and had been an assistant under Gregg Berhalter for the USMN before being named interim head coach in January. Hudson will be replaced by B.J. Callaghan, who will be the interim head coach for the USMNT for the Concacaf Nations League and Gold Cup competitions this summer. Callaghan has been an assistant coach with the USMNT over the last four years and was previously an assistant coach with the Philadelphia Union.

USMNT Will Host Ghana and Germany for October Friendlies

The USMNT will play two international friendlies in October against Germany and Ghana. The U.S. will take on four-time World Cup Champion Germany on Oct. 14 in East Hartford, CT. The last time the USMNT played Germany was in 2015, with the Yanks winning 2-1. On Oct. 17, the USMNT will face Ghana in Nashville. The Black Stars will look to get their first win on American soil against the Stars and Stripes. Ghana eliminated the Americans in the World Cup in 2006 and 2010, but the U.S. defeated Ghana in the group stage at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. The last time these two sides met was in 2017, when the USMNT edged Ghana, 2-1.

Free Kicks

  • The LA Galaxy parted ways with President Chris Klein. Head Coach and Sporting Director Greg Vanney will remain with the club. The Galaxy have missed the playoffs in four of the last six seasons.
  • Former Netherlands forward Quincy Promes will be prosecuted for his involvement in drug trafficking. Promes is accused of allegedly smuggling 1,360 kilos of cocaine in 2020.
  • Juventus is reportedly emerging as the leader in the race to acquire Christian Pulisic on a transfer from Chelsea. Pulisic has one-year remaining on his contract with the English Premier League side.
  •’s James Nalton shared his insights on five potential USMNT players to watch during the U-20 World Cup .
  • An arrest warrant has reportedly been issued in Brazil for LA Galaxy midfielder Douglas Costa for unpaid child support.
  • Is it just me or did The Athletic forget to mention our beloved Lions’ U.S. Open Cup run last year?

That will do it for me today, Mane Landers. Enjoy your Wednesday and I’ll see you next time.

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