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Orlando City vs. Inter Miami CF: Final Score 3-2 as Herons Get First Win vs. Sloppy Lions

OCSC played like the team with the long layoff and got punished in Round 2 of Tropic Thunder.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC

Nani’s goal in the 80th minute gave Orlando City a shot, but the Lions couldn’t find an equalizer after falling behind by multiple goals for the first time all season. Round 2 of Tropic Thunder went to Inter Miami, 3-2 at Inter Miami CF Stadium in Fort Lauderdale.

It was the first gameday road trip under the new MLS pandemic travel rules for Orlando City (2-2-2, 8 points), and the Lions lacked sharpness in allowing two early first-half goals to Julian Carranza and an early second-half goal to Rodolfo Pizarro, giving Miami (1-5-0, 3 points) its first MLS win. It snapped a three-match league unbeaten streak (2-0-1) for the Lions, with all of those coming in the bubble, and knotted the season series between the two teams at one apiece. Hey, at least rookie Daryl Dike scored a goal (and added a hockey assist) in his first professional start.

After the match Head Coach Oscar Pareja said the Lions, as a group, were not sharp enough in their defensive third and promised the team will get back on track.

“We should defend those crosses better, obviously,” Pareja said of one of his biggest criticisms of the team’s performance. “

Pareja went mostly with his preferred MLS is Back Tournament lineup with two notable exceptions. Dike got his first MLS start up top in the striker position in place of Tesho Akindele (who was, himself, taking Dom Dwyer’s spot). Chris Mueller started on the bench rather than the right wing, with Junior Urso filling in. Aside from that, it was the usual suspects: Pedro Gallese in goal; Joao Moutinho, Robin Jansson, Antonio Carlos, and Ruan on the back line; Sebas Mendez and Uri Rosell in the holding midfield; and Nani and Mauricio Pereyra on the attacking midfield line with Urso.

“There’s many games coming and we come in also from a difficult tournament,” Pareja said about his decision to start Dike and Urso in place of Akindele and Mueller. “Unfortunately, I have to say as well that we didn’t feel comfortable. And there was minutes in the game where we wanted to have the ball, but we couldn’t occupy the space defensively. That creates a gap there that Miami took advantage.”

The Lions came out looking like the team with the longer layoff. There was a noticeable lack of sharpness in the midfield with passes either offline or a tad late and getting deflected, leading to Miami turning them over and getting forward. Miami’s first goal came just 12 minutes in, when Mendez tried a fancy back-heel pass in the midfield and picked out Miami’s Pizarro instead of his own teammate. Pizarro held the ball and then released Carranza, who beat Gallese with a hard shot from in close to make it 1-0.

Carranza got another opportunity two minutes later but Jansson made an important block to keep it a one-goal game. Lewis Morgan sent a couple of dangerous crosses through the area as Miami kept pressing forward.

The Lions struck back in the 18th minute. Dike made a nice spin move to beat Leandro Gonzalez Pirez, got down the right and sent a cannon shot that Luis Robles fought off. Dike was the first to react and had a second effort blocked, then he spun around, reset, and sent a shot off Andrés Reyes and past Robles for his first MLS goal, making it a 1-1 game.

“It felt phenomenal,” Dike said of scoring his first MLS goal. “I mean throughout the season, through our preseason, throughout my entire life, you know we’ve always worked super hard. Everyone around me has worked super hard with me to have moments like these.”

The game didn’t stay tied long. Ben Sweat sent a cross into the area in the 23rd minute and it looked like Jansson had it covered. But he either didn’t get enough air or jumped a split second early, allowing Carranza to get onto it and head it back across the face of goal and inside the back post to make it 2-1.

The Lions were better after the hydration break but didn’t create a lot on the offensive end. Without Mueller in the game, Ruan had nobody but defensive midfielders to play off of, as Mauricio Pereyra and Nani dropped deeper to get on the ball. Ruan did make a decent cross in the 44th minute, but Miami got a piece of it and Moutinho got under his volley attempt, sending it high into the Fort Lauderdale night.

Both teams had six shot attempts in the opening half but Miami got more on target (3-2). Orlando City held 63.2% of the ball but it was largely unproductive possession as they Lions continuously allowed themselves to get squeezed once they got to midfield. The Lions were the better passing team (88%-82%) but it was Orlando turnovers that gave Miami its chances.

Unfortunately, Miami added to its lead just moments after the restart. The Lions fell asleep defensively, leaving both Pizarro and Matias Pellegrini all alone on the left side of the penalty area. A simple ball in from Miami’s right side was deflected on and fell to the last guy Orlando wanted to see get onto it. Pizarro had only to pick out his spot to make it 3-1 in the 49th minute.

“With that third goal coming out of nowhere, it hurt us,” Pareja said.

Pizarro nearly put the match out of reach a minute later on a 1-v-1 opportunity with Antonio Carlos but he sent a shot off the far post.

Orlando dodged another bullet in the 55th minute when Rosell blocked a Pizarro cross intended for Victor Ulloa, who was all alone in front of goal, as the Lions continued to look a bit confused defensively.

The Lions then started to claw back into the match, settling down and getting the ball through Miami’s low block and into dangerous areas, working from outside in. Pareja said substituting Mueller on for Urso helped the team start creating more chances and using the wider spaces better against Miami’s low defensive block.

Ruan sent in a good cross in the 56th but Nani couldn’t quite get across the front of his defender to put a head on it. Then Nani sent a good ball through the area in the 60th that Dike tried to flick toward goal but he couldn’t pick it out of the air. Dike then nearly got in alone in the 61st, but Reyes made a vital last-ditch tackle.

Moutinho fizzed a dangerous ball just a bit too far out in front of second-half sub Mueller in the 68th minute. Mueller had a shot blocked a minute later, as the Lions continued to try to find a lifeline in the match.

Mueller nearly got that lifeline in the 74th minute. Akindele, who had only come on a few minutes earlier, sent a good cross through the six and Mueller made a sliding lunge at it but the ball hit Robles and stayed out.

Orlando finally pulled within striking distance in the 80th. Dike took a pass from Ruan in the box on the right side but was walled off by Gonzalez Pirez. Rather than force a bad shot or try to do too much, the rookie made a heads-up play to lay it off for Mueller, who sent a cross to the back post. This time Nani timed it well and got in behind his man, heading home to make it 3-2.

Orlando City kept fighting to find an equalizer. Nani fought off a blatant hold by Dylan Nealis in the 83rd minute and fired a shot right at Robles. He may have been better served getting the free kick at the left side of the box, but that’s easy to say after the shot.

The clock wound down and the final good opportunity came in the 91st minute. Nani sent a deceptive shot toward goal from the right that caught the crossbar and bounced over. The Lions appealed for a corner, but the referee ruled that Robles didn’t get a touch. Moments later, the match was over and Miami had its first win.

Orlando out-shot Inter Miami 12-11 (5-4 on target) for the game, out-possessed the hosts (64.6%), and was the more accurate passing side (88%-78%), but it was the Herons claiming the points in their first ever home game.

The Lions had ample opportunities to score but the difference in the game was some poor passing early in the game and a lack of defensive sharpness at the start of the second half.

On the other hand, this was easily Dike’s best performance of his young career, although the decision to start Urso ahead of Mueller didn’t work out quite as well.


The Lions will try to bounce back Wednesday night at home at 7:30 p.m. in their first-ever meeting with Nashville SC.

Lion Links

Lion Links: 9/28/23

Ajax is reportedly scouting Facundo Torres, Orlando Pride focus on upcoming matches, Houston Dynamo win U.S. Open Cup, and more.

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Dan MacDonald, The Mane Land

How’s it going, Mane Landers? I hope this work week has gone smoothly for you as we get ready to bid farewell to September. It’s been a hectic week for me, but I started and then promptly devoured all of Fourth Wing by Rebecca Yarros. It was a nice read, albeit a bit intense at times. I’m not sure what I’ll read next as most of my reading list is packed up for a move, but if you have any recommendations then let me know in the comments below. Let’s dive into today’s links!

Ajax Reportedly Interested in Facundo Torres

Orlando City forward Facundo Torres has reportedly garnered the interest of Dutch club Ajax according to Fabrizio Romano.

It’s not too surprising that Ajax, which currently sits in 14th in the Eredivisie with just seven goals from five games, has scouts keeping tabs on Torres. The 23-year-old has scored 12 goals this season, powering Orlando to second in the Eastern Conference. It wouldn’t be the first time Torres has received attention from European clubs and likely won’t be the last as he continues to impress with the Lions

Orlando Pride Focus During Playoff Push

The Orlando Pride are back in action on Monday for a crucial road match with Angel City FC. Both teams have 25 points this season, one point from the sixth and final playoff spot currently held by the Washington Spirit. It will be the first of three remaining games for the Pride this season, with matches against fellow playoff hopefuls Racing Louisville and the Houston Dash set for later in October. As a result, there’s not much margin for error if the Pride wish to make the playoffs and Kylie Strom talked about how the team is focused for these games.

MLS NEXT Pro Playoffs Begin This Weekend

The first round of the MLS NEXT Pro playoffs kicks off this weekend with six matches that can all be watched on MLS Season Pass. Unlike last year, Orlando City B will be taking part and is set to face off with Columbus Crew 2 on Sunday at 5:30 p.m. Although the Young Lions have struggled on the road against Columbus, Jack Lynn and Shak Mohammed can make things difficult for the hosts. Hopefully we’ll see OCB make Columbus regret its choice of opponent in the postseason. I like the wrinkle and mind games to the playoffs the new rule gave and am interested to see which of the lower seeds plays with a chip on their shoulder. The playoffs begin on Friday when Sporting Kansas City II hosts Austin FC II in a battle between the third and fourth seeds of the Western Conference.

Houston Dynamo Win U.S. Open Cup

The Houston Dynamo have lifted the U.S. Open Cup trophy after winning 2-1 on the road against Inter Miami. A pair of goals in the first half were enough for Houston to win its second U.S. Open Cup title after also winning in 2018. A goal in stoppage time from Josef Martinez made things interesting, but the Dynamo defense did well to secure the win and deny Miami its second tournament title this year. It was a strong end to a solid tournament campaign from the Dynamo, as they beat four MLS sides before taking down Miami in the final.

Albertin Montoya Hired as Bay FC Head Coach

Ahead of its inaugural NWSL season next year, Bay FC named Albertin Montoya as the club’s first head coach. Montoya, who has lived in California for most of his life, served as the interim coach for the Washington Spirit in 2022 and also coached the U.S. U-17 women’s national team in 2011. Bay FC General Manager Lucy Rushton spoke on how Montoya’s name came up often while the club searched for a head coach, as well as how his skill at developing players will help build the club’s foundation.

Free Kicks

  • Orlando City Head Coach Oscar Pareja called for the supporters to continue filling Exploria Stadium and pushing the Lions forward for the team’s remaining home games this season.
  • St. Louis City midfielder Njabulo Blom won MLS Goal of the Week for his winner against Minnesota United. It was also the 23-year-old’s first professional goal.

That’s all I have for you today. Have a wonderful Thursday and rest of your week!

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Lion Links

Lion Links: 9/27/23

Orlando City falls in power rankings, OCB will take on Columbus Crew 2 in MLS NEXT Pro playoffs, U.S. Open Cup final preview, and more.

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Dan MacDonald, The Mane Land

Hello, Mane Landers. I hope all is well with you down in Florida. There’s not much new with me, I’m just staying busy at work lately and hoping to catch some soccer this weekend. There is plenty to cover today, so let’s get to the links.

Orlando City Drops Two Spots in Power Rankings

The latest MLS power rankings have been released and Orlando City fell two spots to fourth. The Lions lost their midweek matchup 2-0 on the road against New York City FC last Wednesday and closed out the weekend with a 1-1 draw against rival Inter Miami at Exploria Stadium. It wasn’t all bad this past week for the Lions, as Duncan McGuire scored his 11th goal of the year across all competitions. Despite losing to NYCFC a week ago, the Lions remain in second place in the Eastern Conference and are two points ahead of the Columbus Crew, Philadelphia Union, Atlanta United, and the New England Revolution.

OCB Will Take On Columbus Crew 2 in MLS NEXT Pro Playoffs

Orlando City B’s opponent for the first round of the MLS NEXT Pro playoffs was announced on Tuesday, as it will go on the road to take on defending champion Columbus Crew 2 on Oct. 1 at Historic Crew Stadium. As part of the new playoff format that lets higher seeds choose their opponents, Columbus chose to host OCB in the quarterfinals. The Young Lions closed out their regular season this past weekend with a 2-1 win against FC Cincinnati and finished fifth in the Eastern Conference. The Columbus Crew 2 finished its regular season with a 3-2 win against Atlanta United 2 to place third. The clubs split the regular season series, with OCB winning 4-1 on Aug. 27 and Columbus winning 4-0 on May 14. The conference semifinals will be on the following weekend, and the MLS NEXT Pro Cup final is set for Oct. 22.

U.S. Open Cup Final Preview

The 2023 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup will conclude tonight with the final at DRV PNK Stadium as Inter Miami takes on the Houston Dynamo. The match will kick off at 8:30 p.m. and you can watch the match on Paramount+ or CBS Sports Network. Inter Miami’s journey included edging out Nashville SC 2-1 in the Round of 16 and needing to go all the way to penalties to knock out FC Cincinnati after a thrilling 3-3 draw in the semifinals. The Houston Dynamo began their run with a pair of 1-0 wins against the Tampa Bay Rowdies and Sporting Kansas City. Since the Round of 16, the Dynamo cruised past Minnesota United, the Chicago Fire, and Real Salt Lake to get to the final. Houston was on a seven-match unbeaten run before losing to Sporting Kansas City this past weekend. The Dynamo will look to add another U.S. Open Cup title after winning it back in 2018. Lionel Messi will reportedly be a game-time decision for tonight’s final after he didn’t play in Miami’s draw with Orlando.

Spain Wins First Home Match Since World Cup Victory

Spain’s women’s national team won its first match since lifting the World Cup trophy last month, cruising to a 5-0 win against Switzerland in a UEFA Nations League matchup. After dealing with the fallout of former Spanish FA president Luis Rubiales and players boycotting call-ups to the national team before a deal was reached last week, the team wore wristbands that read “Se Acabo,” meaning “this is over,” and players from both teams held a banner with the same phrase before the match. Spain celebrated its win in front of a record-breaking crowd of 14,194 fans that came out to support the team at Nuevo Arcangel Stadium.

Free Kicks

  • Carrie Lawrence and the Orlando Pride were hard at work preparing for the match on Monday against Angel City FC.
  • Angel City exercised its club option to extend former Pride forward Sydney Leroux’s contract through the end of the 2024 NWSL season.
  • The Canadian Women’s National Team defeated Jamaica 4-1 on aggregate to book a spot in next summer’s Olympics.
  • The Seattle Sounders have unveiled their new crest for next year.

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 vs. Inter Miami: Player Grades and Man of the Match

How did your favorite Lions perform in Orlando City’s 1-1 home draw against the Herons?

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Dan MacDonald, The Mane Land

Draws are never satisfying but there’s at least a much better feeling when your team scores the final goal that earns the point rather than conceding so the other team takes two away. Thus was Orlando City’s 1-1 draw at home against Inter Miami on Sunday. It feels better to score the last goal, despite the fact that the same number of goals are scored either way. It’s a grand illusion.

Duncan McGuire’s blast through the legs of Drake Callender at least kept the Pepto-Bismol-colored team from winning at the purple palace and added another point to Orlando’s fine 2023 total.

Here’s how I saw the individual performances from a feisty affair at Exploria Stadium.

Starters

GK, Pedro Gallese, 7.5 — It was another standout game from the Peruvian shot stopper, who made four saves on the night, including a big one to stop a Leonardo Campana attempt from just a couple yards out. Gallese couldn’t do much about the lone goal conceded, as it came off a rebound of a wicked Josef Martinez shot, offering Gallese little opportunity to control the rebound due to the angle and pace. El Pulpo also recorded a clearance and passed at an 81.8% rate, connecting on five of his nine long balls.

D, Rafael Santos, 6.5 — After a couple of somewhat underwhelming performances, the Brazilian had a solid night. He didn’t have a shot attempt, but he managed two key passes despite completing only 71.4% of his passes. He connected on three of his eight long balls and one of his four crosses, but that latter number says more about his teammates not getting onto some good-looking balls into the area. Defensively, he provided two clearances and an interception, committing just one foul and completing a dribble. He even led the team in touches (60).

D, Robin Jansson, 7.5 (MotM) — In the first half, Jansson was the best player on the pitch and, in my opinion, it wasn’t close. The Beefy Swede vaccuumed up almost everything sent forward by Miami that was intended for Campana and Martinez on his side of the field. He finished the night with two tackles and two interceptions but it seemed like more than that. His passing was magnificent, as he completed 89.4% of his 47 passes, including six of seven long balls and his only through ball attempt. He had a key pass as well. He didn’t attempt a shot but he completed one dribble and drew a foul as he stymied the Miami attack. He did his best to cover Martinez’s quick, incisive run to the opposite side but couldn’t block the shot with his sliding effort. His biggest blemish was getting yet another yellow card for dissent — something he’s mostly been able to avoid this season.

D, Rodrigo Schlegel, 5.5 —While I thought Schlegel had a much better night Sunday than he had in the previous two games, it was far from where he was just a week or two earlier. The quick transition gave him a tough choice of backing off Campana and allowing a dangerous shot or doing what he did — stepping out and allowing a through ball. His closeout wasn’t tight enough. His marking on set pieces also left a lot to be desired at times. His passing was mostly accurate (91.5%), and he connected on two of three long balls, but there were a few dicey ones in his own end. He recorded two aerials won, one tackle, two interceptions, and a clearance. He committed three fouls and picked up a yellow card, conceding a dangerous free kick. His lone shot attempt was an off-target header.

D, Dagur Dan Thorhallsson, 6.5 — After a couple of tough games, the Icelandic midfielder-turned-fullback acquitted himself pretty well, considering Inter Miami attacked his side quite a bit. He passed well, connecting 82.5% of the time with one key pass and hitting the target once on two crosses, four times on six long balls, and sent a marvelous through ball that should have resulted in an Ivan Angulo goal, but the winger flubbed his lines. His lone shot attempt was a difficult one and did not threaten goal. He did not record a single defensive stat, although much of the time his opponent curled in toward the top of the area and was passed off to another defender.

MF, Cesar Araujo, 5.5 — The young Uruguayan had a quiet night, without recording any defensive statistics in his 45 minutes before being subbed out at the break for Martin Ojeda. He managed only 23 touches and his passing rate of 73.3% was much lower than his usual standard and he completed one of his two long balls. He also drew two fouls and completed a dribble. He simply wasn’t able to impact the game to the extent we’re used to seeing.

MF, Wilder Cartagena, 7 — It was a good night for the Peruvian midfielder, who was constantly getting under the opponents’ skin. He drew yellow card fouls on Dixon Arroyo and Benjamin Cremaschi — the latter after a slick nutmeg move — and had a steal that was set to ignite the break called back for a foul that I don’t agree was committed. Defensively, he recorded a tackle, a clearance, and an interception. He passed at a 91.1% success rate, created one scoring chance, and completed both of his long-ball attempts.

MF, Ivan Angulo, 5 — Whether it’s a lack of confidence and/or composure or being intimidated by a good goalkeeper, the Ivan Angulo who shoots in warmups is not the same guy in front of goal once the game is underway. He completely flubbed his lines when Thorhallsson sent him in behind for a 1-v-1 chance against Callender. The number of times he gets into dangerous spots and either a bad pass, shot, or decision keeps Orlando City from generating a scoring chance from it is maddening. Angulo failed to get any of his three shot attempts on target. His passing rate was just 60%, he did not have a single key pass, and neither of his two crosses were on target, although his single long ball was. He also didn’t record a single defensive statistic. There are many things Angulo does well, and his speed is tantalizing, but the final product is often lacking.

MF, Mauricio Pereyra, 6 — The captain had a mostly quiet match except when he was scissored down from behind by David Ruiz, somehow only producing a yellow card for the Miami midfielder. Pereyra produced only one key pass and no shot attempts, starting at central attacking midfielder before dropping into central midfield in the second half to pull the strings from a deeper position. He passed at an 80.5% success rate, completing one of three crosses and two of five long balls. He did not record any defensive stats and committed two fouls while drawing three.

MF, Facundo Torres, 6.5 — Torres led the Lions in shots (4), putting two on target, contributing one key pass and winning an aerial. He passed pretty well overall (81.5%), though he did not complete either of his two crosses or his lone long ball. He contributed an interception and a clearance defensively. Miami concentrated on double-teaming the Designated Player whenever possible. Torres still created some opportunities for himself and others, but it was a fairly quiet night overall.

F, Duncan McGuire, 7.5 — The rookie is still getting back to form after returning from injury, so he managed only 18 touches on the night but he did well with the touches he had. Both of McGuire’s shots were on target and both were rockets. Unfortunately, both were right at goalkeeper Callender. Fortunately, the second of those went through the keeper’s legs for the equalizing goal — his ninth of the MLS season. He also created a chance with a key pass, completed 83.3% of his pass attempts, and connected on his only long ball. He even contributed a defensive clearance. It was a good night for the rookie striker, although he wasn’t able to get that many touches.

Substitutes

MF, Martin Ojeda (46′), 6.5 — The Argentine Designated Player came on at halftime for Araujo to give the Lions more attacking presence and an extra playmaker on the field. He continues to grow in recent games, as he put his only shot attempt on target, created a chance with a key pass, and completed two dribbles, although he did have four unstable touches and was dispossessed once. He completed 89.5% of his 19 passes and all three long balls, but missed on his only cross attempt. He helped with the ball back with two tackles, and added a clearance.

MF/F, Ramiro Enrique (74′), 5 — Enrique came on for Angulo, which I thought at the time was the exact sub that was needed, but the Argentine didn’t offer much for the second straight game after winning Player of the Matchday. He did not attempt a shot or create a key pass and managed only seven touches on the night, passing at an 83.3% clip. He chipped in a clearance.

D, Michael Halliday (77′), 5 — The Homegrown defender spelled Thorhallsson but didn’t offer much, despite completing all four of his passes on 13 total touches. He had two unstable touches and was dispossessed once, which is not what you want to see from your fullback in the final 15 minutes of the match. Defensively, he blocked a shot, but he also conceded an unnecessary late corner when he pulled up, thinking he’d won a foul that didn’t end up getting called.

MF, Gaston Gonzalez (84′), N/A — As the MLS U22 Initiative attacker works his way back to fitness, he got a late runout, replacing McGuire, which pushed Enrique to the top of the formation. He conceded a free kick, but I honestly thought his challenge was clean and should have led to an Orlando counterattack. He put his only shot on frame, but it was a weak dribbler right at Callender. He did not complete his only pass attempt of the match.

MF, Junior Urso (84′), N/A — The Bear entered for Pereyra and was active, gettin 12 touches in late. His 90% passing rate on 10 attempts was solid, missing only on his only attempted long ball. He didn’t record any defensive stats, but he also didn’t make any mistakes in his brief spell.


That’s how I saw the individual performances by Orlando City on Sunday night at the stadium. Let me know where I got things right or wrong in the comments below and be sure to vote for your Man of the Match in our poll below.

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