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Intelligence Report: Scouting Orlando City vs. Portland Timbers



Orlando City looks to take its unbeaten streak to four straight to start the season tomorrow night at the Citrus Bowl, but it won’t be easy. The Lions welcome the defending MLS champion Portland Timbers to the City Beautiful.

Team captain Kaká is expected to make his 2016 MLS debut, giving the Lions (1-0-2, 5 points) a boost in their nationally televised match-up with the Timbers (1-1-1, 4 points). Orlando City may not have a loss yet, but it is still searching for that elusive first home victory. Last year it took a while. Hopefully, this season it will come earlier. Perhaps tomorrow?

Portland has a dynamic attack force with guys like Darlington Nagbe, Diego Valeri, Fanendo Adi and Lucas Melano. But the Timbers have a chink in their defensive armor, with Liam Ridgewell out. Here to help us scout the defending champs is Will Conwell from our SB Nation sister blog covering the Timbers, Stumptown Footy. I’ve answered their questions as well, in case you want to check that out.

What are Portland’s key off-season additions and subtractions that we should know about and how have they affected Caleb Porter’s team and approach?

Will Conwell: When looking at what has changed for the Timbers since 2015, one has to pay special attention to the team’s left flank. With Jorge Villafana tearing it up in Mexico and Rodney Wallace wandering far off lands, the Timbers found themselves in need of a whole new approach on the left for 2016.

At left back the team brought in Columbus Crew SC defender Chris Klute, intending to shape him into the league’s next dominant fullback in much the same way that they had with Villafana. However, when Klute arrived, his recovery from an off-season knee surgery was significantly behind what the Timbers were expecting, forcing the team to scramble to figure out the fullback situation — further compounded by an injury to center back and team captain Liam Ridgewell. Klute is just now reaching full match fitness, but suddenly finds himself with some competition in 21-year-old Leicester City loanee Jack Barmby. It is unclear who will get the start at left back on Sunday, but for the first time in 2016 the Timbers are starting to approach their preferred option at the position.

Further up the pitch, the transition from Wallace to mid-2015 signing Lucas Melano has been a much less bumpy one. With the team having moved to a 4-3-3 formation late in 2015, Melano and opposite side winger Dairon Asprilla have made the flanks their own. Bringing pace and athleticism to the side, either can be a handful for opposition fullbacks, but both are young and raw players, in need of some tweaking to their respective games if the Timbers are going to be a top side in MLS.

Portland obviously finished strong, winning MLS Cup off a third-place regular season finish in the Western Conference. How has that changed fan expectations for 2016?

WC: If you win the MLS Cup, expectations are going to go up; that’s life. For the Timbers, however — and it seems like the Lions can probably identify with this — expectations are always going to be high to begin with.

The Timbers may have finished in third place in a ridiculously tight West last season, but they did so with some late smash and grab victories that propelled them up the standings after months and months of flirting with the dreaded red line. At this point, Caleb Porter and company have gained a reputation for turning it on late in the season and peaking at just the right time, but for much of last year, there was plenty of hand-wringing and even speculation that Porter could be on the hot seat if things didn’t turn around.

This year, it is hard to determine just how much slack the Timbers are going to get. After going 1-1-1 in March, the Timbers seem to be somehow ahead of expectations. That might be because those four points in March are the Timbers’ most to open the season since Porter took over as head coach. Or it might be because the team’s back line has been shredded by injuries. Or any number of other reasons.

What kind of formation and tactics can we expect from the Timbers this weekend against what is most likely going to be some variation of a 4-3-2-1 or 4-3-3 by Orlando City, and what do you view as the game’s key match-up?

WC: The 2016 Timbers are a counter-attacking team. With attack-minded wingers, perhaps the best target forward in the league, and a midfield capable to getting the ball down the pitch quickly and efficiently, the Timbers love to let the opposition come to them before striking down the pitch with ruthless efficiency.

Well, maybe not that ruthless. As is customary for the Timbers early in the season, the finishing is not quite there yet and, despite leading the league in chances created, the side is still more than happy to take whatever half-chances come, rather than engineering fewer full-chances.

Many of those come from Asprilla and Melano on the wings, with the Timbers generating a significant number of their attacking movements from out wide. With Fanendo Adi holding the ball up at the top of the formation for Diego Valeri or Darlington Nagbe to send the ball down either flank, the Timbers’ wingers are often put into situations where they have the room and freedom to drive at the opposition box and either shoot or play a ball in for Adi and company to get on the end of. That wing play has been the Timbers’ focus for much of the last two weeks, so it should come as little surprise to the Orlando fullbacks when they find themselves under pressure for much of the match.

What is your anticipated starting XI, key injuries/suspensions, and score prediction for Sunday?


Starters: Adam Larsen Kwarasey; Jack Barmby, Jermaine Taylor, Nat Borchers, Alvas Powell; Diego Valeri, Diego Chara, Darlington Nagbe; Lucas Melano, Fanendo Adi, Dairon Asprilla.

Key Injuries: Liam Ridgewell.
Key Suspensions: None.
Score Prediction: None for me, thanks. (Editor’s note: Boo!)

* * *

Big thanks to Will from Stumptown Footy for giving us some insight on the defending champs.

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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