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Orlando City

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.



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.

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.



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.



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.



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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