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Orlando City vs. Atlanta United: Five Takeaways

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Orlando City’s unbeaten streak reached double digits after a 0-0 draw with Atlanta United in Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Orlando’s roster was missing many of its usual faces, but the Lions were still able to bring a point back home. Goalkeepers Brian Rowe and Brad Guzan both came up with big saves for their teams to keep the game scoreless all night long. It was Orlando City’s third clean sheet of the season and also only the third time Orlando wasn’t able to put one in the back of the net.

These are the biggest takeaways from Orlando’s road performance.

Brian Rowe Fills In Nicely

In his first appearance for Orlando this year, Rowe was tasked with filling in for Pedro Gallese after his call-up to the Peruvian National Team. He did fairly well, coming up with a big save in the 18th minute to deny Miles Robinson’s header on a corner and then seeing the first half out after a dangerous counter attack. He came up big again in the 70th minute to make sure the Lions got a clean sheet.

There was some nervousness with his distribution and a scary moment with an errant pass from Robin Jansson in the second half, but it’s clear that Orlando won’t be in dire straits with Gallese gone.

The Depleted Roster Held Its Own

With so many players injured or on international duty during this congested slate of games, yesterday’s starting lineup only featured four players with more than 600 minutes this MLS regular season. Regardless, the squad played with the same confidence and tenacity as the usual starters. The Lions did well to challenge Atlanta United in the air and maintain the protagonist mindset Head Coach Oscar Pareja has worked hard to cultivate for the club. It wasn’t a spectacular performance by any means, but the Lions were far from passive in this one.

Different Lions, Same Kind of Hunting

Pareja has earned plenty of praise this season for his rotation of players this season and last night’s game was a good example why. Even though the lineup didn’t include the regulars, the game plan offensively didn’t change all too much. Right back Kyle Smith did well yet again, whipping dangerous crosses in to Daryl Dike and nearly leading to a goal if not for heroics from Guzan. Pareja has built the team like a machine with a clear way of attacking that allows him to plug in players without causing much disruption, as seen by Andres Perea’s strong outing in a role similar to the injured Mauricio Pereyra.

These tactics, paired with the injection of creative players like Nani and Chris Mueller in the second half, nearly let the Lions head back to Orlando with all three points. The Lions lacked a finishing touch, but did hit the woodwork twice and forced Guzan to make six saves.

The Defense Stands Strong

On paper, it’s hard to look at the past few results and think the Lions are missing three of their usual starters on the back line. Jansson, Rodrigo Schlegel, Kamal Miller, and Smith all did well to stop Atlanta from scoring and snapping their unbeaten streak. Atlanta’s current squad isn’t exactly an offensive powerhouse, but it’s never easy going on the road and then leaving with your head held high as a defense. Center backs Alex De John and Antonio Carlos both came on for fresher legs to prevent any second-half collapses like the last time the two teams met. It really feels like Orlando can put out a strong defensive performance no matter who is out there. Even as banged up as it is, the defense has still yet to allow multiple goals in a match during this 10-game run.

A Draw Now for More Later

Given the lineup, yesterday’s draw is absolutely a positive result for Orlando City. That’s not a knock against the players who started. Robinho and Joey DeZart both had good chances to score and Perea is really coming into his own as a Lion. But I strongly believe that if Orlando had its usual starters then it would have won the game. That almost seems crazy to think about considering it was a road trip to Atlanta, but that’s just how much things have changed this season under Pareja. Orlando is one of the best teams in the league and that shift in mentality can make draws feel like missed points for fans, especially considering Orlando could have placed first in MLS today if yesterday’s results went differently.

My point is that while being in a Supporters Shield race is exciting, don’t get too caught up in what could have been. The Lions may have dropped a spot to fourth in the Eastern Conference, but they carry this streak and a point on the road back to Exploria Stadium to take on the Columbus Crew this Saturday.


That’s what I gathered from last night’s draw. What about you? Let me know in the comments below about what stood out most to you.

Orlando City

Orlando City vs. the Chicago Fire: Player Grades and Man of the Match

How did your favorite Lions perform in a 4-2 home victory against the Chicago Fire?

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

After a midweek draw against Charlotte FC and on the tail end of three matches in eight days, Orlando City returned to Central Florida for the second meeting of the season against the Chicago Fire. Orlando City recorded its best offensive performace of the season, winning 4-2 in front of the home crowd.

Let’s take a look at how the players performed individually in the much-needed home victory.

Starters

GK, Mason Stajduhar, 8 —  In his third straight start in net, Stajduhar answered the bell time and time again for Orlando City against the Fire and in doing so, put in arugably the best performance by an Orlando City keeper this season. On the night, Mason made a total of 10 saves, tying a club single-game record. He completed 61.8% of his 34 passes, which included seven accurate long balls on 20 attempts and was also credited with one clearance. The keeper can hardly be faulted for the two goals scored, as he guessed wrong on a Chicago Fire penalty kick early in the second half and then allowed the second goal from point-blank range on a giveaway by his back line.

D, Rafael Santos, 6 — Santos recorded 50 touches and completed 87.5% of his 32 passes, including completing both of his long ball attempts but missing failing on his lone crossing attempt. Santos had a team-high four interceptions while also contributing two clearances but failed to record a tackle. Santos was unfortunate that the second goal came off his leg, as he would have expected captain Robin Jansson to deal with the cross. When the Swede whiffed, it hit the back of Santos’ leg and teed up Hugo Cuypers for an easy goal. One thing Santos did well in this match was switch the point of attack. Offensively, Santos did not attempt a shot, was dispossesed once, and had one unstable touch.

D, Robin Jansson, 6 — The Swedish center back recorded 47 touches and completed 91.7% of his 36 passes, including two of his five long balls. Defensively, he added a team-high six clearances and two tackles. He unfortunately played a major role in the second Fire goal, giving the opposition a lifeline as he whiffed attempting to clear a Chicago cross into the box in the second half. Jansson was fouled once and committed no fouls against the Fire.

D, Rodrigo Schlegel, 6 —  The Argentine touched the ball 46 times and completed 79.4% of his 46 passes, including one of his four long balls. Defensively, he won a team-high three aerial duels and contributed two tackles, four clearances, and a blocked shot while committing one foul. Schlegel gave away a penalty with a late slide as he tried to recover on defense in the 51st minute. Attempting to deny a cutback pass, the ball hit his arm as he was going to ground. If his arm had been making contact with the ground, the play would have been legal, but it had not yet touched and it allowed Maren Haile-Selassie to score from the spot. Offensively, Schlegel did not record an offensive statistic but drew three fouls.

D, Dagur Dan Thorhallsson, 7.5 — The Icelandic fullback recorded 47 touches, completing 80.7% of his 31 passes. Thorhallsson was credited with a team-high three key passes against the Fire but was unlucky in the long ball department, failing on all three of his attempts. Defensively, he logged two tackles, two interceptions, and three clearances while comitting two fouls. Offensively, Thorhallsson failed to record a shot but assisted on both Facundo Torres bangers. He completed two dribbles and looked potent in the attacking third of the field.

MF, Facundo Torres, 8.5 (MotM) — The Designated Player showed the form that Orlando City has been waiting for all season, picking up where he left off Wednesday in Charlotte. The Uruguayan played with confidence Saturday. He recorded 46 touches and completed 89.2% of his 37 passes. Torres put both of his shot attempts on target and scored a goal on each of them. He also completed one dribble and drew one foul. Defensively, Torres did not record any statistics but did commit one foul. Torres’ early goal set the tone for the team’s best offensive performance on the year.

MF, Cesar Araujo, 6 — Araujo returned to the starting lineup after coming off the bench in Charlotte and managed a team-high 56 touches while completing 89.6% of his 48 passes. He was acurate on three of his four long balls as well. Defensively, he logged three tackles and one clearance and was issued a yellow card in the 83rd minute. Statistically, it was a calm night for the young Uruguyan. A criticism of not just Araujo, but the team as a whole, is that there was too much space outside the area left for gifted players like Brian Gutierrez to fire uncontested shots.

MF, Nico Lodeiro, 6 — Lodeiro recorded 55 touches and completed 84.1% of his 44 passes. He completed one dribble and suffered three fouls. Defensively, he logged two tackles and an interception. Lodeiro’s hustle in the third minute was the catalyst for the opening goal as the midfielder slid to win a 50-50 ball and knocking it to Thorhallsson. For that, he received a secondary assist on the play. Surprisingly, Lodeiro did not record a key pass after amassing 10 on Wednesday, nor did he attempt a shot. He was subbed off in the 66th minute for seldom used rookie Jeorgio Kocevski and fresh legs.

MF, Ivan Angulo, 7 — The Colombian had a solid outing, scoring a goal, drawing a penalty, and using his speed effectively. Angulo used that speed to slip past two defenders on a through ball from Luis Muriel and was pulled down from behind, leading to Muriel’s penalty kick goal. He had a chance in transition to put the game away late but missed the target on his shot from the left. Angulo finished with 39 touches and completed 91.7% of his 24 passes, including a successful long ball on his only attempt. He drew one foul. One area of concern was his three unstable touches. Defensively, he led the team with four tackles and logged an interception.

F, Luis Muriel, 6.5 — Muriel recorded 36 touches and completed 76% of his 25 passes. He was successful on his lone long ball attempt as well. He finally scored at home, sending Chris Brady to score from the penalty spot. He put both of his shot attempts on target and and completed one dribble but also had five unstable touches. Defensively, he got back and contributed a tackle and an interception. He was subbed off in the 59th minute for Martin Ojeda.

F, Duncan McGuire, 6 — The target man up top recorded 24 touches, completed 85.7% of his 14 passes, and was successful on his lone long ball attempt. Offensively, McGuire put his lone shot attempt on target but was not as involved in this match. His back heel attempt in the 29th minute was initially saved by Brady, but it was not a clean save and resulted in Angulo’s goal. There were a few instances where he could have done better, as the striker was dispossesed three times, including a bad giveaway in the 11th minute that nearly led to a tying goal at the time. Stajduhar was able to deny a good chance by Cuypers and Haile-Selassie put the rebound over the net. McGuire was whistled for offside once and had an unstable touch. Defensively, he chipped in with a tackle and a clearance.

Substitutes

MF, Martin Ojeda (59’), 5 — Ojeda came on in the 59th minute for Muriel and the attacking midfielder managed just 17 touches and completed only 50% of his eight passes, including one successful long ball on two attempts. Ojeda was credited with one key pass when he picked out Angulo on the break, but the Colombian was unable to finish the job. Ojeda took one shot which sailed just inches over the crossbar with an open net in the 87th minute. He was dispossessed once and had three unstable touches. Defensively, he contributed two tackles.

MF, Jeorgio Kocevski (67’), 5.5 — Kocevski entered the match in the 67th minute for Lodeiro. He had 10 touches and completed four of his six passes (66.7%). He had one dribble and also recorded a tackle and a clearance while providing solid, if not unspectacular, depth in the midfield.

D, Kyle Smith (78′), 5.5 — Smith came on for Santos in the 78th minute as Orlando looked to lock things down defensively. He logged 16 touches and completed 60% of his 10 passes. Smith failed to connect on both of his long ball attempts. In limited minutes, he won an aerial duel and contributed one tackle, one interception, and three clearances. However, he also had a bad giveaway in the 79th minute that forced Stajduhar to punch away a hard shot by Gutierrez.


That’s how I saw the individual performances in Orlando City’s victory against the Chicago Fire. Let us know how you saw the game and don’t forget to vote on your Man of the Match below.

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Lion Links: 6/24/24

Lions and Pride win, Abdi Salim joins Detroit City on loan, USMNT wins Copa America opener, and more.

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Image courtesy of Orlando Pride / Mark Thor

Hello, Mane Landers! I hope all is well with you down in Florida. I’m just staying busy at Under Armour all weekend, returning to my footwear lead manager role and catching some of the Euro and Copa America matches. Both the Lions and the Pride won over the weekend. We’ve got plenty to cover today, so let’s get to the links. 

Lions Defeat Chicago Fire at Home

Orlando City snapped its five-match winless streak Saturday, defeating the Chicago Fire 4-2 at Inter&Co Stadium. Facundo Torres scored twice, and Luis Muriel and Ivan Angulo added one each to offset Chicago’s two goals in a much-needed victory. It was only the second home win for the Lions this season. Chicago saw its four-match unbeaten streak end and moved to the bottom of the Eastern Conference with 18 points. Orlando moved up to 10th with 21 points. The Lions will be on the road again Friday to take on New York City FC at Yankee Stadium.

OCSC Center Back Abdi Salim Joins Detroit City on Loan

USL Championship side Detroit City FC has apparently reached a loan agreement with Orlando City to have center back Abdi Salim join the team. The loan was reported Saturday by Nolan Bianchi and, although there has been no official word from Orlando City, Salim played for Detroit City Saturday night in a friendly against Pumas of Liga MX.

Salim was not only in the starting XI on Saturday, but he also scored the lone goal to win the match 1-0. In case you missed it, check out Salim’s header and back flip celebration:

Pride Cruise at Home Against Utah Royals

The Orlando Pride returned to their winning ways Friday with a dominating performance at Inter&Co Stadium in a club-record, 6-0 victory against the Utah Royals. Barbra Banda and Marta each scored twice, while Summer Yates and Ally Watt added goals in a big win for the Pride, extending Orlando’s unbeaten streak to 14 matches. After this weekend’s results, Orlando and the Kansas City Current are tied with 32 points, but Kansas City’s 4-1 beatdown of the Thorns in Portland has the Current in the top spot on goal differential. The Pride will be on the road Sunday to face Angel City FC at BMO Stadium.

USMNT Beats Bolivia in Copa America Opener

The United States Men’s National Team won its Copa America opener 2-0 against Bolivia at AT&T Stadium on Sunday. Christian Pulisic scored for the USMNT and added an assist on Folarin Balogun’s goal late in the first half. For Pulisic, it was his 30th career goal for his country in 69 international appearances. Tyler Adams made his first start for club or country since March 30 and played 45 minutes. Even though the USMNT couldn’t add more goals in the second half, the Americans did enough to take all three points. The USMNT will play Panama Thursday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.

Euro 2024 Roundup

It was another busy weekend of action in the Euros, as eight matches took place over the weekend. On Friday, Ukraine overcame a 1-0 halftime deficit to beat Slovakia 2-1 to stay alive in the tournament. Austria bounced back with a 3-1 win against Poland. France and the Netherlands split the points in a scoreless draw, which resulted in Poland becoming the first team to be eliminated from Euro 2024. On Saturday, Georgia and the Czech Republic battled to a 1-1 draw. Portugal clinched a spot into the round of 16 with a 3-0 victory over Turkey, and Belgium rebounded with a 2-0 win against Romania. On Sunday, Hungary grabbed a late winning goal to eliminate Scotland 1-0 and still has a chance to move on to the round of 16. Switzerland held a 1-0 lead into stoppage time, but Niclas Fullkrug equalized to snatch a 1-1 draw for Germany at the death, winning Group A. Both teams advanced to the round of 16. Today’s matches will wrap up play in Group B as Albania faces Spain and Croatia takes on Italy.

Free Kicks


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

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Orlando City

Orlando City vs. Chicago Fire: Five Takeaways

What did we learn from Orlando City’s 4-2 victory over the Chicago Fire?

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

That game was the most fun I’ve had watching this team all year. Orlando City jumped all over the Chicago Fire in the first half and took its chances well on the way to a 4-2 victory at home. It wasn’t a perfect performance, but it’s the best one we’ve seen all year, and it was exactly what the Lions needed. What follows are my five takeaways from the win.

Hot Start Pays Dividends

Orlando got things off to a hot start and had a claim for a penalty with barely a minute played. It ultimately wasn’t given, but Facundo Torres opened the scoring in the fourth minute anyway, and the Lions had a precious early lead. When a penalty kick was actually awarded to the Lions in the 19th minute, Luis Muriel coolly slotted it to Chris Brady’s left. Ivan Angulo’s finish from close range gave OCSC three goals in the first 30 minutes, and that big cushion eventually paid off when the Lions’ legs began to tire in the second half against the fresher visitors.

Facundo Finds His Footing

This was a much-needed performance by Facundo Torres, and continued his good form. He now has three goals and an assist in the team’s last two matches, and every time he touched the ball he looked capable of creating something. An encouraging aspect of his performance was that the two goals he scored were far from clear-cut chances and were more about him using his individual brilliance to find a way to create something from nothing. That sort of thing isn’t always sustainable in the long run, but the team has always looked better when Torres is oozing with confidence, and great players elevate their teams when they’re playing well. Hopefully, we’re seeing the start of the run that Facu normally goes on right around this time.

Mason Stands Tall

Even with the barrage of early goals and Facu firing away from distance, the game could have still ended in disaster if not for Mason Stajduhar. The Lions’ early lead meant that they didn’t try to possess the ball and press the attack as much as they normally would have, and Chicago found its way through the defense on several occasions. The Fire finished with 19 shots and put 12 on target, but Mason made 10 stops, tying a club record, and saved Orlando’s bacon in the process. He stonewalled the Chicago attackers on multiple occasions in both halves, and if not for Torres’ offensive fireworks, he would have been an easy pick for Man of the Match.

Some Rest for the Wicked

With Orlando holding a 3-1 lead in the 59th minute and Oscar Pareja having deployed almost the exact same team that he did midweek, Papi took the opportunity to get a few guys some rest. Muriel and his 33-year-old legs were the first to exit, and once Torres made the lead 4-1 in the 60th minute, 35-year-old Nico Lodeiro was only a few minutes behind him. Kyle Smith then relieved Rafael Santos in the 78th minute, and that was the last change Pareja made, having used all three allotted substitution windows. It would have been nice to get Torres and McGuire off the field with a trip to New York City FC on Friday, but Pareja would have needed to have made those switches in one of the three windows. He perhaps could have introduced Ojeda at halftime to save a window, but it worked out.

A Step in the Right Direction

It wasn’t a perfect performance, but it contained easily the best first half of soccer that Orlando has played all season. Chances were created, chances were finished, and when shots were given up at the other end, Mason was on hand to snuff out the danger. The defense leaking two second-half goals wasn’t ideal, but one goal came from an unlucky penalty kick given for a Rodrigo Schlegel handball, and the other from a miscue by a no-doubt-exhausted Jansson and an unfortunate bounce off of Santos behind him. There were other good opportunities for the visitors during the final 30 minutes when the OCSC defense was visibly out on its collective feet.

Orlando only took eight shots, but put six on target and scored from four of those, doing its damage early and efficiently, meaning that the team didn’t need to open itself up and continue aggressively hunting chances. Whether Orlando can continue to build off this remains to be seen, and the Fire aren’t exactly the best barometer for success, but the Lions have started to lay a good foundation in the last two matches.


Those are my big impressions from a fun match that had a little bit of everything. Next up is a desperately tricky test on the road against a good NYCFC team, and that performance should give us a lot more information about whether the Lions are trending in the right direction or not. What were your thoughts from this game? Be sure to make your voice heard down in the comments. Vamos Orlando!

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