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Orlando City vs. Sporting Kansas City: Final Score 1-0 as Akindele’s Goal Lifts Lions

Lions notch a vital home win to inch closer in the playoff hunt.

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Nick Leyva, The Mane Land

Tesho Akindele scored the game’s only goal as the Lions evened their 2019 record to .500 (6-6-1) at Exploria Stadium with a 1-0 win over Sporting Kansas City. Orlando City (9-11-6, 33 points) got a much-needed win in the playoff race despite a general lack of sharpness, especially in the second half, but Sporting (7-11-7, 28 points) could not take advantage of constant turnovers by the Lions after halftime to find an equalizer.

With their ninth win of the season, the Lions moved one ahead of last season’s eight. Orlando’s seventh shutout of the year matches the club single-season record set in 2015 and matched in 2017.

“I gotta try to catch me breath after that,” said Head Coach James O’Connor after the match. “Look, it wasn’t pretty. We had some passages that you think, ‘OK, yeah, first half, not bad.’ Nice goal. Some good chances first half. Second half just became a complete game of transition and for us it became pure heart.”

O’Connor stuck with a 4-2-3-1, replacing Robinho with Akindele in the starting XI from Saturday’s lineup at Toronto. Santiago Patino returned to the bench and Robinho didn’t dress. Ruan (hamstring) was out, along with Joao Moutinho (hamstring), and Cristian Higuita (hamstring).

Orlando should have scored in just the second minute. Chris Mueller’s cross found Dom Dwyer wide open at the back post but he didn’t make good contact and his case of the yips continued on. The forward has to be seeing shadows out there at this point.

Sporting’s first shot came two minutes later when Jimmy Medranda fired at Brian Rowe from distance with an effort that didn’t trouble the Orlando goalkeeper.

The Lions’ lineup was dealt a blow — literally — in the eighth minute. Kyle Smith played a give-and-go and made a nice run into space. Instead of giving him the ball back, Mueller took a shot that was deflected into the air. Tim Melia came off his line to catch it and Smith ran full speed into his elbow, cutting him above the eye. Smith stayed down on the turf and was treated by the training staff before going to the locker room and getting six stitches. Shane O’Neill replaced him officially in the 12th minute.

“I thought the first half was all right,” O’Neill said. “We had the ball, going forward. Felt really good. I felt like I was growing into the game and kind of expressing myself. And then the second half it was tough. The second half was very tough. They pinned us back. Obviously Russell is a tough guy to go one against one with. But I think for the most part we did a good job.”

The teams exchanged possessions for a bit until Orlando opened the scoring in the 21st minute. Uri Rosell slipped a pass to Carlos Ascues, and the Peruvian cut back a pass for Akindele as Dwyer drew defenders toward the goal to open space. The Canadian smashed the ball into the net past Melia to make it 1-0.

“I saw Dom make a good hard run into the box and I saw some space around the six,” Akindele said. “I thought, if I move there and the ball comes to me I could score. I don’t even think Carlos looked, he just put the ball in a good area and I was there and was able to finish it. But Dom took two or three defenders away with him, which led to the goal.”

The Lions had only a few half chances after that. Mueller put a bit too much sauce on a ball that could have sprung Dwyer in behind in the 28th minute. After Johnny Russell’s header from a bad angle went over the bar in the 31st minute, Akindele took a pass from Nani but flicked it just wide of goal in the 33rd.

Nani and Felipe Gutierrez got into it, and both earned a yellow card in the 37th minute, before Graham Zusi fired wide in the 40th with the last half chance for either side in the opening half.

Shots were even at the break at 4-4 (1-1 on target). Sporting Kansas City held more of the ball (54%) and passed more efficiently (88%-82%) in the opening half.

The second half completely belonged to the visitors, as the Lions struggled to maintain possession, wasting numerous good opportunities to go on and score a second goal with misplaced passes, bad reads, or heavy touches. The game devolved into almost entirely transition after the break. O’Connor said the humid conditions adversely affected the quality of play of both teams.

“To be honest the humidity played a huge factor in the game tonight,” O’Connor said. “I think you could see both teams were really impacted by the humidity, and that’s when you need the character and the heart to be able to push though. That’s the one massive credit I can give the players, is the heart and the commitment that they showed to dig in and to push through because it was very tough conditions tonight.”

Robin Jansson made the first of several good defensive plays in the second half when he ran down a ball and made a sliding challenge to keep second-half sub Erik Hurtado from having a breakaway just three minutes after the restart.

In the 58th, halftime sub Benji Michel had a chance to play Dwyer in but he hesitated to make the pass and then delivered a poor one, wasting an early second-half chance for Orlando.

Russell fired a shot from distance in the 63rd that went way over the bar as the Orlando defense did well to limit space in the penalty area and leave Sporting with long-range opportunities.

Dwyer took a pass from Akindele in the 67th minute but with no real angle to shoot he tried to finesse through the defense and lost the ball to veteran Matt Besler.

SKC’s first dangerous opportunity came at the 68-minute mark when sub Benny Feilhaber fired a shot but it was hit right at Rowe.

A minute later, Sporting went on the counter after a wayward cross in the attacking end by O’Neill but Jansson was again there to make a vital stop on a sparkling night for the beefy Swede.

Dwyer saw a shot finally on target in the 72nd minute but it was blocked out in front. A minute later the striker showed some good hold-up play and sent the ball into space for Michel but the flag came up a beat after Benji took a heavy touch and then had his shot blocked by Melia.

Roger Espinoza nearly tied the game in spectacular fashion in the 77th minute with a back-heel try at the top of the six but he hit the shot toward Rowe, who gratefully covered it.

Sporting then started a parade of corner kicks — most of which were taken short as the visitors dominated possession. They nearly drew level in the 83rd when Feilhaber snuck in behind O’Neill and took a pass from Espinoza, but the midfielder sent his shot just wide, wasting Sporting’s best chance of the entire night.

“There were one or two lapses and we got away with it, but at the end of the day the most important thing was getting a win,” O’Neill said. “We just dug it out.”

Moments after another vital blocked cross by Jansson, the Lions could have put the game away in the 89th minute in transition. Nani got the ball wide on the right and played in substitute Sacha Kljestan. Melia came off his line and Kljestan tried to chip him but the goalkeeper got a piece and Gutierrez swooped in and cleared the ball off the line.

Seconds later, Jansson made yet another outstanding 1-v-1 challenge to deny Hurtado a breakaway. Orlando then saw out the five minutes of stoppage and laid claim to another victory to move to 2-0-1 at home and 2-2-1 overall in the all-time league series against SKC.

The visitors led in shots (14-8), shots on target (3-2), possession (56%), and passing accuracy (85%-81%) but the Lions led the only statistic that matters.

The Lions knew they didn’t play their best game but were satisfied with getting the three points.

“I think I’m happy we won,” Akindele said. “Do I think we play the best we could have? No. But that’s kind of like the mark of a good team, I think. Sometimes you play good, sometimes you don’t, but good teams find a way to win. That’s what we did today and that’s what’s most important.”


The Lions have a short turnaround with a trip to face Minnesota United on Saturday night.

Lion Links

Lion Links: 4/16/24

Nico Lodeiro earns recognition, Marta up for Goal of the Week, MLS stock watch, and more.

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Dan MacDonald, The Mane Land

Happy Tuesday, everyone! I hope you had a good weekend and got your taxes filed correctly and on time. It was a good weekend for Orlando soccer, as the Orlando Pride, Orlando City B, and Orlando City went undefeated and picked up seven of the nine points on offer. As always, we have a lot to talk through today. Before we get into today’s links, let’s all wish Luis Muriel a happy birthday!

Nico Lodeiro Makes Team of the Matchday Bench

Midfielder Nico Lodeiro has earned recognition for his part in Orlando City’s 3-2 win over D.C. United, making the bench of the latest edition MLS Team of the Matchday. The Uruguayan entered the fray in the 72nd minute and helped OCSC come back and take all three points. He took the corner kick that David Brekalo equalized from, (even though he was not initially credited with the assist) and provided an outstanding through ball for Duncan McGuire’s game-winner. Sean Rollins graded him a 6.5/10 and named him Man of the Match in his player grades as well. Here’s hoping he keeps up the good work!

Marta’s Goal Nominated

Marta’s game-winning strike during Friday’s contest against Utah Royals FC has been nominated for NWSL Goal of the Week. On the road and in the game as a substitute, it didn’t take long for the Brazilian to make her mark on the match. She was barely on the field for five minutes when she met a ball that was rolling across the box with a first-time strike that she powered in off the back post. It proved to be the game’s only goal and was enough to give the Pride their first win of the season. Make sure you vote for her to win this week’s honor!

MLS Stock Watch

The fortunes of Major League Soccer teams are in constant flux, and it’s always nice to keep track of how your enemies are doing. Former Lion Sacha Kljestan weighed in on which clubs’ stock went up and which went down after the weekend’s games. We start on a good note, as a resilient performance from Orlando City saw the good guys pick up their second win of the season. The LA Galaxy hammered the Vancouver Whitecaps by a score of 3-1, and proved that their place atop the Western Conference standings is no fluke. On the other side of the coin, Toronto FC has given up 10 goals in its last three matches, and Jon Herdman needs to find a way to keep things from getting worse until the Reds’ group of injured players can return to the field.

Americans in Midweek Action

There are two big matches featuring American players this week, so get them marked down on your calendar and don’t miss any of the action. Thursday sees Christian Pulisic, Yunus Musah, and AC Milan travel to the Italian capital to try to overturn a 1-0 first leg deficit to Roma in the Europa League quarterfinals. Musah started Sunday’s match against Sassuolo and Pulisic subbed on in the second half as Milan clawed its way back to a 3-3 draw. Friday then has Juventus and Weston McKennie traveling to Cagliari for a Serie A tilt. Juve is currently third in the league and needs to keep picking up results to secure a UEFA Champions League place for next season.

UEFA Champions League Preview

Speaking of the Champions League, the quarterfinals wrap up today and tomorrow and there are a number of storylines to keep an eye on. Luis Enrique is strong in his belief that Paris Saint-Germain can overcome a 3-2 loss in the first leg to advance past Barcelona. Xavi has promised that Barca will look to attack rather than sitting and protecting its lead. Elsewhere, Bayern Munich will be without the suspended Alphonso Davies and likely Kingsley Coman due to injury, and their replacements will be hard pressed to contain Ben White and Bukayo Saka. Finally, Edin Terzic’s substitutions gave Borussia Dortmund a spark in the team’s 2-1 loss to Atletico Madrid in the first leg, which means the coach may have a selection headache on his hands as he tries to lead his side to a comeback.

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That’ll do it for me this morning. Vamos Orlando!

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Orlando City

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

How did your favorite Lions perform in Orlando City’s 3-2 win over D.C. United?

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Orlando City came back from two deficits against D.C. United to claim a huge 3-2 win this weekend — the team’s second victory of the season. It looked like it would be a long night for the Lions in the first 20 minutes, but they turned it around. Down a goal late, David Brekalo and Duncan McGuire converted to earn Orlando City three points.

Here’s how I saw the individual performances by the Lions.

Starters

GK, Pedro Gallese, 6 — Gallese took his usual position in goal and had a strong night. He allowed himself to get pushed out of the play on the opening goal by Christian Benteke, though it arguably should’ve been a foul on D.C. He ended the game with four saves from six on-target shots, including two huge saves in second-half stoppage time. In addition to his shot stopping, Gallese completed 51.9% of his 27 passes, including seven of his 20 long balls. He was also credited with three clearances on the night.

D, Kyle Smith, 5.5 — Smith got the start at left back in this game over Rafael Santos, recording 53 touches. He had three tackles, three clearances, and a blocked shot. Going forward, he only completed 76.5% of his 34 passes, but connected with his lone cross and five of his nine long balls. He also won two aerial balls and was booked just before coming off for handling a ball that he should’ve cleared, giving D.C. a free kick in a dangerous position. The defender was replaced by Santos in the 73rd minute.

D, Robin Jansson, 6 — Jansson was a strong point for Orlando City once again in this game. He recorded one tackle, two interceptions, a blocked shot, and three clearances. Going forward, the center back completed 80.4% of his 46 passes, including four of his seven long balls. Arguably his biggest play of the game was drawing a foul late at the top of the box when D.C. was pushing for an equalizer.

D, David Brekalo, 6 — Brekalo had 60 touches and completed 76.6% of his 47 passes, including three of his 13 long balls. Defensively, he recorded one tackle, one interception, and two clearances. He made his first significant offensive impact as a Lion by getting his head to a Nico Lodeiro corner kick in the 82nd minute to even the game at 2-2.

D, Dagur Dan Thorhallsson, 6 — Thorhallsson only had 58 touches in the game, but the right back made the most of them. He completed 76.7% of his 30 passes and three of his six long balls, but failed to connect on his lone cross. Defensively, he recorded two tackles and three clearances. However, his biggest impact came in the 28th minute, when he got his head onto Ivan Angulo’s cross to even the game at 1-1.

MF, Cesar Araujo, 5 — Araujo’s 70 touches were the most on the team for this game. He only completed 78.2% of his 55 passes, but connected on two of his four long balls. Defensively, he won two tackles and blocked one shot while committing a team-high four fouls. He was also late getting over to cover Gabriel Pirani on the second goal for D.C. Overall, it wasn’t one of Araujo’s best games.

MF, Wilder Cartagena, 5.5 — Cartagena started in the defensive midfield alongside Araujo. He recorded 41 touches and completed 81.3% of his 32 passes, including a key pass, his one cross, and one of his three long balls. Defensively, he recorded two clearances. As is common with the midfielder, he was booked in the first half for standing over Jared Stroud after a foul by Angulo. He was taken off during a triple substitution in the 72nd minute, replaced by Lodeiro.

MF, Ivan Angulo, 6 — Angulo was the least involved of the midfielders, only recording 35 touches. However, he completed 76.2% of his 21 passes, including a wonderful cross to Thorhallsson on the Lions’ first goal of the night. His lone shot was off target, but he helped defensively with a tackle and team-high three interceptions.

MF, Facundo Torres, 5.5 — Torres recorded 50 touches in this game and completed 90.9% of his 33 passes with no key passes. He was accurate on only one of his three crosses, which was an issue. His lone shot was off target but not by much, as he sent his effort just wide of the right post from outside the area. He came off in stoppage time after the Lions took the lead for center back Rodrigo Schlegel.

MF, Martin Ojeda, 5.5 — Ojeda started in the attacking midfield for this game, recording 46 touches. He completed 71.4% of his 21 passes, including two key passes, one accurate cross on his four attempts, and two of his four long balls. He also had four unstable touches and an off-target shot. Defensively, the attacking midfielder had a team-high four tackles, helping his team retain possession before being replaced by Duncan McGuire in the 72nd minute.

F, Luis Muriel, 5 — Muriel got the start alone up top, but had a difficult night. He got involved in the game with 36 touches and completed 64.7% of his 17 passes, including two key passes. He took two shots, with one on target, and completed two dribbles, but had five unstable touches. He could’ve had a much better performance, but attempted to dribble through the opposition in the box rather than finding a teammate, losing possession. The forward’s night ended in the 87th minute when he was replaced by Felipe.

Substitutes

D, Rafael Santos (73’), 5.5 — Santos came on in the 73rd minute for Smith at left back. He had 14 touches and completed seven of his 10 touches (70%), but failed to connect on his one long ball and three crosses. He also didn’t record any defensive stats in his 17 minutes of action.

MF, Nico Lodeiro (72’), 6.5 (MotM) — Lodeiro came on in the 72nd minute for Cartagena, looking to make a difference. The midfielder touched the ball 18 times and completed 75% of his 12 passes, including two key passes, two of his three crosses, and one of his three long balls. Both of his shots were on target and his through ball for McGuire in second-half stoppage time gave him the assist on the game-winning goal. Although the stats sheet credited Torres with the assist on Brekalo’s goal, it was the veteran who took the set piece, which should result in a two-assist night once the league has had a chance to review the tape (see below…even Evan Weston calls him ‘Torres’ on his call). Lodeiro was a game-changer when he came on so, despite his lack of minutes, he earns my Man of the Match.

F, Duncan McGuire (72’), 6 — McGuire came on with Lodeiro as the Lions were chasing the game. He had 14 touches and completed 44.4% of his nine passes. However, the striker was brought on to score and did so in stoppage time, timing his run perfectly and finishing well on the breakaway. He also recorded a tackle and clearance but gets a high grade from me for doing exactly what he was brought on to do in scoring the winning goal.

MF, Felipe (87’), N/A — Felipe came on for Muriel as the Lions looked to see out a point, but he only touched the ball three times. He completed both of his passes, but didn’t record any other stats in his minimal time on the field.

D, Rodrigo Schlegel (90+2’), N/A — Schlegel came on right after the game-winning goal for Torres as the Lions looked to see out the win. He had two touches and an incomplete pass, but no other statistics.


That’s how I saw the individual performances in Orlando City’s win over D.C. United. Let us know how you saw the game and vote for your Man of the Match below.

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Lion Links

Lion Links: 4/15/24

Lions beat D.C. United, Pride pick up road win over Utah Royals, Barbra Banda arrives in Orlando, and more.

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Image courtesy of Orlando Pride / Jeremy Reper

Hello, Mane Landers. I hope all is well with you down in Florida. Orlando City and the Pride both won over the weekend, and there has been plenty of action in European soccer. Over the past week, I’ve been busy covering high school sports like lacrosse and softball. There is plenty to cover today, so let’s get to the links.

Lions Top D.C. United

Orlando City overturned a late 2-1 deficit to win 3-2 against D.C. United at Audi Field over the weekend. David Brekalo scored the equalizer in the second half to tie the match at 2-2. Duncan McGuire came off the bench in the second half and scored in stoppage time, as the Lions beat D.C. United for the first time since Oct. 2, 2021. The Lions were 0-3-1 against D.C. United over the last two seasons prior to Saturday’s win. Orlando has now picked up points in each of the last three matches. Orlando City will be on the road again this weekend when it takes on CF Montreal on Saturday.

Orlando Pride Defeat Utah Royals; Help Arrives

The Orlando Pride got their first win of the 2024 NWSL last Friday with a 1-0 against the Utah Royals. Marta came off the bench in the second half and scored the lone goal to seal the win for Orlando. The Pride drew each of their first three matches to start the season against Racing Louisville, Angel City FC, and the Chicago Red Stars. Friday’s result means the Pride have six points through four league matches and are fifth in the NWSL table.

Despite needing four matches to pick up their first win of the year, the Pride are ahead of last year’s pace at the same point in the season, and remain undefeated (1-0-3) despite still waiting to play with this off-season’s marquee signing, Zambian international striker Barbra Banda. The new Pride forward arrived on Sunday to a warm welcome at Orlando International Airport.

It will be interesting to see how quickly Seb Hines can get Banda acclimated to the club and the league. Orlando could use Banda’s offensive firepower, as the club has struggled to score goals in the early part of the season. The Pride will be back in action against the San Diego Wave this Friday.

Bayer Leverkusen wins Bundesliga; Manchester City Leads EPL Title Race

Bayer Leverkusen cruised to a 5-0 win against Werder Bremen on Sunday to win its first ever Bundesliga title with five league matches left to spare. Xabi Alonso’s side won the league title by a 16-point margin, ending Bayern Munich’s 11-year run as title holders. Leverkusen is also unbeaten through 43 matches across all competitions. Meanwhile, in England, we have a new Premier League title race leader as Manchester City crushed Luton Town 5-1 on Saturday. On Sunday, Arsenal lost 2-0 to Aston Villa and Liverpool lost 1-0 to Crystal Palace. There are six match days remaining and this race could go down to the wire. Manchester City is at the top of the table with 73 points, while Arsenal and Liverpool remain two points behind in second and third, respectively, with 71 points.

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  • Houston Dash winger Maria Sanchez has reportedly requested a trade four months after signing a record-breaking deal in NWSL history in the off-season to remain with the club.
  • Manchester United edged Chelsea 2-1 to beat the Blues for the first time ever. Making the win even bigger was that it took place in the Women’s FA Cup semifinal. United will play Tottenham in the final at Wembley on May 12.
  • The EFL Championship is three weeks away from its finale, with a few clubs featureing Americans still in the mix for promotion. Josh Sargent’s Norwich City side holds the final playoff spot, while Haji Wright’s Conventry and Duane Holmes’ Preston North End in the hunt for a shot at promotion.
  • The AS Roma versus Udinese match was suspended after defender Evan Ndicka collapsed away from play and had to be stretchered off. The game was tied at 1-1 with about 20 minutes remaining when Ndicka went down. The club shared this update on social media.

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

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