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Orlando City

Orlando City vs. Atlanta United: Final Score 1-0 as Lions Again Can’t Find the Net Against United

Orlando just can’t finish off a number of opportunities as the Lions again can’t force this series into rivalry status.



Image courtesy of Orlando City SC

Orlando City is apparently Phil Connors on Groundhog Day, as for the third time this season the Lions were shut out against Atlanta United. The Lions (9-12-7, 34 points) played their best game of the three meetings this season but were wasteful in front of goal, as they fell 1-0 to the Eastern Conference leaders (15-9-3, 48 points) at Exploria Stadium. The loss snapped Orlando’s 2-0-2 unbeaten run and dropped the Lions to 0-6-2 in the all-time series in league play and 0-7-2 in all competitive matches.

The crowd of 23,014 saw the Lions play assertively from the jump and created the better chances in this one, but too many shots were off target or driven right at Atlanta goalkeeper Brad Guzan. Defensively, the Lions didn’t allow many good looks, but one was all it took in the second half for Josef Martinez to run his goal-scoring streak to 12 straight games and net the game-winning goal.

Orlando created an incredible 17 chances in the game but somehow failed to find the net at the end of any of them — a fact Orlando City Head Coach James O’Connor lamented in his postgame press conference.

“I think unfortunately for us tonight we’ve played very well, we’ve had exceptional chance creation, we just weren’t able to take our chances, which is just very hard to swallow. Very painful for us,” O’Connor said after the match. “Sometimes you have a game where you have a lot of shots and they’re maybe outside the box. They’re shots that maybe are difficult chances. I think when you look at the areas we got into, we should have either shot sooner or punished them.

“We can say we were unlucky, but for me, we were the architects of our own downfall, because when you have that many chances, you have to capitalize, and you have to take those chances — especially against a team like that, because they get a couple of chances and bang, it’s in the back of the net.”

O’Connor inserted Mauricio Pereyra into the starting lineup for the first time, pushing Sebas Mendez out of the starting XI. Nani moved to the left wing and Tesho Akindele replaced Dom Dwyer from Saturday’s lineup at Minnesota.

The Lions played their best half against Atlanta this season in the opening 45 minutes but couldn’t put the ball in the net. The visitors did well to deflect and block shots, but Orlando was also wasteful with chances, with Carlos Ascues in particular firing right at Guzan twice with a lot of net at which to shoot. Pereyra’s first home start began with a couple of early fouls that earned him a lecture from referee Nima Saghafi, but he was brilliant in the opening half, pulling the defense apart and finding teammates all over the attacking third.

Ascues’ first opportunity was blocked just five minutes in, as the Peruvian’s movement was good throughout the half and Atlanta’s defense concentrated more on Akindele. Ascues then tracked back well to block a shot on the other end seconds later.

At the seven-minute mark, Ascues again found himself with a good scoring opportunity but fired his shot right at Guzan.

A minute later, Benji Michel won a race to the end line and turned inside the defense, but he then grew impatient and fizzed a cross through the area to no one in particular.

Atlanta scored in the ninth minute but the play was offside. After Lamine Sané cleared a ball out to the right, Kyle Smith had his pass blocked over top of everyone to Martinez. The striker beat Brian Rowe but was well behind the back line when the ball was played and the flag nullified the goal.

In the 10th minute, Akindele beat Miles Robinson on the right and fired from a tight angle, only to see Guzan make a save at the near post, giving the Lions a corner.

Sané forced another Guzan save on the ensuing corner with a header on frame off Pereyra’s cross.

Nani sent Benj in behind in the 13th minute. He went down under contact but the flag had come up (though I’m not sure it should have).

Atlanta’ got a decent look in the 17th minute but Pity Martinez fired over the bar.

Pereyra sent Ascues in again in the 22nd minute, but Darlington Nagbe poked the ball away from behind at the last second to prevent a scoring chance. Nani took the ensuing corner short and it ended up on Michel’s foot. The rookie fired but saw his shot deflected, giving Guzan an easy ball to collect.

Pity Martinez sent a shot just inches wide of the back post in the 24th minute and Ezequiel Barco had a shot deflect easily in for Rowe in the 31st.

Orlando’s last good look of the half was another excellent pass from Pereyra to Ascues, who fired right at Guzan again.

The teams went to the locker room scoreless, with Orlando leading in shots (9-6) and shots on target (4-1). Atlanta blocked five of City’s efforts. Atlanta held 58% of the possession and was more accurate in passing (84%-76%) but you’d have to say the Lions had the better opportunities.

The teams were a little less sharp to start the second half but 15 minutes after the break the visitors took the lead. After winning a ball in the midfield, Atlanta broke in with numbers and Sané was caught upfield. Barco sent the ball left to Josef Martinez, who beat Rowe to make it 1-0.

“I think on their goal, quick transition and then Josef gets half a yard inside the box and it’s a goal,” O’Connor said. “His record speaks for itself.”

“I feel we were pushing numbers forward and maybe got too comfortable leaving ourselves 1-v-1 there,” said rookie defender Kamal Miller. “I got back late and it ended up a 2-v-2 and just they took their chance and that how it goes sometimes.”

Orlando fired 12 shots toward Atlanta’s net in the second half but not one of them was on target. Nani sent a shot just wide in the 62nd minute, then saw a dangerous cross almost knocked into the net for an own goal by Robinson. The captain then sent a beautiful chip pass to Ascues in the 65th but the Peruvian sent his shot just wide of goal, rippling the outside netting.

“I thought (Ascues) had some wonderful opportunities to score tonight,” O’Connor said. “I thought his understanding of space was excellent. Perhaps maybe could have shot a little quicker with a couple of those opportunities.”

Two minutes later, Nani fizzed a shot just wide of net.

Atlanta had a chance to double the lead in the 68th minute as Orlando got caught pushing forward for the equalizer. Martinez went for his brace by chipping Rowe but hit the left post. The ball came back to him and the Atlanta striker fired over the bar.

Uri Rosell got onto a Nani pass and fired off target in the 75th as the Lions continued to create but also continued to fail to put the final ball in the net.

Rowe made a huge mistake in the 80th minute but was able to clean up his own mess. His pass was picked off and gave Atlanta a 2-v-Rowe. Hector Villalba crossed over to Martinez but Rowe was able to come off his line to smother the chance.

A couple of more misses by both sides and the game was over. Before the final whistle, Nani got in a tussle with Julian Gressel and went down behind the play. Nani had been tugging Gressel’s shirt and the Atlanta star took exception, swinging at Nani’s head and making light contact. Gressel saw a yellow card for the infraction.

The Lions out-shot Atlanta, 21-15 (4-3 on target) but were wasteful with all of those efforts. Atlanta held a slight edge in possession, with 51%, and out-passed Orlando (82%-77%).

“When you look at the game overall, we’ve had enough chances to win two or three games,” O’Connor said. “You look at the guys. They’ve given everything tonight. On another evening you win four or five-nil or four or five-one.

“The biggest thing we have to do is keep creating the chances, keep getting the same level of commitment, the same effort, and persevere. If we do start taking those chances, we’ll start to give teams a good whack.”

“We created a lot of chances today,” said Pereyra, who stated after the game that he thought he might be able to go a full 90 minutes in the next match. “Against Atlanta you need to score on these chances. If not, they will have one and they will score and you lose this important game.”

Orlando City returns to the road for its next match, visiting the San Jose Earthquakes next Saturday at 10:30 p.m. ET.

Orlando City

Orlando City vs. CF Montreal: Three Keys to Victory

What does Orlando City need to do to secure all three points in the home opener against CF Montreal?



Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Orlando City will host CF Montreal in the club’s first match of the 2024 MLS regular season this Saturday night. The Lions are coming off the Concacaf Champions Cup match against Cavalry FC Wednesday night. Orlando City will want to get things started the right way as expectations and aspirations are higher than ever for the club.

What does Orlando City need to do to secure a victory in the home opener against their Canadian opponents?

Roster Management

Orlando City has four matches in 11 days — the previously mentioned Wednesday match against Cavalry in Canada, the match against Montreal on Saturday, the return match against Cavalry in Orlando next Tuesday, and then a trip to Ft. Lauderdale to take on Inter Miami. That is quite a start to competitive play in 2024.

Because of the schedule congestion, Oscar Pareja will need to rotate players. That means we’re not likely to have the preferred starting 11 as much as any of us will like. Kyle Smith, Michael Halliday, Jeorgio Kocevski, and others will likely see playing time. How well Pareja manages when to use which players, and for how long, will determine not just the result of this match against Montreal, but for each of the other matches as well.

Defensive Communication

Rodrigo Schlegel is serving a suspension in this first league match and will not be available. That means Orlando City’s newest center back, David Brekalo, will probably get the start alongside Robin “The Beefy Swede” Jansson. Having a good center back pairing is absolutely essential to the success of any defense. We know that because once Jansson and former Lion Antonio Carlos worked together for a while, they became an absolute fortress on the back line.

Now, Jansson will need to build the same chemistry with Brekalo if the Lions want to maintain their position as one of the best defenses in the league. With Schlegel unavailable, there is no question that Jansson and Brekalo will have the opportunity to start building that relationship. Hopefully, it will be good enough to keep Montreal — especially Josef Martinez — out of the goal.

Keep Torres Scoring

Facundo Torres had a great preseason. Orlando City’s new owner of the No. 10 shirt needs to keep doing the same. He’ll need to score goals, provide assists, and create problems for Montreal’s defense. Traditionally, Montreal has put out a three-man back line. While that means it’ll be a five-man back line when Orlando City has the ball, during changes of possession there should be space for Torres to get free and get scoring opportunities.

If Montreal smartly tried to contain Torres, then it will have to deal with Duncan McGuire, Nico Lodeiro, and Ivan Angulo. Orlando City’s offense has the potential to score quite a few more goals this season, and it all starts Saturday night against Montreal. Get two on the board and I think it will mean three points in the standings.

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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Lion Links

Lion Links: 2/22/24

Orlando City beats Cavalry FC, Lions receive General Allocation Money for Junior Urso’s rights, USWNT gets ready for Argentina, and more.



Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

How’s it going, Mane Landers? It’s nice to start the morning fresh off of a huge win and I’m hoping that becomes a regular occurrence this year. Hopefully the work week has been kind to you as we ride the high of the Concacaf Champions Cup into Orlando City’s first game of the MLS season this weekend. For now, let’s dive into today’s links from around the soccer world.

Lions Win in Concacaf Champions Cup Opener

Orlando City kicked off its Concacaf Champions Cup campaign with a solid 3-0 win against Cavalry FC in Canada. Some players did better playing on the turf of Starlight Stadium in British Columbia than others, but the Lions ultimately did well on the road to make things less stressful for themselves for the second leg on Tuesday in Orlando at 6 p.m. Orlando’s offense showed little rust and the defense did its part in its first competitive match of 2024. Before the match, Head Coach Oscar Pareja announced that Robin Jansson will serve as the team’s captain this year, so it’s nice to see his tenure start with a clean sheet.

Junior Urso Signs With Charlotte FC

Orlando City received $50,000 in 2025 General Allocation Money from Charlotte FC in exchange for Brazilian midfielder Junior Urso’s right of first refusal. This transaction cleared the way for Urso to sign with Charlotte, joining on a deal through 2024, with an option for 2025. The Bear became a Lion back in 2020 and was an integral part of Orlando’s transformation under Head Coach Oscar Pareja that included winning the 2022 U.S. Open Cup. The 34-year-old impressed as a trialist with Charlotte during the preseason and should give Dean Smith’s side a veteran presence both on and off the field. While it’s never fun seeing a fan favorite playing for another Eastern Conference foe, I wish nothing but the best for Urso and hope he gets a warm reception when Charlotte visits Orlando this season on Sept. 18.

MLS Coaching Changes for 2024

There was a considerable amount of coaching turnover in MLS since last season, adding some intriguing storylines for this year. After a rough time in Miami, Phil Neville has a chance at redemption with a Portland Timbers side that narrowly missed out on the playoffs last year. The Colorado Rapids’ Chris Armas, D.C. United’s Troy Lesesne, and the New England Revolution’s Caleb Porter are other familiar faces in new places who could impress. As for those new to the scene, Dean Smith joined Charlotte from England, while Sandro Schwarz is now at the helm of the New York Red Bulls after years in Germany and Russia. I’m also interested to see how long it takes for John Herdman to turn things around with Toronto FC.

Analyzing Argentina Ahead of USWNT Clash

After a dominant 5-0 win over the Dominican Republic, the United States Women’s National Team will take on Argentina tomorrow in the Concacaf W Gold Cup’s group stage. The U.S. has won the past four meetings between the past two nations, and Argentina is coming off of a scoreless draw with Mexico. The Orlando Pride’s Mariana Larroquette spearheads an Argentine attack that can be a bit inconsistent when it comes to creating chances. That being said, Vanina Preininger can pull strings from the midfield and Argentina has multiple players capable of scoring from distance. Laurina Oliveros will likely start in goal after her clean sheet in the opener, and the defense also includes Kansas City Current center back Sophia Braun.

Free Kicks

  • The Orlando Pride’s Rafaelle and Adriana both started in Brazil’s 1-0 win over Puerto Rico.
  • The LA Galaxy signed Ghanaian winger Joseph Paintsil as their third Designated Player. The 26-year-old joins from Genk in Belgium and signed a contract with the Galaxy through 2027.
  • The Revolution beat Panama’s Independiente 1-0 on the road in the Champions Cup opener for both teams.
  • The new changes to MLS’ competitive rules, such as in-stadium VAR announcements and off-field treatments, have been postponed amid the league’s referee situation.
  • The United Soccer League announced that all 47 of the teams under its umbrella will take part in this year’s U.S. Open Cup.
  • Bayern Munich officially announced that Thomas Tuchel will leave once this season is over. Although Bayern is second in the Bundesliga standings, it’s lost its past three games, including a defeat to Lazio in the Champions League.
  • Porto scored a stunning goal in stoppage time to shock Arsenal in the UEFA Champions League.

That’s all I have for you today. I hope you all have a wonderful Thursday and rest of your week!

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Orlando City

Orlando City vs. Cavalry FC, Concacaf Champions Cup: Final Score 3-0 as Torres Brace Leads Lions to Road Win

The Lions are in the driver’s seat after a comprehensive victory over Cavalry FC in western Canada.



Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Duncan McGuire opened the scoring and Facundo Torres added a brace to lead Orlando City SC to a comfortable 3-0 win over Cavalry FC at Starlight Stadium in Langford, British Columbia in the first leg of Concacaf Champions Cup play. Orlando scored their first road goals in the competition and have a huge advantage heading into next week’s return leg.

“It’s very good for the team. The clean sheet is very important for us and scoring three goals is a good score for returning home,” Orlando City Assistant Coach Diego Torres said after the match. “Cavalry is a good team. The Canada league is a good league. All of our team respects all rivals. The team came here serious for the game.”

With Oscar Pareja sidelined due to suspension for a red card after the second leg against Tigres in 2023, Diego Torres’ lineup was made up mostly of presumed starters for the 2024 season, with Pedro Gallese starting in goal behind a back line of Kyle Smith, Robin Jansson, Rodrigo Schlegel, and Dagur Dan Thorhallsson. Cesar Araujo and Wilder Cartagena took their usual spots in the central midfield behind an attacking line of Ivan Angulo, Martin Ojeda, and Facundo Torres with McGuire up top. Presumed starters Rafael Santos, Nico Lodeiro, David Brekalo, and Luis Muriel were not in the lineup, with the latter two new Lions not in the matchday squad.

Center back Daan Klomp was positioned on the line and was able to get in front of Araujo’s header on frame. On the ensuing corner, Schlegel got under his header and sent it well over the bar.

Cavalry’s defense again denied a shot off a corner moments later. This time it was Callum Montgomery knocking it away. The Lions recycled and a shot appeared to go out off the goalkeeper but a goal kick was awarded.

Araujo again got forward in the 13th minute and the defense again blocked it, although this time it was outside the six-yard box rather than on the line. Moments later, McGuire had a go from a tough angle on the left but he mishit his shot and it went out on the other side for a throw-in. Torres then fired from the top of the box in the 19th minute but his effort was always rising and sailed well over the bar.

The Lions found the breakthrough moments later. Cartagena sent the ball wide to Angulo on the left and the Colombian sent Ojeda down the flank. The Argentine sent a great cross into the area and McGuire redirected it past Cavalry goalkeeper Marco Carducci to make it 1-0 in the 21st minute.

Orlando stayed on the front foot and in the 27th minute it was Angulo dancing through the defense and sending a lethal-looking cross through the six. Unfortunately, none of his teammates were making runs on the far side and it skipped harmlessly through.

Cavalry then nearly fashioned something out of nothing when a ball into the area nearly found Sergio Camargo right in front. However, the ball got through to Gallese, who scooped it up.

Thorhallsson, who had a terrific first half, nearly sent in Angulo in the 28th minute on a quick counterattack and then sent a dangerous cross over Carducci in the 32nd that just needed a touch from a teammate but didn’t get one.

No matter though, the Icelandic fullback got his assist in the 38th minute. Tucking inside for much of the night, he sent Torres wide on the right. The Uruguayan cut inside from the right at the top of the box and sent a shot on target. The ball bounced off the artificial turf in front of Carducci, who got a hand on it but couldn’t knock it wide of the post. Torres’ strike made it 2-0.

Cavalry won a late corner but sent the cross right at Gallese at the end of the half and that was it as far as the scoring chances. The Lions took their 2-0 advantage to the locker room.

At the break, the Lions held the advantage in shots (9-2), shots on target (3-0), passing accuracy (97.3%-73.5%), and corners (3-2).

Cavalry started the second half with more energy. Smith did well to win a goal kick to thwart an early attack and Schlegel got a head to a dangerous cross in the 49th to clear Orlando’s lines.

Orlando’s first decent chance of the second period came in the 53rd minute when Araujo stole a ball in the attacking third on the press. He found Ojeda on the left and the Argentine sent a cross in front, however, the defense again cut it out for a corner. The Lions couldn’t do anything with the set piece.

The game got a little chippy after that, with Cavalry’s Charlie Trafford picking up a yellow card for stepping on McGuire’s foot during a challenge. Moments later, a worse-looking challenge by Trafford on Thorhallsson went unpunished with a second yellow, despite being a worse foul.

Torres was then taken down on a rough challenge by Montgomery, who was booked. Ojeda went for goal from distance on the set piece, but Carducci made the save at the hour mark.

Gallese nearly got crossed up in the 61st minute when a fluttering ball fooled him and he had to fight it off to avoid an embarrassing situation. That was the start of a couple of chances for the hosts, sandwiching the Orlando City debut of Lodeiro, who subbed on for Ojeda.

In the 62nd minute, Cavalry created something off a throw-in, sending a ball into the box for Jesse Daley, who sent his weak effort right at Gallese on a wasted opportunity. Moments later, Jansson conceded a free kick and Cavalry nearly paid it off. Klomp got his head to the service but sent it just inches over the crossbar.

Cartagena nearly scored a surprising goal in the 68th minute when he sent a chip towards Carducci’s goal. The Cavalry goalkeeper was backpedaling and had to tip the shot over his crossbar.

Five minutes later, substitute Ramiro Enrique set up Lodeiro in the box but the midfielder sent his shot off the crossbar in the 73rd minute. Angulo followed with a shot that was blocked by the defense for a corner.

Two minutes later, the Lions put the game to bed. A fantastic sequence set up Torres’ brace. Enrique did well to send Angulo in behind the defense on the left. The Colombian sent a perfect cross to the back post and Torres sent a diving header off of Carducci’s hands and in to make it 3-0 in the 75th minute.

Cavalry got back on the front foot for a few minutes after the third goal. Camargo sent a shot right at Gallese in the 79th minute

Orlando should have scored again seconds later. Another excellent buildup play from Enrique and Angulo ended up on Araujo’s foot right in front of goal, but the midfielder couldn’t dig it out of his feet and the defense arrived to knock it away.

A poor giveaway by substitute Rafael Santos on the left sideline gave Cavalry a chance in the 82nd minute. The cross in front was deflected out to the top of the area. Diego Gutierrez smashed a shot toward goal, but Felipe took one for the team and blocked it out for a corner. Klomp was nearly sent in behind on the recycle of the ensuing set piece but the defender was either offside or was judged to have fouled Gallese and Orlando was awarded a free kick. Gallese then scooped up a one-hopper off a shot from a tight angle to his right in the 88th minute.

That was the last half chance for either side and the Lions saw out three minutes of injury time to claim their first Concacaf Champions Cup victory.

The final statistics were more flattering for the hosts than the halftime numbers. Orlando led in possession (55.4%-44.6%), shots (13-9), shots on target (5-4), passing accuracy (85.1%-82%), and corners (6-4).

“Now we prepare for the next leg at home,” Diego Torres said. “I know this game is very important. And the next game now is very important.”

“I wanted the players to be brave, and there’s certainly things that we can learn from it,” Cavalry Head Coach Tommy Wheeldon said. “I don’t think it was a three-nil game. I think between both boxes we matched up with them very, very well. I think they probably defended better in there’s and they finished better in ours, and that’s the difference.”

Orlando City will host Cavalry FC next Tuesday night in the second leg. Prior to that, the Lions have a quick turnaround ahead of Saturday’s MLS opener at home against CF Montreal at 7:30 p.m.

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