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Orlando City

Orlando City vs. Chicago Fire: Final Score 5-2 as Lions End Season on Eight-Game Winless Skid

Orlando conceded three times in seven minutes just after being denied what appeared a sure penalty, and finish 11th in the East.



Image courtesy of Orlando City SC

Orlando City lost center back Robin Jansson to injury, then went on to give up a bunch of goals, losing 5-2 to the Chicago Fire at Exploria Stadium in the team’s final game of the 2019 MLS season. Despite Tesho Akindele’s opening goal just four minutes in, the Lions allowed an equalizer before halftime, then completely fell apart in the second half.

The Lions (9-15-10, 37 points) end the season with a losing home record (6-8-3) and in 11th place in the Eastern Conference. Orlando has still never beaten the Fire (10-12-12, 42 points) at home (0-2-3).

Kyle Smith scored an own goal for Chicago that perhaps should have been credited to C.J. Sapong (who added a goal later). Aleksander Katai added a goal for the Fire and Przemyslaw Frankowski scored a brace. Benji Michel added a second for Orlando.

“Obviously very disappointing finish to the season,” said Head Coach James O’Connor after the match. “It’s just a really bitter way to finish the season.”

Lamine Sané was forced out of O’Connor’s lineup due to illness, Michel replaced Dom Dwyer in the starting lineup, and Uri Rosell stepped into the midfield for Sebas Mendez, otherwise it was the preferred starting lineup (minus the injured Joao Moutinho, of course).

It didn’t take Orlando long to get on the scoreboard. It nearly happened in the second minute when Kenneth Kronholm made two outstanding saves to deny Mauricio Pereyra and Michel in successive attempts.

But the Lions broke through two minutes later anyway.

A long ball from Pereyra sent Michel in behind the defense. The rookie rounded goalkeeper Kronholm but his touch was heavy and took him wide. Michel sent the ball to Akindele, who sent a shot off the right post that hit the back of Kronholm’s legs and went in, giving the Lions a 1-0 lead in the fourth minute. The goal was originally called offside in the buildup on Michel but video review showed Michel was onside and the goal counted.

It was Orlando’s earliest goal from the start of the game all season.

Chicago equalized in the 17th minute. After several good crosses in from the right by Katai, the Fire finally paid one off. Katai fizzed a ball into the middle that Sapong got a foot on. The ball hit off Smith and went in for what was called an own goal.

Kronholm was outstanding in net for Chicago in the first half and kept the Fire from falling back behind. The first stop was in the 22nd, when Nani and Pereyra combined to send Akindele in behind. The Canadian left his shot too close to Kronholm, who made the stop.

The next big save came at the other end, with Brian Rowe making a spectacular diving stop on a Brandt Bronico drive from just outside the penalty area in the 30th minute.

The ensuing corner kick resulted in disaster for Orlando. Sapong barreled into Jansson in the air, sending the Swede toward the turf. Jansson’s head hit Smith’s knee as he fell and the defender had to be stretchered off on a back brace and in a neck collar for precautionary reasons. He was sent to the hospital to get checked out for a potential neck injury and Shane O’Neill took his place on defense.

Kronholm robbed Michel of a goal in the 41st minute as his excellent first half continued.

After nine minutes of first-half stoppage due largely to the Jansson injury, the teams went to the break tied at 1-1. Chicago held most of the possession in the first half (56%) and was the more accurate passing side (89%-84%), while Orlando had more shots (7-5) and shots on target (6-1).

Chicago came out with some early pressure in the second half, looking to break the stalemate. Frankowski missed a shot over the bar early in the half, but the game really turned after a play in the 58th minute.

Orlando got a chance in close, with Akindele getting sent in by second-half sub Sacha Kljestan. Tesho crossed right to left for Michel to tap it in but the rookie was shoved from the top of the six all the way over the goal line and into the net by Johan Kappelhof. The ball trickled through to Klestan who fired just wide from a tight angle but the bigger issue was that no foul was given for what seemed to be a pretty clear denial of a goal-scoring opportunity.

“I felt like I was fouled,” Michel said after the game. “But I guess the ref saw otherwise. I can’t really think about that play. I’ve just got to keep going. Whatever he calls, he calls.”

Three minutes later, the Fire started a three-goal barrage in just seven minutes. Sapong started things in the 61st with Sapong putting Chicago in front for good. O’Neill was slow in closing down the striker who one-timed a pass from Fabian Herbers into the net to make it 2-1.

“Even before their second goal we’ve had…goodness…who knows how many chances,” O’Connor said. “That’s pretty indicative of how the season has gone for us.”

Two minutes later, Katai twice got Kamal Miller leaning the wrong way and drove home a left-footed shot just inside the far corner.

Four minutes after that, Frankowski got the ball with his back to goal in the area. After Smith went to ground trying to clear it, he simply back-heeled it into the net.

Rowe made a save on a 3-on-2 break in the 69th to keep the score at 4-1.

Nani said teams that miss so many chances are susceptible to conceding when the ball isn’t going in.

“It’s almost the same as the last couple of games,” Nani said. “We had the chance to kill, the chance to put our opponents down, and the (missed) chances probably gave the other team the chance to score a goal and gave them confidence. And we go down in our motivation and our belief if we can win the game. The last five games are almost the same.”

Kljestan set up Michel for a consolation goal in the 75th, splitting the Chicago center backs with a perfect pass. The rookie turned and fired home to make it 4-2.

The game got chippy over the next 10 minutes with some nasty challenges by the Fire that drew two yellow cards and a retaliatory foul by Pereyra that earned a booking.

Orlando should have pulled closer in the 85th minute. A perfect ball from Kljestan to the back post found second-half sub Chris Mueller, but the second-year man didn’t go for goal and instead nodded the ball across for Michel, who let it bounce, then smashed it right at Kronholm, who fought it off.

Frankowski completed his brace in the 87th minute, getting into the area behind the defense. Rowe made the initial save on the shot but then stood watching, expecting the ball to sail out of play. Instead, the pop-up came down in play and Frankowski nodded it in unchallenged to make it 5-2 on an embarrassing play for Orlando City.

Just for good measure, Nani got 1-v-1 with Kronholm, then fired off the right post in stoppage time as yet another chance went wasted.

The final whistle mercifully blew the proceedings to a close, and in true Orlando frustrating fashion, it was just as the Lions had won a corner. Chicago ended with a 20-17 shots advantage, with Orlando getting more on goal (10-9). The Fire held 53% of the possession and were the more accurate passers (88%-85%).

O’Connor was frustrated with Orlando’s inability to put Chicago away early despite some outstanding scoring chances. Kronholm played his part in that but there were some good opportunities where the Lions simply didn’t finish.

“The chances that we didn’t capitalize on tonight, it’s just incredible,” he said. “You can’t miss the volume of chances like that.”

“We just weren’t clinical enough,” Michel added.

That’s all, folks. Another crummy season is over, but at least this is the first time it was a better season than the previous one since the Lions entered MLS. There’s nothing left to do now but wait to see what changes the team undergoes in preparation for 2020.

Orlando City

Intelligence Report: Orlando City vs. Colorado Rapids

Familiarize yourself with the Colorado Rapids, courtesy of someone who knows them best.



Image courtesy of Orlando City SC

Another Orlando City game is almost upon us, as the Lions look to both extend their five-match unbeaten run and pick up two wins in a row. This week sees the Colorado Rapids come to town for the first home game of June.

A match with the Rapids means I spoke to Matt Pollard, of Burgundy Wave. That’s another site that has gone independent and the folks over there are continuing to provide great coverage of the Rapids, so make sure to check them out!

What were some of the big incoming and outgoing transfers for the Rapids ahead of this season?

Matt Pollard: The three biggest incoming players in terms of expectations were Kévin Cabral, Connor Ronan, and Andreas Maxsø.

Cabral is probably the highest-risk, highest-reward signing when it comes to the Rapids going after distressed assets. So far, it hasn’t panned out. He presses well, but that’s about it. The same issues he had at LA Galaxy (getting called offside, not finishing) are present here in Colorado. The difference is, he’s the focal point instead of the third player opposing defenses worry about.

Ronan and Maxsø have been great. Ronan was brought in to play alongside Jack Price. When Price went down for the season, Ronan stepped into the No. 6 role and adjusted well. He’s tidy at the back, works hard off the ball, and is one of the better assist providers on the team. Maxsø has been good defensively in the air and good at emergency defending. The Rapids typically give up goals by making a series of small errors. Rarely is the Great Dane one of those players who makes a mistake on a goal.

It’s hard to say if there were any significant departures from last year’s team. Most fans weren’t surprised or bummed out when Gyasi Zardes signed for Austin FC. The left back position has been an issue, so maybe Lucas Esteves. But he had some attitude issues and was hot headed. Robin Fraser’s such a culture guy, he wasn’t worth the headache.

It’s been a difficult start to the season for Colorado, what has been the biggest reason for the team’s struggles?

MP: Injuries. Injuries. Injuries. Price went down for the season in his second appearance. Diego Rubio has had three separate injuries. Maxsø was under concussion protocol for two games. I’ve lost count of how many players have had hamstring issues. As I’ve written about previously for Burgundy Wave, the infrastructure at Dick’s (Sporting Goods Park) is showing its age. The team had a really bad stretch in March and April with practice fields and winter sticking around. They’ve missed key players. They’ve had limited depth. All while playing eight games in May. Hopefully a full week of training has them healthy and refocused for Saturday.

With plenty of games left to play and only sitting six points out of the play-in spots, the Rapids are far from dead and buried. What needs to happen for Colorado to turn the season around?

MP: Get healthy and get going offensively. Rubio is still their only reliable chance creator. All their goal scorers have been streaky. If Rubio comes back healthy and can give the Rapids the production he had last year (a club-record 16 goals and seven assists), that would be fantastic. Add in Cabral, Jonathan Lewis, and Braian Galván having a good finishing streak, and they could be ok. Orlando fans should be wary of Michael Barrios coming off the bench tomorrow. All 12 of his goals for the Rapids have come in the second half.

Are there any players who will be unavailable for selection due to call-ups, injuries, suspensions, etc? What is your projected starting lineup and score prediction?

MP: The injury report just came out and there are only four players on it. That’s tied for the lowest of the season! Rubio is questionable, and Fraser’s been really cautious with his key players coming back from injury. I can’t see him getting more than 20 minutes Saturday. Moïse Bombito is suspended for a harsh second yellow against San Jose, so expect Lalas Abubakar to start at center back. Price is out, as mentioned previously. Max Alves is still removed from team activities as he’s under investigation for participation in a sports gambling scheme in his native Brazil.

Marko Ilic; Danny Wilson, Andreas Maxsø, Lalas Abubakar; Sam Nicholson, Keegan Rosenberry; Connor Ronan, Bryan Acosta, Cole Bassett; Jonathan Lewis, Darren Yapi.

I think Orlando wins a tight, ugly game. Oscar Pareja knows how to poop-house the Rapids. 1-0, Facundo Torres scores. I do think we’ll see one of the better performances from the Rapids of this winless stretch for what that’s worth. 

Thank you to Matt for the excellent info and helping get us up to speed on the Rapids. Vamos Orlando!

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Lion Links

Lion Links: 6/9/23

Orlando City gets ready for the Colorado Rapids, OCB faces FC Cincinnati 2 on Sunday, U-20 World Cup final is set, and more.



How’s it going, Mane Landers? I hope this Friday finds you well as we gear up for a weekend filled to the brim with Orlando soccer. My friends are taking me out for teppanyaki and scorpion bowls tonight, so it should be a pretty nice day on my end. Hopefully your Friday goes smoothly as well. Now, let’s dive into today’s links from around the soccer world.

Orlando City Prepares for the Colorado Rapids

The Lions are on a five-game unbeaten run as they get ready for a home match tomorrow night against the Colorado Rapids. Facundo Torres scored twice in the team’s 3-0 win over the New York Red Bulls last weekend. Hopefully he can keep the momentum rolling against a Colorado team that’s allowed 25 goals this season and sits last in the league in points per game, with just two wins in 17 matches. Pedro Gallese also recorded his 26th clean sheet for Orlando in last week’s win, and could make his 100th appearance as a Lion tomorrow night. The Lions will have to keep an eye on Irish midfielder Connor Ronan, who has six assists in his first season with the Rapids.

Orlando City B Aims to Bounce Back at Home

After a 3-0 defeat to Toronto FC II in Canada this past weekend, Orlando City B will look to right the ship on Sunday at home against FC Cincinnati 2. The Young Lions are unbeaten at home this season, winning four of their six games at Osceola Heritage Park. The last time these two teams played was in August of last year, with Cincy winning in the penalty shootout following a 2-2 draw. Although he didn’t score in that match, OCB forward Jack Lynn scored three goals against Cincinnati last year and currently leads OCB with six goals this season. Sunday’s match should be a good opportunity for OCB’s offense to bounce back against a leaky Cincy defense.

USMNT Players Focused Despite Coaching Search

With European seasons over, American players who have been plying their trade abroad are back in the U.S. to prepare for the Concacaf Nations League and Gold Cup this month. The team will be coached by B.J. Callaghan in an interim capacity while the search for a head coach continues. Although not having a permanent head coach for these tournaments isn’t ideal, Nashville SC center back Walker Zimmerman spoke on how the team still knows how to get the job done.

“We’re a team that has a very strong team chemistry, strong culture within our group. And we know that for us, not much has changed right now,” said Zimmerman. “We know the same principles, style of play, expectations, accountability – all those things are the same. So I think that’s player-driven, to hold each other accountable to the standards that we’ve set over the past four years. BJ, he’s on top of it. He’s knowledgeable about what we want to do, how we’re going to go about these games.”

The roster includes many of the players who featured in the World Cup last year, but the striker position is one to watch due to the new faces involved. Folarin Balogun is with the team for the first time and it will be interesting to see how he measures up against Ricardo Pepi, Alex Zendejas, and Jesus Ferreira. We will get to see who spearheads the USMNT’s attack next Thursday, when the Yanks take on Mexico in Las Vegas.

Italy and Uruguay Reach U-20 World Cup Final

Only two teams remain in the U-20 World Cup after Italy and Uruguay each won their semifinals. Uruguay, which beat the U.S. in the quarterfinals, beat Israel 1-0, thanks to a goal in the second half from Anderson Duarte. In Italy’s semifinal against South Korea, Cesare Casadei’s terrific tournament continued as he gave Italy the lead in the 14th minute. South Korea equalized soon after with a penalty kick, but 17-year-old forward Simone Pafundi scored a nice free kick to send Italy into the final.

The final will take place on Sunday at 5 p.m., with the third-place match set for 1:30 p.m. It will be Italy’s first time playing in a U-20 World Cup final, while it will be Uruguay’s third time after losing in 1997 and 2013.

Free Kicks

That’s all I have for you today. Have a fantastic Friday and rest of your weekend!

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Orlando City

Orlando City vs. Colorado Rapids: Three Keys to Victory

What does Orlando City need to do to earn all three points at home against the Rapids this Saturday night?



Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Orlando City is back home in Exploria Stadium and hosting the Colorado Rapids this Saturday night. The Lions are coming off a big road win over the New York Red Bulls, and will want to extend the five-match unbeaten streak. What does Orlando City need to do to secure all three points at home this weekend?

Survive the First Half

Colorado has been better in the first half of matches this season than in the second half. The Lions can expect the Rapids to come out strong, looking for an early goal. If Orlando City can play smart on defense, maintain possession, and limit Colorado’s chances for the first 45 minutes, plus stoppage time, the odds of winning at home go up. 

I’m most worried about the first 15 minutes and the last five minutes of this half. It’s going to be contingent upon the effective midfield pairing of Cesar Araujo and Wilder Cartagena to break down the Rapids’ attack. Araujo was in training this week despite going off injured in the last match, indicating it wasn’t that serious and he may be available. Cartagena has quietly been fantastic the last few matches, and there’s no reason to think that won’t continue. 

Behind that pair is another line of defense, including Robin Jansson and Antonio Carlos, that can clean up anything else that gets through. Carlos has mostly been great, although he’s had a few less-than-stellar matches, and Jansson has been excellent. If Orlando City weathers the first half in good shape, I’ll feel better about the Lions getting three points.

Ride the Hot Feet

Oscar Pareja has trotted out the same starting lineup the last couple of matches, and I don’t expect he will mess with the success. After the last match, Ivan Angulo and Facundo Torres will be feeling pretty good, and we don’t want those confidence-boosting performances to be wasted. There will be plenty of time to let them rest if they can help provide the team with a two-goal lead after the 60 minute mark.

The same goes for Ercan Kara. No he didn’t have a goal last match, but that had more to do with dealing with the New York Red Bulls press than anything else. His last goal was three matches ago against Inter Miami, but he is putting the work in regardless, and I think he’s primed to find the back of the net against Colorado. 

Regardless of the scoreline, look for Pareja to bring on Martin Ojeda and Duncan McGuire to either put the match away or look for a positive result. Duncan can be a terror against a team that doesn’t play well in the second half, and Ojeda seems due for a goal. He certainly isn’t shy about taking chances, and eventually one of them is going to result in a goal.


Too many times in Orlando City history, the Lions have played a team on a winless streak — the Rapids haven’t won in their last six matches — and been the team to let the opposition get back on track. The Lions are also riding a five-match undefeated streak heading into Saturday’s match. It’s the type of match that tends to worry scarred Orlando City supporters, and I have those bad thoughts and feelings as well. As Michael Scott said on The Office, “I’m not superstitious, but I am a little stitious.” If Orlando City could not feed into that phenomenon, it would be great.

I think that sometimes the Lions want to give the home crowd a win so badly that they get nervous and end up pressing too hard, or trying to slip a pass into too tight of a window. When that happens, the natural flow of an offense that is looking better, passing better, and scoring goals will give the ball away cheaply. My suggestion is for the players is to just relax. Pretend it’s a road match if necessary, but just keep calm and let the match develop naturally. 

That’s what I’ll be looking for this Saturday night from my seat in Exploria Stadium. Since I’ll be down for this one, please make sure to say hello if you see me.

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