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Orlando City vs. Los Angeles FC: Final Score 1-1 as the Lions Go Through on Penalties

Nani saw a penalty in regulation saved but his spot kick in the shootout sent Orlando into the semifinals.



Image courtesy of Orlando City SC

Nani left a second-half penalty too close to the goalkeeper and squandered a great chance to put Orlando City ahead. But the captain redeemed himself in a penalty shootout after Joao Moutinho’s 90th-minute goal sent the match to spot kicks. Orlando out-lasted LAFC 5-4 in the shootout to advance to the semifinals after a 1-1 draw in the MLS is Back Tournament at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex.

Shortly after Nani’s miss in regulation, Bradley Wright-Phillips put LAFC on top. As time wound down, it looked like the Lions would bow out of the tournament after a strong showing against perhaps the league’s best team, despite outplaying LAFC for much of the night. But Orlando City went five for five from the spot and shocked the visitors from Los Angeles.

Orlando officially gets a draw against LAFC, but the end result is LAFC is going home and the Lions are moving on to the semifinals.

“We are very proud of the group of players who have done an excellent job today and stayed in the game that needed a lot of heart and desire and determination,” Head Coach Oscar Pareja said after the match. “I think they accomplished that in those 90-plus minutes, and the game rewarded them, because they were the best team on the field. They were patient in the difficult moments. I want to highlight that as the heart of the team and the club.”

Pareja started the same lineup that beat Montreal last Saturday night, with goalkeeper Pedro Gallese behind a back line of Moutinho, Robin Jansson, Antonio Carlos, and Ruan. Uri Rosell and Sebas Mendez handled the central midfield behind an attacking line of Nani, Mauricio Pereyra, and Chris Mueller, with Tesho Akindele up top.

Orlando City played a cautious game to start, keeping LAFC from getting into a rhythm and looking for opportunities to get in behind. The Lions did well to break LAFC’s press and hold the ball for prolonged spells, but things generally broke down in the final third, as has been the case the last few games.

Nani went for goal on a free kick from long range nine minutes in but drilled his shot right at LAFC goalkeeper Kenneth Vermeer. The captain had a much more advantageous position in the 15th minute just at the left corner of the box but he squirted his shot off to the side and it sailed wide to the left.

Diego Palacios sent a dangerous ball skipping through Gallese’s six-yard box in the 20th minute but nobody from LAFC was anywhere near the back post and the ball skipped out for a goal kick.

Carlos got his head to a Pereyra corner kick cross in the 27th minute but didn’t get much power on it due to knocking it off an opponent’s head, and Vermeer was able to tip it over the bar. That began a good spell of Orlando pressure but both Ruan and Nani overcooked crosses at the top of the six and the Lions couldn’t get anyone to them.

Wright-Phillips appeared to open the scoring for LAFC in the 32nd minute as a ball from Brian Rodriguez deflected off Ruan and fell perfectly for BWP to tap in. However, Rodriguez was half a step offside in the buildup, and Joseph Dickerson went over to take a look, waving off the goal after getting a look at the replay.

Nani blazed a shot from the left in the 38th minute but Vermeer was well positioned to make the save.

LAFC ended the half with its first truly prolonged possession of the half, earning a couple of corners and free kicks, but last year’s Shield winners didn’t manage to get a shot off, as the Lions defended well. The teams went to the break at 0-0. It was the first time in the tournament that LAFC went to the break without a goal on the board. Orlando City led in shots (7-0), shots on target (3-0), possession (52.1%) and passing accuracy (77%-73%).

Mueller, who had been grimacing and clutching his shoulder since suffering an early foul, was subbed off at halftime and replaced by Benji Michel. It appeared that the training staff put Mueller in some kind of sling just before the second half started. Pareja said after the match that he thinks Mueller and Jansson — who left later in the match — will be OK but he can’t be sure until they’re more thoroughly examined by the team’s physicians.

Orlando picked up more or less where it left off in the first half, staying organized and keeping the ball moving to avoid giving LAFC transition opportunities. The Lions generated a good chance in the 53rd minute when Rosell blasted a rocket just over the bar from the left corner of the penalty area after a short corner kick was played to Pereyra.

Two minutes later, Ruan came down the right side and got in behind Palacios, who tried a desperation tackle but tripped up the Brazilian fullback in the area. Dickerson pointed to the spot and it appeared Orlando would finally get its breakthrough. Nani stepped up to take the penalty and hit it hard but left it too close to Vermeer, who guessed the right way and had a comfortable save to keep the game at 0-0 in the 57th minute.

“When I had the chance to score the first penalty, I think it was a fantastic moment for the goalkeeper and he had a great save,” Nani said.

The miss was costly. Mendez did what Orlando had avoided most of the night and turned the ball over in his defensive third, getting muscled off the ball by Diego Rossi. The LAFC star took the ball down the right side and fizzed a cross past Jansson to Wright-Phillips, who managed to beat Carlos to the ball. Wright-Phillips made no mistake from point-blank range and L.A. scored on its first shot of the match.

Orlando opened up a bit after the goal and it nearly cost the Lions immediately. Gallese was forced to make a huge kick save in the 62nd minute to keep Rossi from doubling the lead.

The Lions nearly pulled one back two minutes later, when Nani’s cross deflected off of Eddie Segura and headed toward the net. Vermeer got down to keep the ball out again.

Orlando kept coming but gave up some chances as a result of having to chase a goal. Nani came tantalizingly close to equalizing in the 73rd minute, cutting left to right and curling a shot that skipped just inches wide of the right post.

Ruan fell asleep on a throw-in and it nearly cost Orlando. Rossi quickly sped past Carlos and shot from a tight angle. Gallese made the stop, but the rebound came right back to Rossi. Gallese made a second save to keep the Lions in it, living up to his nickname, “The Octopus.”

As the game wound down, LAFC seemed more likely to put the game away than Orlando did to tie things up. Substitute Jordan Harvey forced a good save from Gallese in the 88th minute and El Pulpo again kept his team alive.

The Cardiac Cats showed up in the 90th minute. Ruan came down the right and slid a pass in for substitute Santiago Patino in front of goal but Tristan Blackmon made a sliding block to deny a goal, giving Orlando a corner kick. The Lions made the most of the opportunity.

Nani whipped in the corner from the right and Moutinho beat Harvey to the back post ball, heading it home to score against his former club. It was his first goal for Orlando City and the game was tied 1-1 with five minutes of stoppage time remaining.

“I was in charge of going to the back post on our attacking set pieces — corners and free kicks,” Moutinho said. “So, I knew I had some space there. We had already took, I think, two or three corners, and I saw that I had the chance to to get the ball, and I got just a bit short. So yeah, I was expecting the ball to go there and I kept my eye on it, and I knew that the space was there. Yeah, it was a great ball, a great cross. And I was fast enough to get in front of the defender and just head it in.”

“I think we deserved at the end when we scored the goal, because of everything we put on the field,” said Nani, who picked up the assist.

Neither team got a quality chance in the added time but Michel did send a shot from the left corner of the box that just wouldn’t curl, sailing high and wide of the target. The final seconds ticked off and the match went straight to penalties.

Orlando had more shots (17-8), with each team getting five on target. The Lions held 52.2% of the possession and maintained their passing accuracy advantage (77%-72%). It was only fair after that performance for Orlando to have a chance to go through to the semifinals.

LAFC got to shoot first and Francisco Ginella narrowly beat Gallese, who got his fingertips to the shot but couldn’t keep it out. Pereyra stepped up and equalized for Orlando. Harvey shot second for L.A. but powered a rocket shot off the crossbar, giving the Lions the advantage.

Substitute Kyle Smith scored beautifully into the side netting to push Orlando out front, but Rossi leveled the shootout at 2-2 on LAFC’s third shot. Moutinho hurt his old team again by scoring on the next Orlando penalty and Brian Rodriguez kept the pressure on the Lions by equalizing on the fourth L.A. kick. Carlos didn’t seem an obvious choice as Orlando City’s fourth shooter. Vermeer guessed correctly and got his hands to the shot but it had just enough power on it to slip through the goalkeeper’s grasp, making it 4-3. Latif Blessing tied the shootout again and it was down to Nani to make up for his earlier penalty.

The captain stepped up, took a stutter step, and coolly won the shootout, sending Vermeer the wrong way.

That was it. Orlando had slain the MLS dragon and advanced to the MLS is Back semifinals. The lads were excited, to say the least.

“Pay attention (to) our team with good eyes, and give the respect of the football,” Nani said, when asked about Orlando City’s underdog status. “Because we’ve been working hard, and we want to continue to work hard just to play our football and try to improve. We know we are a team who are improving our football. But the respect on football is very important.

“We put more concentration, we put more determination, and the best team won the game.”

Orlando City will await the winner of the San Jose Earthquakes vs. Minnesota United. That quarterfinal matchup will take place tomorrow night at 8 p.m., with the winner facing the Lions next Thursday at 8 p.m.

Lion Links

Lion Links: 5/29/23

Pareja disappointed with draw, Julie Doyle returns from injury, OCB hosts Red Bulls II, and more.



Happy Memorial Day, Mane Landers! There is a whole lot of soccer to cover today, following a weekend full of news, including your local teams in purple having matches, although not the results we wanted with the Lions allowing a late goal to draw 1-1 and the Pride falling in Chicago. The English Premier League came to an exciting close Sunday. The Young Lions have a match of their own tonight. So, while Mondays can often bring the work week blues (for those who don’t have today off, anyway), at least you have a whole lot of soccer reading to get you up and at it this week.

But before we dive all the way in, please join me in wishing former Orlando City defender and current Orlando Pride Head Coach Seb Hines a happy birthday. Now, let’s get down to it in the links!

Oscar Pareja Disappointed for Fans

Following the Lions late draw on Saturday night, Orlando City Head Coach Oscar Pareja showed some strong feelings towards the disappointing result. He said the team has to do better for its supporters and grind out wins after good performances.

“I have to say that we played well today and I want to congratulate that group of players that pushed that match and that energy. That’s the team that we want to see. The other part is the frustration of giving up another goal at the end and not walking away with the three points. At that part, the equation gets through things, soccer, fútbol, concentration, many things. But we want to see that team more often and we want to see that energy more often. We want to see that Orlando City. And to our fans, that support deserves much, much more.”

Check out the full post game press conference, which also featured interviews with goal scorer Kyle Smith and Orlando City defensive midfielder Wilder Cartagena.

Pride’s Loss Mars Doyle’s Return to the Pitch

The Orlando Pride dominated play but could not score on Saturday night, and that led to the end of the club’s four-game unbeaten run. With her start, Marta tied former teammates Ashlyn Harris and Toni Pressley for most regular-season appearances in Pride history with her 81st league match. Meanwhile, forward Julie Doyle also made her return to the field as a second-half substitute. Doyle had not played since the beginning of April due to an ankle injury. Head Coach Seb Hines said he was disappointed with the result but glad to see Doyle return to the lineup. Here’s what Hines had to say about Doyle:

“She’s an exciting player, she’s always active. We felt like it was the right time to bring her in, chasing the goal. She’s always on the move, making defenders defend and it’s nice to have another attacking option come off the bench, along with Ally Watt and Summer Yates. It just shows that we were being more aggressive towards the end again to try and get ourselves back in it. We felt that with the likes of Julie and Ally, Adriana, Marta, and Summer, we had an opportunity to get back in the game and ultimately win the game at the end, but we fell a little bit short. I can’t fault the players’ efforts. They put a lot into it, they’re working extremely hard and we have to just keep going and look forward to the next game away at Houston.”

Orlando City B Hosts New York Red Bulls II

The Young Lions of OCB are ready to host the Young Red Bulls tonight at Osceola Heritage Park. Leading the way for the team is forward Jack Lynn in red-hot form. Lynn has found the back of the net three times in the last two matches, with a game winner against intrastate rivals Inter Miami CF II on Thursday night. Lynn now leads the Young Lions in goals scored this campaign, with five in 2023, and has 20 goals total in his MLS NEXT Pro career. OCB will look to maintain its unbeaten record at home this season tonight, entering the match with a 3-0-2 record at Osceola County Stadium.

Premier League Relegation Battle

Heading into Matchday 38 of the English Premier League campaign, one team was already sure of its fate regarding relegation. Southampton was a good distance behind Leicester City and Leeds United, but both of those clubs had a chance to jump Everton in the standings. Southampton didn’t go quietly into the night though, as the team played to a 4-4 draw against Liverpool. Ultimately, Leicester City and Leeds United were relegated from the EPL on the final day of the season after Everton ensured its own survival with a narrow victory on Sunday. Leicester City fought to a 2-1 victory over West Ham United, while Leeds suffered a 4-1 defeat to Tottenham Hotspur. Everton extended its unbroken 69-year tenure in the English top flight as midfielder Abdoulaye Doucoure’s stunning strike earned the Toffees a 1-0 victory over Bournemouth as they avoided relegation on the final day of the season.

Free Kicks

I hope you have a great week, Mane Landers. Do something special for someone today. And, best of luck to the Young Lions tonight. Vamos Orlando!

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Orlando City

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

How did your favorite Lions individually perform in Orlando City’s 1-1 draw against Atlanta United?



Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Orlando City closed out a busy May with a frustrating 1-1 draw against Atlanta United at Exploria Stadium. The Lions played well throughout the match, but couldn’t double their lead and paid the price yet again, as Atlanta scored a late equalizer to leave Orlando with a point. Here’s how each Lion individually performed in this rivalry match.


GK, Pedro Gallese, 6.5  — Gallese didn’t have much to do until the 86th minute, when he pushed a deflected shot out for a corner. El Pulpo made a superb save on Matheus Rossetto’s low shot from the corner kick, but couldn’t get a hand on Tyler Wolff’s strike after the rebound fell to him. His distribution was good, as he was accurate on four of his seven long balls and 81.6% of his 16 passes.

D, Rafael Santos, 6 — His passing needed to be a bit better. Completing 78.3% of his 46 passes isn’t bad, but there were a few turnovers from him that mirrored his mistake last week. Only two of his seven crosses were accurate, but the misses weren’t egregious and many were still delivered into good areas that were difficult to defend. Santos was accurate on three of his seven long balls as well. Atlanta wasn’t able to get too much going when attacking his side of the field, and he finished with two tackles and a blocked shot.

D, Robin Jansson, 7.5 (MotM) — The Beefy Swede was extra beefy in this one. Jansson was tasked with keeping Giorgos Giakoumakis quiet and did well marking him to prevent him from taking a shot for just the second match this season. Jansson had two tackles, two clearances, an interception, and blocked a shot from Thiago Almada. On the attacking side of things, Jansson was accurate on seven of his 11 long balls and had 35 passes at an 82.9% success rate. The center back was a major reason why the league-leading offense didn’t manage a shot on target until late in the match.

D, Antonio Carlos, 7 — Carlos was a force to be reckoned with in the air, as he won three of his four aerial duels and led the Lions with six clearances. While an early yellow card limited how physically he played, it didn’t stop his effectiveness when dealing with Atlanta’s attack. He had an opportunity to score early on off of a free kick, with Mauricio Pereyra finding him crashing the far post. Carlos got to it with clean contact, but the header was directly at Brad Guzan. His other shot was a header from a corner kick, but it was sent off target. The Brazilian center back was successful on 88.9% of his 36 passes and was accurate on four of his eight long balls. His next yellow card will result in a suspension for accumulation.

D, Kyle Smith, 7 — The right back scored his first goal of the year and fourth in MLS by being in a great position to bury a rebound from Facundo Torres’ shot. Smith was all alone at the far post after a series of passes and a blocked shot and smashed the ball between Brad Guzan’s legs before the goalkeeper could close them. He had another shot after Torres laid the ball off to him in the box, but his strike was blocked. Derrick Etienne beat him a couple of times and he wasn’t able to get a body on Tyler Wolff on the equalizer, but he was defensively sound for most of the match. Smith came up with four clearances, an interception, and a huge tackle against Almada late in the match. He also won both of his aerial duels. The 31-year-old completed all but two of his 30 passes for a great 93.3% success rate as well. Although his only cross of the match didn’t find its target, both of his long balls did.

MF, Cesar Araujo, 6.5 — The 22-year-old was composed in this rivalry match and did well to connect Orlando’s attack and defense. He was fairly active on offense, particularly on the right wing alongside Torres in the second half. Araujo recorded a pair of key passes and didn’t miss by much with a swerving shot from range. Defensively, he chipped in with two tackles and blocked a shot. The Uruguayan had 42 passes at an 83.3% success rate and one of his two long balls found its mark. It was another solid outing from Araujo in his 11th consecutive match playing all 90 minutes.

MF, Wilder Cartagena, 6.5 — The Peruvian midfielder led the Lions with five tackles, taking advantage of the pressure his teammates applied to win the ball and get it to Orlando’s playmakers. Cartagena also only committed one foul while doing so. He led the Lions with 54 passes, completing them at a great 92.6% success rate, and was accurate on two of his three long balls. Both of his shots were from outside the box, with one blocked and the other sent high and wide of goal. Cartagena made a few great passes, but a few disappointing ones that could have spelled danger as well.

MF, Ivan Angulo, 6.5 — The winger did well to help create Orlando’s first goal, beating his man and making the cutback pass to kickstart the pinballing in the box that led to Smith’s goal. It was nice to see some fruit from Angulo’s efforts on the left wing, as he used his speed and skill to surge into the box and earn set pieces. He wasn’t as clinical as he should be in the attack, taking no shots, making no key passes, and sending his only cross out of bounds. Although he was successful on all four of his dribbles, he also had six unstable touches and 28 passes at an 82.1% success rate. While he didn’t have any defensive stats, he was quick to collect loose balls or put a body on Atlanta players. He did well in this match for the most part, but made some mistakes and couldn’t capitalize on some of the chances he created.

MF, Facundo Torres, 7 — He wasn’t credited with an assist, but his shot in the box was deflected and fell for Smith to put away. It was his second shot of the match, with his other effort sent just over the crossbar. Torres also had two key passes and was successful on 83% of his 53 passes. Neither of his two crosses were successful, but both of his long balls were. His preference for his left foot continues to limit him, as defenders know he will cut back towards the middle. Still, Torres did well creating space for his teammates and was at his best when he had a fellow Lion making a run to his right or behind him. He led the Lions with 79 touches, completed six of his 12 attempted dribbles, and was fouled three times. Torres helped fuel Orlando’s press and he had a tackle and an interception in this one.

MF, Mauricio Pereyra, 7 — Orlando’s captain didn’t show many signs of rust in his first start since April 22. Although he finished with 27 passes at just a 74.1% success rate and was accurate on just one of his four crosses, Pereyra was sharp and daring throughout the match. He was successful on six of his seven long balls to really stretch Atlanta’s defense. He did the dirty work in Orlando’s first goal, springing Angulo forward and then finding a good position for the return pass so he could slip the ball in for Kara. The 33-year-old also won a crucial race against Almada, snuffing out a counter attack and quickly turning the tables with a pinpoint long ball. His lone shot of the match had to be taken quickly right in front of goal and Guzan made the save. Defensively, he helped apply pressure and made a pair of tackles.

F, Ercan Kara, 6 — He wasn’t able to score, but still did well spearheading Orlando’s attack. The Austrian forward had two shots, putting one on target that required a good save from Guzan and having the other blocked. Kara contributed two key passes as well. He had 17 touches in 72 minutes of action and completed all but one of his seven passes. Atlanta had him in its sights, marking him well and fouling him three times in a physical match. On Orlando’s goal, he cycled the ball into the path of Torres for him to get a shot off.


MF, Martin Ojeda (63′), 6.5 — Ojeda came on for Pereyra in the second half and helped keep Orlando’s offense moving. He had a key pass and his only shot of the match was a venomous strike from outside the box that forced a save from Guzan for a corner. Ojeda completed seven of his 10 passes and one of his three crosses. Defensively, he helped out with two tackles. Ultimately, he wasn’t able to find that insurance goal for Orlando, but looked dangerous with the ball at his feet.

F, Duncan McGuire (72′), 6  — The rookie subbed in for Kara and had good vision to set up a nice shot for Araujo. It was his only key pass and his best chance to score came a few minutes earlier with a cross into the box he couldn’t get on the end of before Atlanta cleared it. McGuire had six touches, completed all three of his passes, and had a clearance.

F, Ramiro Enrique (87′), N/A  — The forward made another brief appearance, coming on late to give the Lions another attacker to chase a winning goal. Enrique only had two touches, completed his one pass, and was successful on a dribble.

That’s how I saw each performance from the Lions in their 1-1 draw at home to Atlanta United. It was a frustrating result, but many Lions had positive performances. Who was your Man of the Match? Make sure to vote in our poll and let us know what you think in the comments!

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Orlando City

Orlando City vs. Atlanta United: Five Takeaways

Here’s what we learned from Orlando City’s 1-1 draw vs. Atlanta United.



Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Orlando faced off against local rival Atlanta United in the friendly confines of Exploria Stadium on Saturday night but a late goal conceded for the second time in as many home games led to two dropped points in a 1-1 draw. What can we takeaway from sharing points at home against a bitter rival?

Playing with Purpose

For a good majority of the first half and even into the second, the Lions’ tactics and drive seemed to connect from the back line to the forwards in an aggressive attacking style. In the first 15 minutes, Orlando dominated the ball and possession, but the Lions didn’t start to generate chances until after the first 20 minutes had gone. And while they ultimately did not come away with results to show for their aggression, the effort to come out on the front foot was not in vain and eventually led to Orlando’s first goal of the match. It also continued a coaching trend over the last several matches that demonstrated the team’s ability to dictate the pace of play as opposed to being forced to be reactionary.

Defense Delivers Again

For the second week in a row, Orlando City benefited from a goal from the back line. Instead of a screamer from Rafael Santos, as was the case last week against Miami, this week, Orlando City found its first goal from defender Kyle Smith. It was Smith’s first goal of the year and came in the 30th minute at the end of a team wide effort to put pressure on the goal. Finding the back of the net for defensive players has become a welcome trend over the last two weekends and spreading out the goals and getting them from less likely sources can only help the club moving forward.

Smith’s Travels

Although he played fullback according to the lineup sheet, Smith essentially played in the midfield against Atlanta. His work helped Orlando boss the middle of the pitch throughout the first half and much of the second, preventing Atlanta from building momentum in its attack. Smith’s position on the pitch was often inverted, playing where one might normally expect to see Facundo Torres. He did an excellent job of helping win the ball back and getting into spaces that Atlanta wanted to play into. It also helped create space down the right for Torres. It was an unusual game plan but it worked well and Smith did a fine job in playing his role.

Captain Back in the Fray

Orlando City captain Mauricio Pereyra rejoined the starting 11 for the first time in several weeks and he contributed one shot that was unfortunately deflected right into Brad Guzan’s hands. He passed well and even helped defensively with two successful tackles — one of which was a vital one to dispossess Thiago Almada in transition. While it may take a few matches to fully reintegrate the maestro back into the attack, it’s apparent that Pereyra’s ability to pull the strings helps drive the attack. The team needs its captain to be on the field as he unlocks more options in the attack, but more importantly, it will need to see a defensive effort throughout the remainder of the year like the captain registered on Saturday.

Failure to Launch

For the third time in three matches, Orlando City has taken an early lead. In two out of those three matches, the Lions only have two points to show for their efforts. To make matters worse, two of those three results came at home. In their last three matches, the Lions have mustered five points from a potential nine that they held in hand before coughing up late results against New York City FC and Atlanta United. Despite continuing to climb the standings with a draw, Orlando City is dangerously close to creating a habit which its season may not recover from…good teams cover at home, and great teams secure all three points. While a draw against a team who is ahead in the table isn’t the worst result in the world, being able to score a win against both main rivals one week apart would have been so…so…so much sweeter.

Those were my big takeaways from a match that felt like it slipped through the Lions’ fingers. What were your most important moments of the match? Let us know in the comments below.

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