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Orlando City vs. Atlanta United: Player Grades and Man of the Match

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Well, the best thing I can say to open this is at least it wasn’t any worse. When the starting lineup came out, I definitely thought the Lions were going to get blown off the pitch by Atlanta. Thankfully, the Five Stripes aren’t exactly playing the best football in Major League Soccer right now. It’s going to be a challenge to grade the guys after this latest lackluster, at best, performance, but I’m going to give it my best shot.

Starters

GK, Brian Rowe, 5.5 — I’ll preface this by saying that Rowe would have been my Man of the Match had it not been for that poor effort on Julian Gressel’s 51st minute shot that was luckily called back for an offside decision after video review. He came off his line decisively and smartly when it was the correct decision, such as when Josef Martinez had a free shot at goal in minute 49 and on the dangerous cross in the 64th that saw him stay down for a few seconds after the play. Rowe’s save on the Leandro Gonzalez Pirez header in the 26th minute certainly kept Orlando City in the match. His 58% passing accuracy on his distribution neither hurt nor helped the Lions.

D, Kamal Miller, 4.5 — I fully believe that Miller has a lot of potential and way more upside than negative aspects to his play. However, he let Pity Martinez have all the space he needed to make his first MLS goal, and what turned out to be the winning one for Atlanta, in the 15th minute. Miller couldn’t keep up with Pity again in the 44th and allowed him the opportunity to get a headed shot at goal off. The rookie defender did have an excellent interception, one of his three on the afternoon, in extra time to make sure Atlanta didn’t get a second goal at the death. Two tackles, two clearances, and a blocked shot rounded out Miller’s day.

D, Alex De John, 3.5 — It was clear that De John hasn’t seen the pitch for a while, as he’s been out with an injury and definitely needed to shake off some rust. Certainly, it didn’t help that he was expected to cover Hector Villalba, arguably the most underrated player on Atlanta’s squad full of highly rated players. He misjudged a jump on a pass out from the back in the 15th minute that ultimately led to Atlanta’s lone goal. De John made a great run into the box in first half stoppage time and cut a pass back to Will Johnson that ended up as a shot on goal for Orlando City. The first 10 minutes of the second half saw De John get burned by both Josef Martinez and Villalba down the left several times. He managed an interception and three clearances before being subbed off in the 58th minute.

D, Robin Jansson, 4.5 — This may have been Jansson’s worst, or perhaps least impacting, performance as a Lion thus far. He didn’t shut down Villalba in minute 15, affording him the time and space to play a perfectly weighted pass to Pity that of course went in the net. Jansson was mostly quiet for the rest of the match after that, until the 81st minute when he again allowed an Atlanta player to have too much space. This time, Josef Martinez missed the net with his subsequent shot. The Swedish center back finished with two clearances, one interception, and a blocked shot, along with a 90th minute yellow card.

WB, Joao Moutinho, 5 — On the other hand, this match was one of Moutinho’s better performances as a Lion. He did make one major mistake by allowing Gressel to get by him and get off the 51st minute shot that would have made it 2-0 had it not been for VAR. As Orlando City pushed for an equalizer over the last 15 minutes of the match, the best chances came from Moutinho making runs down the left flank and sending crosses into the box. Two of those crosses, one at minute 80 and the other in the 86th, essentially found Ruan who couldn’t capitalize on them. Defensively, the young left wing back only provided one tackle and two interceptions.

MF, Will Johnson, 5.5 — I’m personally indifferent about Johnson most of the time. I get why a lot of fans don’t care for him, yet I also get why the Orlando City coaching staff give him consistent minutes. He demonstrated both sides of the debate in this match. While he does hustle and play with heart, Johnson is often not skilled enough for his play to match his passion. That results in a lot of bad passes — his 84% passing accuracy was the second worst for the Orlando City midfielders — and some glaring errors, like the horrid back headed pass in the 23rd minute that both he and Rowe were happy to see go just wide of the net. Contrarily, Johnson’s hustle saw him end up in the right place at the right time to receive De John’s bouncing pass in first half stoppage time that he was then able to get on frame, forcing Atlanta goalkeeper Brad Guzan into a save.

MF, Cristian Higuita, 5 — Another player that hadn’t seen the pitch in a while and needed to get some rust out of his system was Higuita. A fan favorite, and the only remaining Lion from the 2015 inaugural MLS season, the midfielder was slotted into more of a No. 10 role than his typical defensive mid position. The switch worked out well for the most part, since it allowed Higuita to be a constant nuisance for Atlanta’s back line. Often times throughout the match, he was the only player enforcing the high press and it caused noticeable problems as early as the first minute. Higuita had a great takeaway at the top of Atlanta’s 18 in the eighth minute that may have helped prevent an even earlier goal. Mistakenly known as a player who fouls too much, he instead drew a yellow card foul from Michael Parkhurst in the 65th minute before coming off at minute 78 following a shot he sent over the crossbar.

MF, Sebas Mendez, 5.5 — I don’t necessarily believe that Mendez did anything worthy of Man of the Match, but he was the most solid midfielder on the day. He started off shaky, not defending Villalba well at all in the sixth minute, which led to a shot and then an early corner for Atlanta. Mendez was also badly beaten by Josef Martinez in the 25th, though his recovery save on the shot Josef got off was likely the best Orlando City defensive play of the match. A 94% passing accuracy on a team-leading 63 passes also led the Lions. Plus, I have to give Mendez a special shout out for the beautiful hard tackle he had on former Orlando City player Justin Meram immediately after Meram made his Atlanta debut in stoppage time.

WB, Ruan, 6 (MotM) — I still contend that Ruan needs a rest, and I’m betting that he may finally get it during this stretch of three matches in eight days, so I don’t see how anyone else can honestly compete for Man of the Match when he still puts in a great performance. The right wing back combined with Higuita often to push a high press in the first half leading to a couple of takeaways and one interception. Ruan’s excellent run into the box in the 33rd minute created Orlando City’s best chance of the game considering he put a perfect cross on Dwyer’s foot that the striker, not surprisingly, fluffed. The one dangerous defensive error Ruan made came on Gressel’s 51st-minute shot as he gave Villalba too much space to cut the ball back to Gressel. He got on the end of two of Moutinho’s crosses as the game wound down and sent in a low cross of his own that rolled just behind Akindele in the 83rd minute.

F, Dom Dwyer, 2.5 — I’m going to keep this as short as I can because quite frankly, I don’t want to even waste your time reading about Dwyer’s pathetic play this match. He sent a first minute shot a mile high and left of the target and then proceeded to flop any time a defender breathed in his general direction. See minutes 27, 29, and 38 for evidence. I’m sure a few might argue about the refereeing — I will not be one of those people as we all know PRO is going to PRO and the 11 players on the pitch have to control everything they can. Flopping and looking for a call on nearly all of your significant touches isn’t controlling what you can. Dwyer missed yet another sitter in the 33rd minute when he shot right at Guzan. Money is tight for Orlando City, meaning bringing in a high-quality striker isn’t an option right now. I’d rather see the rookie strikers, Santiago Patino and Benji Michel, get valuable minutes and start to grow than have to see Dom Dwyer disrespect the Lions’ crest by angrily ripping off his kit when his terrible play gets him subbed out of a match in the 64th minute.

F, Tesho Akindele, 4.5 — Akindele was mostly invisible for the first half on this match. I know that’s been said about his play a few times this season and the more it happens, the more I’m starting to worry. The thing is, when he makes his presence known, Akindele can be quite an asset to Orlando City. He made a good run in the 44th minute and tried to find Dwyer with a pass that had a little bit too much on it. The Canadian international’s defensive effort led to a nice interception in minute 75 after a giveaway from the Lions. He sent a shot right to Guzan in the 80th minute after some nice play from substitute Josue Colman. An 83% passing accuracy with one key pass summed up his afternoon.

Substitutes

D, Kyle Smith (58’), 4 — I would put Smith in the Akindele invisible category for his time in the match. According to the FOX sideline reporter, O’Connor believed Smith to be more “steady” on the ball than De John. Seems like a nice way of saying De John was probably going to cost the Lions another goal if he didn’t get subbed off. The most notable play for Smith came in the 62nd minute when he was far too slow shutting down Pity Martinez.

F, Chris Mueller (64’), 6 — As far as I’m concerned, this match was a shining example of why Cash should continue to play as Orlando City’s super sub. His energy off the bench was palpable and caused a very obvious momentum shift in favor of the Lions. Mueller’s entrance also meant the squad switched to more of a 4-2-3-1 formation. He took two free kicks, one straight at Guzan, and pressured Guzan to make a bad pass out of the back that Mueller then took too many touches on. In the third minute of stoppage, he appeared to be tripped by Jeff Larentowicz though no foul was called.

M, Josué Colmán (78’), 4.5 — Ah, the ever-elusive Young Designated Player, Josué Colmán. He wasn’t in the match long, but he did manage to set up a chance for Akindele in the 80th minute. Colmán did the Colmán thing in the 90th, however, when he attempted to dribble into two defenders and lost possession.


There you have it. How did you see it? Who was your Man of the Match? Make sure to vote in the poll below.


Polling Closed

PlayerVotes
Ruan22
Will Johnson13
Sebas Mendez4
Chris Mueller17
Other (Answer in the comments below).10

Orlando City

Orlando City vs. the Chicago Fire: Player Grades and Man of the Match

How did your favorite Lions perform in a 4-2 home victory against the Chicago Fire?

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

After a midweek draw against Charlotte FC and on the tail end of three matches in eight days, Orlando City returned to Central Florida for the second meeting of the season against the Chicago Fire. Orlando City recorded its best offensive performace of the season, winning 4-2 in front of the home crowd.

Let’s take a look at how the players performed individually in the much-needed home victory.

Starters

GK, Mason Stajduhar, 8 —  In his third straight start in net, Stajduhar answered the bell time and time again for Orlando City against the Fire and in doing so, put in arugably the best performance by an Orlando City keeper this season. On the night, Mason made a total of 10 saves, tying a club single-game record. He completed 61.8% of his 34 passes, which included seven accurate long balls on 20 attempts and was also credited with one clearance. The keeper can hardly be faulted for the two goals scored, as he guessed wrong on a Chicago Fire penalty kick early in the second half and then allowed the second goal from point-blank range on a giveaway by his back line.

D, Rafael Santos, 6 — Santos recorded 50 touches and completed 87.5% of his 32 passes, including completing both of his long ball attempts but missing failing on his lone crossing attempt. Santos had a team-high four interceptions while also contributing two clearances but failed to record a tackle. Santos was unfortunate that the second goal came off his leg, as he would have expected captain Robin Jansson to deal with the cross. When the Swede whiffed, it hit the back of Santos’ leg and teed up Hugo Cuypers for an easy goal. One thing Santos did well in this match was switch the point of attack. Offensively, Santos did not attempt a shot, was dispossesed once, and had one unstable touch.

D, Robin Jansson, 6 — The Swedish center back recorded 47 touches and completed 91.7% of his 36 passes, including two of his five long balls. Defensively, he added a team-high six clearances and two tackles. He unfortunately played a major role in the second Fire goal, giving the opposition a lifeline as he whiffed attempting to clear a Chicago cross into the box in the second half. Jansson was fouled once and committed no fouls against the Fire.

D, Rodrigo Schlegel, 6 —  The Argentine touched the ball 46 times and completed 79.4% of his 46 passes, including one of his four long balls. Defensively, he won a team-high three aerial duels and contributed two tackles, four clearances, and a blocked shot while committing one foul. Schlegel gave away a penalty with a late slide as he tried to recover on defense in the 51st minute. Attempting to deny a cutback pass, the ball hit his arm as he was going to ground. If his arm had been making contact with the ground, the play would have been legal, but it had not yet touched and it allowed Maren Haile-Selassie to score from the spot. Offensively, Schlegel did not record an offensive statistic but drew three fouls.

D, Dagur Dan Thorhallsson, 7.5 — The Icelandic fullback recorded 47 touches, completing 80.7% of his 31 passes. Thorhallsson was credited with a team-high three key passes against the Fire but was unlucky in the long ball department, failing on all three of his attempts. Defensively, he logged two tackles, two interceptions, and three clearances while comitting two fouls. Offensively, Thorhallsson failed to record a shot but assisted on both Facundo Torres bangers. He completed two dribbles and looked potent in the attacking third of the field.

MF, Facundo Torres, 8.5 (MotM) — The Designated Player showed the form that Orlando City has been waiting for all season, picking up where he left off Wednesday in Charlotte. The Uruguayan played with confidence Saturday. He recorded 46 touches and completed 89.2% of his 37 passes. Torres put both of his shot attempts on target and scored a goal on each of them. He also completed one dribble and drew one foul. Defensively, Torres did not record any statistics but did commit one foul. Torres’ early goal set the tone for the team’s best offensive performance on the year.

MF, Cesar Araujo, 6 — Araujo returned to the starting lineup after coming off the bench in Charlotte and managed a team-high 56 touches while completing 89.6% of his 48 passes. He was acurate on three of his four long balls as well. Defensively, he logged three tackles and one clearance and was issued a yellow card in the 83rd minute. Statistically, it was a calm night for the young Uruguyan. A criticism of not just Araujo, but the team as a whole, is that there was too much space outside the area left for gifted players like Brian Gutierrez to fire uncontested shots.

MF, Nico Lodeiro, 6 — Lodeiro recorded 55 touches and completed 84.1% of his 44 passes. He completed one dribble and suffered three fouls. Defensively, he logged two tackles and an interception. Lodeiro’s hustle in the third minute was the catalyst for the opening goal as the midfielder slid to win a 50-50 ball and knocking it to Thorhallsson. For that, he received a secondary assist on the play. Surprisingly, Lodeiro did not record a key pass after amassing 10 on Wednesday, nor did he attempt a shot. He was subbed off in the 66th minute for seldom used rookie Jeorgio Kocevski and fresh legs.

MF, Ivan Angulo, 7 — The Colombian had a solid outing, scoring a goal, drawing a penalty, and using his speed effectively. Angulo used that speed to slip past two defenders on a through ball from Luis Muriel and was pulled down from behind, leading to Muriel’s penalty kick goal. He had a chance in transition to put the game away late but missed the target on his shot from the left. Angulo finished with 39 touches and completed 91.7% of his 24 passes, including a successful long ball on his only attempt. He drew one foul. One area of concern was his three unstable touches. Defensively, he led the team with four tackles and logged an interception.

F, Luis Muriel, 6.5 — Muriel recorded 36 touches and completed 76% of his 25 passes. He was successful on his lone long ball attempt as well. He finally scored at home, sending Chris Brady to score from the penalty spot. He put both of his shot attempts on target and and completed one dribble but also had five unstable touches. Defensively, he got back and contributed a tackle and an interception. He was subbed off in the 59th minute for Martin Ojeda.

F, Duncan McGuire, 6 — The target man up top recorded 24 touches, completed 85.7% of his 14 passes, and was successful on his lone long ball attempt. Offensively, McGuire put his lone shot attempt on target but was not as involved in this match. His back heel attempt in the 29th minute was initially saved by Brady, but it was not a clean save and resulted in Angulo’s goal. There were a few instances where he could have done better, as the striker was dispossesed three times, including a bad giveaway in the 11th minute that nearly led to a tying goal at the time. Stajduhar was able to deny a good chance by Cuypers and Haile-Selassie put the rebound over the net. McGuire was whistled for offside once and had an unstable touch. Defensively, he chipped in with a tackle and a clearance.

Substitutes

MF, Martin Ojeda (59’), 5 — Ojeda came on in the 59th minute for Muriel and the attacking midfielder managed just 17 touches and completed only 50% of his eight passes, including one successful long ball on two attempts. Ojeda was credited with one key pass when he picked out Angulo on the break, but the Colombian was unable to finish the job. Ojeda took one shot which sailed just inches over the crossbar with an open net in the 87th minute. He was dispossessed once and had three unstable touches. Defensively, he contributed two tackles.

MF, Jeorgio Kocevski (67’), 5.5 — Kocevski entered the match in the 67th minute for Lodeiro. He had 10 touches and completed four of his six passes (66.7%). He had one dribble and also recorded a tackle and a clearance while providing solid, if not unspectacular, depth in the midfield.

D, Kyle Smith (78′), 5.5 — Smith came on for Santos in the 78th minute as Orlando looked to lock things down defensively. He logged 16 touches and completed 60% of his 10 passes. Smith failed to connect on both of his long ball attempts. In limited minutes, he won an aerial duel and contributed one tackle, one interception, and three clearances. However, he also had a bad giveaway in the 79th minute that forced Stajduhar to punch away a hard shot by Gutierrez.


That’s how I saw the individual performances in Orlando City’s victory against the Chicago Fire. Let us know how you saw the game and don’t forget to vote on your Man of the Match below.

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Lion Links

Lion Links: 6/24/24

Lions and Pride win, Abdi Salim joins Detroit City on loan, USMNT wins Copa America opener, and more.

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Image courtesy of Orlando Pride / Mark Thor

Hello, Mane Landers! I hope all is well with you down in Florida. I’m just staying busy at Under Armour all weekend, returning to my footwear lead manager role and catching some of the Euro and Copa America matches. Both the Lions and the Pride won over the weekend. We’ve got plenty to cover today, so let’s get to the links. 

Lions Defeat Chicago Fire at Home

Orlando City snapped its five-match winless streak Saturday, defeating the Chicago Fire 4-2 at Inter&Co Stadium. Facundo Torres scored twice, and Luis Muriel and Ivan Angulo added one each to offset Chicago’s two goals in a much-needed victory. It was only the second home win for the Lions this season. Chicago saw its four-match unbeaten streak end and moved to the bottom of the Eastern Conference with 18 points. Orlando moved up to 10th with 21 points. The Lions will be on the road again Friday to take on New York City FC at Yankee Stadium.

OCSC Center Back Abdi Salim Joins Detroit City on Loan

USL Championship side Detroit City FC has apparently reached a loan agreement with Orlando City to have center back Abdi Salim join the team. The loan was reported Saturday by Nolan Bianchi and, although there has been no official word from Orlando City, Salim played for Detroit City Saturday night in a friendly against Pumas of Liga MX.

Salim was not only in the starting XI on Saturday, but he also scored the lone goal to win the match 1-0. In case you missed it, check out Salim’s header and back flip celebration:

Pride Cruise at Home Against Utah Royals

The Orlando Pride returned to their winning ways Friday with a dominating performance at Inter&Co Stadium in a club-record, 6-0 victory against the Utah Royals. Barbra Banda and Marta each scored twice, while Summer Yates and Ally Watt added goals in a big win for the Pride, extending Orlando’s unbeaten streak to 14 matches. After this weekend’s results, Orlando and the Kansas City Current are tied with 32 points, but Kansas City’s 4-1 beatdown of the Thorns in Portland has the Current in the top spot on goal differential. The Pride will be on the road Sunday to face Angel City FC at BMO Stadium.

USMNT Beats Bolivia in Copa America Opener

The United States Men’s National Team won its Copa America opener 2-0 against Bolivia at AT&T Stadium on Sunday. Christian Pulisic scored for the USMNT and added an assist on Folarin Balogun’s goal late in the first half. For Pulisic, it was his 30th career goal for his country in 69 international appearances. Tyler Adams made his first start for club or country since March 30 and played 45 minutes. Even though the USMNT couldn’t add more goals in the second half, the Americans did enough to take all three points. The USMNT will play Panama Thursday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.

Euro 2024 Roundup

It was another busy weekend of action in the Euros, as eight matches took place over the weekend. On Friday, Ukraine overcame a 1-0 halftime deficit to beat Slovakia 2-1 to stay alive in the tournament. Austria bounced back with a 3-1 win against Poland. France and the Netherlands split the points in a scoreless draw, which resulted in Poland becoming the first team to be eliminated from Euro 2024. On Saturday, Georgia and the Czech Republic battled to a 1-1 draw. Portugal clinched a spot into the round of 16 with a 3-0 victory over Turkey, and Belgium rebounded with a 2-0 win against Romania. On Sunday, Hungary grabbed a late winning goal to eliminate Scotland 1-0 and still has a chance to move on to the round of 16. Switzerland held a 1-0 lead into stoppage time, but Niclas Fullkrug equalized to snatch a 1-1 draw for Germany at the death, winning Group A. Both teams advanced to the round of 16. Today’s matches will wrap up play in Group B as Albania faces Spain and Croatia takes on Italy.

Free Kicks


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

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Orlando City

Orlando City vs. Chicago Fire: Five Takeaways

What did we learn from Orlando City’s 4-2 victory over the Chicago Fire?

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

That game was the most fun I’ve had watching this team all year. Orlando City jumped all over the Chicago Fire in the first half and took its chances well on the way to a 4-2 victory at home. It wasn’t a perfect performance, but it’s the best one we’ve seen all year, and it was exactly what the Lions needed. What follows are my five takeaways from the win.

Hot Start Pays Dividends

Orlando got things off to a hot start and had a claim for a penalty with barely a minute played. It ultimately wasn’t given, but Facundo Torres opened the scoring in the fourth minute anyway, and the Lions had a precious early lead. When a penalty kick was actually awarded to the Lions in the 19th minute, Luis Muriel coolly slotted it to Chris Brady’s left. Ivan Angulo’s finish from close range gave OCSC three goals in the first 30 minutes, and that big cushion eventually paid off when the Lions’ legs began to tire in the second half against the fresher visitors.

Facundo Finds His Footing

This was a much-needed performance by Facundo Torres, and continued his good form. He now has three goals and an assist in the team’s last two matches, and every time he touched the ball he looked capable of creating something. An encouraging aspect of his performance was that the two goals he scored were far from clear-cut chances and were more about him using his individual brilliance to find a way to create something from nothing. That sort of thing isn’t always sustainable in the long run, but the team has always looked better when Torres is oozing with confidence, and great players elevate their teams when they’re playing well. Hopefully, we’re seeing the start of the run that Facu normally goes on right around this time.

Mason Stands Tall

Even with the barrage of early goals and Facu firing away from distance, the game could have still ended in disaster if not for Mason Stajduhar. The Lions’ early lead meant that they didn’t try to possess the ball and press the attack as much as they normally would have, and Chicago found its way through the defense on several occasions. The Fire finished with 19 shots and put 12 on target, but Mason made 10 stops, tying a club record, and saved Orlando’s bacon in the process. He stonewalled the Chicago attackers on multiple occasions in both halves, and if not for Torres’ offensive fireworks, he would have been an easy pick for Man of the Match.

Some Rest for the Wicked

With Orlando holding a 3-1 lead in the 59th minute and Oscar Pareja having deployed almost the exact same team that he did midweek, Papi took the opportunity to get a few guys some rest. Muriel and his 33-year-old legs were the first to exit, and once Torres made the lead 4-1 in the 60th minute, 35-year-old Nico Lodeiro was only a few minutes behind him. Kyle Smith then relieved Rafael Santos in the 78th minute, and that was the last change Pareja made, having used all three allotted substitution windows. It would have been nice to get Torres and McGuire off the field with a trip to New York City FC on Friday, but Pareja would have needed to have made those switches in one of the three windows. He perhaps could have introduced Ojeda at halftime to save a window, but it worked out.

A Step in the Right Direction

It wasn’t a perfect performance, but it contained easily the best first half of soccer that Orlando has played all season. Chances were created, chances were finished, and when shots were given up at the other end, Mason was on hand to snuff out the danger. The defense leaking two second-half goals wasn’t ideal, but one goal came from an unlucky penalty kick given for a Rodrigo Schlegel handball, and the other from a miscue by a no-doubt-exhausted Jansson and an unfortunate bounce off of Santos behind him. There were other good opportunities for the visitors during the final 30 minutes when the OCSC defense was visibly out on its collective feet.

Orlando only took eight shots, but put six on target and scored from four of those, doing its damage early and efficiently, meaning that the team didn’t need to open itself up and continue aggressively hunting chances. Whether Orlando can continue to build off this remains to be seen, and the Fire aren’t exactly the best barometer for success, but the Lions have started to lay a good foundation in the last two matches.


Those are my big impressions from a fun match that had a little bit of everything. Next up is a desperately tricky test on the road against a good NYCFC team, and that performance should give us a lot more information about whether the Lions are trending in the right direction or not. What were your thoughts from this game? Be sure to make your voice heard down in the comments. Vamos Orlando!

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