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Orlando City

Orlando City vs. Columbus Crew: Final Score 2-1 as 10-Man Lions Win to Clinch Home Playoff Match

Nani was sent off on an absurd call but the Lions refused to quit and beat the Crew at home.



Dan MacDonald, The Mane Land

Things looked bad for Orlando City when Nani was sent off in the second half and the Columbus Crew tied the game moments later. But the Lions showed resilience and Benji Michel scored a late winner in a 2-1 victory at Exploria Stadium. Orlando (11-3-8, 41 points) clinched a home playoff game with the win and can finish no worse than fourth in the Eastern Conference. It was the Lions’ fourth consecutive win over the Crew (11-6-5, 38 points), who still haven’t won a road match in 2020.

Chris Mueller opened the scoring, but Harrison Afful equalized just after Nani was sent off when referee Ramy Touchan inexplicably ruled that he had erred in giving the captain only a yellow card for a challenge that didn’t even look like much of a foul. Nevertheless, the Lions were able to find a second goal after that and prevent the Crew from getting good looks at goal down the stretch.

It was the first time Orlando City had gone down a man and then went on to score a goal to win a game.

“Tonight it’s an honor for me to coach these guys and I give the credit to them,” Head Coach Oscar Pareja after the match. “It was their heart, and the three points against a very good rival. And we secured a spot for the playoffs and a home game, which is another objective accomplished.”

Pareja’s lineup included Pedro Gallese in goal behind a back line of Kyle Smith, Robin Jansson, Antonio Carlos, and Ruan. Andres Perea and Junior Urso played central midfield with Mauricio Pereyra dropping into available pockets. Nani and Mueller bracketed Tesho Akindele in the attack. Daryl Dike had the night off due to a non-COVID-related illness.

Orlando City had a dominant first half against the visitors but repeatedly missed the target, made the wrong final decision, or saw a shot saved by Eloy Room. The Lions kept the ball in the Crew half for much of the first 45 minutes and fashioned several good scoring chances but could only cash in on one of them.

Jonathan Mensah’s poor pass led to a golden opportunity for Orlando in the 10th minute. His pass was picked off by Mueller, who spotted Akindele breaking in down the left. But he gave Tesho too soft a pass, which allowed the defense to come in from behind and deflect it away.

Moments later, there were shouts for handball on Pedro Santos and it did appear that the ball hit the Columbus winger on the arm, but nothing was called and there appeared to be no video review at the next stoppage of play.

The Lions should have gone in front in the 14th minute when Urso was left wide open at the penalty spot. He took the pass, turned to goal and fired just wide under no pressure at all.

Orlando continued to fire shots off defenders, high, or wide of the net from good spots over the next several minutes. But the Lions finally broke through in the 26th minute. Pereyra got in the way of a Harrison Afful pass and fed to Mueller, who fired home his 10th goal to open the scoring. Pereyra took sole possession of the team’s assist lead with his seventh.

Smith nearly scored on consecutive shots in the 30th but was robbed blind by Room, who made a pair of outstanding saves to keep the game at 1-0.

Lucas Zelarayan headed a shot at Gallese in the 40th minute after the Crew’s first spell of sustained pressure. That was the last decent look for either side in the opening period and the Lions held their slim advantage at the break.

Orlando led in shots (10-5), shots on target (3-2), corners (6-0), passing accuracy (87%-80%), and possession (57%-43%). At one point before Mueller’s goal, the Lions had held more than 60% of the ball, before Columbus had a late spell of possession.

Shortly after the restart, the game changed dramatically. Nani went to ground while seemingly winning the ball, but he caught a Crew player on the follow through. Touchan gave him a yellow card and awarded a free kick to Columbus in a dangerous area. It was a bit surprising to even see him go to the monitor, but he did, and it was even more surprising when he showed Nani a straight red. Orlando went down to 10 men in the 52nd minute.

“We reviewed it. Nothing happened,” Pareja said of the play. “We all make mistakes and we assume this is a part of the game. The game gives us the possibility to be fair, and we have to be fair. It was not a red card.”

Columbus equalized four minutes after Nani left the pitch. The ball deflected off of Smith and got headed into the area. It fell for Pedro Santos, who laid off for Afful to smash into the net past Gallese, tying the game at 1-1 in the 56th minute. The momentum had changed and it seemed like the Crew might go on to take all three points.

Orlando City played with great determination after conceding and prevented the Crew from getting good looks at goal, even though they were on the ball a lot more. The Lions looked for opportunities to hit on the counter through Michel after came on in the 70th for Akindele, who had worked tirelessly all night on the press and also with his hold-up play and timely runs.

Michel won a free kick with his first touch of the match and the Lions again thought the Crew handled the ball in the box, as the ball appeared to ping off the arm of Aboubacar Keita. Touchan reviewed the play this time but ruled that there was no foul for handball in the area.

Pereyra lofted a long ball for Michel in the 84th goal to start the winning sequence. With his back to goal, Michel headed the ball up and behind himself, then turned inside of Keita and got to the ball first, chesting it down and slotting home his fifth goal of the season between Room’s legs, restoring Orlando City’s lead.

“It just means a lot, being able to reach this accomplishment in front of my friends, my family, the city I grew up in,” Michel said, when asked what it meant to him as a Homegrown Player to give his team its first ever home playoff game with the goal. “It’s just a feeling that you just cannot describe it’s just so many emotions going into it.”

Pereyra notched his eighth assist of the season on the play. He said after the game that he knew he was going to be subbed off soon, and he was tired, but he wanted to try one more time to spring Michel.

“I say, ‘okay this maybe will be my last ball,’ so that’s why I tried to shoot over the defender,” Pereyra said. “And then Benji made the rest, of course. He controlled, he’s fast, he made the difference, and then he scored. It’s great for him and for us.”

City did well from that point on to keep the Crew on the fringes of the area, and Columbus settled for lumping balls into the box, where the Lions had five defenders waiting every time. After an interminable eight minutes of stoppage time, Touchan blew the final whistle and Orlando had its third win in a row.

For the game, the Lions out-shot the Crew (13-11), with both teams getting four on target. With the extra man for most of the second half, Columbus was able to take the possession advantage (50.7%-49.3%), but Orlando was the more accurate passing team (85%-83%).

“I think they have done a great job on overcoming many obstacles,” Pareja said of his team’s play in 2020. “Since we got here, what I have seen is just this side of the players. They know the challenges will come and they know that we were not at the beginning of the season the team where everybody was expecting big things. And I think they they understood that and they embraced that barrier and, and they overcome [it] together, as a group.”

Orlando City’s four straight wins against the Crew marks the first time in club history that the Lions have beaten an opponent four times in a row.

“Today was a heavy day for us. It was difficult, and I think we showed again that we can keep thinking about big things for Orlando City,” Pareja said.

Orlando City will close the regular season Sunday afternoon at 3:30 p.m. when the Lions host Nashville SC. Nani will miss that match unless the red card is rescinded, and Pereyra will miss the match due to yellow card accumulation.

Orlando City

Orlando City vs. Inter Miami: Photo Gallery

An album of images from Orlando City’s hard-fought draw at home against the Herons.



Dan MacDonald, The Mane Land

The Lions brought much more roar on Sunday night to face their southern rivals but had trouble finding the net, allowing the Herons to nick a point even while short staffed. None of Miami’s high-priced talent traveled for the match after facing Toronto midweek, and physicality ensued, firing up the sold-out crowd at Exploria Stadium.

Talking with some of the other photographers on the sideline who had flown in for this match, they rated the Orlando atmosphere top-notch; in their experience, other cities don’t compare to the in-stadium fan enthusiasm.

The Lions were in “the net is lava” mode, with Duncan McGuire and Iván Angulo each missing prime one-on-one chances with Miami goalkeeper Drake Callender in each half, McGuire leaving it straight at Callendar, and Angulo badly missing the net after a missed first touch. So of course Miami struck first, with David Ruíz scoring early in the second half.

This fired the Lions up even more and Martín Ojeda pinballed McGuire in behind the Miami back line, allowing Duncan to do what Duncan does to draw the score level. The Lions generally looked the more dangerous team for most (but not all) of the night. However, it is scorin ggoals that actually counts, leaving both teams unchanged in their respective Eastern Conference standings. Orlando remains second at 14-7-9, while Miami stays in 14th at 9-15-5.

The Lions continue to control their own destiny in terms of getting a top-four finish as they look to lock up home field advantage for a best-of-three matchup in the MLS Cup playoffs.

With home dates left against Montreal and a sputtering-but-dangerous New England remaining, there’s still plenty of time to be part of that world-class gameday atmosphere by going out to support the team as they push for a strong finish.

We hope that you enjoy these images from a hard-fought, come-from-behind draw against Inter Miami at Exploria Stadium.

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Orlando City

Orlando City vs. Inter Miami: Five Takeaways

Here’s what we learned from Orlando City’s 1-1 draw at home against Inter Miami.



Dan MacDonald, The Mane Land

Orlando City returned to Exploria Stadium after a midweek loss to New York City FC and had to settle for a 1-1 draw with Inter Miami. The Lions did well to equalize after conceding first, but will likely feel that they left opportunity knocking as the Eastern Conference remains tight near the top. Here are my five takeaways from the third Tropic Thunder clash this year.

Lack of Execution Plagues the Lions

Orlando’s offense struggled to put the ball in the back of the net in this match. That’s not to say they didn’t create quality chances, as the Lions served up good crosses and dangerous long balls throughout the match. Only three of Orlando’s 16 crosses found their mark in the end. The execution just wasn’t there when it came to finishing attacks, whether it be poor decision-making when the time came to play the final ball or just missing the target completely. Of Orlando’s 13 shots, six were on target and only a couple of those gave Miami goalkeeper Drake Callender much difficulty. Ivan Angulo missing the goal entirely after Dagur Dan Thorhallsson picked out a perfect pass for him stands out. Expecting every promising attack to end with a goal is unfair, but weak finishing cost the Lions from claiming a big win at home.

Corner Kicks Gave the Lions Headaches

While the Lions didn’t have any corner kicks in the match, Inter Miami had seven and created some of its best chances with them. In the 61st minute, a corner kick taken by Robert Taylor found Leonardo Campana all alone in the center of the box. The Ecuadorian forward’s header mercifully went wide, but it was indicative of how Orlando had its hands full on set pieces. Pedro Gallese had to come up with a remarkable save in the first half as well after Campana barreled through Cartagena to head the ball at goal. Even though the Lions didn’t concede from a set piece, I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s something focused on this week just to ensure the team is organized enough to overcome uncalled fouls without needing its star goalkeeper or some luck.

Plenty of Physicality in Rivalry Match

It was easy to tell these two teams didn’t care much for each other, as they both fought hard on and off the ball. There were 27 fouls and seven yellow cards handed out by referee Armando Villarreal. Miami committed 16 of those fouls and received five of the yellow cards as they did whatever it took to slow down Orlando’s progress. Facundo Torres suffered the brunt of it and was fouled four times so that he couldn’t work his magic against Miami’s defense. It was the kind of physical match that can be expected of two rivals and made for an intense match that will likely have players from both sides seeking an ice bath. The Lions did well to stay composed for a majority of a very chippy match.

Duncan McGuire Shakes Off the Rust

Forward Duncan McGuire got back to his scoring ways with a crucial equalizer for his ninth goal of the MLS season. It was an important goal for reasons beyond the scoreline as well, as McGuire had squandered a golden opportunity to score earlier in the match by not being able to get his shot past Callender. He was also kicking himself for not getting on the end of a few other chances as well. His 84 minutes on the field were the most from him in one game this season, and the Lions will need him more often now that Ercan Kara is in Turkey. It was the rookie’s first goal since July and, although not perfect, the kind of performance to build upon moving forward.

Orlando Showcased Its Depth and Versatility

Head Coach Oscar Pareja switched things up at halftime, replacing Cesar Araujo with Martin Ojeda and having Mauricio Pereyra sit a bit deeper in the midfield to potentially create chances on the break a bit quicker using his service. Although Ojeda didn’t get a goal or an assist, his presence was notable on both sides of the ball and he played a key role in Orlando’s goal. Having a player of his caliber able to come off the bench has been a boon for Orlando this season, letting Pareja really kickstart the changes he wants to make to the team. Similar things could be said about Orlando’s other substitutes: Junior Urso, Ramiro Enrique, Gaston Gonzalez, and Michael Halliday. Their energy and skill kept Orlando pushing for more and gave the sense that a winner would have come had the game lasted a bit longer.

That’s what I took away from Orlando’s 1-1 draw with Inter Miami. Let me know what you gathered from the match in the comments below

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Lion Links

Lion Links: 9/25/23

Orlando City draws with Inter Miami, Viviana Villacorta out for the season, OCB wins last game of the regular season, and more.



Dan MacDonald, The Mane Land

Last night’s Orlando City match wasn’t the best, but it wasn’t the worst either. It’s a pretty fitting feeling on a Monday, as we all get back into the swing of the work week after a nice weekend of soccer. There are plenty of ups and downs from a rollercoaster Sunday, so let’s dive right into today’s links!

Orlando City Draws With Inter Miami

In the latest edition of the Tropic Thunder rivalry, Orlando City and Inter Miami split the points at Exploria Stadium in a 1-1 result. Miami struck first, but the Lions did well to find an equalizer, even though they couldn’t find a winner in the end. It wasn’t Orlando’s best game by any means, but it was a decent response to a 2-0 loss on the road to New York City FC. Orlando now has 51 points, tying its club record for the most points in a season, set in 2021. The Lions will have a chance to break that record on Saturday when they host CF Montreal.

Viviana Villacorta Out for the Season

Orlando Pride midfielder Viviana Villacorta will miss the remainder of the NWSL season after suffering an ACL tear in her left knee during training. The 24-year-old was selected with the ninth overall pick in the 2021 NWSL Draft, but was not able to make her debut until 2022 due to sustained an ACL tear in her right knee that kept her out for all of the 2021 season. This year, she has 21 appearances across all competitions for the Pride and notched the first assist of her career in a big road win against the San Diego Wave on April 29. This is a tough blow to the Pride’s midfield with just three games remaining as she has ended her season early due to injury for the third straight year. The Pride are only a point out of a playoff spot and are back in action on Oct. 2 against Angel City FC.

Orlando City B Wins On Decision Day

On the final day of the MLS NEXT Pro regular season, Orlando City B won 2-1 at home over FC Cincinnati 2. The Young Lions had already clinched a spot in the postseason heading into this match, but the win secured their spot as the fifth seed. Jack Lynn briefly held the Golden Boot lead after scoring, but ended up tied at 19 goals with New York City FC II’s Matt Myers and Colorado Rapids 2’s Remi Cabral. The trio ended in a three-way tie for the league’s Golden Boot honors. OCB will hit the road for its first MLS NEXT Pro playoff game, although the opponent is not yet known thanks to the new rule where higher seeds choose which team they want to face.

USWNT Wins in Megan Rapinoe’s Final Match

The United States Women’s National Team beat South Africa in a 2-0 win at Soldier Field. Trinity Rodman and Emily Sonnett scored and the defense did well to secure its second shutout against South Africa after a 3-0 win this past Thursday. This game also marked forward Megan Rapinoe’s final game with the USWNT, with the 38-year-old subbed off for the last time in the 54th minute. These were solid wins from the USWNT following the World Cup and it will aim to keep the momentum rolling next month in a pair of friendlies against Colombia.

Free Kicks

  • Three Orlando City academy sides came up with shutout victories this weekend.
  • Before the USWNT’s friendly with South Africa, U.S. Soccer Sporting Director Matt Crocker stated that plans remain in place for a new head coach to be at the helm in time for the training camp in December
  • American midfielder Yunus Musah did well in his AC Milan debut, playing all 90 minutes in a 1-0 win over Verona.
  • A match in the Netherlands between Ajax and Feyenoord had to be abandoned due to fans throwing fireworks onto the field while Feyenoord led 3-0. According to police, tear gas had to be used to stop unrest outside the stadium after the match, and Ajax later fired Sven Mislintat, its director of soccer.
  • Newcastle became the first English Premier League team to have eight different players score in a match after crushing Sheffield United, 8-0.
  • Atletico Madrid ended Real Madrid’s perfect start to the season by beating its rival 3-1, with Alvaro Morata bagging a brace.

That’s all I have for you today, Mane Landers. I hope you all have an easy Monday and rest of your week!

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