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Orlando City

Intelligence Report: Orlando City vs. FC Cincinnati

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Another Friday is upon us, and after the 2-1 loss up in Seattle it couldn’t get here soon enough. To be fair to Orlando City, the team played better than I was expecting, especially given the heavy rotation in the squad, but now it’s time to put Wednesday in the rearview mirror and look ahead to Sunday.

This weekend sees Orlando City take on Major League Soccer’s newest club, as FC Cincinnati will come to Orlando City Stadium for the first clash between the two teams. In order to prepare I spoke to Bill Wolf of Cincinnati Soccer Talk and he was kind enough to give us a wealth of information about the league’s new kids on the block. I also answered his questions and you can read those over at their place.

One of the big stories in MLS recently was the firing of Alan Koch fairly early on in the season. His replacement, interim coach Yoann Damet, immediately notched a 2-1 over the Montreal Impact last week. Obviously there’s only one game to go off of, but what are your early impressions of this team under Damet?

Bill Wolf: As you say, it’s really early to make generalizations, but if we compare the players in the last seven games under Koch to the one game with Damet at the helm, there is an obvious energy and drive that was not present before. There has been a lot said by players in the last several weeks. Prior to the coaching change, there were many statements of support and belief in the team and each other. Noticeably absent was any belief or support in the coach. Since the coaching change, there have been many players talking about their respect for Coach Damet, and their belief in his plan. Implied, of course, is a contrast to their previous coach. The players gave a vote of no confidence to Koch and the front office listened. When you’ve lost the locker room, there really isn’t much that can be done. Alan Koch had said the players weren’t good enough. The players look like a team with something to prove now. On the pitch is a spark. You can see joy back in their game, and it’s much more enjoyable to watch. What will have to unfold is how sustainable that is. Was this a one-game bump? A three-game bump? Or is it the new normal?

Frankie Amaya was the number one overall pick in this year’s MLS SuperDraft. While he hasn’t played in a ton of the team’s game so far, how has he performed in the games in which he’s featured?

BW: Frankie has been a bright light in a rough start to the season. It took him awhile and several injuries to other teammates before he got a chance to play a few minutes in any game, but even in those early looks, it was obvious he was tenacious and gifted. He doesn’t have the size, but he doesn’t back down either. When he gives up the ball, he is hounding the player to turn it over. Just as he started to break into the 18 and get some minutes, he was loaned out to Orange County. At a time, when attacking options were scarce, it was an odd decision. Fortunately, the club recalled him quite quickly and we’ve seen his playing time continue to increase. 

Amaya’s style of play seems to fit Damet better. Under Koch, he was a wing. Amaya is quick, but his size means that a large player with a long stride will catch him. In a long ball and counter system, he wasn’t the most effective. Playing wing also meant dropping back and being prepared to defend when the outside back crashed forward. Amaya wants to go forward. Damet, slid him into the middle of the pitch as an attacking mid. Amaya is good with the ball at his feet. He is comfortable dribbling through traffic and his vision is top rate, creating opportunities with well-placed passes. With Victor Ulloa behind him, his job is more about causing turnovers high up the pitch and moving the ball forward. He likes to link up with other players, continuously moving off the ball to be available and looking to find the next opportunity to move the ball strategically.

He needs to shore up his first touch and get more fit to be able to last 90 minutes at the energy level he is bringing. If he had gotten more playing time to improve fitness and show his capabilities more, I’m confident he would have been selected for the U-20 World Cup. So, though I feel like the club failed him in that regard, they will absolutely benefit from that as well.

Speaking as a fan of a team that was a first-year expansion club not so very long ago, I know it can be difficult to build a team identity and establish a way that the club likes to play. So far, what would you say FCC’s on-field identity is — what is the team’s bread and butter?

BW: Again, it’s really too early to tell. Anything we saw under Alan Koch is clearly in the past. We’ve only seen a single game with Yoann Damet at the helm. Was the plan a reaction to the opponent? Will the team look and play differently against Orlando? Damet even made some comments that they’d have to evaluate what worked and what didn’t for this group of players, and they will make adjustments. I think their identity is still being developed a bit.

However, it is probably safe to say the Coach Damet has already made some changes that seem to reflect his vision for what he’d like to see out of the team. Under Alan Koch, we saw a lot of long balls out of the back, a bunker-and-counter style. The midfield was not heavily involved in buildup. Under Damet, the team is now building out of the back and working the ball through the midfield. Passes are short and simple with players continuously moving off the ball into available space. In the first 11 games of the season, the team averaged around 44% possession. They averaged around 400 passes per game, with 180 of those passes, on average, coming in the first half. Against Montreal, under Damet, the team had 55% possession. They had 401 passes in the first half, exceeding their past total game average. They finished the game with 571 passes.

Are there any injuries, suspensions, or call-ups that will keep players unavailable for selection and what is your projected starting lineup and score prediction?

BW: The only significant injury I’m aware of at this time is Allan Cruz. He took a hard knock at the end of the Montreal game and had to be removed from the field. It’s unclear whether he will be recovered for the game against Orlando. Kenny Saief appears to be back training and could likely step in for Cruz. We have no suspensions at this time — a couple of players, sitting on four yellows at this time, but no one who will miss Orlando on accumulation.

Projected starting lineup:

Last game, Yoann Damet rolled out a 4-3-3 formation, and I think, considering it worked, he’ll stick to that. The back line will remain the same with Spencer Richey in goal, Greg Garza, Kendall Waston, Justin Hoyte and Mathieu Deplagne making the back four. The midfield will also be the same, with Ulloa as the holding mid, and Leonardo Bertone and Amaya sitting ahead of him in a more attacking role. The front three will be Roland Lamah, Darren Mattocks and Saief. The only change from last week being Saief for Cruz.

Score prediction:

This is a big game for both teams. Cincinnati has an opportunity to leap Orlando in the standings and, depending on results, end up tied with the Red Bulls on points. Both teams have a game in hand over Cincinnati, but FCC needs some upward momentum having dropped significantly after their seven-game winless streak. Orlando has an opportunity to leap Red Bulls and put some distance from the bottom of the table. They are winless in the last three (now four) and will want to turn things around back home for this game.

Cincinnati opened the gates in the last game and scored two goals after being scoreless for literally hours upon hours of play. I think they are riding high on confidence and we’ll see some more goals. That said, the back line has been a little shaky under their new system and I expect another error to allow a goal against. I’ll predict an outcome of 2-1 in favor of the Orange and Blue.


A big thank you again to Bill for that wonderful insight into FC Cincinnati.

Orlando City

Intelligence Report: Orlando City vs. New York City FC

Get all the information you need on NYCFC, courtesy of someone who knows them best.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Another Orlando City match is right around the corner, and the Lions will try to keep the good vibes going during what has been a productive July. It won’t be easy though, as they welcome New York City FC to the familiar confines of the purple palace.

A date with the Pigeons means I caught up with Matthew Mangam, of the excellent Hudson River Blue. As always, he was very helpful in bringing us up to speed on New York City.

When last we talked, you said that this team needed to find its offensive spark again. It certainly managed to do that when it put four past Orlando City. Has that trend continued in the games since then?

Matthew Mangam: It definitely did not happen in the two matches after the win against Orlando. NYCFC did score first against Austin but ultimately lost, and couldn’t even manage two shots on goal against Chicago, drawing 0-0. Last game, NYCFC came back from 2-0 down to tie 2-2 with Atlanta United. The goals came from unusual scorers, Mounsef Bakrar and Talles Magno. So, the offense hasn’t been great recently but with the return of Magno, it can only get better. Players like Hannes Wolf and Santi Rodríguez have slowed down as of recently, resulting in guys like Alonso Martínez to see less of the ball and get fewer scoring chances.

With 29 goals conceded, NYCFC has one of the stingiest defenses in the league, what has made that unit so good?

MM:  NYCFC’s defense is solid, but it wouldn’t be complete without Matt Freese. The All-Star snub has made tons of amazing saves this season to earn NYCFC results and he seems to get better and better as time goes on. Also, the back line of Birk Risa and Thiago Martins has been consistent throughout the season, allowing for the two to get comfortable playing together. Although the right back spot has changed every so often, Kevin O’Toole has stayed as the starting left back. James Sands as the defensive midfielder does a great job in winning the ball back and protecting Martins and Risa. The defensive unit is the same from last season, so it’s only getting stronger with every game played.

It’s always fun to check in on former Lions, so tell me a bit about Andres Perea. How has he performed this season?

MM: Andrés Perea has been good this season, but not as good as he was last season during his loan spell. Perea does have two goals this season and one assist, but he’s given the ball away more than last season. He’s also not been as accurate passing-wise but I am still a huge advocate for him. He just suffered an injury against Chicago and may be out for some time, but I have no doubt that when he returns he’ll be back to his usual self. We’ve seen Nick Cushing use Perea in a three-man midfield with Keaton Parks and Sands as well. He doesn’t seem to be a certain starter, but he’s one of the few midfield depth pieces NYCFC has.

Will anyone be absent due to injuries, suspensions, call-ups, etc.? What is your projected starting XI and score prediction?

MM: NYCFC had five players out against Atlanta. The only set returner is Sands, who is back from yellow card suspension. I’m not sure if Cushing will want to rush back players such as Tayvon Gray, O’Toole, and Perea with such a quick turnaround. Malachi Jones had surgery after the injury he suffered against Orlando and will be out for several months. So, to guess a starting XI that I don’t think will be right, this is definitely the hardest one to predict yet this season.

4-2-3-1: Matt Freese, Christian McFarlane or Kevin O’Toole, Birk Risa, Thiago Martins, Ilenič or Tayvon Gray, James Sands, Keaton Parks, Agustin Ojeda, Santi Rodríguez, Hannes Wolf, Alonso Martínez.

I think the final score will be 2-2, it’ll be an entertaining game.


Thank you to Matthew for the information on NYCFC. Vamos Orlando!

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Lion Links

Lion Links: 7/19/24

Dagur Dan Thorhallsson signs new contract, Orlando Pride sign National Team Replacement Players, MLS roster rules change, and more.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Happy Friday! I’ll be spending a majority of the day traveling, as I have a flight to Boston this morning and then a drive up to Maine. It should be a nice weekend with friends, and I’m planning on consuming as much lobster as possible while I’m up there. Let’s dive into today’s links!

Dagur Dan Signs New Contract

Orlando City has signed Dagur Dan Thorhallsson to a new contract that will keep him in the City Beautiful through 2026, with an option for 2027 as well. The versatile player joined Orlando before the 2023 season and has flourished at right back since moving there. He’s locked down the position, so it makes all the sense in the world that Orlando would want to keep him around. Thorhallsson has two goals and three assists to his name so far this season and is a key part of the team’s game plan when attacking.

Ramiro Enrique Makes Team of the Matchday Bench

Forward Ramiro Enrique earned a spot on the bench of the latest Team of the Matchday for his efforts in Orlando’s 3-0 win over Nashville SC on Wednesday. Enrique’s rocketed strike capped off a solid performance, as he was also a force in the air and looked dangerous at the top of Orlando’s offense. The 23-year-old forward was also selected as Man of the Match in our Nic Josey’s player grades for the game. Enrique now has three goals in his past three games, so it’s nice to see him get some deserved recognition.

Orlando Pride Sign National Team Replacement Players

Midfielder Claire Winter and goalkeeper Kenna Caldwell were signed by the Pride as National Team Replacement Players for this international break. The Pride are without seven players due to the Olympics and Winter and Caldwell are available for selection for the upcoming  NWSL x Liga MX Femenil Summer Cup. Caldwell was a non-roster invitee to the Pride’s preseason and has been training with the team since. Winter has played in Denmark, Spain, Ireland, and Puerto Rico over the course of her career, and she was also a National Team Replacement Player for NJ/NY Gotham FC back in 2021.

MLS Makes Changes to Roster Rules

MLS clubs will have a bit more flexibility in terms of roster construction after the league announced changes that go into effect now that the secondary transfer window is open. Teams can now use all three Designated Player slots and all three U22 Initiative slots, eliminating the limitations that hamstrung some of those slots in the past. There’s also now an option for teams to build their roster with two DP slots, four U22 Initiative slots, and $2 million more in General Allocation Money. Speaking of GAM, up to $3 million of total transfer revenues can be converted into it, which is more than double the amount that it was before.

Only time will tell if these changes are enough to make the league more competitive with others, both on the field and in the transfer market. I feel like the increased flexibility is a positive, and I suspect savvy general managers will find ways to optimize their rosters fairly quickly. Let’s hope Luiz Muzzi can work some magic this transfer window.

USMNT Falls in Latest FIFA Rankings

After a disappointing Copa America that included a group stage exit, the United States fell five spots to 16th in the latest men’s FIFA rankings. While the U.S. underperformed, I do think it’s worth noting that strong tournaments from Uruguay, Germany, and Switzerland also played a part in them rising above the U.S. in the rankings. Mexico dropped two spots to 17th, while Panama and Canada both jumped up eight spots to 35th and 40th, respectively.

Spain moved up five places to third in the rankings following its dominant Euro 2024 run, while Argentina remained at the top after winning Copa America. Colombia jumped up three spots to claim ninth place, while Croatia fell out of the top 10 and is now in 12th.

Free Kicks

  • Former Lion Benji Michel will reportedly sign with Real Salt Lake. The Homegrown Player left Orlando on a free transfer to join FC Arouca in Portugal in January of 2023. It’s definitely going to be weird seeing him play for another MLS team if this comes to pass.
  • The Houston Dynamo made a splash by signing German winger Lawrence Ennali as a U22 Initiative Player. The 22-year-old joins from Polish club Gornik Zabrze for a reported transfer fee of $3 million and should give the Dynamo some needed firepower to compete in the Western Conference.
  • The Philadelphia Union traded away $150,000 in 2024 GAM to St. Louis City in exchange for Samuel Adeniran. The 25-year-old forward scored eight goals for St. Louis last season and the club can receive another $300,000 in GAM if conditions are met as well.
  • Toronto FC added American defender Henry Wingo as a free agent. although it gave $75,000 in 2025 GAM to D.C. United for his discovery rights. The 28-year-old has spent the past four years with Ferencvárosi and has MLS experience due to his time as a Homegrown Player with the Seattle Sounders.
  • The three divisions of the English Football League can be watched through CBS Sports this upcoming season. It’s notable news for those who want to watch Wrexham AFC or Americans like former Lion Daryl Dike.
  • Manchester United has officially signed 18-year-old defender Leny Yoro from Lille. Yoro started in 30 games for Lille last season and United reportedly paid a $67.6 million transfer fee for his services.
  • Patrick Vieira and Strasbourg have parted ways, leaving the French club without a manager just a month before the Ligue 1 season starts. Strasbourg finished 13th in the standings in Vieira’s first year with the club last season.
  • Borussia Dortmund has signed Serhou Guirassy, who scored a whopping 28 Bundesliga goals for Stuttgart last season.

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

Orlando City Signs Dagur Dan Thorhallsson to New Contract

The Icelandic midfielder-turned-fullback extends his deal to stay in Orlando through at least 2026.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Orlando City announced this afternoon that the club has re-signed Icelandic midfielder/fullback Dagur Dan Thorhallsson to a new contract. The new deal will keep the 24-year-old in purple through the 2026 MLS season with a club option for 2027.

“Since Dagur has arrived at the club, he has proven himself to be someone who is adaptive and versatile in all situations, showing a willingness to do whatever the team requires of him in any scenario,” Executive Vice President of Soccer Operations and General Manager Luiz Muzzi said in a club press release. “His dedication to hard work and to his teammates is visible every day. He’s a consummate professional, both on and off the pitch, and we’re excited to have him representing our club for the foreseeable future.”

The Lions signed Thorhallsson on Jan. 31, 2023 to a two-year contract with a pair of option years. He joined OCSC from Breidablik in Iceland’s top flight and made his first appearance for the club less than a month later, coming off the bench in Orlando City’s 1-0 opening day win over the New York Red Bulls on Feb. 25, 2023, coming on in the 78th minute to replace Martin Ojeda. After spot duty to start his Orlando career, Thorhallsson converted to fullback and has developed his game and has become a regular starter.

In his career with Orlando City, Thorhallsson has made 54 appearances (34 starts), playing 2,998 minutes. He’s scored four goals and added six assists, passing at an 85.7% rate. He was a part of one of the league’s best defenses in 2023 and has been a key part of a recent improvement by the Lions in their own end. Counting all competitions, Thorhallsson has participated in 65 games (40 starts), adding an assist in non-MLS games to go along with the numbers above. After his first season with Orlando City, The Mane Land staff gave Thorhallsson a solid grade of 6.5 out of 10 for the 2023 season.

“I am so happy to have extended my contract with this amazing club,” Thorhallsson said in the club’s release. “Since I came to Orlando, it has felt like home, and I will be forever grateful for the opportunity I have gotten to play for the best fans in the country. There’s nothing better than a warm, Orlando night at Inter&Co Stadium, so I can’t wait for many more to come. The fans deserve the best, and that is what I will continue to try to give while I am here in Orlando.”

Prior to joining Orlando City, the native of Hafnarfjörður, Iceland native scored 11 goals and added seven assists in 40 appearances with Breidablik, helping the club win the Icelandic championship in 2022. He has appeared in four matches with Iceland’s national team and represented Iceland previously at the U-16, U-17, U-18, U-19, and U-21 levels, scoring two goals at the youth international level.

Thorhallson spent his youth career with Icelandic clubs Fylkir and Haukar, as well as Belgian side Gent from 2013-2018. He began his senior career with six appearances at Haukar in 2016 in his mid-teens. He returned to Iceland from Belgium and appeared in 16 matches with Keflavik, scoring one goal during the 2018-2019 season and appeared in one league match and four cup matches on loan with Norwegian side Mjøndalen IF. He signed with that club in 2019 and made 12 appearances in league play over two seasons from 2019-2021. During that time, he also played 12 games on loan with Kvik Halden FK in 2019, scoring five goals, and played in 20 matches on loan with Fylkir, scoring once.

What It Means for Orlando City

Thorhallsson arrived as a potential midfield replacement for Junior Urso at the beginning of 2023, but with his versatility and willingness to play anywhere, he cemented himself into the right back position around the Leagues Cup break in 2023, helping the Lions go on a successful final run that lifted the club to second in the Supporters’ Shield standings. While he is still developing at the position, and is sometimes still prone to errors, he’s only 24 and has plenty of upside.

Able to tuck inside and help in the midfield, play on the wing, and serve as a wingback or a fullback, Thorhallsson can plug into a lot of spots across multiple formations. He provides Oscar Pareja with some tactical options on how to use him. Thorhallsson has already equaled his goal (2) and assist (3) totals from 2023 in fewer games (albeit more minutes). He has a good rapport with winger Facundo Torres on the right side of Orlando City’s attack and possesses good instincts about when to overlap and when to cut inside.

The signing extends a promising Orlando City career. He should be in the midst of his prime years over the next two seasons, and provides a solid and dependable player.

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