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Orlando City

Orlando City vs. Toronto FC: Final Score 1-1 as Lions Fail to Make Up Ground in Playoff Race

Orlando led but then conceded late as the Lions still haven’t won at BMO Field.



Orlando City scored first, but the BMO Field hex continued, as a fortunate bounce on a set piece fell perfectly for Toronto FC to equalize in an unsatisfying 1-1 road draw. Benji Michel came off the bench to give the Lions (8-11-6, 30 points) a 1-0 advantage in the 69th minute, only to be called for a penalty that was overturned after video review. Patrick Mullins scored on the ensuing set piece anyway, and Orlando made up no ground on Toronto (9-10-6, 33 points) in the playoff race.

City is just 0-4-2 at BMO Field in six games there and remains three points behind Montreal for the final Eastern Conference playoff spot.

James O’Connor kept a lot of his full-strength side intact despite the heavy fixture schedule, showing the importance of every league match the rest of the way. Nani slid back into the midfield with Carlos Ascues and Uri Rosell, behind a front line of Chris Mueller, Dom Dwyer, and Robinho. The starting central defense tandem of Robin Jansson and Lamine Sané were flanked by Kamal Miller and Kyle Smith in front of goalkeeper Brian Rowe.

Orlando City started a bit on the back foot but didn’t allow Toronto much room in the defensive third. Tsubasa Endoh got the game’s first shot six minutes in but he fired it wide after gathering in a wayward pass from Smith.

The Lions then won a couple early corner kicks but did nothing with them as they were either taken short and fell apart quickly, or the crosses in were poor. Nani got Orlando’s first shot attempt at the 22-minute mark. Quentin Westberg made a diving stop to knock it out for a corner but it was drifting just wide anyway.

The most dangerous opportunity of the half came 29 minutes in, when Alejandro Pozuelo was given too much space and he picked out a chip pass intended for Jozy Altidore. It was just over the U.S. international striker’s head and skipped wide of the far post.

Nani sent another shot wide in the 40th minute and that was about it for the opening half, as neither team did a whole lot in the final third. Orlando was too hesitant to get balls into the area or botched their crosses after making good moves to get free in wide spaces. Some more quality on crosses would have perhaps given the Lions more threat in the attack.

Toronto led in first-half shots (4-3), shots on goal (1-0), and passing accuracy (86%-84%). Orlando had 51% of the ball. Neither team was particularly dangerous but the hosts seemed the likelier team to score in the opening 45 minutes.

The Reds came out with a lot more jump after the break, pressed relentlessly and held onto the ball through much of the second half. Toronto’s first good opportunity came in the first minute of the second half, with Pozuelo finding Marky Delgado down the right. Delgado’s cross for Altidore was picked off by Rosell at the last second.

Former Lion Richie Laryea, who won several 1-v-1 battles all night against his former teammates, got into the area in the 53rd minute and went down easily, then got up and fired a shot that Rowe saved.

Five minutes later, Laryea lifted a cross to the back post for Altidore but Smith did just enough to head it toward the sideline. Endoh then fired onto the roof of the net in the 59th minute after a nice pass from Chris Mavinga and a dummy from Altidore freed up his chance from the top of the area.

Toronto kept coming, winning corners and keeping the ball. Pozuelo fired a shot off the back post after a short corner as the warning bells continued to chime for Orlando.

The Lions finally got a shot on target in the 64th when a long cross from Nani found Dwyer’s head and the striker directed one right at Westberg.

Toronto then had the ball pinballing around Orlando’s area in the 66th after Delgado smashed a tough-angle shot off of Rowe that was parried into the middle of the six. A blocked shot later and the Lions cleared.

Michel came on in the 68th minute for Robinho, who pitched in well defensively but didn’t do much on the attacking end. The rookie made an impact immediately.

A ball fell to Dwyer’s feet at midfield and the striker turned and played Mueller into space down the right. Mueller surveyed the field and crossed a ball that Ascues let go through to the onrushing Michel, who took a touch and then passed the ball into the far corner past Westberg to make it 1-0 in the 69th minute.

The Reds almost pulled that back three minutes later. Rowe made a good save in tight on Altidore and the ball fell to Laryea with the whole net to shoot at. The former Lion missed the target badly with his shot.

Two minutes later, Laryea got around Michel, who grabbed him and gave him a tug before letting go. Laryea went to ground inside the area and referee Kevin Stott pointed to the spot in front of an incensed group of Orlando players. Stott went to video review, which showed a clear error, as Michel both made the grab and released Laryea outside the area.

It didn’t end up mattering that it wasn’t a penalty, because Toronto scored anyway on the free kick. Pozuelo pushed the ball out to Michael Bradley outside the area and the USMNT midfielder fired a shot that was blocked in front. Unfortunately, the rebound squirted just behind the defensive line and set up perfectly for Mullins to turn and fire home in the 77th.

Altidore tried to find a game winner on a free kick in the 84th from just outside the area, but he fired his shot over the bar. Time wound down and the teams entered six minutes of stoppage time.

The 92nd minute was a crazy one, with both teams getting an excellent shot at a winner. First, Altidore got behind the defense and tried to chest down a cross but his touch was too heavy and Rowe collected. Then, on the other end, the ball found second-half sub Ruan, who crossed to fellow substitute Tesho Akindele. The Canadian flicked the ball toward the back post but couldn’t keep it on frame.

Rosell fired way off frame in the 93rd and then Toronto saw Laryea, Omar Gonzalez, and Bradley all fail to hit the target with shots before the final whistle blew.

Toronto out-shot Orlando 18-8 (5-2 on target), and won the possession (56%-44%) and passing (87%-82%) battle as well.

The Lions return home to Exploria Stadium for a Wednesday night match-up with Sporting Kansas City at 7:30 p.m.

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.



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.



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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Lion Links

Lion Links: 11/28/23

Luciano Acosta named MVP, Americans in action, scheduling news for U.S. national teams, and more.



Dan MacDonald, The Mane Land

Happy Tuesday, everyone. I’m dragging a little today after having an extended period of time off for the Thanksgiving holiday, but there’s no rest for the wicked and the only way out is through. With that being the case, let’s get into today’s news.

Luciano Acosta Wins MLS MVP

In a piece of news that plenty of people likely saw coming from several miles away, Luciano Acosta has been named Major League Soccer’s Most Valuable Player. Acosta racked up 34 goal contributions during the regular season, finishing the 2023 campaign with 17 goals and 14 assists as the driving force behind his team’s run to the Supporters’ Shield. He was voted the best player in the league by quite some margin and won the award in a landslide, taking 60.37% of the votes to Denis Bouanga’s 14.97% and Thiago Almada’s 6.46%.

American Stars in Midweek Action

There are a number of United States Men’s National Team players that will be in action this week, with several UEFA Champions League clashes highlighting the viewing slate. Christian Pulisic, Yunus Musah and AC Milan will face Giovanni Reyna’s Borussia Dortmund today in a game with huge ramifications for both teams. Malik Tillman, Ricardo Pepi, and Sergino Dest may play in PSV Eindhoven’s match with Sevilla tomorrow, and a win would likely go a long way to securing a place in the Round of 16. Additionally on Wednesday, Brenden Aaronson and Union Berlin have a chance to make a big move towards a place in the Europa League, as a win over Braga would leapfrog the German club into third place in Group C.

USMNT & USWNT Scheduling News

The USMNT will open its 2024 slate of games with a match against Slovenia on Jan. 20 in San Antonio. The match will fall outside of an international window, meaning that the January camp roster will largely be made up of domestic-based players. The USMNT has faced Slovenia twice before, with the most recent time being a 3-2 win in Ljubljana courtesy of a Jozy Altidore penalty kick.

While we already knew that the United States Women’s National Team would play China PR on Dec. 5 in Frisco, we now know that one of the team’s legends will be honored before the game. The U.S. Soccer Federation has announced that former Orlando Pride defender Ali Krieger, who stated in March that she will retire following the NWSL season, will be honored before the match. Krieger played 108 games for the USWNT and is a two-time World Cup winner with the team.

Notable Women’s Players to Miss International Matches

A pair of high profile women’s players will miss upcoming international games. First up, Sam Kerr will not feature in Australia’s back-to-back friendlies against Canada due to a foot injury. Kerr has struggled with injuries this year and her availability was limited during this summer’s World Cup.

Alexia Putellas will miss Spain’s two Nations League matches against Sweden and Italy after picking up a left knee injury. Putellas had missed Euro 2022 due to an ACL tear, but was back to help her side win the World Cup several months ago. Fortunately for Spain, the team is well positioned atop its group and has enough players in the squad that it shouldn’t feel her absence too keenly.

Free Kicks

  • A pair of Willian penalties and an early Alex Iwobi goal helped Fulham beat Wolverhampton, with American defenders Antonee Robinson and Tim Ream also starting.
  • New York Red Bulls forward Tom Barlow is reportedly headed to the Chicago Fire.

That’s all I’ve got for you this morning. Y’all stay safe out there.

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