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Orlando City vs. Inter Miami CF: Final Score 2-1 as Lions Concede on Late Corner Kick

The Herons end the Lions’ streak after Orlando City squandered an easy opportunity to grab a late lead.



Image courtesy of Orlando City SC

The streak is over. Orlando City’s 12-match unbeaten streak came to an end as the law of averages caught up with the Lions in multiple ways in a 2-1 loss at Inter Miami. The Lions (8-3-8, 32 points) conceded on a late corner kick — Miami’s 12th of the match — to fall behind after squandering a golden opportunity to take the lead at the other end.

Leandro Gonzalez Pirez’s header in the 89th minute was the difference after a Daryl Dike goal and an own goal off Robin Jansson had the teams knotted up after the opening half. Orlando City and Miami (6-11-3, 21 points) split this season’s four Tropic Thunder meetings, with each winning twice — Inter twice at home and the Lions once at home and in the MLS is Back Tournament bubble. It was Orlando’s first loss in 2020 when scoring first.

Orlando’s 12-game unbeaten streak now turns into a four-match winless skid (0-1-3) as the Lions failed to find a second goal in the match for the fourth consecutive game and the fifth in six outings.

“At the end, you know, it’s very dramatic for us because it happens on a moment when we had a great opportunity to unbalance the game,” Head Coach Oscar Pareja said after the match.

Pareja had Pedro Gallese back in goal to start this match, behind a back line of Kyle Smith, Jansson, Antonio Carlos, and Ruan. Sebas Mendez returned to the midfield, along with Junior Urso, Andres Perea, and Chris Mueller, with Nani and Dike leading the attack.

Orlando started the game brightly and that paid off with an early goal after a corner, a couple of half chances, and a Nani free kick just over the bar. Carlos played a fantastic long ball for Dike and the rookie just out-muscled Nicolas Figal and broke in on John McCarthy’s goal all alone, slotting home the opening goal — his fifth of the season — in the 12th minute.

Miami ramped up its pressure after falling behind but the Lions dealt reasonably well with it, continuing to get into dangerous areas, but the crosses on this day weren’t clinical enough. Nani crossed a set piece delivery right at McCarthy in the 15th minute and Ruan fizzed a cross from open play behind everyone in the 28th.

A minute later, the Lions almost conceded an own goal after a poor Mendez touch in the box fell in front of goal. Carlos went to clear it but it hit a teammate and ricocheted toward his own net, but it sailed wide for a corner.

The rain started to make things a bit precarious around the half-hour mark. There were several odd deflections and controlling the ball became difficult. Miami started trying shots from just outside the top of the area, including a shot that required a sprawling Gallese save in the 33rd minute, just seconds after the hydration break.

Six minutes later, it was Ben Sweat sneaking inside, taking a pass and firing, but El Pulpo was again up to the task.

A few minutes later, Mueller came to the rescue with an overhead goal-line clearance on a Miami set piece, as the Herons racked up corners late in the first half. Then Gallese made a comfortable save on a Lewis Morgan free kick in the 43rd minute.

The Miami breakthrough came late in the half, just after a seemingly obvious foul on Dike went unpunished. The big rookie was sent sprawling by the Miami defense, which allowed the hosts to counter. At the other end, the ball pinballed around the area with neither team able to hit or collect it cleanly and it ended up with Blaise Matuidi, who sent in a harmless-looking shot that Jansson seemed to have lined up but the ball squirted backward off his foot and past Gallese in the 43rd minute to tie the game.

“It’s tough, you know, because you know he feels down on himself, because he scored an own goal, but you know it’s not his fault,” Smith said. “It happens in soccer. It happens to everyone.”

It was an unlucky break, but with the volume of chances Miami was getting and the weather conditions, it wasn’t too surprising when it happened. After Nani left another free kick delivery too close to goal, and a late free kick for Miami, the teams went to the break all even at 1-1.

Miami led in shots (13-4), shots on goal (3-1), corners (9-1), and passing accuracy (86%-83%), with Orlando keeping more of the possession (51.4%-48.6%). The Herons got a lucky bounce, but did enough to earn being level at the break, handling the wet, windy conditions much better than the Lions.

Figal nearly put Miami ahead just after the break on a set piece, pulling Mueller down without a call and then sending his free header wide in the 47th minute.

Ruan got up the right side just a minute later but again his cross was poor and McCarthy caught it.

Miami came close again in the 53rd when Julian Carranza got onto a good cross from Morgan and slammed it off the crossbar.

Both teams started to substitute after that, with much of the play between the penalty areas. A major talking point happened around the 80th minute when a cross from second-half sub Tesho Akindele appeared to come off Matuidi’s arm. After video review, the no-call stood. Akindele said he saw the play clearly but perhaps the play occurred just outside the area, hence no penalty being given.

“It was definitely a handball,” Akindele said. “I don’t know if he was inside the box or not. I think he was outside of the box, and that’s why it didn’t come back, but to me it was definitely a handball. They didn’t call it in the moment so they can’t go back (and award a free kick).”

Orlando started getting more opportunities just before Miami’s game-winner, as time wound down. Nani had a shot blocked in the 85th minute. Benji Michel was first to the ball but his cross was blocked behind for a corner. Akindele had a shot blocked moments later for another corner. That should have led to a go-ahead goal by Orlando.

A bouncing ball in the area fell for Jansson on the set piece but he couldn’t direct it on goal. Instead, it cut back across the face of goal and deflected out to Michel. Although McCarthy was on the ground, Orlando’s Homegrown fired his shot straight into the prone goalkeeper with almost the entirety of the net open to him in the 88th minute. Try not to cringe at the miss or the pronunciation of Michel’s name in this clip.

“The ball was bouncing around their box and we were unlucky (not) to get that goal,” Smith said. “When we get those opportunities to score, it’s important for us to be clinical.”

A minute later, the Lions conceded late for the second straight match. Perea cleared a ball out over the end line to give up the corner kick. There was a miscommunication about assignments as Morgan took the set piece, with Urso passing off Gonzalez Pirez to Carlos, who already had a man. Urso ended up near the top of the area with no one to mark as Gonzalez Pirez sent his free header past Gallese for the winner.

“You know, I take the responsibility on the matchups and the way we have to defend it,” Pareja said. “I need to review it because it just happened. But obviously it creates concern from us conceding another goal at the end.”

The Lions were unable to get a clean look at goal in the five minutes of stoppage time, despite Matheus Aias making his Orlando City debut late in the match, coming on for Perea on a set piece opportunity. The final whistle went, and that was that.

The hosts finished with more shots (20-9), shots on target (4-2), corners (12-5), and passing accuracy (85%-83%), while Orlando had slightly more of the ball (51%-49%).

“There are things that happen in the season that alert you, wake you up, send you sort of messages that you have to absorb and pay attention to,” Pareja said. “But one thing that we’re not going to do is just get desperate right now.”

“I think the loss will give us a good reset and refocus us,” Akindele said. “Of course tonight this is going to definitely hurt but tomorrow morning we’re going to be up, we’re going to be at practice, and we’re going to be focused on beating Atlanta.”

Orlando City is back home on Wednesday night to take on Atlanta United for the fourth time this season. Game time is 7:30 p.m.

Orlando City

Intelligence Report: Orlando City vs. Columbus Crew

Find out what you should expect from the Columbus Crew on Saturday, courtesy of someone who knows them best.



Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

After returning from a successful trip to the West Coast, Orlando City will be staying in town for Memorial Day weekend. Next up on the schedule for the Lions is a visit from the reigning MLS Cup Champions, the Columbus Crew.

A date with Columbus means I spoke with Collin Johnson of the always excellent Massive Report, and he was kind enough to help bring us up to speed on what to expect from the Crew this year. I also answered some of Massive Report’s questions about Orlando City, which you can find over at their place.

Talk me through the Crew’s off-season transfer business. Who were some of the big departures, and who has been brought in to replace them?

Collin Johnson: It was a pretty quiet off-season from the Crew. They focused on extending current contracts (and getting rid of bad contracts) rather than bringing in a big name acquisition. The bigger news were the contracts they were able to get rid of. Kevin Molino’s $700k+ salary was bought out before the season started, while Julian Gressel ($900k+) opted to take a deal with Inter Miami after losing his place in the starting lineup during the 2023 MLS Cup playoffs.

Rudy Camacho, Steven Moreira, Darlington Nagbe, Mohamed Farsi, and Sean Zawadzki all signed new deals. Academy and Crew 2 midfielders Cole Mrowka and Taha Habroune signed full first-team deals, though both are expected to jump back and forth between the second team and the first team. Derrick Jones was signed as a free agent. Many thought the very tall defensive midfielder would slot in as a center back in the Wilfried Nancy system, but all of his time has been spent as a DM (and it has gone relatively well aside from a shocking red card against Charlotte).

The only transfer fee paid this off-season was, ironically, to Pachuca for Marino Hinestroza. Hinestroza is an MLS U22 Initiative player who plays a similar style to Alex Matan but is faster and a bit better at finishing. With Hinestroza on the field, Columbus looks to stretch defenses in a different way than the typical wingback defensive stretching.

Columbus has been excellent defensively, with the 13 goals conceded on the season tied for second-fewest in the league. What’s been working so well at the back?

CJ: The defensive recovery extends back to the 2023 season and probably has two factors. First is the team getting comfortable in the Wilfried Nancy system. The expectation is that players will hold onto the ball until the last second before playing a pass to get out of trouble. At times last year that resulted in turnovers and goals by opponents. You can really see this in the play of Yeven Cheberko. Cheberko struggled in his half season with the Black & Gold in 2023 but this season has played like a new signing, splitting time as the starting left center back. Cheberko has the ability to break multiple lines with his passing, and now that he has improved in his Nancy system confidence, he has begun to live up with the potential he had as a new signing.

The other factor is Rudy Camacho. Camacho joined in the summer transfer window from Montreal, so he was already familiar with the Nancy system. Immediately he slotted into the center spot of the back three and conducted the rest of the defense. As soon as he joined the team, the defense took a huge step forward.

The Crew have done about as good a job balancing Concacaf Champions Cup play and the MLS schedule as possible, and currently sit above the playoff line. How have they been able to find a good balance, when most teams struggle mightily in one competition or the other?

CJ: Realistically it has been a bit of a struggle. Columbus is getting results now but most of the matches during the meat of the Concacaf Champions Cup run were draws. When the Crew beat Montreal on May 16, that was their first league win since March 16. Still, grabbing some draws during that run and staying alive in the playoff hunt are absolutely accomplishments for this team. Part of the reason for this success is the team’s depth. Hinestroza adds another attacking option up top while Derrick Jones is able to spell Aidan Morris/Darlington Nagbe in the midfield. Zawadzki has been a Swiss Army knife for the Black & Gold, slotting in at nearly every position on the field aside from goalkeeper. Nancy has also been willing to use his substitutes after a 2023 season when his sub pattern was frustratingly limited.

The Black & Gold also have the good fortune to get a bye through the group stage of this summer’s Leagues Cup, so they can push a bit harder during a congested few months with the expectation of multiple weeks off in July.

Are there any players who will be unavailable due to injury, suspensions, etc.? What is your projected starting lineup and score prediction?

CJ: Cucho Hernandez is officially out for Saturday’s match. He has had a nagging back injury and it is expected that he is being held out as a precaution and to be healthy for the Concacaf Champions Cup final in June. Without Cucho these last two weeks, the Crew have grabbed back-to-back road wins for the first time in what seems like forever. Without Cucho, the attack is a bit more multi-faceted. Diego Rossi has picked up the slack and started to look like the former Golden Boot winner that he is.

Rossi will start with a target striker, assuming this is Christian Ramirez, and likely Alex Matan. Depending on the game state, Nancy will slot Jacen Russell-Rowe into Matan’s spot to attack with two target strikers up top. The midfield duo of Nagbe and Morris is a mainstay, though the team has tried to manage Morris’ minutes as the season has gone on. Expect to see Zawadzki or Jones replace Morris/Nagbe around the 75th or 80th minute. In the back we’ll see Yaw Yeboah, Malte Admundsen or Cheberko, Camacho, Steven Moreira, and Mohamed Farsi.

I’m guessing the below is what they roll out:
Patrick Schulte; Malte Amundsen, Rudy Camacho, Steven Moreira, Yaw Yeboah, Mohamed Farsi; Aidan Morris, Darlington Nagbe; Alex Matan, Christian Ramirez, Diego Rossi.

I don’t see Columbus grabbing a third straight road win but they are playing well right now so I’m guessing we see a hard-fought draw. Columbus 2-2 Orlando. 

Thank you to Collin for providing the scoop on the Crew. Vamos Orlando!

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Lion Links

Lion Links: 5/24/24

Orlando City prepares for the Crew, Barbra Banda an NWSL MVP favorite, Orlando Pride announce sleeve sponsor, and more.



Image courtesy of Orlando Pride / Mark Thor

Happy Friday! The gauntlet of Orlando soccer home games starts tonight when the Orlando Pride take on the Portland Thorns in a clash of win streaks. I’m working for most of the weekend, but am looking forward to watching some soccer and playing my way through the Ace Attorney games during my spare time. For now though, let’s dive into today’s links from around the soccer world.

Orlando City Gets Ready to Host the Crew

Orlando City is on a three-game unbeaten run and will take on the Columbus Crew Saturday night in an Eastern Conference showdown. The last time these two sides met was in the 2023 Eastern Conference semifinals with the Crew winning in extra time to eliminate the Lions. It’s the third consecutive road game for the Crew after winning 3-1 against both CF Montreal and the Chicago Fire. Saturday’s match is also the Crew’s last match before the Concacaf Champions Cup final on June 1. Orlando City Head Coach Oscar Pareja spoke on how the Lions will be up to the task regardless of which players take the field for Columbus. Pareja also spoke about how Duncan McGuire is working his way back from the injury he suffered last week.

Barbra Banda Named MVP Frontrunner

ESPN updated its rankings of players in contention to be named NWSL MVP this season and Orlando Pride forward Barbra Banda tops the list. The Zambian forward hasn’t been with the Pride for long, but she has scored six goals in six games to help the Pride win seven straight games. Opposing defenses haven’t figured out a way to stop her, and it’s fair to think of her as an MVP favorite alongside fellow attackers in the league like Sophia Smith and Temwa Chawinga. Pride defender Emily Sams also earned herself a spot on the list, ranking 11th. It’s nice to see her get some deserved recognition for her role in the Pride’s stellar defense this year.

Orlando Pride Announce Sleeve Sponsor

A partnership was announced between the Orlando Pride and Heart of Florida United Way, a charity that’s supported families in Central Florida for the past 85 years. As part of the partnership, Heart of Florida United Way will become the first sleeve sponsor for the Pride and its logo will be on the right sleeve of both of the Pride’s jerseys this year. A new ticket program is also being created for 50 tickets to be donated to a local charity for each Pride home game.

Orlando City Unveils Watch Party Schedule

The schedule for this Orlando City season’s watch parties is out, along with the lineup of this year’s included pubs. Each pub will have MLS Season Pass access for fans to watch Orlando’s games this year and there will be chances to win tickets and autographed items at the watch parties as well. There are three new pubs added to the lineup this year, including The Castle Irish Pub at College Park, Paddywagon Irish Pub in Dr. Phillips, and Winter Garden’s Hagan O’Reilly’s. The first watch party will be at The Hammered Lamb in Ivanhoe Village on June 1 when the Lions face off against the New York Red Bulls.

Free Kicks

  • Pride midfielder Evelina Duljan was called up to join Sweden’s U-23 team for the upcoming Four Nations Tournament.
  • NWSL Commissioner Jessica Berman became the first woman to be named Sports Business Journal‘s Sports Executive of the Year.

That’s all I have for you this time around. I hope you all have a fantastic Friday and rest of your weekend!

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Orlando City

Orlando City vs. Columbus Crew: Three Keys to Victory

What does Orlando City need to do to earn all three points at home against the Crew?



Image courtesy of Orlando City SC

Orlando City earned seven points during a three-match stretch over eight days. Now the Lions will look to keep things rolling against the Columbus Crew this Saturday night at Inter&Co Stadium. The Crew are currently sitting in seventh place in the Eastern Conference with 21 points compared to Orlando City in 10th with 16 points.

What do the Lions need to do to get a victory at home against the Crew?

Switch Focus

Orlando City has lucked out because Columbus striker Cucho Hernández will not play, as he is nursing a back injury. Hernández has often been a thorn in Orlando’s side when the clubs play, so his absence is definitely good news. However, that doesn’t mean that the defense can relax. The Crew still have a potent attack with players like Diego Rossi, Jacen Russell-Rowe, Aidan Morris, and others. Columbus has scored 19 goals so far this season, which is four more than Orlando’s 15. I think it is likely that Oscar Pareja will stick with the 3-5-2 formation, meaning the pressure will be on the back three of David Brekalo, Wilder Cartagena, and Rodrigo Schlegel.

Goals Needed

Orlando City left it late against San Jose before Jack Lynn scored in the 89th minute to give the Lions a victory. That’s not to say there weren’t wasted chances — because there were — but it was enough that night. It likely won’t be enough against Columbus. We don’t know the status of Duncan McGuire’s injury as of this writing, but I would be surprised to see him in the lineup, let alone getting the start. That means we will likely see Jack Lynn alongside Luis Muriel up top. Lynn is no McGuire, but he is able to get into good spaces in the box and has a nose for goal. Another goal from him or Muriel could make a big difference.

Scheduling Factors

I’m not saying that Wilfried Nancy will be looking ahead to the Concacaf Champions Cup final against Pachuca the following week, but a trophy is a trophy, and it could impact who he plays and for how long. He might be keeping Hernández out for precautionary reasons to allow him time to be ready for the final. It’s possible that he risks points against Orlando City in pursuit of hardware. Pareja doesn’t have it any easier with Orlando City playing a midweek match at the Chicago Fire next Wednesday before heading to New Jersey for a match against the New York Red Bulls on Saturday, June 1. May has been brutal for the Lions, and though the team has made the most of it so far, it doesn’t get any easier. How much will rotation affect Orlando’s ability to get all three points?

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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