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Orlando City vs. Minnesota United FC: Final Score 3-1 as Nani’s Brace Leads Lions into Final

The Lions finally beat Adrian Heath and the Loons and are headed to the MLS is Back title match.



Image courtesy of Orlando City SC

Nani came up big, notching a brace and getting a secondary assist on Benji Michel’s late insurance goal, leading Orlando City to a 3-1 win over Minnesota United at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. With the victory, the Lions will face Portland next Tuesday in the MLS is Back final.

It was Orlando’s first win over Minnesota and first win against the Lions’ original coach, Adrian Heath. It was also the Loons’ first loss of 2020. Quietly, Orlando has lost only one match this season (2-1-2, 8 points in league play, 4-0-2 in MLS is Back). The Loons are 3-0-2, with 11 points in the regular season and finish this tournament with a 2-1-3 record.

“We’re very happy to be in the final,” Head Coach Oscar Pareja said after the match. “It’s been a great tournament and a great opportunity for our players to represent the franchise and the club and I think they have done a great job. And very well deserved to be in the final — and tonight against a very good team.”

Pareja went with the same lineup, meaning Pedro Gallese defended the sticks behind a back line of Joao Moutinho, Robin Jansson, Antonio Carlos, and Ruan. Uri Rosell and Sebas Mendez patrolled the central midfield behind Nani, Mauricio Pereyra, and Chris Mueller, with Tesho Akindele up top.

The match was delayed an hour and 11 minutes due to lightning in the area but Orlando finally did kick off. Once that happened, the Lions opened the game a bit flat, conceding two early corners and having very little of the ball in the opening 10 minutes. Ruan did get forward in the seventh minute, but rather than cross it in, he fired toward goal and Minnesota goalkeeper Tyler Miller parried it away.

Gallese then parried a wayward Chase Gasper cross from long distance over the bar in the 12th minute. The Lions came into the game little by little and Akindele should have opened the scoring in the 15th minute. Ruan got down the right side again and picked out Tesho but the Canadian couldn’t hold off Jose Aja and ended up bundling the ball over the bar from in close.

Nani sent a free kick right at Miller in the 21st minute and it was the only one of the captain’s three first-half shots that didn’t find the back of the net. Two minutes later he brought down a long ball with a perfect first touch and laid off for Mueller, who fired a left-footed effort well wide of goal. Then Pereyra should have had Akindele in alone in the 26th minute but Tesho couldn’t find the handle on the pass from the Uruguayan.

Minnesota nearly got in behind in the 29th minute when Gasper sent a long diagonal ball from left to right. Luis Amarilla nearly got on the end of it after sneaking in between Moutinho and Jansson.

In the 35th minute, Pereyra again found Akindele, who put the ball in the net but the flag was up. The Canadian started his run a little early as a result of Pereyra’s first touch being a little off and needing an extra step to track down the ball. The Lions were getting close but having no final product, as had been the case throughout the tournament. That lasted only one more minute.

Jansson sent a fantastic long ball from the back to Nani on the left. The captain brought the ball down perfectly once again and fought through contact from Hassani Dotson and poked the ball past Miller to make it 1-0 in the 36th minute.

Orlando kept coming. Ruan got down the right on a promising counter in the 41st minute with options all over the place, but the right back’s cross was poor and got deflected to Miller. But Nani doubled the lead a minute later anyway.

The captain received the ball from Mendez on the left side. Given too much room to operate, he took a step to his right and curled a banger into the far corner to make it 2-0 as the 42nd minute was ticking off.

“It’s great, you know, to have players who take that responsibility and put that weight on their shoulders, and appear in the games that mean the most to us,” Pareja said of Nani.

The Lions fended off two late Minnesota corner kick opportunities in first-half stoppage time, before the whistle brought an end to the opening period. Orlando City led in shots (5-4), shots on goal (3-0), possession (54.5%) and passing accuracy (84%-80%), but it was Nani’s quality that separated the sides at the break.

The Loons pushed the tempo in the second half and Orlando City seemed content to absorb pressure and be deliberate whenever the Lions had possession. That meant most of the second half was played in Orlando City’s half of the field, particularly after Heath brought on substitutes Kevin Molino, Mason Toye, and Raheem Edwards.

Minnesota spent seemingly the entire final 45 minutes (plus six minutes of stoppage time) either taking corners, free kicks or throw-ins. Jan Gregus fizzed a free kick opportunity wide of goal in the 62nd minute as the Loons kept the pressure on. Molino drew a series of free kicks after that and all three looked like they should have been fouls on him, particularly throwing out his arm and catching Mendez in the face in the 68th minute.

Ruan should have put the game away in the 71st minute. He got in down the right and was all alone for a free header on a cross from the left, but he missed the net somehow.

Gallese made a good save to deny Edwards in the 75th on another free kick won by Molino, who pulled Urso back to get around him and then when the Bear got a toe on the ball, Molino appeared to trip over it but Drew Fischer gave the Loons the set piece.

Michael Boxhall headed just over Gallese’s bar in the 77th on a set piece that was given when Moutinho was undercut while jumping but again the whistle went against Orlando. Urso was fouled again in the 80th and lost the ball, but there was no call and Molino’s shot was caught by Gallese.

Molino finally hurt the Lions in the 83rd minute, with a superb through ball that found Toye, who shot right away. Gallese got a touch to it but couldn’t keep it out and Minnesota pulled within 2-1 with plenty of time remaining. Toye might have been offside by a shoulder but video review judged the goal to be a fair one.

The Loons could have tied it in the 94th minute. Toye was all alone in front as a cross sailed in from his right but he couldn’t make good contact on it and the chance went wanting. Orlando then put the match away.

Urso got the ball near midfield from Nani and sent Michel in behind all of the Loons except Miller. Michel coolly rounded the keeper and slotted home the insurance goal in the 96th minute.

“I just knew it was a good chance for us to counter,” Michel said. “So you know I just gave all my energy — I came off the bench so I expect myself to give a spark to the team and I just knew that there was a chance for me to score. Urso played me the ball one-v-one then I was through and I was able to beat the keeper and put the ball back in the back of the net.”

The whistle blew just after the restart and Orlando had its first win over its original coach, first win over the Loons, and first trip to a final in the MLS era.

Minnesota came back to dominate the stat sheet, finishing with a 17-7 advantage in shots, although Orlando held a 4-3 edge in shots on target. Possession ended up at just about 50/50, and the Lions held onto their 84%-80% edge in passing accuracy. Minnesota managed 13 corners to just three for the Lions.

“It was very satisfying for us because you know we worked the whole week just, just like working as a team, making sure like all the pieces are put together,” Michel said. “But, you know the guys worked tremendously hard and for us to be able to get the win was very, very good for us.”

“It was really hard to get at Minnesota,” Pareja said. “They came sharp and we adjusted well. And the best part was that we respected the way we play and we respected our ways, our forms, and we ended up getting that result under our concepts and principles and that’s why they made us even more proud.”

Orlando City will meet the Portland Timbers with the MLS is Back trophy and a Concacaf Champions League berth on the line next Tuesday at 8:30 p.m.

Orlando City

Orlando City vs. Inter Miami: Three Keys to Victory

Here are three things the Lions need to do in order to set themselves up for a win over Inter Miami.



Dan MacDonald, The Mane Land

Wednesday’s match didn’t go the way anyone hoped it would, but now it’s time to turn our attention to a Sunday matchup with Inter Miami back in the comfortable confines of Exploria Stadium. What follows are three things that I believe will go a long way toward helping the Lions emerge victorious from the Tropic Thunder derby and keeping Florida purple.

Close Down Sergio Busquets

As many headlines as Lionel Messi has rightfully been getting since joining Major League Soccer, I think Busquets is just as important to Miami’s success. He remains an excellent midfielder and his ability to transition the team from defense into attack and link the two lines together is crucial. He has two assists and eight key passes in six MLS appearances and is passing with 92% accuracy —if you give him time, he will make you pay. Even if Cesar Araujo and Wilder Cartagena mark him tightly, he’ll still manage to find space at times and affect the game because he’s that good of a player. But the Lions cannot afford to repeatedly give him time and space to get on the ball, pick up his head, and play a pass or he’ll cut OCSC to ribbons. Getting tight to him and making his life difficult won’t stop him every time, but it’ll make life a hell of a lot easier. As soon as Orlando loses the ball in Miami’s half, someone needs to find no. 5 and close him down.

Play With an Edge, but Don’t Go Over It

This is likely going to be an extremely, fast, physical and heated game. These two teams don’t have any love lost for each other, and if last game is any indication, then Orlando is going to try to use its physicality to disrupt Miami from playing its brand of soccer. That’s not a bad strategy, and it’s one that was largely working during the aforementioned Leagues Cup match until the penalty kick call in the second half. If the Lions are going to try to repeat the tactic, then they need to play with physicality and intensity while toeing the line of what’s acceptable to do during a soccer game. Going down a man isn’t going to do OCSC any favors, so the boys in purple are going to have to flirt with the edge of the cliff without falling headfirst over it.

Stay Organized Defensively

We’ve seen some shaky defending during Orlando’s last two matches. Runners in behind were a particular problem during the match against the Columbus Crew, while Wednesday’s loss to NYCFC saw Talles Magno largely unmarked between two Orlando defenders to score the header that sealed the Lions’ fate. OCSC will likely still be without Antonio Carlos, but the Lions are capable of much better defending than they’ve done during the last week and they need to show it. Even if Lionel Messi doesn’t play, Miami has a whole host of guys who can hurt you in Josef Martinez, Leonardo Campana, Benjamin Cremaschi, Robert Taylor and Facundo Farias. The Lions need to be much more keyed in on defense than they have been the last two games, otherwise one or more of those guys is going to make them pay. Orlando has the firepower to put the ball in the back of the net, but it won’t matter if the team is giving up multiple preventable goals at the other end of the field.

If the Lions execute those three things then they’ve got as good a chance as any of getting a result on Sunday. Vamos Orlando!

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Lion Links

Lion Links: 9/22/23

Orlando City prepares for Inter Miami, MLS NEXT Pro Decision Day is Sunday, USWNT wins against South Africa, and much more.



Image courtesy of Orlando City B / Mark Thor

Happy Friday! It’s been a pretty busy week of apartment hunting and work for me, so I’m looking forward to some rest and relaxation this weekend. I don’t have many plans, but I did make sure to carve out a few hours to make a drink and get some reading done. My book club is fairly low maintenance, but I’ll be behind if I don’t finish Fourth Wing before the second book in the series comes out in November. Let’s get into today’s links!

Orlando City Takes On Inter Miami This Weekend

Following a 2-0 loss on the road to New York City FC earlier this week, Orlando City will aim to bounce back when it hosts rival Inter Miami this Sunday. Orlando has a chance to set club records for the most wins and points in a season since it joined MLS in 2015. It will be the third meeting between the two clubs this season, with Orlando beating Miami 3-1 in May before falling 3-1 in the Leagues Cup’s knockout stage. Although Miami will be without Lionel Messi and Jordi Alba according to Head Coach Tata Martino, the Herons still have plenty of attacking talent in the form of Sergio Busquets, Leonardo Campana, and Josef Martinez.

Orlando City B Readies for MLS NEXT Pro Decision Day

Sunday will also be the final day of the MLS NEXT Pro regular season, with nearly every team in action. Here’s everything you need to know about Decision Day across the league, with playoff spots still up for grabs. Orlando City B has already clinched its spot in the postseason, but can secure fifth in the Eastern Conference when it takes on FC Cincinnati 2. However, the difference between fifth and a lower seed won’t matter too much due to a new rule this year where the second and third seed in each conference choose which lower seed it wants to host in the playoffs. The Golden Boot race is competitive as well, with OCB’s Jack Lynn tied at the top with New York City FC II’s Matt Myers. We’ll see if Lynn takes part in Sunday’s match after giving the first team needed depth last weekend.

USWNT Beats South Africa in Julie Ertz’s Finale

The United States Women’s National Team won 3-0 against South Africa in the first of two friendlies this month. All three of the USWNT’s goals came in the first half, with Lynn Williams bagging a brace. In her final USWNT game, Julie Ertz started and earned plenty of applause from the crowd at TQL Stadium when she was subbed off in the 36h minute. M.A. Vignola made her USWNT debut in the match as well, coming on at halftime. The two nations will play again on Sunday in what will be forward Megan Rapinoe’s last game with the USWNT.

Europa League Group Stage Kicks Off

The first round of Europa League group stage matches is over, with all 32 teams getting things started across Europe. Brighton & Hove Albion’s first Europa League match was a rough one, as the English club fell 3-2 at home against AEK Athens. The Spanish clubs also struggled, with Villarreal getting shut out 2-0 by Panathinaikos and Real Betis losing 1-0 to Rangers. Elsewhere, AS Roma beat Sheriff Tiraspol 2-1 thanks to a winner from Romelu Lukaku, Liverpool won 3-1 over Austrian club LASK after trailing early on, and Marseille drew 3-3 with Ajax in a thriller. West Ham, Atalanta, Bayer Leverkusen, and SC Freiburg also won their group openers.

Free Kicks

  • Enjoy the sights and sounds from the Orlando City Foundation’s annual celebrity golf and footgolf tournament.

That’s all I have for you today, Mane Landers. I hope you all have a fantastic Friday and rest of your weekend!

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Orlando City

Orlando City vs. New York City FC: Player Grades and Man of the Match

How did your favorite Lions rate in Orlando City’s 2-0 loss against NYCFC?



Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Despite Orlando City being the best road team in MLS, the club fell 2-0 to New York City FC. The Lions still officially punched their ticket into the playoffs thanks to D.C. United drawing Atlanta United elsewhere in the Eastern Conference. The Lions battled throughout the night on the baseball diamond of Citi Field but were unable to find the soccer goal. It will be a quick turnaround now as the team needs to regroup before Sunday’s home match against rival Inter Miami.

Let’s take a look at how Orlando City’s players rated individually in the defeat.


GK, Pedro Gallese, 7.5 (MotM)  The foul in the box by by Ramiro Enrique led to Gallese needing to make a big play against Santiago Rodriguez’s spot kick. Unfortunately, Gallese couldn’t control the rebound on his diving save, leading to a tap-in header that he really could do nothing about. El Pulpo’s services were called upon four minutes in against former teammate Andres Perea from point-blank range, and then again in the 51st and 52nd minutes when the Octopus was able to make strong-handed saves. However, in the 68th minute, a perfectly placed Talles Magno header was placed where the Peruvian couldn’t make the stop. I don’t think either of the goals were his fault, nor would your favorite worldbeater goalkeeper abroad have stopped them. For that, Gallese is my Man of the Match for having made five saves in total and passing at an 81.1% rate while completing six of his 11 long balls.

D, Rafael Santos, 5.5 — The left back spent much of the first 20 minutes of the match getting faked and dribbled around down the channel. He continually jumped at a feinted cross or turned his back only for his man to dribble into an even more dangerous location inside the box. For a player who has been solid over the last few matches, Santos sure did look shaky and mentally unready for his matchup. His lone shot attempt was off target. He was 2-for-2 on crossing accuracy but just one of his four long balls found their target, while his overall passing rate was a lowly 65.4%, including one key pass. Defensively, he contributed two tackles, two clearances, and a foul while being fouled once himself.

D, Robin Jansson, 6 — It isn’t often that I look back on a match and can’t personally think of any Jansson highlights. He was definitely out there on the pitch, but he never stepped up above and beyond the call of duty like he is known to do. He likely escaped a garbage time yellow card while berating referee Ismail Elfath, but thankfully James Sands stepped in to push the Beefy Swede away to safety. Jansson had one tackle, a clearance, and a blocked shot. He passed at 84.6%, but only two of his 11 long balls were accurate. No wonder Facundo Torres was disappointed every time a deep ball came his way, as chance after chance was uncharacteristically wasted by Jansson.

D, Rodrigo Schlegel, 4.5 — It is never a great sign in a losing match when a center back doesn’t log a single tackle. It usually means they are whiffing, getting out-dribbled, or caught out of position. At times, it seems like each of those could have been the case for Schlegel in this match. Orlando might not get Antonio Carlos back this season, but if that is the case, then Schlegel has to do better, especially as he led the team with 92 touches. He was completely unaware of Magno on the second NYCFC goal and was part of a defense that fell asleep often on set pieces. He did offer one key pass, but his only shot missed the frame. He passed at an 84.5% rate, but like his counterpart, also struggled to connect on long balls. Rodri landed only three of 10 attempts. His two interceptions and two clearances might be the only things that help him save face on the night.

D/MF, Dagur Dan Thorhallsson, 6 — Dagur Dan’s first dangerous look of the night came in the 22nd minute as a ball deflected out to him just outside box. The hybrid wingback whipped a curling ball just inside the six-yard box that Enrique barely missed connecting on, which would have opened the scoring on the night. From that point forward, it was much of what we have been seeing from the Icelandic midfielder. He drifts wide to defend and then slides a bit more interior on the attack. I don’t hate it, but I also didn’t love it on a pitch where the small size already clogs the center of the park. He only offered one clearance in his defensive statistics. Offensively, he had a key pass, a through ball, and completed two dribbles. He also passed at an 88.6% rate on 44 attempts and was one-for-two on his crosses.

MF, Cesar Araujo, 6 — At times it seems the Uruguayan goes down softly despite being a bruiser in the defensive midfield on his own. I don’t necessarily hate it, as he does a great job slowing down the game at times when he rolls over, but there were a couple moments in this match where I wish he would have stood his ground and knocked the ball on forward to his teammates for a quick counter opportunity. Either way, Araujo drew a team-high four fouls yet again on the opposition. His passing was a respectable 86.8% on 53 attempts, and two of five long balls found their mark. His failure to properly mark Birk Risa on a set piece late in the game nearly cost Orlando City a third goal conceded. He made one clean tackle but also gave two fouls up. He took one shot on the night and would have done better to lay it off to a couple other Lions in the area.

MF, Wilder Cartagena, 5.5 — The Brazilian almost incited a riot on the pitch by running through a Pigeon after the whistle, but to be fair, it was a bang-bang play and he was coming in at full speed already. It didn’t take long after for Cartagena to earn his yellow card. He was fouled twice but gave three total himself. He also stepped up twice to clear the ball out of danger. With his 30 touches, he passed 20 times at 85% success but neither of his two crosses found a teammate.

MF, Ivan Angulo, 6.5 — I feel bad for players with attributes like Angulo when they have to play on the baseball fields. While he has the pace and could likely steal home, it doesn’t translate when you’re playing soccer in a compact outfield. His biggest strength is a push-and-go into space but that just isn’t available in Citi Field. Angulo did put his only shot on target when he was able to get involved in the attack. He also had one key pass in his 18 passing attempts (88.9%). Defensively, he made a pair of tackles and an interception. Angulo drew one foul.

MF, Mauricio Pereyra, 6 — The midfield maestro popped in and out of the half spaces throughout the night to distribute from one side of the pitch to the other. He led the team with three shots but not one of them was on target. With 53 touches on the ball, he was able to complete 80% of his 35 passes and one of two long balls, but he was sloppy in terms of staying on the ball too long at times, having two unstable touches and getting dispossessed twice. While it will go down in the match notes as a yellow card for persistent infringement, the referee was likely just trying to slow down a match that was beginning to get a little too chippy for his liking. The attacking midfielder put up a team-high four tackles in addition to his clearance and three fouls. Sometimes your skipper has to do the dirty work, and I’m ok with that.

MF, Facundo Torres, 6.5 — The Designated Player had a mixed bag in the first half, as his teammates seemed to miss him with their long passes. But down 1-0 at the start of the second half, Torres found a low driven cross slightly behind him just outside the six-yard box that he wasn’t able to put on frame. When he was on the ball though, he completed two dribbles and made three key passes to go with his two-for-three crossing and one-for-one long ball percentages. In total, 91.4% of his 35 passes completed which isn’t bad at all for only 46 total touches.

F, Ramiro Enrique, 4.5 — It wasn’t just the tackle in the box that caused Enrique to give up a penalty, but it was his errant pass that he attempted to lay off to Dagur Dan first. Ultimately, both errors equated to what was NYCFC’s first goal. I would like to say the poor play stopped there for him, but he blew what could have been a couple golden chances by dribbling too long and failing to see the open man to pass to. It truly is sad to see how a Player of the Matchday fell from his pedestal just days later. He was taken off after 58 minutes with just 16 touches to his name. Despite winning three aerial duels and making a clearance, his lowly 70% passing rating, missed cross, missed shot, and critical foul conceded really put a damper on his stats. If there was such an award that equates to opposite of MotM, I unfortunately have to cast it upon the MLS U22 Initiative forward.


MF, Martin Ojeda (59′), 6.5 — Ojeda replaced Cartagena as Orlando City had fallen behind by a goal and the Lions needed to create more offensive chances. While he did create one key pass, the Designated Player only found himself on the ball 22 times in his late minutes. He completed 66.7% of his 12 passes and completed his only long ball attempt, but was one-for-six with his crossing and didn’t attempt a shot. Defensively, Ojeda had one tackle and an interception.

D, Luca Petrasso (59′), 5.5 — The Canadian came on and just under 10 minutes later lost a 50-50 aerial battle in the channel which became a crossed ball to Magno that was headed in for the Pigeons second goal of the match. Petrasso took one shot that was blocked, but he had Torres standing right next to him, who would have been the better option. While he lost the only aerial that really mattered, he did win one of his own though, to go along with two tackles and a clearance. He missed his long ball and cross attempts but landed 88.9% of his 18 passes.

F, Duncan McGuire (59′), 5 — Big Dunc is back, but the Big Dunc Energy was not. With only six touches and no shots across more than half an hour, the striker should be disappointed with his impact. His only stats contributed were a successful long ball and an 83.3% success rate on just six passing attempts.

D, Michael Halliday (80′), N/A — The Homegrown right back came on to provide some late fresh legs while the Lions attempted to come from behind. It was a little too late for Halliday to make a real impact on his own. In his time, he managed 15 touches, won an aerial, passed at a 75% rate, and recorded a clearance.

MF, Gastón González (80′), N/A — The Argentinian winger made his return to the pitch after a lengthy injury period to garner a few minutes and get his legs back under him. His only shot was on target, which is hopefully a great sign for the future. He had seven total touches, completing both of his passes, but missed his only cross. He also gave up one foul.

That’s how I saw the individual performances on Wednesday night as Orlando City fell to expansion rival NYCFC. What did I get right/wrong in your view? Be sure to vote for your Man of the Match in our poll below and provide your thoughts in the comments section.

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