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Orlando City

Orlando City vs. Atlanta United: Final Score 0-0 as Lions Open Season with Another Draw

Lions generated some good chances on opening day, but just couldn’t get the last touch quite right.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC

Orlando City generated better opportunities in a defensive struggle on opening day against Atlanta United, but ultimately had to settle for a 0-0 draw at Exploria Stadium. The Lions drew on opening day for the sixth time in seven years, with the only non-draw coming 2017 when they beat New York City FC in the first game ever at Exploria.

With the draw, Orlando is unbeaten in its last five games against Atlanta United, and is now 2-6-5 (W-L-D) in the all-time series in league play and 2-7-5 in all competitions. Orlando City starts the season 0-0-1 yet again.

“Good match. It was back and forth,” Head Coach Oscar Pareja said after the match. “In the second half, I think we had more balance. In the middle we started just creating more numerical superiority and I did like the team. But the game was intense. We found a good team in front of us and we’re going to take the point and start our season this way.”

Pareja did not have Uri Rosell or Robin Jansson (both have the dreaded lower body injury), so Pedro Gallese looked out at a back line of Kyle Smith, Rodrigo Schlegel, Antonio Carlos, and Ruan. Sebas Mendez and Junior Urso played central midfield, with Nani, Chris Mueller, Tesho Akindele, and Alexandre Pato as attacking options.

Graphic by MLSSoccer.com

The first half looked like a typical opening game. There were good passages of play but things broke down when players tried to read the game and thread passes in tighter spaces in the final third. There were fouls on both ends that Jair Marrufo let go, which perhaps prevented some chances as well, as the veteran referee was not in the mood to blow the whistle early in this one.

Orlando got an opportunity 15 minutes in when Urso was sent into the box but he took an extra touch and that allowed the defense to knock the ball away for a corner. Four minutes later, Ruan cut inside and had a shot blocked which would have fallen to Mueller had he not been knocked down. Marrufo wasn’t interested in making a call. Urso fired well over the bar in the 25th minute as the Lions continued to lack sharpness in the final third, and link-up play with Pato too often seemed to be two players looking for something different.

Pato nearly got behind the defense in the 28th minute, but he had his run cut off just outside the box. Again, Marrufo wasn’t interested. Nani got the first shot on goal in the game when the Atlanta defense gave him too much space and his shot was headed inside the right post but Brad Guzan made the save.

Smith conceded a couple of free kicks after a bright start, allowing Atlanta a few set piece opportunities but nothing came of them. An Atlanta shot was deflected wide from the top of the box to set up a corner and the entry ball was headed wide by Marcelino Moreno.

Urso and Mueller each failed to get a header on target from set pieces as the first half wound down and the last good opportunity saw Jake Mulraney cut inside and fire a shot that Gallese saved comfortably on Atlanta’s first shot on target.

Atlanta had more shots (6-5), with each team getting one on target, won more corners (4-2), held more possession (59.1%-40.9%), and passed more accurately (88.5%-84.7%).

“The nerves were kind of there in the first half,” Mueller said. “It was, you know, pretty frantic. It was all over the place.”

Andres Perea came on for Akindele after the halftime break and Orlando looked more fluid in the attack. Atlanta continued to have more of the ball, which was fine with the Lions, who did a good job of keeping everything wide and preventing the visitors from generating much of a threat.

Perea’s first touch nearly opened the scoring. Mueller centered a pass to him and Perea fired but his shot was straight at Guzan, who made the save. Moments later, Ruan zigzagged down the right side and won a corner. Carlos got his head to the cross but hit it straight down and it bounced wide of goal. Perea then tried to pick out Pato in the box in the 51st minute but the Atlanta defense was able to knock it away before it could find the Brazilian.

“In the second half we (were) much more balanced in the middle,” Pareja said. “We need a player who can mix the energy there, who can bring us some legs too. Andres knows how to do it. He has a lot of glue, he has a lot of range, and we needed to stop his number five (Santiago Sosa), who is a key player for them and Andres did that job. So we cut that connection and we started increasing ours, and stretching Pato as the number nine as well. It just gave us some space and more creativity in that part of the field, and that’s that’s why we created the best options in the game.”

Atlanta’s first look came in the 57th minute when George Bello jumped into the play and got into the box. Schlegel came over to pressure him and the fullback’s shot went wide.

Mendez nearly got in alone in the box three minutes later but Guzan came off his line to smother the ball first. Two minutes later, Orlando nearly scored. The ball was pinging around with Pato and Mendez in front of goal, and it was the midfielder who ended up trying a spinning shot but he hit it wide. Had Pato been able to get there instead it was likely a goal.

Both teams started substituting between the 60th and 75th minutes, trying to find an edge to take control of the game. Benji Michel came on for Nani on the Orlando side.

The Lions came closest to scoring in the 72nd minute, when a cross from Mueller on the left found Pato in the middle. The Brazilian shot with his first touch and his attempt came off a defender and then hit the outstretched arm of Guzan, who scrambled on top of the rebound as it was rolling toward the goal line.

Pato went down with an injury in the 78th minute on a play without contact. He jumped to avoid what could have been an absolutely devastating tackle at the top of the box and went down after he landed, holding the back of his knee. He was able to walk off under his own power but was forced out of the game, making way for Silvester van der Water’s MLS debut.

“Good game for Alex,” Pareja said of Pato’s debut. “That commitment that he has with his team. He tried to create from that zone where we put him in the first half. I think we could find those spaces and then he is very crafty with the ball and created some chances for us. Second half as well, when we stretched him as a number nine. We had the best of him, put him in front of the goal twice. The doctors will evaluate what happened. We don’t have the diagnosis yet.”

Josef Martinez came on for Atlanta but didn’t do much. He did get onto a set piece but headed it well wide of goal on the last decent look for either side. In the end, the two southeast rivals had to settle for a point apiece.

Each team fired 11 shots and got three on target. Atlanta held more possession (59.7%-40.3%), had more corners (4-3), and was more accurate in passing (88%-82.2%).

“I think it was good to get back out there and try and catch some of our rhythm,” Mueller said. “I think it was obviously difficult conditions, just with the heat and everything. I think that we lacked a little bit of quality moving forward and in our positioning. I think that it would be really helpful for us to look at the film and see the areas where we can improve for next week, but overall it felt nice to get back out there and get some minutes under our legs and we’re definitely looking to build on that moving forward.”


The Lions will head out on the road for their second game, traveling to face Sporting Kansas City next Friday at 8 p.m. ET.

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

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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