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Orlando City vs. New York City FC: Final Score 2-2 as Lions Rally From Two Down

Another controversial video review goes against Orlando City late.

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Dan MacDonald, The Mane Land

Orlando City recovered from giving up two first-half goals but could have won had yet another controversial video review not gone against the Lions. Maxime Chanot’s handball on a Dom Dwyer attempt was not called and then not overturned on video review, as the Lions drew New York City FC 2-2 at Orlando City Stadium. The Lions (0-0-1, 1 point) snapped a four-game losing streak to NYCFC (0-0-1, 1 point) and are now 5-5-3 in the all-time series.

“We felt we didn’t deserve to be two-nil down, but we were two-nil down,” said Head Coach James O’Connor after the game. “So, like we said, you either sit and feel sorry for yourself or you get out and you keep believing and you keep pushing and you keep doing the things that we’d spoken about. And I think we were very unfortunate not to go on and win the game at the end. I think there was some kind of controversy or some handball or something, so we go from two-nil down to having a real opportunity to go and win the game.”

O’Connor opted to start mainly the same team that faced NYCFC two weeks ago in the Orlando City Invitational. With Nani having missed a few days of training and flying back a day before the match, the Portuguese star began the game on the bench. He was alongside Dwyer, who was fit enough to be available but not 90-minute match fit after missing the bulk of preseason. Lamine Sané didn’t even make the 18, as O’Connor’s back line featured rookie Kamal Miller, newcomer Alex De John, and Shane O’Neill.

City began the game with good spells of possession but the Lions weren’t really able to generate a lot of clear-cut chances, as the New York City defense and midfield kept the lads in purple away from goalkeeper Sean Johnson. Still, the first shot of the half came five minutes in when Will Johnson fired just inches wide of the post.

New York scored in the 13th minute through Ebenezer Ofori, who was given too much space about 25 yards out, straight above the penalty area. Sebas Mendez was slow to close Ofori down and his shot was hit with power and was well placed just inside Brian Rowe’s post to make it 1-0.

Chris Mueller should have tied the game two minutes later. He was slipped into the top of the area by O’Neill and had either side to choose from but he fired wide of the right post in a chance he’ll no doubt want back.

A minute later, Sacha Kljestan shot from just inside the top of the area but didn’t get all of it and hit it right at Sean Johnson.

Will Johnson (no relation) took a nice layoff pass from Kljestan above the area in the 25th minute but got under it and fired well over the bar, as the Lions missed the net on seven of their eight first-half shot attempts. Eventually the attack started to become just lumping the ball over the top for Tesho Akindele, but he was a lone wolf against three defenders most times, and that was never going to work.

Assistant referee Kevin Klinger appeared to pull a hamstring late in the half and had to switch out with the fourth official in an incident you don’t see every day.

Orlando was lucky not to give up a goal in the 41st minute when Chanot’s free header on a corner kick was sent wide of goal. But the Pigeons got a second just before halftime through Alexander Ring, who took a pass from Alexandru Mitrita, which nutmegged De John, and got in behind the defense before beating Rowe to make it 2-0.

Minutes later, the first half mercifully ended. Orlando City held 62% of the possession to just 38% for NYCFC, but the Lions had little purpose in their attack, despite also being the better passing side (82%-75%). Shots were 8-6 Orlando (1-3 on target, however).

“I thought we were extremely unlucky to be going in two-nil down,” O’Connor said. “I think when you look at the balance of play first half, we had a lot of possession, we were camped in their half, we had multiple good opportunities — I think we were all a little frustrated to go in two-nil down.”

The tide turned in the second half, but it took a few minutes. Kyle Smith had the first good opportunity of the second half, forcing a good Sean Johnson save in the 51st minute. De John got under the cross on the ensuing corner and couldn’t direct Mueller’s pass on frame, as it was just a bit high.

But Mueller pulled the Lions back into the game in the 59th minute. After Kljestan was pulled down out on the left side, just above the penalty area, Mueller stepped up to the ball. The second-year player delivered a dangerous ball into the box that took a bounce and found its way inside the back post. The delivery forced Sean Johnson to decide between playing the oncoming attackers or the ball, and he could only watch as Mueller made it 2-1.

“I just wanted to put it into a dangerous area,” Mueller said. “And I made sure that if no one got a touch onto it, it would creep into that back post area and that’s exactly what ended up happening. So it was good to get the team back into the game.”

Mueller’s goal was the first scored by any Lion in a competitive game against NYCFC since Cyle Larin’s second goal in a 2-1 win on April 23, 2017.

The teams battled back and forth, mostly in the middle of the pitch, for the next 10 minutes or so, and then the game changed again when O’Connor sent Dwyer and Nani onto the pitch in exchange for Smith and Mendez.

“You could hear it, couldn’t you, in the stadium?” Mueller said when asked if he could feel the energy change when Nani and Dwyer checked in. “It got pretty loud in the stadium and I think that just gave us a little bit of an extra boost. Guys were getting tired and they came on and they created a very nice goal together. It was awesome.”

Just five minutes after coming on, Nani — on one of his first few touches as a Lion — unlocked the NYCFC defense with one long pass, sending Dwyer behind the back line on the left. Dom drew Johnson over toward him and slipped a centering pass to Akindele, who tapped it in to open his Orlando City account.

“I thought they came in and they made a huge impact,” Akindele said of Nani and Dwyer entering the game. “I think one of Nani’s first touches was the pass to set Dom through. One of Dom’s first touches was an assist. So that just shows the quality they bring and the depth we have up top.”

Akindele had to leave the game after the goal but said he was just cramping up due to the heat and the effort put into the match.

“I was like, happy (after scoring the goal), but then my body was cramping, so it was kind of weird,” he said, laughing. “I was trying to be like real happy and celebrate but I couldn’t. So, next time maybe I’ll have a better celebration.”

With the game tied, Orlando looked for the winner and it appeared the Lions had their chance to grab it in the 80th minute. Mueller sent in a good cross that Dwyer knocked toward goal. The ball hit Chanot’s arm and Dwyer emphatically screamed for a penalty. Once there was a stop in play, video assistant referee Jose Carlos Rivero buzzed down to referee Baldomero Toledo, who stopped the game and reviewed the play on a monitor.

Although replays show Chanot’s hand out away from his body and moving in a way so as to block the flight of the ball, Toledo did not overturn the play and no penalty was awarded. Following the game, the game officials issued this statement to the pool reporter covering the game:

“The VAR recommended a review for a potential handling in the penalty area. After review, the referee determined that the defender did not deliberately handle the ball.”

O’Connor clarified that he hadn’t seen a good replay of the incident in the box but several players had told him it was a clear-cut handball.

The Pigeons had one more good opportunity, but Rowe was able to deny Mitrita from a tight angle late in the game, and, after 90 minutes plus four minutes of stoppage time, neither team had a win.

Shots for the match were even at 13 apiece, with New York City putting six on frame to Orlando’s four. The Lions held 58% of the possession to NYCFC’s 42%, and Orlando connected on 80% of its passes to the visitors’ 73%.

“I felt like overall the team’s performance was really good. It definitely hurts not to get the three points on the first day but I think that we showed a lot of character fighting back.,” Mueller said.

“I think it’s cool to see the response but obviously you don’t want to put yourself in a position where we go down at all,” Akindele said. “And to be honest, I think that start to finish, I think we outplayed them. I think they had two chances against the run of play that they did really well, that they took advantage of, but honestly I think we completely outplayed them.”

Nani said after the game that he was feeling the effects of the travel but he hopes to be able to start “after a very good week of training.” O’Connor said he went through several instances in his mind of when he’d bring in Nani and Dwyer, who hadn’t trained much with the team this preseason.

“I think if I’m being honest I didn’t envision the two lads getting the minutes that they did,” O’Connor said of his plan on when to use Nani and Dwyer. “But I knew in the back of my mind if we needed a goal or we needed something to change the game, then them two were going to go on. They both deserve a lot of credit because they’ve not done a lot of training. To go on and impact the game like they did, some of the play and the heart that they showed was really encouraging.”

With yet another first-game draw, the Lions are now 1-0-4 in their opening day matches since joining the league.


Orlando City will be back in action next Saturday at the Chicago Fire. Game time is 1 p.m.

Lion Links

Lion Links: 9/28/23

Ajax is reportedly scouting Facundo Torres, Orlando Pride focus on upcoming matches, Houston Dynamo win U.S. Open Cup, and more.

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Dan MacDonald, The Mane Land

How’s it going, Mane Landers? I hope this work week has gone smoothly for you as we get ready to bid farewell to September. It’s been a hectic week for me, but I started and then promptly devoured all of Fourth Wing by Rebecca Yarros. It was a nice read, albeit a bit intense at times. I’m not sure what I’ll read next as most of my reading list is packed up for a move, but if you have any recommendations then let me know in the comments below. Let’s dive into today’s links!

Ajax Reportedly Interested in Facundo Torres

Orlando City forward Facundo Torres has reportedly garnered the interest of Dutch club Ajax according to Fabrizio Romano.

It’s not too surprising that Ajax, which currently sits in 14th in the Eredivisie with just seven goals from five games, has scouts keeping tabs on Torres. The 23-year-old has scored 12 goals this season, powering Orlando to second in the Eastern Conference. It wouldn’t be the first time Torres has received attention from European clubs and likely won’t be the last as he continues to impress with the Lions

Orlando Pride Focus During Playoff Push

The Orlando Pride are back in action on Monday for a crucial road match with Angel City FC. Both teams have 25 points this season, one point from the sixth and final playoff spot currently held by the Washington Spirit. It will be the first of three remaining games for the Pride this season, with matches against fellow playoff hopefuls Racing Louisville and the Houston Dash set for later in October. As a result, there’s not much margin for error if the Pride wish to make the playoffs and Kylie Strom talked about how the team is focused for these games.

MLS NEXT Pro Playoffs Begin This Weekend

The first round of the MLS NEXT Pro playoffs kicks off this weekend with six matches that can all be watched on MLS Season Pass. Unlike last year, Orlando City B will be taking part and is set to face off with Columbus Crew 2 on Sunday at 5:30 p.m. Although the Young Lions have struggled on the road against Columbus, Jack Lynn and Shak Mohammed can make things difficult for the hosts. Hopefully we’ll see OCB make Columbus regret its choice of opponent in the postseason. I like the wrinkle and mind games to the playoffs the new rule gave and am interested to see which of the lower seeds plays with a chip on their shoulder. The playoffs begin on Friday when Sporting Kansas City II hosts Austin FC II in a battle between the third and fourth seeds of the Western Conference.

Houston Dynamo Win U.S. Open Cup

The Houston Dynamo have lifted the U.S. Open Cup trophy after winning 2-1 on the road against Inter Miami. A pair of goals in the first half were enough for Houston to win its second U.S. Open Cup title after also winning in 2018. A goal in stoppage time from Josef Martinez made things interesting, but the Dynamo defense did well to secure the win and deny Miami its second tournament title this year. It was a strong end to a solid tournament campaign from the Dynamo, as they beat four MLS sides before taking down Miami in the final.

Albertin Montoya Hired as Bay FC Head Coach

Ahead of its inaugural NWSL season next year, Bay FC named Albertin Montoya as the club’s first head coach. Montoya, who has lived in California for most of his life, served as the interim coach for the Washington Spirit in 2022 and also coached the U.S. U-17 women’s national team in 2011. Bay FC General Manager Lucy Rushton spoke on how Montoya’s name came up often while the club searched for a head coach, as well as how his skill at developing players will help build the club’s foundation.

Free Kicks

  • Orlando City Head Coach Oscar Pareja called for the supporters to continue filling Exploria Stadium and pushing the Lions forward for the team’s remaining home games this season.
  • St. Louis City midfielder Njabulo Blom won MLS Goal of the Week for his winner against Minnesota United. It was also the 23-year-old’s first professional goal.

That’s all I have for you today. Have a wonderful Thursday and rest of your week!

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Lion Links

Lion Links: 9/27/23

Orlando City falls in power rankings, OCB will take on Columbus Crew 2 in MLS NEXT Pro playoffs, U.S. Open Cup final preview, and more.

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Dan MacDonald, The Mane Land

Hello, Mane Landers. I hope all is well with you down in Florida. There’s not much new with me, I’m just staying busy at work lately and hoping to catch some soccer this weekend. There is plenty to cover today, so let’s get to the links.

Orlando City Drops Two Spots in Power Rankings

The latest MLS power rankings have been released and Orlando City fell two spots to fourth. The Lions lost their midweek matchup 2-0 on the road against New York City FC last Wednesday and closed out the weekend with a 1-1 draw against rival Inter Miami at Exploria Stadium. It wasn’t all bad this past week for the Lions, as Duncan McGuire scored his 11th goal of the year across all competitions. Despite losing to NYCFC a week ago, the Lions remain in second place in the Eastern Conference and are two points ahead of the Columbus Crew, Philadelphia Union, Atlanta United, and the New England Revolution.

OCB Will Take On Columbus Crew 2 in MLS NEXT Pro Playoffs

Orlando City B’s opponent for the first round of the MLS NEXT Pro playoffs was announced on Tuesday, as it will go on the road to take on defending champion Columbus Crew 2 on Oct. 1 at Historic Crew Stadium. As part of the new playoff format that lets higher seeds choose their opponents, Columbus chose to host OCB in the quarterfinals. The Young Lions closed out their regular season this past weekend with a 2-1 win against FC Cincinnati and finished fifth in the Eastern Conference. The Columbus Crew 2 finished its regular season with a 3-2 win against Atlanta United 2 to place third. The clubs split the regular season series, with OCB winning 4-1 on Aug. 27 and Columbus winning 4-0 on May 14. The conference semifinals will be on the following weekend, and the MLS NEXT Pro Cup final is set for Oct. 22.

U.S. Open Cup Final Preview

The 2023 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup will conclude tonight with the final at DRV PNK Stadium as Inter Miami takes on the Houston Dynamo. The match will kick off at 8:30 p.m. and you can watch the match on Paramount+ or CBS Sports Network. Inter Miami’s journey included edging out Nashville SC 2-1 in the Round of 16 and needing to go all the way to penalties to knock out FC Cincinnati after a thrilling 3-3 draw in the semifinals. The Houston Dynamo began their run with a pair of 1-0 wins against the Tampa Bay Rowdies and Sporting Kansas City. Since the Round of 16, the Dynamo cruised past Minnesota United, the Chicago Fire, and Real Salt Lake to get to the final. Houston was on a seven-match unbeaten run before losing to Sporting Kansas City this past weekend. The Dynamo will look to add another U.S. Open Cup title after winning it back in 2018. Lionel Messi will reportedly be a game-time decision for tonight’s final after he didn’t play in Miami’s draw with Orlando.

Spain Wins First Home Match Since World Cup Victory

Spain’s women’s national team won its first match since lifting the World Cup trophy last month, cruising to a 5-0 win against Switzerland in a UEFA Nations League matchup. After dealing with the fallout of former Spanish FA president Luis Rubiales and players boycotting call-ups to the national team before a deal was reached last week, the team wore wristbands that read “Se Acabo,” meaning “this is over,” and players from both teams held a banner with the same phrase before the match. Spain celebrated its win in front of a record-breaking crowd of 14,194 fans that came out to support the team at Nuevo Arcangel Stadium.

Free Kicks

  • Carrie Lawrence and the Orlando Pride were hard at work preparing for the match on Monday against Angel City FC.
  • Angel City exercised its club option to extend former Pride forward Sydney Leroux’s contract through the end of the 2024 NWSL season.
  • The Canadian Women’s National Team defeated Jamaica 4-1 on aggregate to book a spot in next summer’s Olympics.
  • The Seattle Sounders have unveiled their new crest for next year.

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

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Orlando City

Orlando City vs. Inter Miami: Player Grades and Man of the Match

How did your favorite Lions perform in Orlando City’s 1-1 home draw against the Herons?

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Dan MacDonald, The Mane Land

Draws are never satisfying but there’s at least a much better feeling when your team scores the final goal that earns the point rather than conceding so the other team takes two away. Thus was Orlando City’s 1-1 draw at home against Inter Miami on Sunday. It feels better to score the last goal, despite the fact that the same number of goals are scored either way. It’s a grand illusion.

Duncan McGuire’s blast through the legs of Drake Callender at least kept the Pepto-Bismol-colored team from winning at the purple palace and added another point to Orlando’s fine 2023 total.

Here’s how I saw the individual performances from a feisty affair at Exploria Stadium.

Starters

GK, Pedro Gallese, 7.5 — It was another standout game from the Peruvian shot stopper, who made four saves on the night, including a big one to stop a Leonardo Campana attempt from just a couple yards out. Gallese couldn’t do much about the lone goal conceded, as it came off a rebound of a wicked Josef Martinez shot, offering Gallese little opportunity to control the rebound due to the angle and pace. El Pulpo also recorded a clearance and passed at an 81.8% rate, connecting on five of his nine long balls.

D, Rafael Santos, 6.5 — After a couple of somewhat underwhelming performances, the Brazilian had a solid night. He didn’t have a shot attempt, but he managed two key passes despite completing only 71.4% of his passes. He connected on three of his eight long balls and one of his four crosses, but that latter number says more about his teammates not getting onto some good-looking balls into the area. Defensively, he provided two clearances and an interception, committing just one foul and completing a dribble. He even led the team in touches (60).

D, Robin Jansson, 7.5 (MotM) — In the first half, Jansson was the best player on the pitch and, in my opinion, it wasn’t close. The Beefy Swede vaccuumed up almost everything sent forward by Miami that was intended for Campana and Martinez on his side of the field. He finished the night with two tackles and two interceptions but it seemed like more than that. His passing was magnificent, as he completed 89.4% of his 47 passes, including six of seven long balls and his only through ball attempt. He had a key pass as well. He didn’t attempt a shot but he completed one dribble and drew a foul as he stymied the Miami attack. He did his best to cover Martinez’s quick, incisive run to the opposite side but couldn’t block the shot with his sliding effort. His biggest blemish was getting yet another yellow card for dissent — something he’s mostly been able to avoid this season.

D, Rodrigo Schlegel, 5.5 —While I thought Schlegel had a much better night Sunday than he had in the previous two games, it was far from where he was just a week or two earlier. The quick transition gave him a tough choice of backing off Campana and allowing a dangerous shot or doing what he did — stepping out and allowing a through ball. His closeout wasn’t tight enough. His marking on set pieces also left a lot to be desired at times. His passing was mostly accurate (91.5%), and he connected on two of three long balls, but there were a few dicey ones in his own end. He recorded two aerials won, one tackle, two interceptions, and a clearance. He committed three fouls and picked up a yellow card, conceding a dangerous free kick. His lone shot attempt was an off-target header.

D, Dagur Dan Thorhallsson, 6.5 — After a couple of tough games, the Icelandic midfielder-turned-fullback acquitted himself pretty well, considering Inter Miami attacked his side quite a bit. He passed well, connecting 82.5% of the time with one key pass and hitting the target once on two crosses, four times on six long balls, and sent a marvelous through ball that should have resulted in an Ivan Angulo goal, but the winger flubbed his lines. His lone shot attempt was a difficult one and did not threaten goal. He did not record a single defensive stat, although much of the time his opponent curled in toward the top of the area and was passed off to another defender.

MF, Cesar Araujo, 5.5 — The young Uruguayan had a quiet night, without recording any defensive statistics in his 45 minutes before being subbed out at the break for Martin Ojeda. He managed only 23 touches and his passing rate of 73.3% was much lower than his usual standard and he completed one of his two long balls. He also drew two fouls and completed a dribble. He simply wasn’t able to impact the game to the extent we’re used to seeing.

MF, Wilder Cartagena, 7 — It was a good night for the Peruvian midfielder, who was constantly getting under the opponents’ skin. He drew yellow card fouls on Dixon Arroyo and Benjamin Cremaschi — the latter after a slick nutmeg move — and had a steal that was set to ignite the break called back for a foul that I don’t agree was committed. Defensively, he recorded a tackle, a clearance, and an interception. He passed at a 91.1% success rate, created one scoring chance, and completed both of his long-ball attempts.

MF, Ivan Angulo, 5 — Whether it’s a lack of confidence and/or composure or being intimidated by a good goalkeeper, the Ivan Angulo who shoots in warmups is not the same guy in front of goal once the game is underway. He completely flubbed his lines when Thorhallsson sent him in behind for a 1-v-1 chance against Callender. The number of times he gets into dangerous spots and either a bad pass, shot, or decision keeps Orlando City from generating a scoring chance from it is maddening. Angulo failed to get any of his three shot attempts on target. His passing rate was just 60%, he did not have a single key pass, and neither of his two crosses were on target, although his single long ball was. He also didn’t record a single defensive statistic. There are many things Angulo does well, and his speed is tantalizing, but the final product is often lacking.

MF, Mauricio Pereyra, 6 — The captain had a mostly quiet match except when he was scissored down from behind by David Ruiz, somehow only producing a yellow card for the Miami midfielder. Pereyra produced only one key pass and no shot attempts, starting at central attacking midfielder before dropping into central midfield in the second half to pull the strings from a deeper position. He passed at an 80.5% success rate, completing one of three crosses and two of five long balls. He did not record any defensive stats and committed two fouls while drawing three.

MF, Facundo Torres, 6.5 — Torres led the Lions in shots (4), putting two on target, contributing one key pass and winning an aerial. He passed pretty well overall (81.5%), though he did not complete either of his two crosses or his lone long ball. He contributed an interception and a clearance defensively. Miami concentrated on double-teaming the Designated Player whenever possible. Torres still created some opportunities for himself and others, but it was a fairly quiet night overall.

F, Duncan McGuire, 7.5 — The rookie is still getting back to form after returning from injury, so he managed only 18 touches on the night but he did well with the touches he had. Both of McGuire’s shots were on target and both were rockets. Unfortunately, both were right at goalkeeper Callender. Fortunately, the second of those went through the keeper’s legs for the equalizing goal — his ninth of the MLS season. He also created a chance with a key pass, completed 83.3% of his pass attempts, and connected on his only long ball. He even contributed a defensive clearance. It was a good night for the rookie striker, although he wasn’t able to get that many touches.

Substitutes

MF, Martin Ojeda (46′), 6.5 — The Argentine Designated Player came on at halftime for Araujo to give the Lions more attacking presence and an extra playmaker on the field. He continues to grow in recent games, as he put his only shot attempt on target, created a chance with a key pass, and completed two dribbles, although he did have four unstable touches and was dispossessed once. He completed 89.5% of his 19 passes and all three long balls, but missed on his only cross attempt. He helped with the ball back with two tackles, and added a clearance.

MF/F, Ramiro Enrique (74′), 5 — Enrique came on for Angulo, which I thought at the time was the exact sub that was needed, but the Argentine didn’t offer much for the second straight game after winning Player of the Matchday. He did not attempt a shot or create a key pass and managed only seven touches on the night, passing at an 83.3% clip. He chipped in a clearance.

D, Michael Halliday (77′), 5 — The Homegrown defender spelled Thorhallsson but didn’t offer much, despite completing all four of his passes on 13 total touches. He had two unstable touches and was dispossessed once, which is not what you want to see from your fullback in the final 15 minutes of the match. Defensively, he blocked a shot, but he also conceded an unnecessary late corner when he pulled up, thinking he’d won a foul that didn’t end up getting called.

MF, Gaston Gonzalez (84′), N/A — As the MLS U22 Initiative attacker works his way back to fitness, he got a late runout, replacing McGuire, which pushed Enrique to the top of the formation. He conceded a free kick, but I honestly thought his challenge was clean and should have led to an Orlando counterattack. He put his only shot on frame, but it was a weak dribbler right at Callender. He did not complete his only pass attempt of the match.

MF, Junior Urso (84′), N/A — The Bear entered for Pereyra and was active, gettin 12 touches in late. His 90% passing rate on 10 attempts was solid, missing only on his only attempted long ball. He didn’t record any defensive stats, but he also didn’t make any mistakes in his brief spell.


That’s how I saw the individual performances by Orlando City on Sunday night at the stadium. Let me know where I got things right or wrong in the comments below and be sure to vote for your Man of the Match in our poll below.

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