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Orlando City

Orlando City vs. New York City FC: Final Score 1-1 as Lions Grab Another Road Point

The Lions and Pigeons played out their second draw in as many games in an end-to-end battle.

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Dan MacDonald, The Mane Land

Orlando City (3-3-3, 12 points) denied New York City FC (2-1-6, 12 points) a third straight win in seven days as the Lions left Yankee Stadium with a point after a 1–1 draw. The result means New York City remains unbeaten at home in 2019 (1-0-4). It was the second time the teams have shared the points in league play this year after an opening weekend 2–2 draw.

Head Coach James O’Connor made only one change to last week’s side, recalling Tesho Akindele up front in place of Dom Dwyer. According to reports on My65, Dwyer picked up a minor knock in training late this week.

It was New York City threatening early, giving Orlando a scare in the sixth minute, courtesy of a lofted ball that put Anton Tinnerholm in behind a scrambling Orlando back line — a cross-field ball New York continually looked for throughout the game. The Swede fired in a low cross before making a half-hearted claim for handball off his sliding countryman, Robin Jansson, but referee Drew Fischer wasn’t interested.

Orlando’s first venture into the box came off a quick counter down the left in the 10th minute, with Akindele holding the ball up well before feeding Chris Mueller at the top of the box but the ball was quickly stolen off his toe as he looked to set himself.

Despite NYC’s domination of possession, it was the Lions who struck first, as they were more clinical in their second visit into the New York area. This time, play came from Ruan off the right wing. The fullback’s cross was cut out by Maxime Chanot, but the clearance was weak and fell kindly at the feet of Nani, who calmly stroked the ball into the bottom corner in the 18th minute, extending the Portuguese international’s scoring run to four consecutive games.

New York City went close in the 25th minute, as a whipped Maxi Moralez free kick found the head of an onrushing Héber, New York’s newest number nine, but the Brazilian didn’t catch the header well and Orlando goalkeeper Brian Rowe was quick to show off his reflexes to push the ball over.

The game continued to stretch as a combination of a sliding Sean Johnson and a Chanot goal-line clearance prevented Nani from doubling his tally a minute later, before Lamine Sané was forced into an outstanding recovery challenge on Héber at the other end, as the home team continued to force the issue and attempt to find an equalizer.

Orlando thought it had doubled its lead in the 33rd minute when Akindele poked home at the back post, as New York City once again was undone by defensive errors, only for it to be chalked off by video review, as Fischer found Nani to be offside in the buildup.

That decision seemed to swing momentum in favor of the home side and drop Orlando heads, with Ismael Tajouri-Shradi agonizingly sending his shot an inch wide of Rowe’s post a minute after the goal was overturned — a moment that would’ve left City fans and a stranded Rowe alike holding their breath.

New York continued to ask questions and, despite surviving the onslaught, Orlando’s defensive efforts were far from convincing. Sané hacked wildly at a cross, nearly slicing it into his own goal, only for Jansson and Rowe to save his blushes. It was then their turn as miscommunication between the aforementioned Jansson and Rowe nearly gifted NYCFC a goal: the Orlando goalkeeper spilled what should have been a routine collection on yet another Moralez cross but a combination of the jumping Swede and a lurking Héber did enough to put off Rowe, who was relieved to fall on the loose ball at the second time of asking.

In the 44th minute, a Mendez long ball found its way through to Nani, who thought he had a strong penalty appeal as he looked to cut inside but was taken out. Fischer was unmoved by the appeals, as Nani sat on the floor throwing his arms up in disbelief, but play continued with no VAR check.

After an entertaining half for the neutrals, Orlando went in at halftime leading 1-0. The coaches would have been less pleased with a blistering end-to-end game riddled with defensive errors that somehow had only produced one goal.

New York’s tenacity paid off early in the second half. Moralez, by far the busiest player on the pitch, drove up the field and forced Rowe into a spectacular diving save from distance. Rowe could only push it onto the post and Héber was there to sweep in the rebound, tying the game up six minutes after the break.

Alexander Callens and Moralez once again tried from distance as the Pigeons went in search of a second and continued to see much of the possession.

Dwyer made his fifth substitute appearance of the season in the 62nd minute, as O’Connor had seen enough of his side’s second-half struggles. The substitution did very little to put Orlando on the front foot, as the defense remained under near-permanent pressure and he was fortunate to avoid a booking in the first few seconds, fouling Callens late after the ball had been cleared.

Another teasing set piece was once again dealt with unconvincingly in the 65th minute. This time, the ball pinballed around the box before Joao Moutinho eventually hoofed clear.

Dwyer eventually got a first look at goal in the 68th minute when a cross from Ruan found him unmarked three yards out. He had the whole goal to aim at, but the English-American, who has regularly come into criticism this season as he has struggled to put away chances, headed wide.

O’Connor’s second change saw him turn to Sacha Kljestan in the 74th minute, sacrificing Sebas Mendez in another attempt to create something further up the pitch.

A quick free kick caught Orlando napping for the second time this season with Sané left one on one with Moralez. The gifted Argentine nutmegged Sané, but Uri Rosell was there to tidy up and boot the ball away for a corner.

Alexandru Mitrita came into the game in the 77th minute, a like-for-like replacement with Tajouri-Shradi as Dome Torrent looked to inject some fresh legs into the game and find a winner with New York City looking dominant over a tiring Orlando, which had spent much of the second half chasing shadows. New York’s possession was still 65% by this point.

As if Torrent’s intentions weren’t clear enough, the Spaniard then took off defender Ben Sweat and gambled for the win with attacking midfielder Valentín Castellanos, who had scored NYC’s winner on Wednesday night against Chicago.

Orlando was once again left questioning Fischer’s refereeing when Jansson picked up a yellow in unusual circumstances. The center back was penalized for holding off Heber and New York was awarded a highly questionable free kick — not for the first time in the game. Fortunately, Mitrita failed to capitalize, blasting it into the wall.

Tempers momentarily flared when Callens aggressively bounced back up and tried to get into the face of an already-apologizing Kljestan, who had tripped the Peruvian, a sign of the frustration as the tempo slowly dropped away from both teams in a testing stalemate that had seen New York City carve out a significant number of chances.

And there was still time for one last chance, with the diminutive Moralez once again snaking his way towards into box before firing into the side netting as precious seconds ticked away and all 11 Lions remained pinned in their own half.

It wasn’t the performance becoming of an Orlando team that has now played teams on short weeks in consecutive games, but a point on the road at conference opponents is never something to turn down. Despite New York’s complete control over possession and the huge disparity in terms of shots (15-3 in favor of NYCFC and 5-2 on target), it was actually Orlando that was perhaps closest to a winner, only for Dwyer to miss an open goal.


Orlando’s attention now turns to next Saturday’s home game and the visit of a resurgent Toronto FC side. Kickoff is set for 4 p.m. ET.

Lion Links

Lion Links: 11/30/23

Orlando City faces big questions, Matt Miazga suspended, Emma Hayes meets USWNT for first time, and more.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

November is finally coming to a close. It’s been a bit of a rollercoaster of a month for me, with highs, lows, and many things in between. All in all, I’m pretty glad it’s nearly over, although I expect December to be similarly hectic. At least this weather is allowing me to break out some winter clothes and turn on the fireplace in this new apartment. I’m not sure why a fireplace was installed in a Floridian apartment, but I’m not complaining. Let’s dive into today’s links!

Big Decisions Await Orlando City

With Orlando City’s season over, attention now turns to a critical off-season for the club. Head Coach Oscar Pareja is out of contract after leading the Lions to the playoffs for the past four years. The club will also need to decide if it will exercise the 2024 options on the contracts of both Executive Vice President of Soccer Operations and General Manager Luiz Muzzi and Technical Director and Assistant General Manager Ricardo Moreira. All three have orchestrated Orlando’s transformation that’s included winning its first trophy, having its best season this year, and qualifying for both the Concacaf Champions League and Champions Cup. Potentially transferring Facundo Torres to Europe, filling the empty Designated Player slot, and deciding which players to bring back for 2024 are also on the agenda. However, figuring out who will lead the Lions into this exciting next chapter is paramount. Personally, I think the club should do everything in its power to keep the people who brought Orlando to this point.

Matt Miazga Suspended for Three Games

FC Cincinnati will be without MLS Defender of the Year Matt Miazga for Saturday’s Eastern Conference final, as he was suspended by MLS for three games due to his misconduct after the match with the New York Red Bulls on Nov. 4. Miazga was also fined an undisclosed amount and will undergo a behavioral assessment as part of the league’s Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health Program. Following that aforementioned playoff match, reports surfaced that Miazga gained unauthorized access to an area reserved for the referees and acted aggressively. Any suspended games not served during Cincy’s playoff run will carry over into the 2024 season, although Miazga can petition for a reduction based on compliance with recommended treatment plans.

Emma Hayes Meets With USWNT Players and Staff

Emma Hayes, who was hired as the next United States Women’s National Team Head Coach earlier this month, made the trip to Florida to meet the team for the first time. Although she won’t be coaching the team for its upcoming pair of friendlies against China, she collaborated with interim head coach Twila Kilgore on the latest training camp roster and will continue to work with her until taking over in May. There won’t be much time between Hayes’ official start date and the 2024 Summer Olympics, making these moments of face time between player and future coach all the more important. USWNT captain Lindsey Horan spoke on the team’s goals after meeting Hayes for the first time.

“There’s so much talent in this team, and I don’t think the world has seen enough of it yet just because we need to go out and show it,” Horan said. “We need to be able to mesh together and show everything that we have, and what we’re all about, and how we can really collaborate and play together — be more of a team and be a powerhouse again.

“It’s going to be exciting for us to have her and see what she can do with this team and how she can help us moving forward.”

Ricardo Pepi Sends PSV Into Champions League Knockout Stage

PSV Eindhoven clinched its spot in the next round of the UEFA Champions League in dramatic fashion, with American forward Ricardo Pepi scoring the winner in a 3-2 comeback win over Sevilla in Spain. Trailing 2-0 in the second half, American left back Sergino Dest provided the assist on PSV’s first goal and Pepi found the winner in stoppage time, with fellow American Malik Tillman also coming off the bench. From his little flick to send a teammate forward to his run and clinical header, it was a great goal by the 20-year-old.

Elsewhere in the Champions League, Arsenal beat Lens 6-0 to advance, Real Madrid won 4-2 against Napoli to win its group, and Real Sociedad played to a scoreless draw with RB Salzburg. Manchester United remains in last place of its group after a 3-3 draw with Galatasaray, with goalkeeper Andre Onana unable to stop Hakim Ziyech from scoring off of two free kicks. All’s not lost for United though, as it can still qualify for the round of 16 by beating Bayern Munich at home so long as the other match ends in the group ends in a draw. It all makes for what should be an exciting final matchday in the group stage.

Free Kicks

  • The Kansas City Current announced that American midfielder Sam Mewis will not be returning to the club for the 2024 season. The 31-year-old has not played since 2021 as she continues to recover from a knee injury.
  • The Utah Royals have signed free agent forward Imani Dorsey on a contract through the 2025 season. Dorsey has most recently played for NJ/NY Gotham FC, although she didn’t participate in this past season due to mental health reasons.
  • Manchester United is reportedly ready to move on from Mason Mount just six months after he joined the team from Chelsea.
  • Tomasz Kwiatkowski, the video assistant referee involved in a controversial handball that eventually led to Paris Saint-Germain’s equalizer in stoppage time against Newcastle, was removed from his next scheduled duty by UEFA.
  • Amidst a four-game winless streak, French club Nantes has fired Pierre Aristouy as its manager, immediately replacing him with Jocelyn Gourvennec.
  • We’ll end our links with this interesting article that dives into how Romelu Lukaku unexpectedly arrived at AS Roma and how he’s thriving at the Italian club.

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

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Orlando City

2023 Orlando City Season in Review: Alex Freeman

We start our Orlando City player reviews with a look at a Homegrown fullback who made his MLS debut this season.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City B

Orlando City signed fullback Alex Freeman to a Homegrown Player contract on February 15, 2022. He became the Lions’ 12th Homegrown signing and his deal runs through the 2025 season with a club option for 2026, but the youngster did not see action in Major League Soccer last season. With the departure of Ruan, there was an opportunity for Freeman to win a job with the first team in camp but he wasn’t quite ready to make the jump, instead playing an important role with Orlando City B throughout the 2023 MLS NEXT Pro season.

Let’s take a look back at Freeman’s 2023 campaign.

Statistical Breakdown

Freeman made his MLS debut on April 29 in a 2-0 home win over the LA Galaxy. It was not just his debut with the first team, but it was also his only appearance with the senior squad in 2023, although he did make the substitutes’ bench a few times after that. Officially, he logged only one minute, entering in the 93rd minute. He was only on the pitch a matter of seconds, so it’s unsurprising that he registered nothing on the stats sheet.

The son of former NFL receiver Antonio Freeman, Alex starred with OCB in 2023. In MLS NEXT Pro play, Freeman appeared in 24 of OCB’s 28 matches, starting 22, and logging 1,855 minutes. He finished tied for third on the squad in goals (4), adding three assists and passing at a 79.1% success rate. Freeman attempted 25 shots, putting 11 on target, and contributed 10 key passes. He committed 22 fouls, drew 27 on the opposition, and was booked four times. He also started OCB’s playoff match at Columbus, playing 89 minutes in the Young Lions’ 2-1 road loss. Freeman didn’t contribute a goal or assist or attempt a shot in the match, but he passed at an 88% rate, created one scoring chance, and committed one foul.

Best Game

With only one MLS appearance to his credit, the default best game for Freeman came on April 29 in Orlando City’s 2-0 home win over the LA Galaxy. Freeman didn’t even officially touch the ball in the game, but it’s not every day a teenager gets to play in an MLS match, and I’m sure it was a special moment for him. It was certainly a milestone in his professional soccer career.

2023 Final Grade

As Freeman fell well short of the minimum 450 minutes played mark 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. There are areas of Freeman’s game that need a bit of refining, but at the same time, it’s easy to see why he landed a Homegrown contract, why Orlando City would find him an intriguing prospect, and why he’s been getting called up by the United States for U-20 international duty. His attacking presence was huge for OCB in 2023 and he was one of the key players that led the Young Lions to the postseason.

2024 Outlook

I would expect Freeman to get more seasoning at OCB in 2024, although he’ll be given opportunities in preseason camp to show whether he’s closed the gap on the likes of Michael Halliday and Kyle Smith (assuming both return). If the club moves on from both Halliday and Smith, it’s not hard to picture Freeman starting the season providing depth at right back for the first team. Having just turned 19 in August, Freeman has a lot of potential and he should start to unlock that within the next year or so.


This is the first of our 2023 Orlando City Season in Review articles. Every player who played minutes this past season and who finished the year on the club roster will be reviewed (exceptions may be made for players let go when the club officially announces its roster moves). Players who logged fewer than 450 minutes (combined regular season plus playoffs, Concacaf Champions League, U.S. Open Cup, and Leagues Cup) will receive a composite score between 1 and 10 as determined by a panel of The Mane Land writers, while those who did not reach that threshold will receive an incomplete grade.

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Lion Links

Lion Links: 11/29/23

Orlando Pride players called up by Brazil, MLS announces 2023 Best XI, latest MLS roster moves, and more.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Hello, Mane Landers I hope all is well down in Florida. I’ve been very busy working throughout the holiday weekend at Under Armour. This week I’ll be working at Wrigley Field for Winterland while getting ready to cover high school wrestling tomorrow night. There is plenty to cover today, so let’s get to the links.

Pride Players Called Up By Brazil for Friendlies

Orlando Pride defender Rafaelle and forwards Marta and Adriana have been called up to the Brazil Women’s National Team for its upcoming friendlies.

Brazil will play two matches against Japan on Nov. 30 and Dec. 3 in Sao Paulo before playing Nicaragua on Dec. 6 at Estadio Fonte Luminosa in Araraquara.

MLS Announces the 2023 Best XI

Major League Soccer announced its 2023 Best XI, recognizing the league’s top players at each position. There were no Orlando City players selected for the team and eight players received the honor for the first time. Those players are St. Louis City’s Roman Burki and Tim Parker, FC Cincinnati defender Matt Miazga, Atlanta United duo Thiago Almada and Giorgos Giakoumakis, Houston Dynamo midfielder Hector Herrera, LAFC’s Denis Bouanga, and Columbus Crew forward Cucho Hernandez. Nashville SC’s Hany Mukhtar made the Best XI for the third consecutive time, while teammate Walker Zimmerman was named to it for the fifth time. MLS MVP Luciano Acosta of FC Cincinnati rounds out the list.

Latest MLS Off-season Roster Moves

The Colorado Rapids announced their latest roster changes as they prepare for the the 2024 season under new Head Coach Chris Armas. The club exercised its options for defender Andrew Gutman, midfielder Ralph Priso, and forward Calvin Harris. The Rapids declined contract offers to seven players, with the most notable names being defender Steven Beitashour and goalkeeper William Yarbrough, although the Rapids are in discussions about re-signing Yarbrough. Elsewhere, the New England Revolution exercised the permanent transfer option on forward Tomas Chancalay, signing him to a Designated Player contract through 2026, with a club option for the 2027 season.

UEFA Champions League Roundup

Champions League action returned in Europe, as we get close to wrapping up the group stage in a couple of weeks. Manchester City overcame a two-goal deficit to beat RB Leipzig 3-2 and win Group G. Newcastle United had a chance to qualify for the round of 16 but gave up a late penalty to Paris Saint-Germain, which Kylian Mbappe converted to end the match in a 1-1 draw. Borussia Dortmund beat AC Milan 3-1 to book its spot in the knockout stage. PSG, Newcastle, and AC Milan are all still alive in Group F heading into the final matchday in December. Shakhtar Donetsk won 1-0 against Royal Antwerp and also still has a shot to advance on the final matchday. Lazio, Atletico Madrid, Barcelona, and Young Boys all won their respective matches as well. Today’s matches include Manchester United on the road against Galatasaray, Real Madrid taking on Napoli, and Sevilla facing off with PSV Eindhoven.

Free Kicks

  • Concacaf has announced that BMO Stadium, Dignity Health Sports Park, Shell Energy Stadium, and Snapdragon Stadium will be the four venues that will host matches for the 2024 Concacaf W Gold Cup.
  • Barcelona midfielder Gavi will be sidelined for up to 10 months after undergoing knee surgery after suffering a torn ACL in his right knee.
  • The International Football Association Board approved a trial for sin bins, meaning players punished for dissent or specific tactical offense would be temporarily removed from the match for a set amount of minutes.
  • You have got to see this goal from Cwrt Rawlin FC in the Welsh seventh division.

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

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