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Orlando City

Orlando City vs. Atlanta United: Final Score 0-0 as Lions Run Unbeaten Streak to 10 Games

Brad Guzan and the woodwork stole points from Orlando City as the Lions couldn’t put one in the net.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC

Orlando City failed to find the net as both Brad Guzan and the woodwork combined to stop everything the Lions threw at them. Still, the team’s record unbeaten streak grew to 10 matches (6-0-4) after a 0-0 draw against Atlanta United at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

The Lions (8-2-6, 30 points) have now gone three straight without a loss to the Five Stripes (5-8-3, 18 points), but after largely outplaying their hosts, they’ll consider this two points dropped on the road. Despite a lot of regulars being out of the lineup, Orlando was the better side for the majority of the match.

“I think the players had another great game,” Head Coach Oscar Pareja said after the match. “We had many options to score and not only that but I think we really dominated the game all the time. It’s much better when you translate that into three points but there is no frustration.”

“I thought it was a great team effort tonight,” said goalkeeper Brian Rowe, who made his first start of the season and ended up with a shutout on three saves. “I know you look around the field and we’ve had a number of guys that stepped up that haven’t gotten a lot of minutes this year.”

Pareja was without Pedro Gallese (international duty) for the first time in 2020, so Rowe got the start in goal behind a back line of Kamal Miller, Robin Jansson, Rodrigo Schlegel, and Kyle Smith. Joey DeZart got his first start for Orlando City in central midfield, along with Junior Urso, with Andres Perea and Robinho in the attacking midfield, and Benji Michel and Daryl Dike leading the attack. Fullback Michael Halliday was recalled from OCB and made the bench.

The Lions started the match without most of the team’s starters. In addition to Gallese and Sebas Mendez (international duty) being out, Joao Moutinho’s lingering groin problem and the undisclosed injuries to Mauricio Pereyra, Ruan, Tesho Akindele, and Uri Rosell combined to leave Orlando seven starters shy, with regular center back Antonio Carlos on the bench along with wingers Nani and Chris Mueller.

Some early pressing by Orlando gave Atlanta problems before both teams settled into the game. Atlanta sent an early warning sign with a good cross in from the left for Adam Jahn, who had slipped free of Jansson, but the cross was just a little too high for him in the ninth minute.

The Lions nearly opened the scoring in the 11th minute but Guzan made two huge saves to keep it scoreless. Smith sent in a good-looking cross from the right and Dike powered a header on target. Guzan fought that off and Robinho waited for the rebound to come down and swept it toward the net, but the Atlanta goalkeeper made a diving stop.

Atlanta then had some extended possession but wasn’t doing much with it. The Lions continuously turned them backward toward their own end, and most of the time the ball was around midfield. The hosts finally won a corner and Jon Gallagher sent in a good cross for Miles Robinson to head on target. Rowe made a huge save in the 18th minute, punching it away.

Perea bombed down the left side a minute later, but his shot was deflected out for a corner. Neither team got particularly close for the next 10 minutes or so, until the Lions again nearly opened the scoring. Robinho cut left to right with options in the box and chose to fire a shot that skipped just in front of the goal and crashed off the left post. The rebound came out to the right side and Smith ran onto it before firing a shot that Guzan saved in the 30th minute.

Franco Escobar picked up the first of what should have been two quick yellow cards in the 36th minute when he clobbered Robinho from behind. Two minutes later, he made a terrible challenge on Urso that had the Brazilian on the turf for a couple of minutes in pain. Escobar should have been sent off with a second yellow, but referee Rubiel Vasquez gave the Atlanta fullback a huge break and didn’t book him again. Urso was able to continue after receiving treatment.

Neither team got a good look the rest of the half and the two sides were scoreless at the break. Orlando had more first-half shots (7-5), shots on target (4-2), and corners (4-3), as well as more accurate passing (89%-86%). Atlanta held a slight possession advantage (51.7%-48.3%).

Disaster nearly struck early in the second half as Jansson tried to pass back to Rowe. The ball moved more quickly than expected and Rowe could only slide for it and watch as it skipped just wide of goal in the 55th minute.

“The turf is tricky,” Rowe said. “The way they wet it. The ball doesn’t really check up at all. It almost accelerates once it’s moving in a direction. So, he was trying to play me kind of into space on my right foot and it kind of took off a little faster than I think I was anticipating and what he thought as well. So, I kind of scrambled for a second but then once it was going by me, trying to reach for it, I saw that I was at least covering the goal, so I knew it was going wide.”

The Lions conceded a little more possession in the second half but still managed more scoring chances. Just two minutes after the near mishap in front of Orlando’s goal, Urso fired a shot that skipped off a defender and went wide. Atlanta looked to counter off the ensuing corner but Jansson made a great play in the open field to break it up.

Alex De John subbed on for Kyle Smith shortly after that and one of his first involvements was a nifty pass into the area for Michel in the 64th minute, but Benji couldn’t make good contact to bring it in and the chance evaporated. Michel then had another opportunity to get in two minutes later, as the Lions broke in transition 4-v-3, but his first touch on the pass again let him down.

Benji’s last involvement was to concede a free kick near his own penalty area before being subbed off for Nani in the 70th minute. Jansson made a good play on the ensuing cross to get across his man and nod it behind for a corner. Rowe needed to make his second big save of the night on that corner when Orlando failed to clear it all the way out and it fell for Anton Walkes, who shot from point-blank range. The Lions’ goalkeeper made a good reaction save to keep the Five Stripes off the board.

Atlanta held the ball for quite a while during that stretch with Orlando City content to play the ball to safety rather than try to pass out of the back as the team usually does. The Lions sustained some pressure as a result, but the defense and midfielders did well to keep Atlanta on the perimeter.

Nani nearly found a breakthrough in the 78th minute. The captain fired a shot at the top of the area that deflected off a defender and over Guzan but it hit the crossbar and stayed out.

Perea smashed a shot just off target from outside the area seconds later as the Lions continued to look for a winner.

Nani set up Urso in the 86th minute and the Bear hit his shot first time, but he left it too close to the middle and Guzan was able to make a vital diving save to keep the game at 0-0 late.

The last chance fell to DeZart in the 91st minute as the rookie found himself in space and sent a curling shot toward the back corner but Guzan again was able to get over and keep it out.

That was it for the match and Orlando City had to settle for a single point, falling two points further behind Toronto but gaining a point on Columbus, while Philadelphia jumped over the Lions into third.

The Lions out-shot Atlanta, 15-9 (6-3 on target), earned more corners (7-5), and were more accurate in passing (87%-85%), while the Five Stripes held more of the ball (52.3%-47.7%).

Even though Pareja wasn’t frustrated, he said his players expected more from the match.

“Today the players left the field thinking that they left two points on the field,” he said. “They were not so happy with the tie. And I said, ‘Well, sometimes you know, you take the point and leave.’ They are convinced about what they are. And no one gave anything to them. Nobody. Nothing. They have earned it through the effort, the discipline, the desire to do the right things. They know that to be the best team and to win trophies, you have to keep getting better.”

“It was a solid performance by the team,” DeZart said. “At the end of the day we’re disappointed because each and every game we want to go out and win it, home or away.”


Orlando City will next face the stingy defense of the Columbus Crew at Exploria Stadium on Sunday at 7:30 p.m.

Orlando City

Orlando City vs. CF Montreal: Three Keys to Victory

What does Orlando City need to do to secure all three points in the home opener against CF Montreal?

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Orlando City will host CF Montreal in the club’s first match of the 2024 MLS regular season this Saturday night. The Lions are coming off the Concacaf Champions Cup match against Cavalry FC Wednesday night. Orlando City will want to get things started the right way as expectations and aspirations are higher than ever for the club.

What does Orlando City need to do to secure a victory in the home opener against their Canadian opponents?

Roster Management

Orlando City has four matches in 11 days — the previously mentioned Wednesday match against Cavalry in Canada, the match against Montreal on Saturday, the return match against Cavalry in Orlando next Tuesday, and then a trip to Ft. Lauderdale to take on Inter Miami. That is quite a start to competitive play in 2024.

Because of the schedule congestion, Oscar Pareja will need to rotate players. That means we’re not likely to have the preferred starting 11 as much as any of us will like. Kyle Smith, Michael Halliday, Jeorgio Kocevski, and others will likely see playing time. How well Pareja manages when to use which players, and for how long, will determine not just the result of this match against Montreal, but for each of the other matches as well.

Defensive Communication

Rodrigo Schlegel is serving a suspension in this first league match and will not be available. That means Orlando City’s newest center back, David Brekalo, will probably get the start alongside Robin “The Beefy Swede” Jansson. Having a good center back pairing is absolutely essential to the success of any defense. We know that because once Jansson and former Lion Antonio Carlos worked together for a while, they became an absolute fortress on the back line.

Now, Jansson will need to build the same chemistry with Brekalo if the Lions want to maintain their position as one of the best defenses in the league. With Schlegel unavailable, there is no question that Jansson and Brekalo will have the opportunity to start building that relationship. Hopefully, it will be good enough to keep Montreal — especially Josef Martinez — out of the goal.

Keep Torres Scoring

Facundo Torres had a great preseason. Orlando City’s new owner of the No. 10 shirt needs to keep doing the same. He’ll need to score goals, provide assists, and create problems for Montreal’s defense. Traditionally, Montreal has put out a three-man back line. While that means it’ll be a five-man back line when Orlando City has the ball, during changes of possession there should be space for Torres to get free and get scoring opportunities.

If Montreal smartly tried to contain Torres, then it will have to deal with Duncan McGuire, Nico Lodeiro, and Ivan Angulo. Orlando City’s offense has the potential to score quite a few more goals this season, and it all starts Saturday night against Montreal. Get two on the board and I think it will mean three points in the standings.


That is what I will be looking for Saturday night. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below. Vamos Orlando!

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Lion Links

Lion Links: 2/22/24

Orlando City beats Cavalry FC, Lions receive General Allocation Money for Junior Urso’s rights, USWNT gets ready for Argentina, and more.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

How’s it going, Mane Landers? It’s nice to start the morning fresh off of a huge win and I’m hoping that becomes a regular occurrence this year. Hopefully the work week has been kind to you as we ride the high of the Concacaf Champions Cup into Orlando City’s first game of the MLS season this weekend. For now, let’s dive into today’s links from around the soccer world.

Lions Win in Concacaf Champions Cup Opener

Orlando City kicked off its Concacaf Champions Cup campaign with a solid 3-0 win against Cavalry FC in Canada. Some players did better playing on the turf of Starlight Stadium in British Columbia than others, but the Lions ultimately did well on the road to make things less stressful for themselves for the second leg on Tuesday in Orlando at 6 p.m. Orlando’s offense showed little rust and the defense did its part in its first competitive match of 2024. Before the match, Head Coach Oscar Pareja announced that Robin Jansson will serve as the team’s captain this year, so it’s nice to see his tenure start with a clean sheet.

Junior Urso Signs With Charlotte FC

Orlando City received $50,000 in 2025 General Allocation Money from Charlotte FC in exchange for Brazilian midfielder Junior Urso’s right of first refusal. This transaction cleared the way for Urso to sign with Charlotte, joining on a deal through 2024, with an option for 2025. The Bear became a Lion back in 2020 and was an integral part of Orlando’s transformation under Head Coach Oscar Pareja that included winning the 2022 U.S. Open Cup. The 34-year-old impressed as a trialist with Charlotte during the preseason and should give Dean Smith’s side a veteran presence both on and off the field. While it’s never fun seeing a fan favorite playing for another Eastern Conference foe, I wish nothing but the best for Urso and hope he gets a warm reception when Charlotte visits Orlando this season on Sept. 18.

MLS Coaching Changes for 2024

There was a considerable amount of coaching turnover in MLS since last season, adding some intriguing storylines for this year. After a rough time in Miami, Phil Neville has a chance at redemption with a Portland Timbers side that narrowly missed out on the playoffs last year. The Colorado Rapids’ Chris Armas, D.C. United’s Troy Lesesne, and the New England Revolution’s Caleb Porter are other familiar faces in new places who could impress. As for those new to the scene, Dean Smith joined Charlotte from England, while Sandro Schwarz is now at the helm of the New York Red Bulls after years in Germany and Russia. I’m also interested to see how long it takes for John Herdman to turn things around with Toronto FC.

Analyzing Argentina Ahead of USWNT Clash

After a dominant 5-0 win over the Dominican Republic, the United States Women’s National Team will take on Argentina tomorrow in the Concacaf W Gold Cup’s group stage. The U.S. has won the past four meetings between the past two nations, and Argentina is coming off of a scoreless draw with Mexico. The Orlando Pride’s Mariana Larroquette spearheads an Argentine attack that can be a bit inconsistent when it comes to creating chances. That being said, Vanina Preininger can pull strings from the midfield and Argentina has multiple players capable of scoring from distance. Laurina Oliveros will likely start in goal after her clean sheet in the opener, and the defense also includes Kansas City Current center back Sophia Braun.

Free Kicks

  • The Orlando Pride’s Rafaelle and Adriana both started in Brazil’s 1-0 win over Puerto Rico.
  • The LA Galaxy signed Ghanaian winger Joseph Paintsil as their third Designated Player. The 26-year-old joins from Genk in Belgium and signed a contract with the Galaxy through 2027.
  • The Revolution beat Panama’s Independiente 1-0 on the road in the Champions Cup opener for both teams.
  • The new changes to MLS’ competitive rules, such as in-stadium VAR announcements and off-field treatments, have been postponed amid the league’s referee situation.
  • The United Soccer League announced that all 47 of the teams under its umbrella will take part in this year’s U.S. Open Cup.
  • Bayern Munich officially announced that Thomas Tuchel will leave once this season is over. Although Bayern is second in the Bundesliga standings, it’s lost its past three games, including a defeat to Lazio in the Champions League.
  • Porto scored a stunning goal in stoppage time to shock Arsenal in the UEFA Champions League.

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

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Orlando City

Orlando City vs. Cavalry FC, Concacaf Champions Cup: Final Score 3-0 as Torres Brace Leads Lions to Road Win

The Lions are in the driver’s seat after a comprehensive victory over Cavalry FC in western Canada.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Duncan McGuire opened the scoring and Facundo Torres added a brace to lead Orlando City SC to a comfortable 3-0 win over Cavalry FC at Starlight Stadium in Langford, British Columbia in the first leg of Concacaf Champions Cup play. Orlando scored their first road goals in the competition and have a huge advantage heading into next week’s return leg.

“It’s very good for the team. The clean sheet is very important for us and scoring three goals is a good score for returning home,” Orlando City Assistant Coach Diego Torres said after the match. “Cavalry is a good team. The Canada league is a good league. All of our team respects all rivals. The team came here serious for the game.”

With Oscar Pareja sidelined due to suspension for a red card after the second leg against Tigres in 2023, Diego Torres’ lineup was made up mostly of presumed starters for the 2024 season, with Pedro Gallese starting in goal behind a back line of Kyle Smith, Robin Jansson, Rodrigo Schlegel, and Dagur Dan Thorhallsson. Cesar Araujo and Wilder Cartagena took their usual spots in the central midfield behind an attacking line of Ivan Angulo, Martin Ojeda, and Facundo Torres with McGuire up top. Presumed starters Rafael Santos, Nico Lodeiro, David Brekalo, and Luis Muriel were not in the lineup, with the latter two new Lions not in the matchday squad.

Center back Daan Klomp was positioned on the line and was able to get in front of Araujo’s header on frame. On the ensuing corner, Schlegel got under his header and sent it well over the bar.

Cavalry’s defense again denied a shot off a corner moments later. This time it was Callum Montgomery knocking it away. The Lions recycled and a shot appeared to go out off the goalkeeper but a goal kick was awarded.

Araujo again got forward in the 13th minute and the defense again blocked it, although this time it was outside the six-yard box rather than on the line. Moments later, McGuire had a go from a tough angle on the left but he mishit his shot and it went out on the other side for a throw-in. Torres then fired from the top of the box in the 19th minute but his effort was always rising and sailed well over the bar.

The Lions found the breakthrough moments later. Cartagena sent the ball wide to Angulo on the left and the Colombian sent Ojeda down the flank. The Argentine sent a great cross into the area and McGuire redirected it past Cavalry goalkeeper Marco Carducci to make it 1-0 in the 21st minute.

Orlando stayed on the front foot and in the 27th minute it was Angulo dancing through the defense and sending a lethal-looking cross through the six. Unfortunately, none of his teammates were making runs on the far side and it skipped harmlessly through.

Cavalry then nearly fashioned something out of nothing when a ball into the area nearly found Sergio Camargo right in front. However, the ball got through to Gallese, who scooped it up.

Thorhallsson, who had a terrific first half, nearly sent in Angulo in the 28th minute on a quick counterattack and then sent a dangerous cross over Carducci in the 32nd that just needed a touch from a teammate but didn’t get one.

No matter though, the Icelandic fullback got his assist in the 38th minute. Tucking inside for much of the night, he sent Torres wide on the right. The Uruguayan cut inside from the right at the top of the box and sent a shot on target. The ball bounced off the artificial turf in front of Carducci, who got a hand on it but couldn’t knock it wide of the post. Torres’ strike made it 2-0.

Cavalry won a late corner but sent the cross right at Gallese at the end of the half and that was it as far as the scoring chances. The Lions took their 2-0 advantage to the locker room.

At the break, the Lions held the advantage in shots (9-2), shots on target (3-0), passing accuracy (97.3%-73.5%), and corners (3-2).

Cavalry started the second half with more energy. Smith did well to win a goal kick to thwart an early attack and Schlegel got a head to a dangerous cross in the 49th to clear Orlando’s lines.

Orlando’s first decent chance of the second period came in the 53rd minute when Araujo stole a ball in the attacking third on the press. He found Ojeda on the left and the Argentine sent a cross in front, however, the defense again cut it out for a corner. The Lions couldn’t do anything with the set piece.

The game got a little chippy after that, with Cavalry’s Charlie Trafford picking up a yellow card for stepping on McGuire’s foot during a challenge. Moments later, a worse-looking challenge by Trafford on Thorhallsson went unpunished with a second yellow, despite being a worse foul.

Torres was then taken down on a rough challenge by Montgomery, who was booked. Ojeda went for goal from distance on the set piece, but Carducci made the save at the hour mark.

Gallese nearly got crossed up in the 61st minute when a fluttering ball fooled him and he had to fight it off to avoid an embarrassing situation. That was the start of a couple of chances for the hosts, sandwiching the Orlando City debut of Lodeiro, who subbed on for Ojeda.

In the 62nd minute, Cavalry created something off a throw-in, sending a ball into the box for Jesse Daley, who sent his weak effort right at Gallese on a wasted opportunity. Moments later, Jansson conceded a free kick and Cavalry nearly paid it off. Klomp got his head to the service but sent it just inches over the crossbar.

Cartagena nearly scored a surprising goal in the 68th minute when he sent a chip towards Carducci’s goal. The Cavalry goalkeeper was backpedaling and had to tip the shot over his crossbar.

Five minutes later, substitute Ramiro Enrique set up Lodeiro in the box but the midfielder sent his shot off the crossbar in the 73rd minute. Angulo followed with a shot that was blocked by the defense for a corner.

Two minutes later, the Lions put the game to bed. A fantastic sequence set up Torres’ brace. Enrique did well to send Angulo in behind the defense on the left. The Colombian sent a perfect cross to the back post and Torres sent a diving header off of Carducci’s hands and in to make it 3-0 in the 75th minute.

Cavalry got back on the front foot for a few minutes after the third goal. Camargo sent a shot right at Gallese in the 79th minute

Orlando should have scored again seconds later. Another excellent buildup play from Enrique and Angulo ended up on Araujo’s foot right in front of goal, but the midfielder couldn’t dig it out of his feet and the defense arrived to knock it away.

A poor giveaway by substitute Rafael Santos on the left sideline gave Cavalry a chance in the 82nd minute. The cross in front was deflected out to the top of the area. Diego Gutierrez smashed a shot toward goal, but Felipe took one for the team and blocked it out for a corner. Klomp was nearly sent in behind on the recycle of the ensuing set piece but the defender was either offside or was judged to have fouled Gallese and Orlando was awarded a free kick. Gallese then scooped up a one-hopper off a shot from a tight angle to his right in the 88th minute.

That was the last half chance for either side and the Lions saw out three minutes of injury time to claim their first Concacaf Champions Cup victory.

The final statistics were more flattering for the hosts than the halftime numbers. Orlando led in possession (55.4%-44.6%), shots (13-9), shots on target (5-4), passing accuracy (85.1%-82%), and corners (6-4).

“Now we prepare for the next leg at home,” Diego Torres said. “I know this game is very important. And the next game now is very important.”

“I wanted the players to be brave, and there’s certainly things that we can learn from it,” Cavalry Head Coach Tommy Wheeldon said. “I don’t think it was a three-nil game. I think between both boxes we matched up with them very, very well. I think they probably defended better in there’s and they finished better in ours, and that’s the difference.”


Orlando City will host Cavalry FC next Tuesday night in the second leg. Prior to that, the Lions have a quick turnaround ahead of Saturday’s MLS opener at home against CF Montreal at 7:30 p.m.

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