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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.

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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.

Orlando City

Orlando City vs. Inter Miami: Five Takeaways

What did we learn from a thoroughly unenjoyable outing in South Florida?

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Well. Orlando City’s second league game of the season was a thoroughly unenjoyable one, as the Lions got played clean out of South Florida by Inter Miami. As much as I hate to do it, we need to talk about this one, so what follows are my five thoughts from a horrific showing in SoFlo.

Early Mistakes Seal Orlando’s Fate

The Lions barely had a chance to get their feet underneath them before Pedro Gallese was picking the ball out of his net. Cesar Araujo received the ball in Orlando’s defensive third and immediately tried to play a blind pass backwards, but it went straight to a Miami player. Once the ball made its way from Lionel Messi to Julian Gressel to Luis Suarez, the latter made no mistake and scored to put OCSC into an early hole from which it would never recover.

Tough Night for Two Lions

Speaking of mistakes, that wasn’t the only one that Araujo made during this game. Miami’s second goal came as a result of Rodridgo Schlegel getting pulled out of position and Araujo failing to track the run of Suarez, who found it all too easy to fire past Gallese and double the deficit for Orlando. Schlegel was also culpable for the third goal, as he was too slow to step up with the rest of the back line, and prevented the tally from being called back for offside as a result. Almost no player in purple had a good game, but it was a particularly rough night for two guys who are normally so good for OCSC.

Offensively Anemic

The Lions didn’t look bad going forward for a lot of this one. They managed to get the ball into some good areas, but just had trouble getting the final ball right that would lead to a chance. The introduction of Luis Muriel and Nico Lodeiro after halftime helped provide a spark early in the second half, but Orlando ultimately couldn’t find a way through and the score only got more and more lopsided as a result. When OCSC finally did fashion a clear-cut chance for Ramiro Enrique, the forward didn’t place his shot far enough in the corner and Drake Callender made a good save as a result.

Lack of Effort Worsens Scoreline

Somewhere around the 53rd minute, things really started to devolve for the Lions. Multiple turnovers in the team’s own half led to chance after chance for the home team, and Miami eventually made Orlando pay. The fifth goal will make for extremely unpleasant viewing, as Dagur Dan Thorhallsson decided to not close down Suarez on the wing, giving him way too much time to put the ball on a plate for Messi to head home, while the rest of the team took their time jogging back as Miami broke forward in transition. Orlando kept coming forward doggedly, but the lack of effort on display at times at the back was shocking and uncharacteristic to see.

Wake-Up Call

I have no idea what happened in this match. As soon as the first goal went in, almost the entire team looked slow, out-of-sorts, and on its heels when Miami had the ball. That sort of thing is unacceptable in any game, but especially in this particular fixture. Yes, the match against Tigres is looming large on Tuesday, but the lineup Oscar Pareja put out was not one that suggested the Lions were punting on this game to throw everything they had at Tigres. Instead, an almost first-choice XI turned in perhaps the worst performance we’ve ever seen from an Orlando team coached by Oscar Pareja. It’s possible that we’ll look back on this game as the moment that this team came together and kicked onto bigger things, but in order for that to happen the Lions need to take a good, hard, brutally honest look in the mirror.


I’m sorry to say that’s the worst Orlando City performance I’ve seen in a very long time. Thankfully, the season is a long one and the Lions have plenty of time to right the ship and get back to playing in the manner we’re used to seeing. I think we’ll learn a lot about what we should expect from this team on Tuesday against Tigres. OCSC has a chance to respond the right way and make a statement, and you can bet I’ll be looking for one. Until then, vamos Orlando.

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Opinion

Strong Early Season Competition an Opportunity for Growth

Schedule congestion and tough opponents present opportunities for growth.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

It is hard to imagine a more intense start to the season than the Lions have faced competing in both the regular season and the Concacaf Champions Cup at the same time, yet that is exactly the task that the boys in purple find themselves dealing with only days into the season. With both away and home matches already in the books, let’s examine how strong early season competition can be a key factor in the growth of the squad as the season progresses.

For comparison we can look back to one year ago, as thanks to winning the U.S. Open Cup, the Lions found themselves in the Concacaf Champions League for the first time in club history. During their short foray in the 2023 version of the competition, they were matched up against Mexican powerhouse Tigres UANL in a two-leg competition. Orlando did something that many MLS sides can not boast by coming out of the first leg in Mexico without conceding a goal and only failed to advance because of the competition’s away goals rule.

At the time, and even looking back through rose-colored glasses, those two performances demonstrated the quality that Orlando City was ultimately capable of, and it was a form which Orlando showcased in the later stretches of the 2023 season.

This year, once again Orlando is faced with stiff competition throughout its early season matches, which present a grand opportunity to build team chemistry and fortitude that will only truly manifest itself as the season progresses. While Cavalry FC may have not presented much a challenge on the pitch, the logistics of starting a season off thousands of miles away in the Pacific Northwest were challenges that the Lions had to face before a 48-hour turnaround to open the regular season against a CF Montreal side which some are projecting to be a surprise force in the Eastern Conference. Sandwich in the close-out leg against Cavalry in the CCC at home some 72 hours later, and you once again have a recipe for tired legs but early season growth through adversity.

Up next was Saturday’s forgettable trip to square off against archrival Inter Miami. A year ago, Orlando City was one of the only MLS sides to truly frustrate one of the world’s best and unfortunately for players, coaches and fans alike, the first meeting between the rival sides in 2024 ended with a landslide victory for Messi and friends. Still, despite the frustrating loss, there are lessons to be learned and mistakes to correct which can only help the squad grow as the season progresses.

As if all of the schedule congestion was not enough, Orlando learned that its prize for dispatching Cavalry in the CCC was a rematch against Tigres, once again in a two-match, survive-and-advance format. The first game will be played two and a half days after having been beaten down by Miami and the second will come a week later, with yet another MLS regular-season match crammed in between.

All in all, once Orlando City is done facing off against Tigres, the team will have traveled roughly 9,700 miles for matches in the first 21 days of the season and played a match roughly every 60 hours. These matches and the quality of the opponents present Orlando and its players with numerous chances for individual and squad growth, and the experience, especially for still a somewhat young team, is something OCSC can draw upon once the late season and playoff push portion of the calendar arrive. I truly believe this early in the season the importance of the results of the matches come secondary to the opportunities for growth when faced with so many challenges so quickly.


Let us know in the comments below if you think that the early season match ups against quality opponents will ultimately hurt or benefit Orlando City and, as always, vamos Orlando!

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Orlando City

Orlando City vs. Inter Miami: Final Score 5-0 as Meek Lions Trounced in Comprehensive Road Defeat

Lions get crushed from the jump in South Florida.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Orlando City conceded two ridiculously easy goals in the first 11 minutes and another easy one before the end of the half en route to an embarrassing 5-0 loss to Inter Miami (2-0-1, 7 points) at Chase Stadium in Fort Lauderdale. The Lions (0-1-1, 1 point) gave Luis Suarez his first two MLS goals and an assist in the opening half (and another assist later). Lionel Messi also scored a brace and Robert Taylor added a goal.

Orlando generated some scoring chances, but struggled to hit the target when the game was still within reach. With the loss, Orlando City fell to 5-4-3 in league play against their Tropic Thunder rivals from the south. It was the first time the Lions have been shut out in Fort Lauderdale, and this season marks the first time in club history that Orlando City has failed to score a goal through the first two matches in regular-season play.

“Obviously a disappointing day for us, recognizing from minute one to the end of the game that didn’t look like us in many areas,” Orlando City Head Coach Oscar Pareja said after the game. “A team like them, you cannot permit them to have that many spaces, and lose that many duels, and give them that possibility to be sitting in our box in those counterattacks. Really disappointed, but we’re pushing as a group. You know I have big respect for this group, their professionalism in what they do, and if there is any possibility, we’ll search to find answers but this group’s professionalism will never be denied. We’re not going to leave this experience just to happen without taking the benefits of this, the reasons, and learn from it.”

Pareja’s starters included Pedro Gallese in goal behind a back line of Rafael Santos, Robin Jansson, Rodrigo Schlegel, and Dagur Dan Thorhallsson. Cesar Araujo and Wilder Cartagena took their usual spots in the central midfield behind an attacking line of Ivan Angulo, Martin Ojeda, and Facundo Torres with Duncan McGuire up top.

It didn’t take long for the hosts to get on top and it was Orlando City helping the Herons score the first goal. Araujo made a terrible mistake with a blind back pass, turning the ball over. It ended up out wide on Julian Gressel’s foot and the winger found Suarez, who fired first time into the corner where Gallese couldn’t get to it, making it 1-0 in the fourth minute.

“From there, I feel we couldn’t really turn the game in our favor,” Jansson said.

Orlando had two great opportunities to answer quickly. The first came when Thorhallsson fed McGuire in front in the seventh minute. The striker couldn’t get his feet set properly and when the ball arrived he sent it well off target from just eight yards out. A minute later, it was Araujo with a blast from just outside the box but his shot sailed just wide of the upper left corner.

The Lions, predictably, paid for those misses. Miami got a fortunate bounce off of Cartagena’s tackle attempt. As a result, Suarez was sent in on a fairly routine through ball but Araujo had stopped tracking him and Schlegel got pulled out of position with an overly aggressive move, giving the former Barcelona man room to slip through the line. He beat Gallese to make it 2-0 in the 11th minute.

Orlando City finally settled into the match a bit after that, although the damage had been done already. The Lions won a couple of corners and Schlegel sent a header wide on one of them. On the other, the ball was knocked to Torres near the top of the box. The Uruguayan tried a volley shot but couldn’t keep it down and it sailed well over the goal in the 21st minute.

Ojeda tried to pick out McGuire in the 23rd minute but Drake Callender came off his line and may have gotten a slight touch to the excellent cross. At the very least, he put McGuire off with his presence and aggressiveness.

Miami unlocked the defense for an easy third goal in the 29th minute. Schlegel was slow to step up to spring an offside trap and the through ball found Suarez behind the back line. Gallese came off his line to try to disrupt the play, but Suarez squared it to Taylor for an empty-net goal.

Messi came close to making it 4-0 with a free kick in the 34th minute. He sent his shot off the outside of the left post and Gallese may have had it covered anyway, moving quickly to his right.

The score almost got more embarrassing late in the half. Suarez again got in behind and scored but this time the flag came up and the offside call was upheld on review. It was extremely close, but the score remained 3-0.

That was the last close call of the first half and the Lions limped to the break down three goals.

The Lions held the advantage in possession (55.7%-44.3%) and corners (2-0). But Miami passed more accurately (90.6%-85.1%), fired more shots (5-4), and put more on target (3-0).

“Not good enough,” Jansson said of the performance. “It’s a derby and we’re coming out there with no energy, I feel. We don’t take control of the game like we normally try to do. Tonight was a rough one. It was not good enough on any part of the field, including myself, and I feel sorry for the fans who traveled here, and they deserve better.”

Pareja withdrew McGuire and Cartagena at the half, replacing them with Luis Muriel and Nico Lodeiro.

Ojeda appeared to pull a goal back just after the restart, playing his way through and slotting past Callender. However, Angulo was just offside in the buildup, negating the goal.

Messi came within inches of a fourth Miami goal in the 54th minute, sending a shot just outside the right post from the top of the area. The play was started by a turnover by Santos. A minute later, Santos didn’t pick up Gressel and Angulo stopped tracking him. That wasn’t optimal and Gressel ended up smashing a shot off the crossbar.

Things got worse for Orlando in a hurry after those chances. The Lions simply had no answers, giving up a pair of goals to Messi, as Miami continued to easily play into space behind the back line.

Schlegel again got pulled out of shape on a Miami transition attack. That allowed Jordi Alba to get in behind and shoot. Jansson cleared the ball off the line but could only knock it off the woodwork. Messi got the last touch of the ping-ponging ball and it trickled in to make it 4-0 in the 57th minute.

Four minutes later, Suarez blazed down the left and sent a good cross for Messi’s headed finish.

The Lions should have pulled a goal back in the 76th minute when Ramiro Enrique got in behind the defense. The Argentine left his shot too close to the center, where Callender still had to make a good save to prevent the goal.

Although Orlando City held more possession (52.8%-47.2%) and won more corners (5-1), Miami had the advantage in shots (11-8), shots on target (6-2), and passing accuracy (89.2%-85.6%). The Herons were much more lethal in front of goal, and Orlando was much sloppier in both final thirds. With the quality Miami has, that’s a poor combination and, as shown on this night, a game can get away quickly.

“We have to look at the game and see where we didn’t get our stuff done,” Jansson said. “We do it all the time, when we win and when we lose. We have to go through what we’re doing good and what we’re doing bad, because otherwise we will never become better. This was a bad take, and we’ve got to get the review, and get the analysis, and see where we had the most errors, and then we just have to take it from there.”

“We are responsible for a performance like this one, where nothing came right, and we will surely see what are the reasons and how can we improve it,” Pareja said. “We will continue with our heads up, and again, for me, I back this group up 100 percent. It’s a group that’s very professional. Didn’t play well today and nothing came right. We will take that responsibility, especially the coach. It’s not an easy result to absorb, but also we have the responsibility to bounce back immediately, and proximity (of the next game) helps give us the opportunity just to reshape again. But surely this will be in our memory for a little longer than normal.

“It’s just that they were better than us, and we didn’t do a good job today. We didn’t show up today the way we are…the start of the league doesn’t dictate the end of it.”


Orlando City has another quick turnaround before hosting Tigres in Concacaf Champions Cup action Tuesday night at home. The next league game is next Saturday when Minnesota United visits Inter&Co Stadium.

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