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Orlando City

Orlando City vs. Philadelphia Union: Final Score 3-1 as 9-Man Lions Undone in Second Half

Robin Jansson’s red card late in the first half completely changed the game and Sacha Kljestan’s red in the second half didn’t help.



Image courtesy of Orlando City SC

Orlando City just can’t quite seem to find a way to win consecutive games. With yet another good opportunity to start a winning streak, the Lions saw Robin Jansson sent off at the end of the first half for denial of a goal-scoring opportunity in a tie game, and Sacha Kljestan was sent off in the second half for a horror tackle. The first-place Union (10-5-5, 35 points) took full advantage and beat the Lions (6-9-3, 21 points) 3-1 at Exploria Stadium.

It was the first time this season that Orlando scored first and lost. It was also the Union’s first win at Orlando in five tries (1-1-3).

Chris Mueller opened the scoring for Orlando just eight minutes in, but Kacper Przybylko answered later in the first half and added another just after halftime as the Union capitalized on the Lions being down a man.

“We started the game brightly, got a goal and then after the goal I felt like we needed to do a better job of maintaining possession. We allowed them to come back into the game a little bit,” said Head Coach James O’Connor after the match. “They obviously scored a goal but then I think obviously the sending off (of Jansson) was a major impact.”

O’Connor wasted no time inserting some of his internationals back into the lineup. Will Johnson and Sebas Mendez joined Kljestan in the midfield. The forward line and back four remained the same as it was for Saturday’s win at Columbus, with Brian Rowe back in goal. Dom Dwyer made the 18, along with Kamal Miller.

The Lions got on the front foot immediately, with Danilo Acosta getting a couple of crosses into dangerous spots in the first minute. The second found Tesho Akindele, who was denied at point-blank range by a sliding Matt Freese.

Just after Kljestan and Mendez had shots blocked in the area off a corner kick, Orlando broke through in the eighth minute. Mueller took advantage of an Auston Trusty turnover, backed Jack Elliott into his own penalty area, and fired home for the Lions’ earliest goal in a game this season. It was the fifth of the season and the second straight game with a goal for Cash.

“I picked it up and just started driving kind of towards the goal,” Mueller said. “The defender just kind of kept backing off, backing off, backing off until I thought I was close enough to get a good look and I just kept it low and took my shot.”

“I thought we started out really well,” said Akindele. “They’re a good team. We knew it. We knew we had to kind of impose ourselves on the game and we did. Chris scored an amazing goal and I thought we had control of it. They kind of started taking the momentum back.”

Philadelphia started to climb into the match shortly after that. Przybylko fired a shot from range in the 12th minute that Rowe didn’t pick up right away, but he was able to get down with a strong hand and knock it away.

The Union then spent about the next 10 minutes winning several corner kicks but the Orlando defense did well to keep any of them from becoming dangerous. However, Rowe did have to make a save on a clear-cut chance from an angle in the 18th.

Nani had a ball fall for him on the left in the 24th minute but he sent a scorcher over the bar.

Two minutes later, Orlando tried to break on the counter off a Union corner but Haris Medunjanin was booked for a professional foul.

The Union leveled in the 32nd minute when Akindele turned it over in the midfield. He went down under contact but Chris Penso waved play on and Jamiro Monteiro passed to Przybylko, who put a move on Jansson, who went to ground, then fired into the net to make it 1-1.

Disaster struck in the 43rd minute when a ball got in behind and Jansson took down Fafa Picault. He managed to get a touch on the ball first but fell awkwardly and ended up scissoring Picault to the ground. Penso gave him a yellow card initially, before reviewing the video and changing his decision to a straight red.

“I think that obviously completely changes the game,” O’Connor said.

“Obviously the red card was unlucky for us, but you know, it happens sometimes,” Akindele said. “We need to learn from it and we need to go and review what we did wrong and make sure we’re ready to do better in that situation next time.”

The Lions saw out two minutes of stoppage time down a man, but the game changed dramatically with Orlando’s first red card of the season.

Orlando out-shot the Union in the first half, 8-7, with Philadelphia getting more on target (4-3). The Union held a slight edge in passing (89%-88%), with possession split just about 50/50.

The Union wasted no time grabbing the lead, with Przybylko notching his brace just 62 seconds after the restart. A routine ball into the area fell for the Union striker and second-half sub Kamal Miller was too slow in closing him down, allowing him to get off a volley shot that made it 2-1.

Seven minutes later, Picault put the game away with his third goal of the season, roofing a shot toward the near post to make it 3-1 in the 52nd minute. This time Acosta was late tracking back to close down the shooter.

“The first 10 minutes of the second half I think we needed to be sharper,” O’Connor said. “Granted we’re down to 10 men but I think that’s something that we feel as if we needed to start the second half brighter than we did.”

“I think we lost our discipline as a team,” Akindele said. “You need to at that point bunker and not allow a goal in that first couple minutes. And that’s on everyone. That’s on me from the top and our defenders — everybody needs to be better and I think we just need to be a little bit more disciplined in those situations.”

Things got even worse in the 67th minute when Kljestan caught Monteiro with his studs from behind and got Orlando’s second straight red card of the game and the season. It was a terrible challenge and Kljestan will be lucky if he doesn’t receive any additional punishment beyond the suspension for Saturday’s return leg in Philadelphia.

“Obviously Sacha makes a poor decision, goes to ground,” O’Connor said. “Too tired, to be fair to Sacha, and then obviously we’re down another man. I think the game was completely impacted by the sendings off.”

The Lions did try to hit on the counter a few times after going down to nine men, but Akindele and substitute Dom Dwyer couldn’t quite break free. Dwyer nearly scored in the 84th on a corner kick after Johnson headed a ball into the area with an audacious bicycle kick attempt but he hit his screamer over the bar.

After that it was just damage control. Miller blocked a shot that would have made it 4-1 in the 87th minute and seconds later Rowe was forced to make an outstanding stop to deny Medunjanin.

Philadelphia led all statistical categories, including shots (22-13), shots on target (9-3), possession (58%-42%), and passing accuracy (91%-87%). But going down a man and then two goals, then losing another player was too much to overcome against virtually any team, let alone the Eastern Conference leaders.

“The issue for Saturday now is we’ve got a load of guys that have played a lot of minutes and have covered a lot of ground,” O’Connor said. “And then with another game on the Wednesday against New York (City) we’re going to really have to manage the situation.”

These two teams will do it all over again — hopefully without the Orlando red cards — at Talen Energy Stadium on Saturday at 7 p.m.

Orlando City

Orlando City Can Build Valuable Momentum in April

The last two games of April present a good chance for the Lions to keep building momentum ahead of a challenging May.



Dan MacDonald, The Mane Land

Orlando City got back to winning ways last Saturday and started a mini-undefeated streak in the process, as the Lions have now gone three games on the bounce without tasting defeat. OCSC has two more games to play during the month of April, and the scheduling gods have given the men in purple a chance to keep building on the recent run of good form, as a tricky and packed May schedule looms on the horizon. The last two April fixtures won’t be easy by any stretch, but an opportunity has presented itself if the Lions can play well and take advantage of it.

First, let’s turn our attention to Saturday’s game against CF Montreal up in Canada. Montreal currently has a record of 3-3-1 which is good for 10 points and eighth place in the Eastern Conference. These two teams faced each other in the very first game of the season, and it ended as a 0-0 draw, thanks largely in part to some shaky finishing on Orlando’s part and a couple excellent Pedro Gallese saves. Since then, Montreal has defeated a struggling FC Dallas team, an Inter Miami team that has looked equal parts unbeatable and extremely vulnerable at the back, and an FC Cincinnati side that so far has struggled to replace the goals of Brandon Vazquez. In other words, the wins haven’t come over bad teams, (aside from maybe Dallas) but rather teams that have had flawed, uneven starts to the season.

To be fair, many of the same criticisms could be leveled at Orlando City’s record. OCSC’s wins have come against Austin FC and D.C. United — two teams with leaky defenses that have each had uneven starts to the season — and the Lions have suffered losses that have ranged from uninspiring against Atlanta, to abhorrent against Miami. Where the two teams differ is that Orlando started the year battling on two fronts and then had key players missing through a combination of injury and international call-ups afterward. The Lions now have a nearly clean bill of health and looked much more cohesive with Wilder Cartagena and Cesar Araujo partnered in midfield once more — a welcome sight after some of the struggles that were endured when one or both were missing at various times.

The Canadian side also hasn’t kept a clean sheet since that opening game of the season against the Lions, a fact that could bode well for an Orlando side which has scored six goals in its last three games. As long as the defense can tighten up and not make the sorts of mental errors that led to goals against D.C. and the New York Red Bulls, there will be opportunities at the other end of the field for an attacking corps that has done a better job at putting the ball in the net than we saw during the first game of the season. In short, the game is a winnable one, and while getting road results in MLS is never easy, OCSC should feel reasonably confident about its chances to get points on its trip north of the border.

That leaves Toronto FC’s visit to the Purple Palace on Saturday, April 27. The Reds currently sit one spot below CF Montreal, in ninth place, with a record of 3-4-1 and 10 points. TFC’s victories have been over a New England team that has been struggling mightily, a Charlotte FC side that has had a decent but slightly inconsistent start to the year, and an Atlanta United outfit that can have the same said of it as Charlotte. The wins have all been solid ones, and the team looked pretty good in those three games.

On the flip side of things, the last of those wins came on March 23, with Toronto dropping its last three games in a row and conceding 10 goals in the process. They’ve got the second leakiest defense of any of the nine teams in the playoff places, while being tied with Cincinnati for scoring the fewest goals.

Then there’s the issue of player availability. The Reds’ injury list is a long one, with six players currently listed as out and an additional one as questionable. Among those listed out are Lorenzo Insigne, Richie Laryea, Brandon Servania, and Shane O’Neill. In other words, they’re likely to be missing guys that are key contributors for the team when healthy, and part of the recent losing streak can be attributed to dealing with the injury bug that’s bit the team with a vengeance. Playing on the road without a number of important key players is rarely a recipe for success, and Orlando City should have another good chance to pick up three points.

Now, this isn’t to say that taking all six points from these games is a foregone conclusion. MLS is a tricky league to get results in, and we have no way of knowing how the fortunes of Orlando, Montreal, and Toronto will change in the next eight days. But given the leaky defenses of the two Canadian sides, TFC’s injury situation, and Orlando City seemingly starting to find a better patch of form, the Lions have an opportunity to keep picking up points and climbing the Eastern Conference standings. Vamos Orlando!

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Lion Links

Lion Links: 4/19/24

Orlando Pride host the San Diego Wave, Orlando City B faces Crown Legacy FC, Europa League action, and more.



Image courtesy of Orlando Pride

Happy Friday! Make sure to get your night plans in order as both the Orlando Pride and Orlando City B have games tonight. Figure out your drink of choice, charge those devices if you don’t plan on heading to the stadium for the Pride game, and knock out any chores before things get rolling. It should be a fun day, so let’s get it started with some links!

Orlando Pride Host the San Diego Wave Tonight

After earning their first win last week in Utah, the Orlando Pride are back in the City Beautiful for tonight’s game against the San Diego Wave at 8 p.m. The Pride’s four-game unbeaten run is on the line and will be put to the test against a Wave team that has four points from three games. San Diego has only scored two goals this season, but it has also secured a pair of clean sheets so far. The biggest storyline heading into the match is whether or not Barbra Banda will make her Pride debut. Hopefully Orlando can light it up at home and keep former Pride forward Alex Morgan and the rest of the Wave’s offense in check.

Orlando City B Takes On Crown Legacy FC

The Young Lions are also in action tonight at 7:30 p.m., with a match against Crown Legacy FC in North Carolina. Crown Legacy is only a point behind OCB, but is still searching for its first win of this MLS NEXT Pro season. OCB has played every game away from the Orlando area so far and ground out a 1-1 draw against Philadelphia Union II last weekend. Orlando hasn’t won a game since its season opener on March 16, but has been proven capable of getting points on the road. Wilfredo Rivera and Yutaro Tsukada linked up for the equalizer in that match, so hopefully they can keep that momentum rolling into tonight’s game.

Americans to Watch This Weekend

European soccer seasons and tournaments are nearing their ends and there are many Americans in important games this weekend. Haji Wright’s heroics put Coventry City into the FA Cup semifinals, and he will have a chance to impress again on Sunday against Manchester United. Elsewhere in England, Fulham duo Antonee Robinson and Tim Ream could put a dent in Liverpool’s title hopes, while Nottingham Forest’s Matt Turner and Giovanni Reyna will square off against Everton, as both sides aim to avoid relegation. Over in Italy, AC Milan duo Christian Pulisic and Yunus Musah will try to stop Inter Milan from claiming the Serie A title in a rivalry match at San Siro. There’s also a showdown between Americans in the Scottish Cup semifinals, with Celtic’s Cameron Carter-Vickers going up against Aberdeen and Dante Polvara.

Europa League Quarterfinals Come to a Close

The Europa League quarterfinals are done and dusted and only four teams remain in contention for some silverware. West Ham United took the lead against Bayer Leverkusen, but couldn’t overcome the aggregate deficit and the German club advanced. Leverkusen also scored a late equalizer to make it a 1-1 draw and extend its unbeaten streak to 44 games. Marseille scored at home against Benfica to send the game to extra time and then won the eventual penalty shootout. Atalanta did enough in a 1-0 loss to Liverpool to advance on aggregate, with Liverpool’s lone goal coming from an early Mohamed Salah penalty kick. AS Roma is also through to the semifinals after a 2-1 win against AC Milan, despite a red card in the first half. In the semifinals, Marseille will face Atalanta and Leverkusen will take on Roma.

Free Kicks

  • Houston Dynamo Head Coach Ben Olsen has agreed to a new contract that will keep him with the club through 2026. Olsen has quietly dragged the Dynamo out of the Western Conference’s basement and won last year’s U.S. Open Cup as well.
  • New York Red Bulls defender Andres Reyes was suspended an additional match for violent conduct in the team’s match against the Chicago Fire. This means Reyes will miss tomorrow’s match against LAFC and the home game against the Vancouver Whitecaps on April 27.
  • American left back Jorge Villafana is hanging up his cleats. He won the MLS Cup with the Portland Timbers back in 2015 and the Concacaf Gold Cup with the U.S. in 2017.
  • Replays won’t be a part of the FA Cup for the next six years. This will ease some of the schedule congestion for English Premier League teams, but it denies lower-division sides the chance at more revenue.
  • The folks over at Stars and Stripes FC shined a spotlight on forward Jubilo Iwata, who currently leads Japan’s J1 League in scoring after eight games. It’s always cool to learn more about some of the lesser-known players in the U.S. player pool.
  • An NFL game between the Philadelphia Eagles and Green Bay Packers will be played in Brazil at Corinthians Arena. However, there’s an unofficial rule at the stadium that green can’t be worn, as it is the color of Corinthians rival, so we’ll see if that’s adhered to come September.
  • Megan Rapinoe and Sue Bird’s production company will adapt Cleat Cute, a romance novel by Meryl Wilsner about love between teammates on a women’s soccer team. As someone who’s read it and loved it, I’m pretty excited for the show to say the least.

That’s all I have for you today. Stay hydrated and enjoy the games today. Go Orlando!

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Orlando City

Orlando City at CF Montreal: Three Keys to Victory

What does Orlando City need to do on the road against CF Montreal to take home all three points ?



Dan MacDonald, The Mane Land

Orlando City opened the season against CF Montreal, playing to a 0-0 draw at Inter&Co Stadium back in February. Now, the Lions head to the Great White North to play the pesky Canadian club again. There’s no Concacaf Champions Cup competition to worry about this time, so hopefully Orlando City can get a victory.

What does Orlando City need to do to follow up the D.C. United victory with another win?

Just Say No

Outscoring your opponents while giving up two goals is all well and good, but outscoring your opponents while also keeping a clean sheet is much better. Orlando City has given up 13 goals over seven matches. It’s actually worse than that considering that the club has two clean sheets meaning those 13 goals came in just five matches. The Lions need to do better at not conceding goals.

Of course, one of those clean sheets came against Montreal to start the season, and the entire defense is seemingly healthy and ready to go. Our old foe Josef Martinez is always a threat and Matias Coccaro has three goals for Montreal so far this season. Stopping them is crucial. If Orlando City can maintain the same defensive discipline it showed in the previous match against Montreal, it will make earning points on the road much easier.

Designated Player Goals

Orlando City has scored seven goals so far this season. Duncan McGuire leads the team with three goals, thanks to his goal last week. Do you know who hasn’t scored yet? If you said any of Orlando City’s Designated Players, you would be correct. I’m not going to ring any emergency bells just yet, but it’d be a lot cooler if Luis Muriel, Martin Ojeda, or Facundo Torres scored a goal this week.

I think they are all close to breaking out. Torres has scored this year, just not in the MLS regular season. Muriel has been getting closer each match, and is still contributing in other ways. The same can be said of Ojeda. My point is that the goals are coming. Perhaps a trip to another country is exactly what they need to get off the mark.

The Battle on the Wings

Orlando City will be playing against former Lion Ruan. He lines up on the right for Montreal and will be a challenge for either Rafael Santos or Kyle Smith, depending on who gets the start. Of course, if Ivan Angulo is playing in his usual role on the left side of Orlando City’s attack, there could be some interesting races between the two speedy players.

I think that the other side of the field is where the match might be won or lost. Since Orlando City fell out of the Concacaf Champions Cup, the team has been on a more regular schedule. That has allowed Dagur Dan Thorhallsson to regain his form in the right fullback position for the Lions. He scored a goal last week, has an assist on the season, four crosses, and 10 key passes. He is an integral part of Orlando City’s attack and if he can win the battles against Raheem Edwards and Joaquin Sosa on the right side of Montreal’s lineup, he could have another big night.

That is what I will be looking for Saturday night. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below. Vamos Orlando!

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