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Orlando City

Orlando City vs. Portland Timbers: Final Score 2-1 as Lions Drop Final on a Pair of Set Pieces

The Lions stood toe to toe with the Timbers in the MLS is Back final but failed to deal with two set pieces and it was their undoing.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC

An Orlando City team that dealt pretty well with set pieces all tournament long failed to deal with two of them, and that was all it took for the Portland Timbers to win 2-1 in the MLS is Back Tournament final. Portland center backs Larrys Mabiala and Dario Zuparic, of all people, got on the scoreboard, and that was enough to best Mauricio Pereyra’s lone tally for the Lions at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex.

It was just Orlando’s second loss to the Timbers, as the Lions dropped to 3-2-1 in all competitions against Portland since joining MLS. The loss stings, particularly as it was a final, but Orlando City acquitted itself well throughout the tournament and Oscar Pareja credited the Timbers’ defense.

“We found a team that clogged the last third of the field and had their block very low, and we were missing that last pass,” Pareja said after the match. “I think they defended well. I think you have to give credit to a team that has it clear. They lowered the block and we couldn’t break it.”

Pareja went with the same lineup, starting at the back with goalkeeper Pedro Gallese behind a back line of Joao Moutinho, Robin Jansson, Antonio Carlos, and Ruan. Sebas Mendez and Uri Rosell were the holding midfielders behind an attacking midfield of Nani, Pereyra, and Chris Mueller, with Tesho Akindele at the top of the formation.

The game began cautiously, with Orlando holding most of the possession but being deliberate in the buildup so as not to give Portland opportunities in transition. As a result, the first 15 minutes went by without a shot attempt before Mueller had one blocked at the top of the area.

A minute later, Portland got forward for perhaps the first time and a great long ball from Sebastian Blanco nearly picked out Jeremy Ebobisse, but Gallese came off his line to punch it away. The Peruvian got a piece of Ebobisse on the follow-through and the Timbers’ forward needed a few minutes to recover.

Pereyra sent Nani in behind with a gorgeous ball in the 19th minute, but instead of taking a first-time shot, he brought it down and Portland was able to knock it out for a corner.

The Timbers opened the scoring against the run of play in the 27th minute. On a rather harmless-looking, long-range set piece, Diego Valeri served up an incredible back-post ball for Mabiala, who fought off a challenge from Moutinho and headed it off of Gallese’s hand and into the net for a 1-0 Timbers lead.

The Lions continued probing and leveled the game in the 39th minute. Nani crossed in from the left side for Pereyra and the ball pinged off a couple legs as Eryk Williamson came in from behind to challenge. Pereyra recovered first and slotted just inside the near post to make it 1-1. It was the Uruguayan’s second goal of the tournament.

Orlando nearly got Mueller an excellent chance two minutes later, as the young winger got the ball at the top of the area and spun around to try to face goal, but he showed a bit too much of the ball and the Timbers’ defense was able to knock it away.

After Valeri tried to go under the wall on a dangerous late free kick, the teams went into the break knotted up at 1-1. Orlando led in shots (5-4, with each team getting one on target), possession (63.4%), and passing accuracy (90%-81%).

Portland tried to jump on Orlando early in the second half, but Valeri saw his free kick saved by Gallese in the 48th minute and Blanco fired a shot that Jansson blocked out for a corner in the 51st.

Orlando nearly pulled off a great team effort in the 54th minute, when Pereyra dropped deep, pulling Diego Chara out of the middle and sending a forward ball to Akindele, who laid off for Mueller. The latter then sent a cross to Nani but the captain didn’t make good contact on his first-time shot attempt and it sailed off target.

The Lions nearly scored two minutes later, when a layoff found Mendez in the box, but Mabiala came out to block his potential go-ahead shot.

Gallese then made two outstanding saves in the 65th minute to keep the game level. First, he dove right to parry a Valeri free kick wide of goal. On the ensuing corner, the ball deflected out to Ebobisse, who fired, and El Pulpo made a huge stop.

That only saved the Lions for the moment though, because the Timbers scored on the next corner. The cross from Valeri found Eryk Williamson near the top left corner of the box and he made a quick move to keep Pereyra from clearing, then sent in a weak shot that took a deflection to Zuparic, who touched it through Nani and into the net for the eventual game-winner in the 66th minute.

“We work hard on that part and things didn’t bounce our way. We made a couple of mistakes,” Pareja said of the set pieces. “But the team was prepared and these boys work hard on that part, and sometimes you win games on those actions. Sometimes you lose games like that. You have to accept it and improve it, even when you win it. Today was one of those games. They had two chances on set plays and they took advantage.”

The Lions got a few set pieces at the other end over the next several minutes but could do nothing with them. Then Ruan got forward and nearly picked out Akindele in the 75th minute with a cross, but the defense was again sharp for Portland and cleared the danger.

In the 82nd minute, Jansson sent a low free kick just wide of goal but Steve Clark looked to have it covered for the Timbers. Benji Michel won a free kick in the 89th minute but that nearly turned into an insurance goal for Portland. Pereyra didn’t get enough loft on his service and the Timbers countered with numbers. Valeri ended up with the ball, but Gallese again came up big with a save to keep the Lions in it.

Orlando should have equalized in stoppage time. A free kick found Jansson, who could only flick it on. Substitute Kyle Smith tried to pick it out of the air with the net gaping in front of him, but he couldn’t make good contact with the aerial ball and it sailed agonizingly over the bar.

That was that. The whistle went soon after and Orlando’s run came to an end.

Orlando finished with more shots (14-13), but the Lions weren’t sharp, getting only one on target to Portland’s six. City held 63.8% of the possession and was the more accurate passing team (89%-79%) but just couldn’t find that little bit of quality in front of goal.

Nani said that the team can take a lot away from its MLS is Back run.

“We learned we are a better team at this moment,” he said. “We improved as a group, as a club. And let’s be honest, we must accept that we are not the same team as before. And you all know that. You’ve all seen our games. You’ve seen this final. You’ve seen the way that we are playing. You see the way every team we play behaves against us.

“We know we are a team who needs to improve. But at this moment I’m so happy to be on this team, with this coach, with this staff. We took these two months to improve and we did it. And to every team in MLS now who will face us, they know they will face a strong team.”


That’s all for the tournament, folks. The Lions are back in regular-season action on Saturday, Aug. 22, when they will visit Inter Miami with kickoff scheduled for 8 p.m.

Orlando City

Orlando City vs. Cavalry FC, Concacaf Champions Cup: Preview, How to Watch, TV Info, Live Stream, Lineups, Match Thread, and More

The Lions play their first competitive match of 2024 north of the border in the Concacaf Champions Cup.

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Dan MacDonald, The Mane Land

Welcome to your match thread for a Wednesday night Concacaf Champions Cup matchup between Orlando City and Cavalry FC of the Canadian Premier League at Starlight Stadium in Langford, British Columbia at 10 p.m. (FOX Sports 2, TUDN). It’s the first meeting ever between the teams and Orlando City’s first ever match against a CPL team.

Here’s what you need to know ahead of the match.

History

There isn’t any. These teams have never met, nor has Orlando City faced anyone in the Canadian Premier League before.

The Lions will be experiencing their fourth international cup competition and their second foray into Concacaf Champions League/Cup, having drawn twice against Tigres UANL last season. Orlando bowed out of last year’s competition due to the away goals tiebreaker. Orlando City has also competed twice in Leagues Cup.

Overview

Both teams will be playing their first competitive match of the 2024 season. Orlando City is coming off a 4-0-1 preseason, drawing 1-1 against Flamengo before reeling off four straight wins against Rhode Island FC, the New England Revolution, the Houston Dynamo, and the Colorado Rapids. City reached the Eastern Conference quarterfinals in 2023 and is looking to build on its most successful season to date in MLS.

Cavalry FC is coming off a season in which it finished top of the table in the regular season, but fell 2-1 after extra time in the CPL championship match against Forge FC. As far as CPL teams go, the Lions will be facing one of the league’s best, as you’d expect in a competition called “Champions Cup.”

“We’re very proud and very happy to bring Orlando City to this beautiful city and this excellent competition,” Orlando City Head Coach Oscar Pareja said. “(We’re) Feeling proud of playing in Champions Cup in Concacaf and obviously aiming for the best prize, and here we are starting the season with obviously a very competitive game.”

Pareja is suspended for tonight due to his red card in the second leg against Tigres in 2023.


Projected Lineups

Orlando City (4-2-3-1)

Goalkeeper: Pedro Gallese.

Defenders: Rafael Santos, Robin Jansson, Rodrigo Schlegel, Michael Halliday.

Defensive Midfielders: Cesar Araujo, Wilder Cartagena.

Attacking Midfielders: Ivan Angulo, Nico Lodeiro, Facundo Torres.

Forward: Duncan McGuire.

Cavalry FC (4-2-3-1)

Goalkeeper: Marco Carducci.

Defenders: Bradley Kamdem, Daan Klomp, Eryk Kobza, Fraser Aird.

Defensive Midfielders: Charlie Trafford, Jesse Daley.

Attacking Midfielders: William Akio, Sergio Camargo, Ali Musse.

Forward: Myer Bevan.

Officials:

REF: Juan Gabriel Calderon (Costa Rica).
AR1: William Arrieta (Costa Rica).
AR2: Henri Pupiro (Nicaragua).
4TH: Keylor Herrera (Costa Rica).
VAR: Oscar Mejia (Mexico).
VAR1: Erick Miranda (Mexico).


How to Watch

Match Time: 10 p.m.

Venue: Starlight Stadium — Langford, British Columbia.

TV: FOX Sports 2, TUDN.

Streaming: The match can be streamed on FOX Sports GO, the FOX Sports app TUDN.com, and the TUDN app.

Twitter: For rapid reaction and live updates, follow along at @TheManeLand, as well as Orlando City’s official Twitter feed (@OrlandoCitySC).


Enjoy the match. Go City!

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Lion Links

Lion Links: 2/21/24

Orlando City takes on Cavalry FC tonight, Lions sign Jeorgio Kocevski, USWNT wins in Concacaf W Gold Cup, and more.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Hello, Mane Landers. I hope all is well with you in Florida as we get to watch the Lions in action tonight in the Concacaf Champions Cup. There’s not much new with me this week other than staying busy covering high school basketball and hockey. Let’s also wish a happy birthday to Orlando Pride forward Amanda Allen. There is plenty to cover today, so let’s get to the links.

Orlando City Takes on Cavalry FC Tonight

Orlando City will be in action tonight in the first round of the Concacaf Champions Cup, as it takes on Cavalry FC at Starlight Stadium at 10 p.m. This matchup will be the Lions’ first competitive match of 2024, with their MLS season opener against CF Montreal set for Saturday. The Lions were knocked out by Tigres due to away goals in last year’s Concacaf Champions League. Cavalry FC will make its debut in this competition tonight and qualified by winning the 2023 Canadian Premier League Shield. The second leg between these two sides will be on Feb. 27 at Inter&Co Stadium.

Orlando City Signs First-Round Draft Pick Jeorgio Kocevski

Orlando City signed 2024 MLS SuperDraft pick Jeorgio Kocevski to a contract through the 2024 season, with club options for 2025, 2026, and 2027. Kocevski scored the game-winning goal in stoppage time in Orlando’s final preseason match against the Colorado Rapids this past weekend. The midfielder was selected 21st overall in the first round of the 2024 MLS SuperDraft by the Lions in December. He played four years for Syracuse, recording seven goals and 18 assists in 71 matches. Kocevski is the only player the club has signed from the Lions’ 2024 draft class and will likely get some minutes with Orlando City B this season.

St. Louis City and Philadelphia Union Win in Champions Cup

Orlando City isn’t the only MLS team kicking off its Concacaf Champions Cup campaign this week. St. Louis City edged out the Houston Dynamo 2-1, with rookie Hosei Kijima scoring the winner in stoppage time. The Philadelphia Union were on the road in Costa Rica to face off against Deportivo Saprissa and won 3-2 thanks to a hat trick from Julian Carranza in the second half. As for other tournament matches this week, the New England Revolution face Independiente in Panama tonight, with Nashville playing Moca FC in the Dominican Republic and FC Cincinnati taking on Jamaica’s Cavalier SC tomorrow.

USWNT Beats the Dominican Republic in W Gold Cup

The United States Women’s National Team got its Concacaf W Gold Cup campaign off to a great start with a 5-0 win against the Dominican Republic in Group A. Olivia Moultrie scored her first USWNT goal to give her team an early lead, with Lynn Williams giving the U.S. another goal before halftime. Moultrie scored another in the second half to earn her brace, and Jenna Nighswonger converted a penalty for her first USWNT goal as well. Former Pride forward Alex Morgan replaced Mia Fishel on the roster due to injury and scored from the penalty spot in stoppage time. The USWNT’s next game will be against Argentina on Friday at 10:15 p.m.

UEFA Champions League Roundup

The UEFA Champions League had plenty of drama as the round of 16 continued. Inter Milan won 1-0 in its first leg against Atletico Madrid at home, with Mark Arnautovic scoring the only goal in the match. In the Netherlands, PSV Eindhoven and Borussia Dortmund played to a thrilling 1-1 draw. The second legs for both matchups will be played on March 13. There is more Champions League action today, as FC Porto hosts Arsenal while Napoli takes on Barcelona.

Free Kicks

  • The latest MLS power rankings are out just before the regular season begins. Orlando City begins the season in the fifth spot.
  • Orlando City and the Orlando Pride announced fan experience upgrades at Inter&Co Stadium featuring Amazon’s Just Walk Out technology in merchandise shops, stadium Wi-Fi upgrades, and a jersey history experience.
  • The MLS Players Association released a statement on the ongoing referee lockout.
  • Here is the list of MLS Season Pass commentator assignments for opening week.

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

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Orlando City

Orlando City Signs First-Round Draft Pick Jeorgio Kocevski

Orlando City signs its first-round draft pick Jeorgio Kocevski to a one-year deal with three option years.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Orlando City SC announced the signing of first-round 2024 MLS SuperDraft pick Jeorgio Kocevski today. The deal is through the upcoming 2024 season with club options for 2025, 2026, and 2027. The Lions selected the Syracuse midfielder with the 21st overall pick in the draft in December.

“Jeorgio has had a really strong preseason camp with us, demonstrating everything we saw in him when we were scouting him and analyzing his game in college,” Orlando City Executive Vice President of Soccer Operations and General Manager Luiz Muzzi said in a club press release. “He’s done well working his way into the group, even starting in our friendly against Flamengo and holding his own against some of the best in Brazil, and we’re excited to have him with us this season.”

The box-to-box midfielder made three appearances this preseason, starting against Brazilian club Flamengo and the following scrimmage against USL Championship side Rhode Island FC. He came on at halftime against the Colorado Rapids last weekend, scoring the winning goal in the 90th minute.

Prior to being selected by the Lions, the Liverpool, NY, native made 71 appearances with 65 starts and logged 5,599 minutes for Syracuse in four years. He scored seven goals and recorded 18 assists, putting 33 of his 93 shots on frame. Additionally, he was part of Syracuse’s 2022 NCAA national championship team, playing 90 minutes in the 2-2 draw, but missing in the team’s victorious shootout over Indiana.

Kocevski had a breakout junior year, being named to the United Soccer Coaches’ All-South Region third team, All-ACC third team, NCAA All-Tournament team, and ACC All-Tournament team. During his senior year, he wore the armband for the Orange and was named All-ACC first team and ACC Co-Midfielder of the Year.

What It Means for Orlando City

Kocevski was the most likely pick from this most recent draft to be signed by Orlando City. The departure of club captain Mauricio Pereyra left a spot in the midfield and Head Coach Oscar Pareja seemed to feel the rookie could fill it from early on. His start against Flamengo was in the place of regular starter Cesar Araujo, who was on international duty with the Uruguay U-23 national team. He played against Flamengo’s best lineup and did quite well in almost an hour on the field in his first minutes of play at the professional level.

While a spot was open for the signing of Kocevski, he likely won’t see much of the field for the first team this season. In addition to being behind starters Araujo and Wilder Cartagena, the defensive midfielder will be behind Felipe on the depth chart. In all likelihood, the rookie will slot in with Orlando City B in MLS NEXT Pro to get some minutes, but there is room for him to start regularly with that team.

Kocevski is currently the only player signed by the club from the Lions’ 2024 draft class. West Virginia midfielder Yutaro Tsukada, Pittsburgh midfielder Filip Mirkovic, and Charlotte midfielder Riyon Tori remained unsigned, with the latter opting to return to school for his senior season.

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