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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

My First Orlando City Road Match: New York Red Bulls

A trip to Red Bull Arena to see the Lions play created memories that will last a lifetime.



Nic Josey, The Mane Land

This past weekend I was fortunate enough to take in my first-ever Orlando City away match when the Lions traveled north to Harrison, NJ to take on the New York Red Bulls. The experience was one that I will not soon forget and I wanted to take some time to share a firsthand account of our travels and game day experience.

Early Friday morning prior to the match, I loaded the car up with my wife, 10-month-old son, and enough luggage to support a small army and made the trek from our home in Central Florida to the Orlando International Airport. I had been planning to take in an away game this year ever since the schedule came out, and as destinations go…Red Bull Arena certainly checked off a few must-haves from our family’s travel list. Direct flights (because travel with a little one is just plain easier when you don’t have to connect), a city we have not visited as a family before (what better way to make memories in a new city than to have them tied to an Orlando City victory?), extracurriculars (give us all the good food, drinks, and hot spots to visit). The latter is actually how I talked my wife into the trip. Who could say no to an Orlando City game and Broadway shows to boot?

After a shockingly low-stress travel day, we arrived in Time Square to meet up with my parents, who had journeyed from Michigan to spend the weekend with us (to provide some much appreciated babysitting) and have some fun in the city. After a day exploring downtown New York City, it was time to head to the stadium. If you ever have the chance to go, and I think every fan should if they are capable, just know that if you are staying in Manhattan, it can be quite a Herculean effort to physically make it to the stadium! After a 45-minute Uber ride, my father and I arrived on the doorstep of Red Bull Arena. The stadium was clean, easy to access, and had an outdoor tailgate area within the gates, where a live band provided pregame entertainment.

Being a once-in-a season type of experience, I splurged on two field-level seats for my father and I and could not have been happier with the choice. I don’t think it would have been physically possible to have been closer or more immersed in the action, with the exception of streaking onto the pitch, and no matter our differences, the Red Bull faithful definitely did not deserve that type of show. Looking up at the fans seated around the stadium, small pockets of purple could easily be made out against the sea of red and blue seats and we were even lucky enough to meet an engaged couple who work and live not to far from us back in Orlando and came up to the game to celebrate a special birthday weekend.

The game environment was spectacular and my excitement was only bolstered by our team’s effort on the pitch. A clean sheet victory on the road, and a three-goal effort was enough to justify the whole trip, but the night of memories did not stop after the final whistle. Instead, as my father and I were walking from our seats on the sideline towards the exit tunnel, a joyful Facundo Torres came sprinting over to our corner of the field to celebrate with the Orlando City supporters. As someone who has covered his struggles to start the year, it was clear as day to me to see a sense of relief wash over him in the spirit of celebration, and, with fans cheering him on, he even took a moment to shake my old man’s hand and pat him on the shoulder.

I have been a season ticket member in the City Beautiful for the past three years, and while I love heading to the games week in and week out, there was something different about taking in an away match. Whether we as fans are celebrating the highest highs or dreading the lowest of lows at home, when we leave the stadium, the stress of the real world is waiting just around the corner. The beauty I found of attending an away match was that by turning the experience into a weekend getaway, the joys of the victory were able to linger around for just a bit longer while we were still fully immersed in vacation mode.

Did you make the trip up to Jersey this weekend? Have you gone to any away matches this year or plan to before the end of the season? If so, let us know your favorite destinations and plans in the comments below.

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Lion Links

Lion Links: 6/7/23

Orlando City moves up in MLS power rankings, Orlando Pride take on Gotham FC tonight, USMNT announces official Concacaf Nations League roster, and more.



Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Hello, Mane Landers. How is everyone doing so far this week? I’ve been doing well and keeping myself busy lately. I’ll be working the Dead & Company concert this weekend at Wrigley Field. There is plenty to get to today, so let’s get to the links.

Orlando City Moves Up in MLS Power Rankings

Orlando City moved up five spots to 10th in the latest MLS power rankings. The Lions defeated the New York Red Bulls 3-0 on the road this past Saturday. Ivan Angulo put together a stellar performance and Facundo Torres scored twice in the match to help the Lions extend their unbeaten run to five matches. Around the league, the Columbus Crew also moved up five spots, climbing to sixth after a 4-2 win against Charlotte FC. Cincinnati edged out LAFC for the top spot in the power rankings following its 1-0 shutout win against the Chicago Fire.

Orlando Pride Take on NJ/NY Gotham FC Tonight

The Orlando Pride will play NJ/NY Gotham FC tonight in their third group stage match of the 2023 NWSL Challenge Cup. The match kicks off at 7:30 p.m. at Red Bull Arena and you can watch it on CBS Sports Network or stream it on Paramount+. The Pride are at the bottom of their group following a draw and a loss so far in the competition. Ally Watt scored in those first two matches for the Pride, with Summer Yates providing the assists on both of those goals. Gotham is unbeaten in the Challenge Cup and leads the group with four points. The Pride are unbeaten in their last six matches on the road in all competitions against Gotham, including a scoreless draw last month in league play.

USMNT Announces 23-Man Roster for Concacaf Nations League

The U.S. Soccer Federation officially announced the 23-man roster for the U.S. Men’s National Team before the 2023 Concacaf Nations League.

Goalkeeper Josh Cohen, who plays for Maccabi Haifa in Israel, was the lone player dropped from the preliminary roster announced last week. The USMNT will play rival Mexico on June 15 in the Concacaf Nations League semifinals at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas. If the U.S. prevails in that match, it will face the winner of the match between Canada and Panama. The final is set to take place in Las Vegas on June 18.

U.S. Open Cup Quarterfinals Begin

The quarterfinals of the 2023 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup kicked off last night with two matches. FC Cincinnati defeated the Pittsburgh Riverhounds out of the USL Championship, 3-1, with Brandon Vazquez, Alvaro Barreal, and Santiago Arias all scoring in the second half. The Houston Dynamo also booked their spot in the semifinals after winning 4-1 over the Fire. Nigerian winger Ibrahim Aliyu had a brace for Houston in the road win. Today, we have two more matches to determine who else will move on to the semifinals. Birmingham Legion FC of the USL Championship will take on Inter Miami, while Real Salt Lake will face the LA Galaxy.

Free Kicks

  • In case you missed it, check out the sights and sounds of Orlando’s road victory at Red Bull Arena this past weekend.

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

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Lion Links

Lion Links: 6/6/23

Lions earn weekly honors, OCSC headed in the right direction, Kylie Strom lands on NWSL Best XI of May, and more.



Image courtesy of Orlando Pride

Happy Tuesday, everyone. I got absolutely clattered during my Sunday league game over the weekend, and I’ve been hobbling around ever since. Fortunately, my fingers still work just fine, because there are plenty of things to talk through this morning. Let’s get after it.

Lions Earn Weekly Honors

Orlando was well represented on the MLS Team of the Matchday following a 3-0 victory over the New York Red Bulls Saturday night. Facundo Torres and Ivan Angulo were both named to the starting lineup, while Oscar Pareja was given the nod as head coach. Torres scored two goals and Angulo recorded a goal and an assist in the victory. Dave Rohe gave Torres a 7.5 and Angulo an 8, along with the Man of the Match award, in our player grades. It was nice to see other people take notice of the performances they put in. Keep up the good work, fellas!

OCSC Heading in the Right Direction

Orlando City got the complete performance that it’s been looking for in recent weeks, and Oscar Pareja is very pleased with what he saw from his team. He went out of his way to highlight the fact that the Lions stayed vigilant and didn’t relax and give up a goal as the game went on, something that’s been a problem at times this year. While Pareja said that things aren’t perfect yet, he and Torres were both of the opinion that the team is playing better lately, and Torres said that Saturday was OCSC’s best performance of the season.

Kylie Strom Earns Monthly Plaudits

Orlando Pride defender Kylie Strom has been named to the NWSL Best XI for the month of May. Strom started in each of the Pride’s four matches during May and went the full 90 minutes in all but one of them. She helped anchor a back line that only gave up two goals during those four games, but the highlight of her month came during the team’s home game against the Washington Spirit. Strom scored the winning goal in the second half as the Pride handed the Spirit their first loss of the season. Here’s hoping she continues the good form!

Fines and Bans Proposed for Vinicius’ Abusers

The four men accused of hanging an effigy of Vinicius Jr. from a bridge are set to have hefty punishments levied against them. Spain’s anti-violence commission has proposed fines of  €60,001 and two-year stadium bans as a result of their actions. Additionally, the three men accused of racially abusing the Brazilian winger during a match against Valencia may be given fines and a one-year stadium ban as well. All seven were arrested and, although they’ve been released, could still face criminal charges, although that would be unprecedented. The Real Madrid player has suffered repeated instances of racial abuse since arriving in Spain. Hopefully the punishments will do something to deter the ugly incidents from occurring.

Free Kicks

  • Orlando City has picked up more points on the road than any other team in the Eastern Conference.

That’s all for me today. Y’all stay safe out there.

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