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Orlando City vs. Montreal Impact: Final Score 3-1 as Early Mistakes Doom Lions

Ignacio Piatti crushes his favorite punching bag team yet again.

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Dan MacDonald, The Mane Land

The Lions are no longer unbeaten in 2019. The Montreal Impact (2-1-0, 6 points) capitalized on two quick errors in the first half and took control en route to a 3-1 win over Orlando City (0-1-2, 2 points) in front of an announced crowd of 22,352 at Orlando City Stadium.

The Lions were sloppy throughout what turned out to be a chippy and contentious match, and made numerous mistakes to give Montreal scoring opportunities.

Orlando fell to 3-6-2 against Montreal in the all-time series and 2-3-1 at home. The Impact are unbeaten in the last six meetings (5-0-1). The Lions at least finally scored against the Impact after getting shut out in both meetings last year.

“Our mentality needs to be way stronger,” said Head Coach James O’Connor after the match. “To play for this football club you need to have a really strong mentality. When you defend the way we did, you make it practically impossible to give yourself a chance of going and winning the game. You can’t defend like that and expect to get something out of the game.”

O’Connor dropped Alex De John from the starting XI in order to insert Carlos Ascues on the back line. Kamal Miller was dropped from the 18 as the coaching staff would like to manage the rookie’s minutes. As expected, Dom Dwyer stepped into the starting lineup for the injured Tesho Akindele, with rookie Santiago Patino making the game day 18 for the first time in his career.

Despite the graphic, the team played in what appeared to be a 4-3-3 with Nani, Dwyer, and Chris Mueller at the top above Will Johnson, Sebas Mendez, and Sacha Kljestan. The back four (left to right) were Danilo Acosta, Ascues, Shane O’Neill, and Ruan.

Orlando started the game by nearly conceding, which was a sign of things to come. Ascues had a giveaway that created an early chance for Montreal.

“I felt very positive going into the game. I felt very confident. And then we started the game in the worst possible way,” Kljestan said. “Nearly off the kickoff we almost gifted them a goal, off our possession, just passing it right to their forward almost. That kind of set the tone for the rest of the day and we never really got better from that point and we weren’t good enough in the attacking third.”

Despite the early gaffe, Orlando could have scored the first goal. Johnson stole a ball in the fourth minute and worked his way forward but got taken down from behind at the top of the box on what should have been a free kick. Three minutes later, Dwyer blasted a shot over the bar off a Nani feed.

Moments later, Ruan sent either a shot or a cross wide of the far post. But things unraveled quickly in the span of two minutes. Ascues was slow to close down Orji Okwonkwo after a partially blocked cross found the Montreal forward, and Mendez also didn’t do well enough in defense on the play. Okwonkwo turned quickly and fired off the inside of Brian Rowe’s far post to make it 1-0 in the 14th minute.

The Lions then gifted a second goal to the visitors moments later. O’Neill’s horrible back pass was halfway between Rowe and two Montreal attackers. Rowe came off his line to try to clear it but got only Maxi Urruti. That left Ignacio Piatti to deposit his ninth goal against Orlando into an empty net to make it 2-0 in the 15th. Rowe was booked for taking down Urruti.

“You cannot start games like that,” O’Connor said. “And then, if you are going to start the game like that you need to have to have a stronger mentality.”

Making matters worse was that Johnson was forced to the locker room for concussion protocol. He had returned from the early collision in which he was knocked down from behind by Samuel Piette and his head hit on Victor Cabrera as he fell. Despite returning to the match, Johnson must not have felt right, and he left the pitch with his team down, 2-0, eventually being replaced by Cristian Higuita.

“It looks like he’s suffering from a blow to the head, so I think the safest thing obviously was to take him off,” O’Connor said of Johnson’s injury. “It was a blow for us, because obviously he’s someone who has been playing very well. Even in the first couple of minutes, he steals the ball in the midfield, drives to the top of the box…it looked like a free kick, but it wasn’t given.”

The Lions had chances to pull one back before halftime but couldn’t execute. Ruan got loose in the box in the 31st minute and sent a cross through traffic, but none of his teammates made a back post run, and the ball fizzed harmlessly through the area. Four minutes later, Ruan found Dwyer with a cross, but Dom headed down and right at Evan Bush from point-blank range.

Mueller cut from left to right and fired just inches over the bar at the back post in the 42nd minute.

Montreal got the last decent chance of the half when Okwonkwo got down the right channel and fired, but Rowe made the save.

First-half shots were 10-3 in favor of Montreal (5-1 on target), with the Impact holding a 56%-44% edge in possession. Montreal was also the more accurate passing team, completing 80% of all passes, compared to Orlando’s 75%.

Rowe came up big on an Okwonkwo shot in the 47th minute after another Orlando turnover, as the Lions continued to be much looser with the ball all day than in the first two games.

The game started to get more physical and heated after that, with Mendez and Saphir Taider both staying down after a challenge and then Acosta getting booked after a hard aerial challenge against Bacary Sagna, in which it looked like he was simply playing the ball. Montreal took exception and Okwonkwo was booked for retaliating on Acosta moments later.

Orlando should have been back in the game in the 58th minute. Mueller blocked a Cabrera pass and it fell at Dwyer’s feet. With a gaping wide net and only Bush to beat, Dwyer got his shot around the keeper but missed the target completely.

Orlando kept pressing numbers forward to try to claw back into the game and it allowed Montreal to pile up chances. Rowe had to come off his line to thwart Taider on the rush in the 59th minute and Ascues had to clear the ball out after it trickled in behind.

A minute later, Okwonkwo got a shot off while well covered that hit Ascues’ shin and blooped just over the crossbar.

In the 68th, Okwonkwo again got in down the right after a soft pass out of the back never reached Kljestan, but Rowe came out and made a crucial save. Two minutes later, Rowe came out again to beat Piatti to a ball to prevent a scoring chance.

Dwyer had his third excellent scoring chance in the 74th. Nani made a nice play on the left and sent a cross into the 6-yard box. Dwyer got a toe onto it but it trickled just wide of the far post.

After that, O’Connor sent on rookie Santiago Patino — making his MLS debut — and Josué Colmán to try to add something to the attack. Instead, the Montreal lead grew to 3-0 in the 80th minute. Piatti scored his 10th career goal against the Lions. Kljestan tried to turn and clear the ball forward but second-half sub Harry Novillo closed him down and deflected the ball in behind, where it became a Montreal 2-v-1. Piatti doesn’t miss those, especially when there’s only one defender back — Ascues, in this case. With Acosta and Ruan both pressing forward, Piatti easily dispatched Kljestan and slotted home.

“Towards the end we’ve made changes and we’ve got Ruan playing right center back and Sebas playing left center back,” O’Connor said. “So, over the last 15-20 minutes or whatever it is, we’ve made changes to try and get ourselves back into the game because we’re two-nil down. I think when you do that you leave yourself wide open.”

The Impact should have made it 4-0 in the 89th, when Zakaria Diallo got a free header right in front of goal, but he got under it and sent it well over the bar.

Two minutes later, Orlando, and Dwyer, finally finished a chance.

City won the ball in midfield and worked out wide right to Mueller. The second-year Lion put a perfect ball onto Patino’s foot and the rookie drew Bush out off his line and slid a pass over for Dwyer to swipe into the empty net for his second goal of the season.

“Chris played me a great ball,” Patino said of his first MLS assist. “I took a touch. I saw Dom making a run and I just gave it to him.”

As it got late into stoppage time, the Impact took exception to a through ball played on what was a drop ball situation. O’Connor apologized to Montreal after the game, saying “that’s not a good representation of this football club.”

Diallo was sent off during the fracas after grabbing Dwyer’s head and shoving him to the ground. Higuita was booked on the play.

That was about it. The whistle blew and Orlando City had its first loss of 2019.

“There was a general nervousness to our play,” O’Connor. “The start certainly didn’t help. We seemed to be edgy. Honestly it’s not good enough. The first two games we feel we were able to set a standard and we were way off today. We were nowhere near the level of what we want.”

“I expect us to come back stronger,” Kljestan said after the game. “We’ve got to react in a positive way. Bad performance tonight but hopefully we learn our lesson and do better next time.”


The Lions go back on the road next Saturday but getting their first win won’t be easy, as they visit the New York Red Bulls at 7:30 p.m.

Orlando City

Orlando City vs. Cavalry FC, Concacaf Champions Cup: Preview, How to Watch, TV Info, Live Stream, Lineups, Match Thread, and More

The Lions play their first competitive match of 2024 north of the border in the Concacaf Champions Cup.

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Dan MacDonald, The Mane Land

Welcome to your match thread for a Wednesday night Concacaf Champions Cup matchup between Orlando City and Cavalry FC of the Canadian Premier League at Starlight Stadium in Langford, British Columbia at 10 p.m. (FOX Sports 2, TUDN). It’s the first meeting ever between the teams and Orlando City’s first ever match against a CPL team.

Here’s what you need to know ahead of the match.

History

There isn’t any. These teams have never met, nor has Orlando City faced anyone in the Canadian Premier League before.

The Lions will be experiencing their fourth international cup competition and their second foray into Concacaf Champions League/Cup, having drawn twice against Tigres UANL last season. Orlando bowed out of last year’s competition due to the away goals tiebreaker. Orlando City has also competed twice in Leagues Cup.

Overview

Both teams will be playing their first competitive match of the 2024 season. Orlando City is coming off a 4-0-1 preseason, drawing 1-1 against Flamengo before reeling off four straight wins against Rhode Island FC, the New England Revolution, the Houston Dynamo, and the Colorado Rapids. City reached the Eastern Conference quarterfinals in 2023 and is looking to build on its most successful season to date in MLS.

Cavalry FC is coming off a season in which it finished top of the table in the regular season, but fell 2-1 after extra time in the CPL championship match against Forge FC. As far as CPL teams go, the Lions will be facing one of the league’s best, as you’d expect in a competition called “Champions Cup.”

“We’re very proud and very happy to bring Orlando City to this beautiful city and this excellent competition,” Orlando City Head Coach Oscar Pareja said. “(We’re) Feeling proud of playing in Champions Cup in Concacaf and obviously aiming for the best prize, and here we are starting the season with obviously a very competitive game.”

Pareja is suspended for tonight due to his red card in the second leg against Tigres in 2023.


Projected Lineups

Orlando City (4-2-3-1)

Goalkeeper: Pedro Gallese.

Defenders: Rafael Santos, Robin Jansson, Rodrigo Schlegel, Michael Halliday.

Defensive Midfielders: Cesar Araujo, Wilder Cartagena.

Attacking Midfielders: Ivan Angulo, Nico Lodeiro, Facundo Torres.

Forward: Duncan McGuire.

Cavalry FC (4-2-3-1)

Goalkeeper: Marco Carducci.

Defenders: Bradley Kamdem, Daan Klomp, Eryk Kobza, Fraser Aird.

Defensive Midfielders: Charlie Trafford, Jesse Daley.

Attacking Midfielders: William Akio, Sergio Camargo, Ali Musse.

Forward: Myer Bevan.

Officials:

REF: Juan Gabriel Calderon (Costa Rica).
AR1: William Arrieta (Costa Rica).
AR2: Henri Pupiro (Nicaragua).
4TH: Keylor Herrera (Costa Rica).
VAR: Oscar Mejia (Mexico).
VAR1: Erick Miranda (Mexico).


How to Watch

Match Time: 10 p.m.

Venue: Starlight Stadium — Langford, British Columbia.

TV: FOX Sports 2, TUDN.

Streaming: The match can be streamed on FOX Sports GO, the FOX Sports app TUDN.com, and the TUDN app.

Twitter: For rapid reaction and live updates, follow along at @TheManeLand, as well as Orlando City’s official Twitter feed (@OrlandoCitySC).


Enjoy the match. Go City!

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Lion Links

Lion Links: 2/21/24

Orlando City takes on Cavalry FC tonight, Lions sign Jeorgio Kocevski, USWNT wins in Concacaf W Gold Cup, and more.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Hello, Mane Landers. I hope all is well with you in Florida as we get to watch the Lions in action tonight in the Concacaf Champions Cup. There’s not much new with me this week other than staying busy covering high school basketball and hockey. Let’s also wish a happy birthday to Orlando Pride forward Amanda Allen. There is plenty to cover today, so let’s get to the links.

Orlando City Takes on Cavalry FC Tonight

Orlando City will be in action tonight in the first round of the Concacaf Champions Cup, as it takes on Cavalry FC at Starlight Stadium at 10 p.m. This matchup will be the Lions’ first competitive match of 2024, with their MLS season opener against CF Montreal set for Saturday. The Lions were knocked out by Tigres due to away goals in last year’s Concacaf Champions League. Cavalry FC will make its debut in this competition tonight and qualified by winning the 2023 Canadian Premier League Shield. The second leg between these two sides will be on Feb. 27 at Inter&Co Stadium.

Orlando City Signs First-Round Draft Pick Jeorgio Kocevski

Orlando City signed 2024 MLS SuperDraft pick Jeorgio Kocevski to a contract through the 2024 season, with club options for 2025, 2026, and 2027. Kocevski scored the game-winning goal in stoppage time in Orlando’s final preseason match against the Colorado Rapids this past weekend. The midfielder was selected 21st overall in the first round of the 2024 MLS SuperDraft by the Lions in December. He played four years for Syracuse, recording seven goals and 18 assists in 71 matches. Kocevski is the only player the club has signed from the Lions’ 2024 draft class and will likely get some minutes with Orlando City B this season.

St. Louis City and Philadelphia Union Win in Champions Cup

Orlando City isn’t the only MLS team kicking off its Concacaf Champions Cup campaign this week. St. Louis City edged out the Houston Dynamo 2-1, with rookie Hosei Kijima scoring the winner in stoppage time. The Philadelphia Union were on the road in Costa Rica to face off against Deportivo Saprissa and won 3-2 thanks to a hat trick from Julian Carranza in the second half. As for other tournament matches this week, the New England Revolution face Independiente in Panama tonight, with Nashville playing Moca FC in the Dominican Republic and FC Cincinnati taking on Jamaica’s Cavalier SC tomorrow.

USWNT Beats the Dominican Republic in W Gold Cup

The United States Women’s National Team got its Concacaf W Gold Cup campaign off to a great start with a 5-0 win against the Dominican Republic in Group A. Olivia Moultrie scored her first USWNT goal to give her team an early lead, with Lynn Williams giving the U.S. another goal before halftime. Moultrie scored another in the second half to earn her brace, and Jenna Nighswonger converted a penalty for her first USWNT goal as well. Former Pride forward Alex Morgan replaced Mia Fishel on the roster due to injury and scored from the penalty spot in stoppage time. The USWNT’s next game will be against Argentina on Friday at 10:15 p.m.

UEFA Champions League Roundup

The UEFA Champions League had plenty of drama as the round of 16 continued. Inter Milan won 1-0 in its first leg against Atletico Madrid at home, with Mark Arnautovic scoring the only goal in the match. In the Netherlands, PSV Eindhoven and Borussia Dortmund played to a thrilling 1-1 draw. The second legs for both matchups will be played on March 13. There is more Champions League action today, as FC Porto hosts Arsenal while Napoli takes on Barcelona.

Free Kicks

  • The latest MLS power rankings are out just before the regular season begins. Orlando City begins the season in the fifth spot.
  • Orlando City and the Orlando Pride announced fan experience upgrades at Inter&Co Stadium featuring Amazon’s Just Walk Out technology in merchandise shops, stadium Wi-Fi upgrades, and a jersey history experience.
  • The MLS Players Association released a statement on the ongoing referee lockout.
  • Here is the list of MLS Season Pass commentator assignments for opening week.

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 Signs First-Round Draft Pick Jeorgio Kocevski

Orlando City signs its first-round draft pick Jeorgio Kocevski to a one-year deal with three option years.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Orlando City SC announced the signing of first-round 2024 MLS SuperDraft pick Jeorgio Kocevski today. The deal is through the upcoming 2024 season with club options for 2025, 2026, and 2027. The Lions selected the Syracuse midfielder with the 21st overall pick in the draft in December.

“Jeorgio has had a really strong preseason camp with us, demonstrating everything we saw in him when we were scouting him and analyzing his game in college,” Orlando City Executive Vice President of Soccer Operations and General Manager Luiz Muzzi said in a club press release. “He’s done well working his way into the group, even starting in our friendly against Flamengo and holding his own against some of the best in Brazil, and we’re excited to have him with us this season.”

The box-to-box midfielder made three appearances this preseason, starting against Brazilian club Flamengo and the following scrimmage against USL Championship side Rhode Island FC. He came on at halftime against the Colorado Rapids last weekend, scoring the winning goal in the 90th minute.

Prior to being selected by the Lions, the Liverpool, NY, native made 71 appearances with 65 starts and logged 5,599 minutes for Syracuse in four years. He scored seven goals and recorded 18 assists, putting 33 of his 93 shots on frame. Additionally, he was part of Syracuse’s 2022 NCAA national championship team, playing 90 minutes in the 2-2 draw, but missing in the team’s victorious shootout over Indiana.

Kocevski had a breakout junior year, being named to the United Soccer Coaches’ All-South Region third team, All-ACC third team, NCAA All-Tournament team, and ACC All-Tournament team. During his senior year, he wore the armband for the Orange and was named All-ACC first team and ACC Co-Midfielder of the Year.

What It Means for Orlando City

Kocevski was the most likely pick from this most recent draft to be signed by Orlando City. The departure of club captain Mauricio Pereyra left a spot in the midfield and Head Coach Oscar Pareja seemed to feel the rookie could fill it from early on. His start against Flamengo was in the place of regular starter Cesar Araujo, who was on international duty with the Uruguay U-23 national team. He played against Flamengo’s best lineup and did quite well in almost an hour on the field in his first minutes of play at the professional level.

While a spot was open for the signing of Kocevski, he likely won’t see much of the field for the first team this season. In addition to being behind starters Araujo and Wilder Cartagena, the defensive midfielder will be behind Felipe on the depth chart. In all likelihood, the rookie will slot in with Orlando City B in MLS NEXT Pro to get some minutes, but there is room for him to start regularly with that team.

Kocevski is currently the only player signed by the club from the Lions’ 2024 draft class. West Virginia midfielder Yutaro Tsukada, Pittsburgh midfielder Filip Mirkovic, and Charlotte midfielder Riyon Tori remained unsigned, with the latter opting to return to school for his senior season.

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