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Orlando City

Orlando City vs. Philadelphia Union: Final Score 1-1 as Lions Win Group A

A draw thanks to Mauricio Pereyra was enough to see Orlando City finish at the top of Group A in the MLS is Back Tournament on goal differential.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC

Mauricio Pereyra’s first goal as a Lion erased a 1-0 deficit and helped Orlando City draw the Philadelphia Union 1-1 in the final Group A match of the MLS is Back Tournament at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. Orlando City (2-1-2, 8 points, 2-0-1 in MLS is Back) finishes at the top of Group A by virtue of a slightly better goal differential than the Union (also 2-1-2, 8 points, 2-0-1 in MLS is Back).

Orlando ran its unbeaten streak to three straight (2-0-1) on a night when the Lions weren’t at their best but still did enough to feel they should have taken all three points. Orlando City is 3-4-5 against Philadelphia in league play and 3-5-5 against the Union in all competitions.

“Let me congratulate this group of players that has made a great effort today to bounce back, and even deserve to win it,” Head Coach Oscar Pareja said after the match. “We had another experience where we were down in the score and we bounced back quickly. That just tells us that the team has personality and desire and that made us feel very confident, playing against a very good team also well-coached, and very dynamic in the middle. We’ll take the point and to qualify as the first of the group is something to be proud of.”

Pareja didn’t have his full arsenal as Dom Dwyer experienced some tightness in his quad and was held out for precautionary reasons. The team instead went with a 4-4-2, moving Nani ostensibly up beside Tesho Akindele, although Nani had the green light to freelance and drop deeper as needed, per usual. Pedro Gallese started in goal behind the preferred back line of Joao Moutinho, Robin Jansson, Antonio Carlos, and Ruan. Uri Rosell and Junior Urso joined Pereyra and Chris Mueller in the midfield.

Jim Curtin went with the expected 4-1-2-1-2 (or 4-4-2 diamond) lineup, with Andre Blake in goal; Kai Wagner, Mark McKenzie, Jack Elliott, and Ray Gaddis on the back line; Warren Creavalle — in for the suspended Jose Martinez — Alejandro Bedoya, Jamiro Monteiro, and Brenden Aaronson in the midfield; and Kacper Przybylko and Sergio Santos up top.

Urso had a couple of early opportunities but hit one weakly at Blake and fired the other wide of the left post. The latter was a screamer.

Unfortunately, after a bright start to the match, Urso picked up a knock at a quarter of an hour and left the match. At the time, he was a perfect five-for-five passing with a recovery and an interception in what had been to that point his best play of the tournament. After playing a man down for a few minutes, Sebas Mendez came on to replace him in the 19th minute.

Both teams sent in a few crosses for the next several minutes before Nani finally had a look at goal, but fired right at Blake from outside the area in the 27th minute. Two minutes later, Orlando should have scored. Pereyra found Akindele on the right but the Canadian fired and Blake parried it away. The better play would have been a return pass to Pereyra, who was all alone in front of goal for a tap-in, but it’s hard to fault a striker for having a go from that range when he hasn’t had a good look at goal yet.

Each team squandered a good free kick opportunity, with Nani and Monteiro trading weak bouncers at the keeper. Philadelphia’s best opportunity of the half came just before stoppage time, when Santos was denied by a decent Pedro Gallese save. Santos retrieved the ball and appeared to foul Ruan while doing so but the referee saw nothing wrong and Santos crossed for Aaronson, who should have scored but fired about a foot wide.

The whistle blew on a somewhat unsatisfying half for both teams. Orlando lacked sharpness in the opening 45 minutes. Some of that was due to Philadelphia, but Nani, Mueller, and Ruan were a bit off, and Mendez struggled to get into the game, although he settled in a bit toward the end of the period. Urso’s strong start illustrated the difference between the team before and after his injury.

The Union had more shots (8-5) but Orlando got more on target (4-2). Possession was almost evenly split, with Philly holding a slim edge (50.7%) and the Union passed a bit more crisply (83%-80%).

Philadelphia started the second half on the front foot, getting lots of the ball early. Orlando managed to finally break the pressure and Nani fired well off target in the 49th minute. Just seconds later, Mueller sent Mendez in alone but he went for power rather than a chip over the onrushing Blake or trying to slot it around him and it was saved. Mueller followed but Blake got there just after Mueller did and nothing came of it as the Money Badger tried to finesse around him.

Orlando had several crosses that were just a little bit off in the second half. Moutinho had one in the 60th that only needed a touch from Akindele or Mueller but his pass had too much spice and skipped out in front of both of them. Ruan did the same to Akindele in the 64th in a 2-v-1 situation in front of Blake on what should have been a goal.

Antonio Carlos nearly got his first MLS goal in the 66th as he blasted a header on goal off a corner kick cross. Blake got a touch on the ball and then it crashed off the crossbar.

Two minutes after Carlos nearly opened the scoring, the Union took the lead against the run of play. Philadelphia ended up with numbers on the right side and second-half sub Ilsinho got the ball on the right side. From a severe angle he sent a perfect shot off the inside of the far post and in to make it 1-0 in the 68th minute. The Lions have still scored first only once in 2020.

Philadelphia’s lead didn’t last long. Pereyra sent the ball out wide to the left for Nani, who surveyed the scene in front of goal and sent in a perfect ball back to Pereyra at the near post. The Uruguayan nodded home his first MLS goal to level things in the 70th minute.

“I think we didn’t deserve this goal in our net,” Pereyra said of Ilsinho’s strike. “But after we conceded that goal we started with the same energy that we started the second half and had a good combination. And then, when Nani gets the ball, something different can happen and I went inside the box feeling that this was coming for me, and it was like that, so I’m very happy to score my first goal in Orlando.”

From that point on the teams exchanged a couple of crosses through the box and some near connections but nothing came of it and the match finished at 1-1. There was a late handball scare deep in stoppage as a ball came back at Ruan quickly but the referee blew the final whistle and replays weren’t conclusive.

The Union ended up with more shots (12-10) but took some of those from downtown Orlando. The Lions got more of their efforts on target (7-4). Orlando took over the possession battle, keeping 53.7% of the ball for the game, and the passing got a bit closer, with the Union holding an 83%-82% advantage in accuracy. The Lions created more and seemed to have plenty of opportunities to put two or three in the net but Blake was outstanding when he had to be and a few crosses were hit just a bit too hard or too far in front of the attacking line.

Rosell talked about how the team was able to keep the Union’s big names — Przybylko and Aaronson — mostly quiet on the night.

“Yeah, honestly, before the game, we knew that they were very good players. They know what they were doing, and they had success in the last games. So we really focused on ourselves first, but then keeping an eye on them and and putting the work in,” he said. “At the end, when you are well organized and everybody gives their best and they know their role, things come through.”


Now we wait to see who Orlando will play on Saturday in the Round of 16. It could be Atlanta.

Lion Links

Lion Links: 6/18/24

Euro 2024 roundup, MLS transfer happenings, U.S. stars on Copa America prep, and more.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Happy Tuesday, everyone. It was a mixed bag for Orlando’s soccer teams over the weekend, as none of Orlando City, the Orlando Pride, or Orlando City B managed to win, with a loss and two draws. The only way out is through though, and there are plenty of chances to get back to winning ways this week. Before we get to today’s links, let’s all wish a happy birthday to Pride defender Rafaelle!

Euro Results Roundup

It was another pulsating day of action at Euro 2024, with the theme of early goals and exciting contests continuing. The early contest saw Romania beat Ukraine 3-0 with a trio of very well-taken goals. Nicolae Stanciu opened the scoring in the 29th minute and a pair of second-half goals just four minutes apart sealed Romania’s first win at the Euros in 24 years. In the second game of the day, Slovakia grabbed a goal in the seventh minute courtesy of an ill-advised Belgian attempt to play out of the back, and managed to hang on for a 1-0 win. The game wasn’t without controversy, as Romelu Lukaku missed several excellent chances, and also had two goals correctly ruled out by video review. The last game of the day saw France beat Austria 1-0 courtesy of an own goal in the first half, but the biggest talking point was Kylian Mbappe’s broken nose that will reportedly require surgery.

MLS Transfer Happenings

We have several important MLS transfers to catch up on this morning. First, the Houston Dynamo have broken the club’s transfer record to sign Argentine striker Ezequiel Ponce from Greek club AEK Athens. The 27-year-old will be a Designated Player, and although he can’t play for Houston until the secondary transfer window opens on July 18, he should help a Dynamo team that’s scored the fewest goals in the Western Conference. Moving to the Eastern Conference, the Columbus Crew are reportedly closing in on a trade to acquire Aziel Jackson from St. Louis City in exchange for $650,000 of General Allocation Money, in addition to other incentives.

Finally, Tom Bogert has identified Brighton and Hove Albion’s Marc Leonard as a player who could move stateside this summer. His loan spell at Northampton Town last season saw him named the club’s player of the year.

U.S. Players Speak About Copa America Prep

The Copa America kicks off on Friday, and Weston McKennie and Tyler Adams recently spoke about how they and the rest of the United States Men’s National Team have been preparing for the tournament. McKennie spoke on how this team has never been in camp for this long before, and that the extra time is helping them iron out little issues. He also talked about his willingness to fill in wherever needed on the field, something that could be relevant for both him and Adams given the injury to Sergino Dest. For his part, Adams discussed how a bright spot to missing so much time last year due to injury was that it allowed him to spend plenty of time with his newborn son.

UEFA Investigating Racism at Euro Match

UEFA is probing an alleged incident of racial abuse that took place in the match between England and Serbia. While the complaint did not come from the English Football Association, UEFA released a statement that it was investigating Serbia for objects that were thrown and the “transmission of a provocative message.” If the charges are proven, then Serbia could face sanctions from UEFA.

Free Kicks

  • The sensor placed inside the ball was instrumental in overturning what would have been an equalizing goal for Belgium.
  • Polish television is doing some very cool things with its soccer coverage.
  • An English fan woke up still in the stadium well after his team’s win over Serbia.

That does it for me this morning. Vamos Orlando!

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Orlando City

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

How did your favorite Lions perform in Orlando City’s home loss to LAFC?

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Despite dominating most of the game and nearly all of the second half, Orlando City fell 3-1 to LAFC Saturday night. The Lions continue their troubles at home, with the last win in front of their home fans coming on March 23. It’s more frustration for a team and fanbase that has had plenty this season.

Let’s take a look at how the players performed individually in the loss.

Starters

GK, Mason Stajduhar, 5.5 — With regular starting goalkeeper Pedro Gallese on international duty with Peru, Stajduhar got the nod for the second time this season. Conceding three goals is a bad night for any goalkeeper, though he wasn’t the only one at fault for any of them. The first was a penalty and the other two were breakaway counterattacks. The goalkeeper made four saves on the night but wasn’t challenged much. He completed all of his 14 passes, which included six long balls, and had to clear the ball once.

D, Rafael Santos, 5.5 — Santos had 101 touches in this game, second on the team. The left back completed 94.8% of his 77 passes, but only two of his 13 crosses. One of his passes was a key pass, but his poor crossing haunted the Lions in this game. Defensively, Santos recorded one tackle and one clearance.

D, Robin Jansson, 6 — Jansson was terrific for the first 85 minutes of this game, recording 88 touches. He completed 89.9% of his 79 passes, including four of his six long balls. Defensively, he added four tackles and a clearance. Unfortunately, he got caught up field in no-man’s land on LAFC’s second goal and got beat by Nathan Ordaz, resulting in a counterattack on the third. He was my Man of the Match until the final few minutes.

D, Rodrigo Schlegel, 6 — Schlegel was on the ball less than Jansson, recording 60 touches. He completed 96.4% of his 56 passes and two of his three long balls. Defensively, he only had a tackle. Overall, it was a solid night by the center back. While he didn’t have a part in the first two goals, he was unable to clear the ball on a tackle in the box on the third, allowing LAFC to take a 3-1 advantage.

D, Dagur Dan Thorhallsson, 5.5 — Thorhallsson started in his usual right back position, recording 66 touches. He completed 89.4% of his 47 passes, including a key pass, one of his five crosses, and none of his three long balls. He was among the most active players defensively with four tackles and interceptions. Additionally, he recorded one shot and had one successful dribble. Like other players in the team, his crossing struggles impacted the final result.

MF, Ivan Angulo, 5.5 — The Lions’ attack mainly went through the opposite side of Angulo, so the midfielder only had 47 touches, second-fewest of the 11 starters. He completed 87.6% of his 30 passes, including one of his four crosses and two key passes, but was plagued by some heavy touches in the final third. The attacker also helped out defensively with two successful tackles before being replaced by Martin Ojeda in the 61st minute.

MF, Cesar Araujo, 5 — Araujo was the only natural defensive midfielder in the starting lineup for Orlando City. He recorded 84 touches and completed 95.5% of his 67 passes. However, he only completed one of his two long balls, neither of his crosses, and didn’t record any key passes. He took two long distance shots but both were off target. Defensively, he recorded three tackles and one interception. It was a tough night for Araujo as he had a part in all three LAFC goals. He conceded the penalty, failed to keep up with Mateusz Bogusz on the second, and allowed Denis Bouanga to dribble around him on the third, although it’s perhaps harsh to fault a player for not being as fast as another or handle a player like Bouanga in space.

MF, Nico Lodeiro, 6 (MotM) — Lodeiro was unquestionably the most active player in this game, recording a team-high 132 touches. He completed 93% of his team-high 114 passes, but none of the seven crosses. The midfielder took three off-target shots and contributed defensively with two tackles and a clearance. He would’ve had a higher grade if he had completed some of his crosses, but his inability to do so hurt his team. Despite those missed crosses, Lodeiro gets my Man of the Match.

MF, Facundo Torres, 6 — Torres was often involved in the Lions’ buildup play, recording 89 touches. He completed 89.7% of his 68 passes, including a team-high five key passes. Two of his eight crosses failed to find teammates and his one long ball was incomplete. He took three shots, tied for second on the team, but none hit the target. Like some other players in this game, his grade would’ve been higher but he completely missed the target with his penalty in the 33rd minute. It was the first missed penalty of his professional career, but it had a major impact after LAFC converted one of its own 11 minutes later.

F, Luis Muriel, 5.5 — As usual, Muriel played a deeper role than Duncan McGuire, recording 69 touches. He completed 88.7% of his 53 passes, including three key passes. He failed to connect on his one cross and one of his two long balls. Additionally all five of his shots were off target. Muriel’s biggest problem in this game was attempting to dribble through multiple players, which resulted in him losing possession in dangerous positions. However, his perfectly weighted ball for Ojeda set up the game-tying goal in the 69th minute. While his assist was beautiful, it wasn’t enough to overcome his constant turnovers in the LAFC third of the field.

F, Duncan McGuire, 5 — McGuire played the target position in this game, recording 28 touches. He completed 81.8% of his 22 passes, but failed to connect on his lone long ball. Strikers are judged by goals and McGuire didn’t participate in any in this game, failing to hit the target on his only two shots. It was a forgettable performance that came to an end in the 78th minute when he was replaced by Jack Lynn.

Substitutes

MF, Martin Ojeda (61’), 6 — Ojeda came on in the 61st minute for Angulo and made an immediate impact. He provided a burst of energy for the team and the Lions quickly began creating dangerous chances. The attacking midfielder had 31 touches and completed 85% of his 20 passes. While he didn’t complete any of his four crosses, he scored the equalizing goal in the 69th minute. In addition to his goal, he had a late chance that hit the side netting. While I gave Lodeiro my Man of the Match, there’s an argument for Ojeda because of the impact he made.

F, Jack Lynn (78’), N/A — Lynn came on with 12 minutes to go for McGuire, who clearly had no more energy. The Lions were looking for a game-winning goal, but Lynn was unable to help. He only touched the ball three times and completed two of three passes without taking any shots. It was easy to forget he was on the field as the minutes wound down.


That’s how I saw the individual performances in Orlando City’s disappointing loss to LAFC. Let us know how you saw the game and don’t forget to vote on your Man of the Match below.

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Lion Links

Lion Links: 6/17/24

Lions fall to LAFC, Pride draw on the road, Euro 2024 roundup, and more.

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Image courtesy of Orlando Pride / Jeremy Reper

Hello, Mane Landers! I hope all is well with you down in Florida and had a great Father’s Day for all you dads out there. I was busy at Under Armour all weekend, but I try to catch some action from the Euros when possible. As for our teams, the Lions lost at home while the Pride drew on the road. Before we get started, let’s wish Orlando Pride midfielder Summer Yates a happy 24th birthday. We’ve got plenty to cover today, so let’s get to the links. 

Lions Fall at Home to LAFC

Orlando City lost 3-1 to LAFC on Saturday at Inter&Co Stadium, extending its winless streak to four matches. The Lions also remain winless against LAFC. Facundo Torres missed a penalty kick that would have put Orlando ahead before LAFC grabbed a goal late in the first half, converting a penalty of its own. Martin Ojeda scored an equalizer for the Lions in the second half, but LAFC countered with two more goals to put the match away. LAFC has won six straight league matches and is second in the Western Conference with 33 points. Meanwhile, Orlando dropped to 14th in the Eastern Conference with 17 points. It will be a quick turnaround for the Lions with a midweek matchup on the road Wednesday at Charlotte FC.

Pride, Courage Split Points in Scoreless Draw

The Orlando Pride played the Courage to a scoreless draw on the road Saturday in North Carolina at WakeMed Soccer Park. The Pride had chances throughout the match but could not score a goal for the first time this season. Still, Orlando remains unbeaten this season and is the first team this year to take any points away on the road against the Courage. After all the action across the NWSL over the weekend, Orlando and the Kansas City Current are still tied at the top with 29 points, but Kansas City is in first on goal differential. The Pride will return home Friday at Inter&Co Stadium to take on the Utah Royals.

Euro 2024 Roundup

The 2024 European Championship kicked off in Germany over the weekend with seven matches. We haven’t had any upsets yet, as Germany cruised past Scotland 5-1 in the opener on Friday. On Saturday, Switzerland beat Hungary 3-1, Spain shut out Croatia 3-0, and Italy bounced back after being down 1-0 to beat Albania 2-1. On Sunday, Slovenia and Denmark battled to a 1-1 draw. Orlando City defender David Brekalo came off the bench for a cameo appearance during stoppage time. The Netherlands overcame a 1-0 deficit to defeat Poland 2-1, and England defeated Serbia 1-0, with Jude Bellingham scoring the lone goal. In today’s matches, Romania takes on Ukraine, Belgium faces Slovakia, and Austria takes on France.

MLS Weekend Recap

It was another busy weekend of MLS action. The lone Friday matchup saw the Columbus Crew beat New York City FC 3-2. On Saturday, the New England Revolution defeated the Vancouver Whitecaps 3-2. It was the Revs’ third straight win. Charlotte FC shut out D.C. United 1-0, Inter Miami escaped Subaru Park with a 2-1 victory over the Philadelphia Union, and the Chicago Fire stunned Toronto FC with a 4-1 win on the road. Peter Luccin got his first win as interim head coach as FC Dallas defeated St. Louis City 2-0 and snapped a five-match winless streak. Atlanta United and the Houston Dynamo battled to a 2-2 draw, CF Montreal and Real Salt Lake ended in a scoreless draw, and the New York Red Bulls and Nashville SC also played to a scoreless draw. In the later matches, the Colorado Rapids and the Seattle Sounders defeated Austin FC and Minnesota United FC, respectively, by identical 2-0 scorelines. Finally, the LA Galaxy handed Sporting Kansas City a 4-2 defeat, while FC Cincinnati needed a a Yuya Kubo hat trick to defeat the San Jose Earthquakes 4-2 on the road.

Free Kicks

  • Major League Soccer has placed Sporting Kansas City midfielder Felipe Hernandez on administrative leave as the league investigates allegations that he violated the league’s gambling policy.

That will do it for me today, Mane Landers. Enjoy your Monday and I’ll see you next time.

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