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Orlando City

Orlando City vs. New England Revolution: Final Score 3-3 as Lions Fight Back Twice

Lions come from behind to draw but suffer a bit of a blow in the playoff race by gaining no ground.



Deon Cooper, The Mane Land

Orlando City gave up three first-half goals but fought back twice to draw 3-3 with the New England Revolution at Exploria Stadium. The draw helped Orlando (9-13-9, 36 points) gain a point on Montreal but the Lions lost ground to Chicago and didn’t make up any on the Revs (10-10-10, 40 points) — the holders of the last playoff spot.

Failing to secure all three points makes a playoff appearance even more unlikely for an Orlando team that is winless in its last five (0-2-3). On the other hand, the Revolution have still never won in Orlando in six attempts in MLS play (0-2-4) and seven in all competitions (0-3-4).

The Lions fought back from Tesho Akindele’s early own goal on a Nani strike before Cristian Penilla and Gustavo Bou gave the Revs a seemingly insurmountable halftime lead. But a resilient Orlando side bounced back on goals by Dom Dwyer and Nani and had a couple of opportunities to score a fourth and win the game.

“Incredibly proud of the second-half performance,” Head Coach James O’Connor said after the game. “That was incredible when you look at the guts and you look at the quality. On another night we end up winning it.

“The second half after about 15 minutes, when it went to 3-3, then the game really opens up. They have a couple of chances and we have some chances. I think to be 3-1 down and come back out second half and fight like that, the players deserve enormous credit.”

O’Connor had Mauricio Pereyra available, so he started the Uruguayan in the midfield with Nani left and Akindele right behind Dwyer. The back line remained the three usual starters from right to left with Kyle Smith at left back in front of Brian Rowe. The central midfield consisted of Cristian Higuita and Carlos Ascues.

Orlando had a half chance just two minutes in, as Akindele got the ball on the left, but after taking a bit of a heavy touch, the defense recovered and he was forced to try to work around it for a shot, which he eventually did but it was blocked.

New England sent in a couple of warning signs after that with Penilla fizzing a cross through the box that none of his teammates could get onto and then Carles Gil sent one just wide from long distance.

The Revs then grabbed the lead in the 15th minute on a cross. Akindele stuck out a leg to block it and he knocked it off the post and into his own net to make it 1-0 New England.

“Own goal is never easy to judge,” Sané said. “I think it’s unlucky. He tried to do his best.”

Akindele’s own goal made Orlando City’s teams three for three on the weekend, with OCB scoring a game-winning own goal for Toronto FC II yesterday and the Pride’s Kristen Edmonds conceding one at North Carolina earlier tonight. You really can’t make stuff like this up.

The Lions fought back and scored seven minutes later. Pereyra sent in a cross on a corner and Nani headed it into the far corner of the net to make it 1-1 in the 22nd minute.

The Revolution regained the lead in the 35th minute on a play that seemed harmless. A through ball found Penilla but Ruan was in good position to cut him off. However, Rowe had come far off his line, not anticipating his fullback would be in position to close down the forward. Penilla got to the ball just before Ruan and chipped Rowe with his first touch to make it 2-1.

Akindele got down the right side in the 40th minute with a couple of potential targets in the box but his pass was picked off and the chance evaporated. That was costly because the Revs scored their third goal a minute later.

A simple pass to Bou from Gil resulted in a quick shot that Lamine Sané was unable to block and it beat Rowe to the near side to make it 3-1, seemingly putting the game away just before the half.

Ruan was fouled in the corner to set up a late City free kick, which the Lions played short to Higuita, who blasted it off target.

The Lions out-shot the Revs, 8-6, but got only one on target to New England’s two. The Revs held 53% of the possession and out-passed the Lions (84%-78%).

Orlando got right back in the game after the break. Just two minutes after the restart, Dwyer played a ball out wide to Ruan, who dropped off to Nani. The captain had time on the ball, so he looked up and fired a cross to Dwyer, who ducked down and headed it inside the far post to make it 3-2 in the 47th minute. It was Dwyer’s first goal since July 7 at Philadelphia and his sixth of the 2019 season.

Orlando pushed numbers into the attack, which opened the game up and allowed New England the occasional counter, but O’Connor said after the game that the team had to play that type of game to get back in it and try to go on and win. The first such dangerous counter saw Penilla hit a sky ball with a gaping net in the 48th minute. The Revs were dangerous down the right side, getting in behind Smith repeatedly and crossing in threateningly for Penilla and Bou.

But it was the Lions who scored the next goal. Nani found some space at the top of the area, cutting the ball right, then left, and firing just inside the right post with a left-footed blast in the 54th minute.

“I think (Nani’s) quality is there for everyone to see,” O’Connor said of his captain, who finished with two goals, an assist, seven shots and five chances created. “His performance tonight was outstanding, especially the second half when he went to that central area. His shot from distance, his ability to drop balls in behind. It was great.”

With two goals and an assist in the game, Nani set a new Orlando MLS record for combined goals and assists in a season, with 12 and nine, respectively. His combined 21 goal contributions broke the mark shared by Kaká and Kevin Molino, who each had a combined 19 in 2016.

Penilla fired straight at Rowe in the 59th on another Revs counter and then Orlando got three golden opportunities for a fourth goal in the 62nd minute. Nani played a ball over the top that Akindele ran onto but the ball was in the air and he didn’t make good contact, sending a weak shot that Matt Turner knocked down. Dwyer sent a shot back toward the net and Turner again fought it off. The ball fell for second-half sub Sebas Mendez, but the Ecuadorian fired wide of the net.

Sané made several vital challenges throughout the second half to keep the game tied. With Ruan pushing forward and New England knocking long balls over the top for Penilla and Bou to run onto, Sané was forced into several emergency 1-v-1 recovery runs and did outstanding work throughout the second half to prevent breakaways from turning into goals. His work in the 74th minute after Smith again got beat for speed down the right was incredible.

“He’s very, very fast like Ruan,” Sané said of Penilla. “Our fastest one has to go very high and take the risk and I told him ‘OK I’m going to cover your back and take the risk to make the 1-v-1’ and I was lucky tonight to stop him. But I think we have to take more risk like that if we want to do better.”

Ruan sent a cross into the area in the 75th minute that was halfway between Dwyer and Turner. Both players stabbed a foot at it and the ball was sent wide, but a foul was called on Dwyer on the play. The contact momentarily shook up the Orlando striker and he was replaced by Santiago Patino. Three minutes later, Higuita smashed a shot that Turner fought off.

In the 80th minute Nani sent a gorgeous ball to spring Patino behind the defense. The rookie fired but Turner got a toe on the ball and it pinged off the far post.

Rowe made his best save of the night in the 84th minute. Sané got beat for speed by Penilla and could do nothing but watch as the New England attacker fired a ball that Rowe stopped. It wasn’t the best shot by Penilla, but the save was vital.

The Lions could not get anything on target in the seven minutes of stoppage time and the game ended all even at 3-3.

With a big second half, Orlando finished with more shots (19-15), shots on goal (7-6), and possession (53%-47%), and closed the gap on the Revolution’s passing advantage, with New England completing 84% and Orlando rising to 80% overall.

“We wanted to win. We wanted three points,” Nani said. “We knew this was the most important game for us. That was our final. But we are a team who is learning a lot (and) is improving. Tonight we showed our best performance in the second half. We must take all the good things we did tonight.”

“I think we had nothing to lose, so I think that’s why maybe we played better,” Sané said. “I think the second half we gave everything.”

Orlando City dropped to 10th in the standings, one point behind Chicago and Montreal, and still four behind the Revs in the last Eastern Conference playoff spot.

The Lions now go on the road for two games, with the Houston Dynamo first up. That game will be next Saturday night at 8:30 p.m. ET.

Lion Links

Lion Links: 12/4/23

Crew to host MLS Cup final, LAFC returns to MLS Cup, Tim Howard to be inducted into National Soccer Hall of Fame, and more.



Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Good Monday morning, Mane Landers. The weekend brought us some drama-filled conference final action, and we now know who will play for the MLS Cup. But before I dive into that, I just want to take a quick minute to say with mixed emotions that this will be my final Lion Links here, but don’t be sad, because the rest of the boys will still be bringing your daily content needs and coverage. I’ll be stepping away as my wife and I are soon to be first-time parents, and I’m looking forward to all that entails. I appreciate each and every one of you readers for taking the time to scroll through my articles each week. If you’re interested in writing for TML, we could definitely use the help so please reach out. Now, let’s get into the links!

Columbus Crew Claim Hell Is Real Comeback

After a rocky start, the Columbus Crew became the first team to overcome a two-goal deficit on the road and advance in a single-leg round in the history of the MLS Cup playoffs. FC Cincinnati got off to a great start behind USMNT striker Brandon Vasquez, who opened the scoring, but it was captain Luciano Acosta’s sublime free kick finish that stole the show in the first half.

It took trusting the process and the tactics of their first-year manager Wilfried Nancy, but the Columbus Crew fought back with late match heroics to seal the victory. Forward Christian Ramirez bagged the game-winning goal in extra time in the 115th minute.

“You can only fight for someone like that,” said Ramirez. “So many times you can feel that you’re getting the bad end of the stick at certain moments, but I haven’t felt that. I think numerous guys understand how he sees the game now, and we respect that. We talk about writing our story in the Columbus Crew history; this chapter wasn’t done. We got one more week, one more game.”

LAFC Returns to MLS Cup

The league’s defending champion, LAFC, will once again be playing in the final match of the postseason. After frustrating the Houston Dynamo throughout the Western Conference final, LAFC won 2-0. Houston might have dominated the stat sheet in possession, passes, and passing accuracy, but really it was just playing into the gameplan of LAFC.

“We knew that’s what they wanted. They wanted the ball,” said LAFC right back Ryan Hollingshead. “They like to play this little tiki-taka in the middle of the field, these little movements, little one-twos, three of their guys just kind of pass the ball, but they’re going nowhere. And so we just said, do whatever you got, have the ball as long as you want. They created zero dangerous chances. They had a half-chance in the first half on a cross to Baird and that was it. And so a lot of these teams, it’s like, yeah, they’ve got possession, they may be moving the ball. But if they’re not creating dangerous chances, who cares?”

MLS Cup Final Preview

The Eastern Conference champion Columbus Crew will host Western Conference champion LAFC at Field on Dec. 9 at 4 p.m for the MLS Cup. The match will be No. 53 across all competitions this campaign for LAFC, and a victory would make the club the first repeat winners since the 2011-2012 LA Galaxy. The storylines leading to the match will likely center around the possibility of it being Carlos Vela’s final game for LAFC, but for the Crew, the bench players will be the ones to watch. In the 65th minute of the Eastern Conference final, Head Coach Wilfried Nancy brought in Julian Gressel and Christian Ramirez, who both played a pivotal role in two of the three Columbus goals in the comeback victory.  The Crew last lifted the MLS Cup in 2020, defeating Seattle Sounders 3-0 at Historic Crew Stadium.

2024 National Soccer Hall of Fame

On May 4, the National Soccer Hall of Fame will induct its 2024 class. Most notable will be long-time USMNT goalkeeper Tim Howard, who played 121 matches for the United States and had a successful career in the English Premier League. Other inductees will be USWNT World Cup winner Tisha Venturini-Hoch, 1996 Paralympic captain Josh McKinney, and USL founder Francisco Marcos.

Orlando Reportedly Set to Host USMNT-Brazil Friendly

The United States Men’s National Team is reportedly far along in negotiations to face Brazil in Orlando for a friendly leading to next year’s Copa America. The Yanks and Brazil last met in September 2018 in a friendly match in East Rutherford, NJ. The United States will host the Copa America from June 19 to July 14 as one of six invited teams to the South American competition. Brazil enter as the defending champion and should prove a worthy test for the Stars & Stripes to tune up for the Southern American title.

Free Kicks

  • Check your pockets and secure your valuables when USMNT left back Antonee Robinson is on the field.

That’s a wrap for my personal writing here for a while. It has been a pleasure to bring some coverage to you all for the past couple seasons. It’s not goodbye. It’s see you later. Vamos Orlando!

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Lion Links

Lion Links: 12/2/23

The Pride sign a new keeper, the MLS playoffs continue, the USWNT is in action, and more.



Dan MacDonald, The Mane Land

Salutations on this satisfactory Saturday, Mane Landers. We’re heading for the home stretch of 2023, and what a year it has been. Make sure that you are catching all of our Season in Review articles for both the Orlando City and Orlando Pride players. Things tend to happen personnel-wise in December, so be prepared. Until then, let’s check out today’s links. But first, let’s wish a happy 26th birthday to Orlando City goalkeeper Mason Stajduhar.

Pride Sign a New Keeper

The Orlando Pride signed Finnish goalkeeper Sofia Manner from FC Honka of Finland’s top flight, the Kansallinen Liiga. With the addition of Manner, the Pride have four keepers on the roster heading into 2024. Manner is expected to compete for the starting job, though the same could be said of both Anna Moorhouse and Carly Nelson. It is unlikely all four netminders will be on the Pride once the season starts. Manner has international experience and was the best keeper in the Kansallinen Liiga.

MLS Conference Finals Tonight

I wouldn’t blame you if you decided not to watch the remainder of the MLS playoffs after last weekend’s disappointing result. However, if you are going see how it all sorts out, you might want to study up on the matches. We’re all too aware that the Columbus Crew will be facing FC Cincinnati to see which club wins the Eastern Conference. Over on the other side, LAFC will take on the Houston Dynamo to determine the Western Conference champion.

MLS Player Moves

As the playoffs come to a close, the signings and transfers around the league are ramping up, but who will stay and who will go? New York Red Bulls midfielder Dru Yearwood is heading to Nashville SC as reported by The Athletic (paywalled) since Dax McCarthy is out of contract there and won’t be returning.

The Philadelphia Union have signed midfielder Jesus Bueno to a new three-year contract through 2026 with an option for 2027. Meanwhile, Gustavo Bou won’t be returning to the New England Revolution. So, um…maybe he’d like to come south and score goals for Orlando City rather than against the Lions? Before anyone gets too crazy, it should be on a non-DP deal.

USWNT Hosts China

The USWNT is back in friendly action against China this afternoon in Ft. Lauderdale at 3 p.m. and then on Tuesday, Dec. 5 at 8 p.m. in Frisco TX. Interim head coach Twila Kilgore will be in charge since newly-named Head Coach Emma Hayes doesn’t start until the 2023-2024 Women’s Super League season in England is over. Hayes is the current head coach of Chelsea FC Women’s. This is the first match between the two teams since 2018, and a lot has changed. The USWNT has been very solid on defense in 2023, allowing only two goals back in the SheBelieves Cup.

Free Kicks

  • If you haven’t heard of a “sin bin,” think of it like a penalty box in hockey. The idea has been getting a runout in lower league matches in English football by the International Football Association Board (IFAB) with some good results. It’s not yet confirmed, but MLS may institute the change in 2024. The idea is to reduce dissension by having a player sit for 10 minutes during a match. Tottenham manager Ange Postecoglou has spoken out against the idea. What do you think of the concept?
  • Real Salt Lake has promoted Kurt Schmid to sporting director and interim chief soccer officer.
  • Cristiano Ronaldo will have to deal with a $1 billion class-action lawsuit for his role in promoting NFTs for Binance. Maybe that’s why he signed for Al-Nassr in the Saudi Pro League?
  • Speaking of the Saudi Pro League, it looks like Mohamed Salah may not be leaving EPL side Liverpool anytime soon. The prolific striker is looking for a new contract to stay at Anfield.
  • I’ll take things Pedro Gallese would not do for $400, Alex.

That will do it for today. Please go forth and enjoy your weekend!

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Orlando City

2023 Orlando City Season in Review: Kyle Smith

Let’s look back at The Accountant’s fifth MLS season.



Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Fullback Kyle Smith was originally signed on Dec. 21, 2018 when James O’Connor was Orlando City’s head coach. He proved to be a valuable Swiss Army knife-type player and earned a new contract on March 29, 2021 through the 2022 season with a 2023 club option. Orlando City picked up his 2023 option at the end of the 2022 season but then signed Smith to a new one-year contract for 2023 just weeks later with an option for 2024.

Let’s have a look back at The Accountant’s fifth MLS season.

Statistical Breakdown

Smith appeared in 25 matches during the 2023 regular season, starting 17 times and logging 1,501 minutes. It was his third-most appearances but his second-most minutes since making the jump from Louisville City to MLS ahead of the 2019 season. He scored one goal and assisted on three others, setting a new career high in the latter category. Smith attempted seven shots, putting two on target. He passed at a 78.7% clip, including nine key passes, five successful crosses, and 36 successful long passes. Defensively, Smith recorded 35 tackles, 16 interceptions, 40 clearances, and two blocked shots. He drew eight fouls while committing 20 and was booked five times on the year.

The 31-year-old appeared in all three of Orlando City’s three playoff matches — both off the bench — and logged 65 minutes. He did not score a goal or assist on one, attempting one shot, which he put on frame. He passed at an 82.5% rate in the postseason. He posted two tackles and a clearance defensively. He did not commit a foul or draw one and he wasn’t booked.

In the 2023 Concacaf Champions League, Smith came off the bench in the first leg at Tigres, playing minutes, passing at just a 25% rate (small sample size), did not attempt a shot, did not draw or concede a foul, and was not booked.

During Leagues Cup play, Smith appeared in all three of Orlando’s matches (all starts), logging 150 minutes. He did not contribute to a goal or attempt a shot in the tournament, committing four fouls and earning two yellow cards. Smith did not play in Orlando City’s lone U.S. Open Cup match.

Best Game

Smith’s best match of 2023 came in Orlando City’s 1-1 home draw against Atlanta United on May 27, and not only because that’s when he scored his lone goal of the season, although that doesn’t hurt. El Soldado started and went the full 90 minutes. He fired two shots on the night, putting one on target (and in the net), and passed at an exceptional 90.3% rate on 31 attempts, which was his third-best passing night of the season. He completed two successful long balls on two attempts, chipping in four clearances (second only to Antonio Carlos), a tackle, and an interception on the night. His big moment came in the 30th minute, when a well-worked attack up the left kicked out to him on the right side. Smith was perfectly positioned and made no mistake in putting the Lions ahead 1-0.

Although the match was spoiled by a late equalizer, Smith turned in one of his best performances since joining Orlando City and if not for his goal, the outcome might have been a lot more somber than a 1-1 draw.

2023 Final Grade

Smith received a composite score of 6 out of 10 for his 2023 performance from The Mane Land staff. This is an improvement over the 5.5 he earned last year but slightly below the 6.5 he earned for the 2021 season. Previously, Smith was given a 5.5 in 2020 and he got the same score after the 2019 season. The staff awarded Smith for his effort, versatility, and willingness to do whatever it takes to win. He is the quintessential team player. But beyond all of the above, he simply played well most of his minutes on the pitch. At his age, he’s going to struggle to contain the league’s speediest wing players, particularly when playing on his weaker left side, but his ability to adapt is unquestioned. The perfect example of that was when he was tucking inside from his fullback spot earlier in the season to add an additional player to the midfield and freeing Facundo Torres up to have more space in which to operate on the right side.

2024 Outlook

Smith’s return may ultimately rest with whether or not Oscar Pareja stays on with the Lions, although a decision might need to be made earlier than that, as the club must make a decision on his option. Pareja has valued Smith’s versatility and work ethic over the last few years, and with more competitions and matches than ever before, it’s always good to have a depth player who can plug and play in multiple positions. He played his second-most MLS minutes in 2023, so he’s still seeing the field plenty.

If I had to guess, and this section is for exactly that, I’d say the club will either exercise his option or sign him to a new one-year deal with an option year for 2025. However, what complicates matters is that Smith is over age 24 and has played five MLS seasons, which means he’s eligible for free agency. If he’s back in 2024, I would expect him to again be a key backup at both fullback positions, getting some spot starts in U.S. Open Cup or when fixture congestion is heavy.

Previous Season in Review Articles (Date Posted)

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