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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.



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

2023 Orlando City Season in Review: Jack Lynn

The 2022 draft pick spent most of his time with Orlando City B during his second year in purple.



Dan MacDonald, The Mane Land

Jack Lynn joined Orlando City through the 2022 MLS SuperDraft, when he was selected in the first round by the Lions with the No. 18 overall pick. He was then signed to a one-year deal in February of last year with options for the next three years. Much of his time during his first season was spent with Orlando City B, although he did make a few appearances for the first team.

Let’s take a look back at Lynn’s second year in purple.

Statistical Breakdown

Lynn made three appearances in Major League Soccer with the senior side, all of which came as a substitute, and finished with 33 minutes on the field. Defensively, he recorded one interception and two clearances, while committing one foul. Offensively, he won four aerial duels, took one shot, which was on target, drew two fouls, and completed three long balls while passing with 76% accuracy. He did not score a goal or assist on one.

As in 2022, the majority of Lynn’s season was spent in MLS Next PRO with Orlando City B. He had a phenomenal year in the developmental league, and his campaign finished with him being named the league’s MVP and winning the Golden Boot. He played in 27 games for the young Lions, 20 of which were starts, and racked up 1,826 minutes. Defensively, he recorded three interceptions, committed 16 fouls, and was shown four yellow cards. On offense, he took 72 shots and put 40 of them on target, scored 19 goals, drew 15 fouls, and passed with 74% accuracy while completing 13 long balls and 12 key passes but no assists.

Best Game

There weren’t a lot to pick from, but I’ve gone with his longest appearance of the year, which was a 20-minute shift during Orlando City’s 4-3 comeback win over the Columbus Crew. He didn’t record many statistics on the night, as he won two aerial duels, committed a foul, and passed with 50% accuracy. However, he provided a big target up front as the Lions continued to lump the ball forward in search of goals, and he factored in on Facundo Torres’ goal, pulling players away so Ramiro Enrique could collect the ball and start the move that ended with the ball in the back of the net. Michael Citro graded him as a 5 out of 10 in our Player Grades piece, the only game this year in which he received a grade.

2023 Final Grade

As he fell well short of the 450 minute threshold that we require for a player to be given, Lynn has been given a grade of incomplete for the 2023 season. After spending the bulk of his time with Orlando City B in his first two seasons as a Lion, we still don’t have a great idea of what he might be able to contribute to the first team, and we simply need to see more of him to get a better read on his abilities.

2024 Outlook

Lynn remains fairly young and inexpensive, has option years left on his contract, and just tore up MLS Next PRO with Orlando City B. With there being some whispers about overseas teams scouting Duncan McGuire, and the Lions already a little thin at the striker position, it wouldn’t be at all surprising to see Lynn’s option year exercised. What sort of role he’ll have will then likely depend on what he’s able to show during preseason, but if nothing else he should remain a key part of OCB.

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Lion Links: 12/8/23

Orlando City will play Flamengo in preseason friendly, Kylie Strom signs new deal, USMNT’s Copa America group draw, and more.



Dan MacDonald, The Mane Land

Happy Friday! The work week is almost over and I’m really looking forward to the weekend. I’ll be celebrating a friend’s birthday and knocking out most of the holiday shopping that I haven’t gotten around to just yet. Hopefully the malls aren’t too chaotic. Regardless, it should be a nice next few days. But for now, let’s get to the links!

Orlando Will Face Flamengo in 2024 FC Series

Orlando City’s first preseason game will take place on Jan. 27 when it takes on Flamengo at Camping World Stadium as part of the 2024 FC Series, which was previously known as the Florida Cup. Going up against one of Brazil’s powerhouses should be great preparation for the Lions after a record season in 2023 that earned them a spot in the 2024 Concacaf Champions Cup. It will be the second meeting between the two sides after a 2015 friendly in Brazil that Flamengo won 1-0. It will be nice to see the Lions in action at Camping World Stadium again and the kickoff time for next month’s match will be unveiled at a later time.

Kylie Strom Signs New Deal With Pride

Defender Kylie Strom, who was a free agent following the 2023 season, will return to the Orlando Pride after signing a three-year deal with the club. She joined the Pride in the summer of 2021 from Atletico Madrid and started in 26 games this past year, holding down the left back position. The Pride now retain their starting back line heading into 2024 and have full protection in Tuesday’s expansion draft. Although the defense struggled at times, it improved as the season wore on and the Pride nearly made the playoffs. Jordyn Listro is now the only free agent left from last year’s squad.

NWSL Announces Blueprint for 2024 Schedule

The framework for the 2024 NWSL season was revealed and the 182-match regular season has been formatted so that NWSL games don’t take place during international breaks. The biggest change is that the NWSL Challenge Cup is no longer a tournament and now just a match between the NWSL Shield winner and the NWSL champion, meaning San Diego Wave FC will play NJ/NY Gotham FC on March 15. However, there will be a weekend tournament organized by the league for all 14 teams during a break in the regular season while the Summer Olympics take place. The playoffs will feature eight teams and won’t include byes this year, with the quarterfinals starting on Nov. 9 and the NWSL Championship set for Nov. 23. Clubs can begin their preseason camps as early as Jan. 22 and no later than Jan. 29.

Copa America Teams Learn Their Groups

The United States Men’s National Team will take on Uruguay, Panama, and Bolivia in its group in the 2024 Copa America. Uruguay was one of the strongest opponents the U.S. could get drawn against, as the South American team has scored 13 goals so far in CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying. The important match between the USMNT and Uruguay will take place on July 1 in Kansas City. We’ll see how much Orlando City winger Facundo Torres plays for Uruguay in the tournament. As for Orlando’s Peruvian pair of Pedro Gallese and Wilder Cartagena, Peru is in a tough group against Argentina, Chile, and whichever nation prevails between Canada and Trinidad & Tobago.

We also have a clearer idea on which teams will be playing in Orlando. Two games will take place at Exploria Stadium, with Chile playing either Canada or Trinidad & Tobago on June 29 before Bolivia and Panama face off on July 1.

Gisele Thompson Signs With Angel City FC

Angel City FC signed young defender Gisele Thompson to a three-year contract that had this year count as the first year, with an option for an additional year in 2026. She turned 18 earlier this month and turned down an offer to play at Stanford to instead sign with Angel City, meaning the club did not need to use a draft pick for her to join. Gisele is the sister of Alyssa Thompson, who Angel City traded up to select with the first pick in the 2023 NWSL Draft. They are the youngest players on Angel City’s roster and will become the second pair of sisters to play in the league.

Free Kicks

  • The Colorado Rapids are reportedly in talks with American goalkeeper Zack Steffen to sign him from Manchester City.

That’s all I have for you today. I hope you all have a fantastic Friday and rest of your weekend!

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Orlando City

2023 Orlando City Season in Review: Favian Loyola

The Homegrown midfielder spent most of the year with OCB but made his MLS debut in July.



Dan MacDonald, The Mane Land

Orlando City signed midfielder Favian Loyola to a Homegrown Player deal through 2025 on Dec. 2, 2022, with club options for 2026 and 2027. The OCSC Academy product became the club’s 13th all-time Homegrown signing and it was no surprise after his fantastic 2022 season. The Camp Lejeune, NC, was coming off a breakout year in the club’s youth system, which culminated with his selection to the 2022 MLS NEXT All-Star Game, in which he was named MVP. After starting the 2022 season on an academy contract, Loyola earned an MLS NEXT Pro deal, signing it last August. When he signed his Homegrown deal in December he became the first player to climb the club’s developmental ladder from the academy, to the current OCB setup in MLS NEXT Pro, to the first team.

Let’s take a look back at Loyola’s 2023 campaign, which was abbreviated due to surgery on his arm to remove a blood clot on Aug. 27.

Statistical Breakdown

Loyola played in just one MLS match with the Lions, making his first-team debut July 1 in a 3-1 home win over the Chicago Fire. The 18-year-old came on as a substitute in the third minute of stoppage time for Facundo Torres and is officially credited with one minute played, although that match went to nine minutes of stoppage. In that short amount of time he managed six touches and attempted six passes, completing all of them — one of them being a key pass. Loyola did not attempt a shot or record any defensive stats, but he did commit one foul, but he was not booked for it.

The bulk of Loyola’s 2023 season was spent with Orlando City B in MLS NEXT Pro, where he was a key player off the bench for Martin Perelman’s side. He appeared in 20 of the team’s 28 matches, starting seven, and logging 732 minutes. He scored two goals and added three assists, putting 10 of his 21 shots on target during the year. Loyola completed 80.3% of his passes with OCB, served up seven key passes and six successful long balls, and completed three crosses. He recorded four tackles and three interceptions, committed 11 fouls while drawing 10, and was booked three times.

Best Game

With just the one MLS match to his credit, Loyola’s MLS debut against Chicago was his best game of the 2023 Major League Soccer Season. It was a memorable match, as he subbed on for Torres, who set the tone for the Lions with a brace that night, and it was also the game in which Mauricio Pereyra made his 100th appearance with Orlando City. Loyola made the most of his short amount of time on the pitch, despite committing a foul during his first minute of MLS play. He settled in and completed all six of his passes and created a scoring chance just seconds after his foul, when he sent a ball to Ramiro Enrique, although the Argentine had his shot attempt blocked from a tight angle.

2023 Final Grade

As Loyola came up short of the minimum total of 450 minutes played to receive a rating on our 1-10 scale, The Mane Land has no choice but to mark his grade as incomplete for the 2023 season. If his meteoric growth continues, Loyola will likely have much more than one appearance next season as his skills at passing and finding pockets of space translate well to the next level. He wasn’t able to return to the pitch after the surgery for his blood clot, but he should be ready to go for 2024.

2024 Outlook

With Loyola being just 18 years old and the club having him under contract, I would expect his role to be the same in 2024. He’ll be learning the ropes with OCB, playing most of the season with the club’s reserve side in MLS NEXT Pro, where he will continue to be a key player. However, if he continues to develop his game, he could push for more late substitute appearances with the first team or even get a start if the Lions draw a lower-league team in the U.S. Open Cup. One thing Loyola will need to work on is controlling the ball, as he turned the ball over 15 times with OCB in 2023.

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