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Orlando City vs. Los Angeles FC: Final Score 2-2 as Lions Earn Point Against League Leaders

Diego Rossi spoiled a potential Orlando win as the Lions scored more than one goal in a game for the first time in a month.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC

Orlando City led much of the game but couldn’t hold off LAFC’s dynamic attack toward the end as the teams played to a 2-2 draw in front of a crowd of 22,371 at Exploria Stadium. The visitors grabbed the lead early, but Nani responded immediately afterwards and Benji Michel gave City (9-13-8, 35 points) a lead that lasted until the 78th minute in a game that had its share of controversy. Diego Rossi nabbed the late equalizer for LAFC (19-4-6, 63 points).

It was Orlando’s first point in the series, albeit only in two meetings.

The Lions felt hard done by a disallowed goal by Uri Rosell due to a foul given after contact between Michel and goalkeeper Tyler Miller for a 50/50 aerial ball and it appeared the LAFC stopper initiated the contact. There was also a potential handling call not given when Miller came out of his area, but referee Alan Kelly and the assistant referee both felt that the entire ball did not leave the box. Regardless, the Lions had a chance to put the game away late but hit the post just one minute before the tying goal was scored.

“I’m very proud of the players. I thought the effort they gave tonight was excellent,” Head Coach James O’Connor said after the match. “I thought the commitment was fantastic. When you look at how good LAFC are, you look at how we managed the game, and you look at all the problems we caused them, on another night we would have won the game.”

With several players out with injury or international duty, Orlando City was happy to welcome right back Ruan back to the starting lineup, with Kyle Smith moving to the left side of the central defense pairing of Robin Jansson and Lamine Sané. The midfield consisted of Rosell, Cristian Higuita, and Dillon Powers. Nani, Dom Dwyer, and Michel made up the forward line. Brian Rowe took his customary position in goal.

Orlando got the game’s first scoring opportunity as Michel won a corner kick in the second minute. Nani’s cross on the ground found Sané, who shot wide. Adama Diomande fired wide from the right two minutes later as the game went back and forth.

In the 10th minute a momentary lapse by the Lions led to essentially a 3-on-the-keeper break for LAFC. Adrien Perez rounded Rowe but the ball ended up out wide on the left. When Perez tried to drop a pass back to Diomande, Rowe was still there and pounced on it.

But the visitors took the lead in the 12th minute anyway. Off a short corner, a ball was played into the box. Sané stuck out a foot to deflect the pass but it unfortunately ended up with Perez, who shot the ball off Dwyer, off Rowe, and into the net to make it 1-0.

The lead didn’t last long. Off the ensuing kickoff, Higuita sent a pass through the back line off the heel of a defender that fell perfectly for Nani, who chipped Miller to make it 1-1 in the 13th minute.

“I think when you look at the reaction to the goal, an early goal like that, it’s a testament to the players,” O’Connor said. “I think there was no period where you felt as if we were intimidated. I felt as if we had a right good go at them tonight. I think the reaction was excellent.”

LAFC tried to regain the lead through Diomande in the 18th minute, as he fired a shot in from outside the area but it was a comfortable save for Rowe. Two minutes later, the Lions struck again.

On the best buildup of the first half, Nani fed Higuita a pass and the Colombian slipped a ball through for Ruan running down the right channel. The fullback sent in a low cross and Michel pounced on it and slammed it into the back of the net, giving the Lions a 2-1 lead in the 20th minute.

Most of the rest of the first half was uneventful. LAFC controlled most of the possession but Orlando didn’t allow many chances. Diomande and Perez each fired wide but the chances were few and far between after the Michel goal.

The Lions took their 2-1 advantage into the locker room. LAFC led in shots, 7-3 (2-2 on target), possession (70%-30%), and passing accuracy (91%-73%) but Orlando held the advantage.

LAFC pushed for the equalizer after the break and nearly had it in the 51st minute. Perez put the ball in the net after slipping in behind but he was just a fraction offside. The play was reviewed by the VAR but no clear error was made and the call stood.

Five minutes later it was Rosell’s turn to see a goal disallowed. Michel went up for an aerial 50/50 ball moving parallel to the end line around the top of the six. Miller came off his line and made contact, then went to ground as Rosell fired the ball into the net for what would have been his first goal with Orlando.

Kelly blew the play dead for a foul and O’Connor was visibly upset on the sideline after the call.

“It looked like a goal to me,” O’Connor said. “I think probably the safest thing for me to do would point you toward the league and the referees and ask them. From my standpoint it looked a goal.”

The Lions who hadn’t played much in recent weeks — mainly Higuita and Powers — started to visibly tire near the 70-minute mark and Higuita said he needed to be subbed off after experiencing cramping in his legs. Higuita came out for Chris Mueller in the 73rd and LAFC began to find more space in the attacking third.

The Lions had a chance to put the game away in the 77th minute. Nani sent a gorgeous cross into the area and substitute striker Santiago Patino knocked it off the right post.

Seconds later, Mueller fizzed a cross through the six but nobody was making a back-post run and it turned into a goal kick. LAFC scored on its next foray down the field. Rossi, who had largely been held in check all night, slipped behind Jansson just as Diomande fed a ball through. It was perfectly weighted and Rossi found the net to level things up in the 78th minute.

The Lions had some half chances to grab a late winner. Jansson and Mueller both had shots blocked after a corner kick in the 86th minute. Moments later, Miller appeared to take the ball out of the box, which could have given Orlando a dangerous free kick, but it wasn’t called. Screencaps can be deceiving but this is the best look of it:

A few minutes later, Lee Nguyen baited Kelly into giving LAFC a free kick by making contact with Mueller just as Orlando was breaking in on goal.

“I think when the officials maybe go back and have a look at it, I think they’ll perhaps be a little bit disappointed with their performance,” O’Connor said.”

After five minutes of stoppage the match was over and Orlando had either gained a point in the playoff race or dropped two against the league leaders, depending on how you look at it.

LAFC had more shots (13-7), shots on target (4-2), and possession (63%-37%), and was the better passing side (88%-74%). Orlando did what it needed to do, getting into open areas and creating in transition on offense and keeping the middle locked down defensively until a momentary lapse let Rossi get in.

“Obviously we’re sad with the result but we’re also very happy because of the way we played against one of the best teams in the league,” Higuita said.

The Lions are four points in back of New England for the final Eastern Conference playoff spot and just two behind the Montreal Impact. Orlando will finish with New England at home, Houston and Cincinnati on the road, and Chicago at home.


The Lions are back in action next Saturday at home against the New England Revolution in a critical match-up.

Orlando City

Orlando City vs. CF Montreal: Player Grades and Man of the Match

How did your favorite Lions do in their scoreless draw against CF Montreal?

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Orlando City kicked off its 10th MLS season Saturday night, drawing CF Montreal 0-0 in downtown Orlando. The team was poor in the first half, but much better in the second 45 minutes. The Lions had multiple chances to win it late, hitting the woodwork and having a goal disallowed for offside. However, they claim a point to start the season and are in a great position to advance in the Concacaf Champions Cup Tuesday night.

Here’s how the Lions did individually in the scoreless draw.

Starters

GK, Pedro Gallese, 8 (MotM) — The Peruvian number one has been the most dependable Lion over the past few years and this game was no different. He was active in the first half, making four saves, but was bored in the second half until Kwadwo Opoku got in on goal in the second minute of stoppage time. Gallese came out and made a huge stop with his right leg, ensuring Orlando City would get a point. In total, the goalkeeper had five saves and completed 91.7% of his 24 passes, including four of his six long balls, while claiming his 34th clean sheet as a Lion.

D, Rafael Santos, 5.5 — After a rocky first outing in Canada, Santos had a much better game in the league opener with a team-high 108 touches. Defensively, the left back had one tackle, three interceptions, and one clearance in a clean sheet performance. Going forward, he completed 84.2% of his 76 passes, including a key pass. However, he only completed two of his seven crosses, a problem throughout the night for the Lions.

D, Robin Jansson, 6 — It wasn’t a bad game for the Orlando City captain, but he wasn’t as effective as fans have come to expect. The Swede had an interception and block, but no clearances. He completed 90.2% of his 61 pass attempts and four of his eight long balls (50%). 

D, David Brekalo, 7 — Saturday night saw the long-awaited debut of Brekalo, Orlando City’s new starting center back. It was a solid performance for the defender, who recorded two tackles, two clearances, and a team-high four interceptions. Additionally, his three aerial duels were tied for the team high. He completed 86.4% of his 66 pass attempts and two of his three long balls. The new arrival took two dribbles and two shots, putting one on target. Overall, Brekalo was a bright spot in this game for the Lions before being replaced by Kyle Smith in the 77th minute.

D, Dagur Dan Thorhallsson, 6 — Thorhallsson was one of several players that were much better in the second half than the first. Most of his passes in the first 45 minutes were left short or long balls too far, but he ended up completing 88.3% of his 60 passes with a team-high three key passes. He completed one of his two crosses and one of his five long balls. He took a team-high four shots, only putting one on target. Additionally, he one clearance defensively, but little else on that end of the field in 90 minutes of action.

MF, Wilder Cartagena, 5.5 — It was a short night for Cartagena, who was taken off at halftime for Martin Ojeda after picking up a yellow in the first half. The Peruvian completed 90.5% of his 42 passes and both of his long balls. However, he did little defensively in this game and only had one dribble going forward. It wasn’t a bad performance overall, but the Lions couldn’t afford to go down a man if he got booked a second time.

MF, Cesar Araujo, 7 — Araujo displayed his usual dependability for the Lions in this game. His 87 touches were third on the team and he completed 89.7% of his 68 passes, including two key passes. He failed to connect on his lone cross, but completed all eight of his long balls. Unfortunately, neither of his two shots were on target. Defensively, the defensive midfielder was active, recording two tackles, two interceptions, and a clearance.

MF, Facundo Torres, 5 — Torres is usually the best attacking player for the Lions, but he had a difficult game Saturday night. The attacking midfielder completed 81.3% of his 48 passes and didn’t connect on any of his five crosses. He had one shot that was on target, and could’ve had a goal when he and Felipe and converged on a late header off the crossbar but they were offside. He also had a tackle defensively, but this will be a game to forget for the Uruguayan.

MF, Nico Lodeiro, 6 — One of two Lions to make their competitive home debuts, Lodeiro started in his natural number 10 position. His 89 touches were second-most on the team and he completed 86.7% of his 75 passes with a key pass. Two of his five crosses were accurate and he completed three of his seven long balls. He took one shot on the night, but it was off target. Lodeiro was somewhat active defensively, recording a tackle, an interception, and a clearance before being replaced by Felipe in the 77th minute.

MF, Ivan Angulo, 5 — Angulo was less active than usual in this game, only recording 42 touches and not taking any shots. He completed 83.9% of his 31 pass attempts and didn’t connect on his only cross. He had two tackles defensively but didn’t do much else before being replaced by Ramiro Enrique in the 68th minute.

F, Duncan McGuire, 5.5 — McGuire scored in his first game back after an uncertain off-season, so there was a lot of excitement heading into the home opener. The young striker took two off-target shots but was solid with his hold-up play, winning a team-high three aerial duels. He wasn’t able to get too involved, with only 26 touches, and he completed 64.3% of his 14 passes. He also had one key pass, one inaccurate cross, and one clearance.

Substitutes

MF, Martin Ojeda (46′), 6.5 — Ojeda came on at halftime for Cartagena and made a big impact on a much better second half. He completed 90.9% of his 22 passes with three key passes, and he was accurate on three of his seven crosses and both long balls. Additionally, one of his two shots was on target. He also helped out defensively, recording a tackle and a clearance.

F, Ramiro Enrique (68’), 5 — Enrique joined the game in the 68th minute, replacing Angulo, but didn’t make much of an impact. He only had 14 touches in 22 minutes while playing in the midfield. The attacker completed 77.8% of his nine passes without any key passes and failed to complete his lone cross. It was his header in the 80th minute that hit the crossbar and was redirected in by Felipe, but it was ruled out for offside.

D, Kyle Smith (77’), 5.5 — Smith came on for Brekalo to help see out the clean sheet alongside Jansson. Defensively, he had one clearance at center back, but no other defensive stats. He completed 78.6% of his 14 passes, including a key pass and completed his one cross.

MF, Felipe (77’), 6 — Felipe played well in the final 13 minutes of the game after replacing Lodeiro, recording an interception and a clearance and completing 90% of his 10 passes with one key pass. His most noteworthy moment came in the 80th minute when Enrique’s header off the crossbar was knocked in, but he was judged to be offside.

F, Jack Lynn (90’), N/A — Lynn came on for the final minutes of the game, replacing McGuire up top. He had four touches and won an aerial duel, a flick-on header near midfield, while completing one of his three passes (33.3%). He also had one accurate cross.


This is how I saw the individual performances of Orlando City’s first game of the 2024 MLS regular season. How did you see the game? Let us know in the comments below and don’t forget to vote on your Man of the Match.

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Lion Links

Lion Links: 2/26/24

Orlando City draws Montreal, USWNT to play Mexico, USMNT news, and more.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Merry Monday morning, Mane Landers. I know that we’re all a little disappointed with the draw in the home opener, but a point is a point, and we go again tomorrow night. It hasn’t taken long for the matches to come fast and furious with Orlando City and the USWNT playing this week. I could not be happier.

We also want to wish a happy birthday to the Orlando Pride’s Morgan Gautrat and OCB’s Dominic Pereira from all of us at The Mane Land.

Orlando City Draws Montreal

It wasn’t the best match Orlando City ever played, but it also wasn’t the worst. The Lions couldn’t find the last bit of quality to get the winning goal despite having most of the possession and plenty of shots. VAR also played a part, though both offside calls were correct, if unfortunate. Pedro Gallese kept the Lions in the match to earn the first point of the season. Check out our match recap.

Lions React to the Result

David Brekalo made his first start for Orlando City and while he acquitted himself well, given his limited time with the team, he is still confident that things will get better with time. He was also impressed with the level of play in MLS and with the Orlando City facilities. Oscar Pareja was disappointed with the result but was understanding of some of the reasons for it. Now, Orlando City gets ready for the two matches this week.

USWNT vs. Mexico

The USWNT takes on Mexico at 10:15 p.m. tonight in the 2024 Concacaf W Gold Cup. The U.S. is already through to the knockout stages of the Gold Cup but is trying to win Group A with a victory over Mexico. Former Orlando Pride forward Alex Morgan is with the team and has scored in the competition. The U.S. has a 16-match winning streak over Mexico and will be looking to extend that to 17.

USMNT News

The USMNT and Juventus were both dealt a blow when Weston McKennie dislocated his shoulder in the 3-2 win over Frosinone on Sunday. Prior to the injury, McKennie contributed two assists, allowing Juventus to stay in second place in Serie A. Now we wait to hear how long McKennie will be out. Check out his assists.

American Striker Folarin Balogun scored a high difficulty goal in Monaco’s 3-2 victory over Lens in Ligue 1. Of course, he also missed a penalty kick later in the same match. Fortunately, Takumi Minamino scored a stoppage-time goal to secure the victory. Take a look at the nice goal.

Free Kicks

  • Liverpool defeated Chelsea 1-0 to win the Carabao Cup on an extra time header by captain Virgil van Dijk. It was the 10th trophy won with Jurgen Klopp as Liverpool manager. Liverpool was missing 11 top players to start the game and lost Ryan Gravenberch during the match.
  • Olivia Moultrie and Jaeden Shaw are making an impact with the USWNT despite being two of the younger players on the team. The impact came in the form of goals for each Moultrie and Shaw.
  • Naomi Girma has impressed for the USWNT in her time so far, but she wants to do more as a part of the newer generation of stars.
  • Brazil defeated Italy 6-4 in the Beach Soccer World Cup on Sunday. The competition took place in Dubai.

That will do it for today. Check back as we get you ready for the match tomorrow night against Cavalry and the trip to Ft. Lauderdale to take on the hated Herons. Vamos Orlando!

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Orlando City

Orlando City vs. CF Montreal: Five Takeaways

Here are five lessons learned from Orlando City’s 0-0 draw with Montreal.

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Dan MacDonald, The Mane Land

Orlando City drew CF Montreal 0-0 in Inter&Co Stadium to start the MLS regular season. Heading into this match, the Lions had looked pretty good during the preseason and in the Concacaf Champions Cup match against Cavalry. Unfortunately, Orlando City wasn’t able to maintain its scoring form against Montreal, settling for a point at home.

Here are my five takeaways from Orlando’s draw with Montreal.

An Ugly First Half

Orlando city held 61% possession with four shots and only one on goal in the opening period. Add to that 10 fouls and a couple of yellow cards for Duncan McGuire and Wilder Cartagena and you end up with an ugly first half. Oscar Pareja put out a first-choice lineup, including many players who put in significant minutes in Wednesday’s Concacaf Champions Cup match against Cavalry in Canada. Despite having the best players on the field, Orlando City was not sharp and it showed in the stats and in the eye test.

El Pulpo Impresses

While the Lions were finding their footing to start the match, Pedro Gallese provided the cover the club needed with four saves in the first five minutes. After that, Orlando City settled down and kept more of the possession. Montreal didn’t get another shot on target the remainder of the half and so Gallese wasn’t called into service again. Fortunately, those first four saves were everything the Lions needed to start things off. He also made an incredible one-on-one save in stoppage to keep Montreal off the board.

Offside Ruins Chance, Part 1

Orlando City supporters thought the winning and only goal went in when Felipe put in the ball off a rebound from the bar. The initial shot came from Ramiro Enrique, who hit the crossbar. Both Martins and Facundo Torres were there and the ball went in but Felipe was in an offside position when Enrique took the shot. It was a frustrating call, even if it was ultimately the correct call.

A Game of Inches

Orlando City had 15 shots with four on target throughout the match. Of the 11 that weren’t on target, many were only inches from being so. Of the shots on target, all were either directly to Jonathan Sirois or without enough power to make him have to work to keep it out. There were also plenty of passes that were just off by a couple of inches that either gave the ball back to Montreal or stalled potential attacks.

Offside Ruins Chance, Part 2

In stoppage time, Torres drew a foul as he took a pass into the box. The referee immediately pointed to the spot and it looked like Orlando City would get the chance to score a winner on a penalty kick. Unfortunately, the offside flag had gone up again thanks to Jack Lynn being offside, as he strayed behind the last defender by a step in the buildup before the foul. Video review confirmed the call and Orlando City supporters were left wanting a second time.


That is what I saw in the match. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

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