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Orlando City vs. Sporting Kansas City: Five Takeaways

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The 1-1 scoreline of Orlando City’s game against Sporting Kansas City didn’t do the contest justice. It was a fairly wide open and attacking affair, and one that Orlando probably could have gotten more than just a point from had the team been sharper on the night. Road results are tough to come by though, so at the end of the day I’m pretty happy. What follows are my five thoughts from the game.

Frantically Paced Contest

Aside from a period of around 10 minutes in each half, this game was played at a very high tempo by both teams. Early on that was due to Kansas City pressing very high up the field when Orlando had the ball to try to make things difficult for the Lions. When it worked, it worked well, and Sporting forced plenty of turnovers from Orlando in its own half. However, when OCSC was able to bypass the first wave of pressure, the good guys were able to find a lot of spaces in midfield to drive into and then move the ball out wide. It seemed like there was always an attack happening for one of the two teams, but that didn’t really need to be the case.

Sloppiness Still Plagues Lions

It wasn’t the most mistake-free night from either team, but to my eye Orlando was particularly guilty of being careless with the ball. Whether it was loose touches, or dangerous or simply completely misplayed passes in their own half, the Lions made way more mistakes than we’ve become accustomed to seeing. As mentioned earlier, part of that is due to pressure from Sporting KC, but there were plenty of unforced errors too, particularly when playing out of the back. It may simply be that Orlando is still rounding into regular season form, but the amount of mistakes was frustrating, and could have cost the Lions worse than it did.

Orlando Dangerous in the Attack

On a more positive note, the Lions carried plenty of threat going forward and looked much more dangerous than they did last week against Atlanta. Orlando took 11 shots on the night and put four on target, but beyond the numbers, the team just did a better job of creating chances. If not for some very good work from John Pulskamp and a couple chances that Benji Michel couldn’t convert, OCSC might have been able to get more from this game than a point. As was to be expected with Mauricio Pereyra still suspended, the Lions did their best work then they were able to get the ball out wide to Ruan or Kyle Smith, but struggled when trying to keep the ball on the ground and play through the middle. Another avenue that provided some joy for Orlando was bypassing the Kansas City midfield altogether by using long balls over the top for attackers to run onto, and that’s where the equalizing goal eventually came from.

Overturned Goals Galore

Goals being overturned by offside calls was the order of the day without a doubt. SKC had one while Orlando had two. I don’t know if there was an over/under on chalked off goals, but if there was, the over most definitely hit. I felt particularly bad for Andres Perea, as his best taken shot in an Orlando shirt didn’t count, and only because of the briefest of touches from Antonio Carlos. Regardless, the Lions were at least creating chances and the video review that finally went Orlando’s way was the most important one, with the offside call on the equalizer being reversed after a brief look at the monitor from Joseph Dickerson. All the goal decisions were the correct ones though, and the game was a proper poster child of video review being used the right way.

Nani and Smith Save the Day

It was beginning to look like it wasn’t going to be Orlando’s night. The men in purple had the better chances on the night, and most of the dangerous looks at Pedro Gallese’s goal were to due self-inflicted mistakes. Regardless, whether it was due to offside calls or just not being able to finish off chances, as the game wore on, Orlando getting the road result it deserved looked less and less likely. In the end though, Nani’s instinctive moment of class secured a road point that the Lions more than earned. Don’t overlook Smith’s contribution to the captain’s inspired backheel flick though. The fullback made a stellar run that split the KC defense and then took a great touch to bring down the long ball from Mendez and play it into the box. Nani was the one who scored, but Smith was the one who made it.


Overall, I’ll settle for a road point, even though it was a game Orlando could have won. The team was still without Joao Moutinho — though he dressed and was in the 18 finally — Uri Rosell, Robin Jansson, Alexandre Pato, Silvester van der Water, and the aforementioned Pereyra, but looked much better going forward, and I found that very encouraging. If the sloppiness and errors can be fixed and the creativity in attack can be ratcheted up a few notches when those players return, then there’s plenty of reason for optimism.

What were your thoughts on the game? Be sure to have your say down in the comments.

Orlando City

Orlando City vs. CF Montreal: Preview, How to Watch, TV Info, Live Stream, Lineups, Match Thread, and More

The Lions kick off their 10th MLS season at home with a match against CF Montreal.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Welcome to your match thread for a Saturday opening night matchup between Orlando City and CF Montreal at Inter&Co Stadium (7:30 p.m., MLS Season Pass on Apple TV+). This is the first of the two scheduled meetings set for the 2024 regular season, with the Lions making the return trip to Stade Saputo on April 20.

Here’s what you need to know ahead of the match.

History

The Lions are 8-9-3 against Montreal in the all-time regular-season series and 9-10-3 in all competitions since the club joined MLS. Orlando is just 4-4-2 at home against Montreal and 5-4-2 in all competitions held in Central Florida.

The teams last met on Sept. 30, 2023, with the Lions winning 3-0 in dominant fashion. Jonathan Sirois’ own goal opened the scoring, and Dagur Dan Thorhallsson and Facundo Torres added strikes for Orlando City. That was a good measure of revenge for OCSC, after Montreal defeated Orlando City 2-0 and handed the Lions their first road loss of the 2023 MLS season on May 6 at Stade Saputo. A Robin Jansson own goal got Montreal started in the second half and Romell Quioto added a second goal four minutes later.

These two sides met in the 2022 MLS playoffs, with CF Montreal knocking Orlando City out of the postseason by a 2-0 scoreline on Oct. 16, with goals by Ismael Kone and Djordje Mihailovic — the latter coming deep in stoppage time from the penalty spot.

Each team won at home in the two-game, regular-season series in 2022, with Montreal thumping Orlando 4-1 on May 7. Joel Waterman, Mihailovic, Joaquin Torres, and Zachary Brault-Guillard did the damage on the scoreboard and Orlando City managed just two shot attempts, with Joao Moutinho’s goal on a set piece helping the Lions avoid a shutout. Orlando City did not have either starting center back for that match, and it showed. The teams also met on opening day of the 2022 season, when Orlando City captured a 2-0 home win behind second-half goals from Alexandre Pato and Benji Michel.

In 2021, the teams met in Montreal on Decision Day, with the Lions earning a 2-0 road victory at Stade Saputo to clinch a playoff spot. Sebas Mendez and Daryl Dike provided the goals. That season’s matchup in Orlando came on Oct. 20, 2021, with the visitors managing a 1-1 draw. Chris Mueller struck for the Lions just before halftime, but Rudy Camacho answered on a corner kick header shortly after the restart. The first meeting of 2021 took place Sept. 15 in Orlando with the Lions falling 4-2 and finishing the game with just nine men after both Nani and Andres Perea were sent off. Quioto led Montreal with a goal and two assists. Mathieu Choiniere and Quioto put Montreal up 2-0, but despite already being down one man, Jansson and Ruan tied things up. The visitors got two more from Lassi Lappalainen and Sunusi Ibrahim.

The teams met at Red Bull Arena in late 2020 as the then-Montreal Impact played home games in New Jersey due to the pandemic. Orlando City got a Dike goal in the 39th minute to win 1-0 on Nov. 1, 2020. It was the second meeting of the 2020 season, with Orlando also beating Montreal 1-0 in the MLS is Back Tournament knockout rounds on July 25 to advance to the quarterfinals. Tesho Akindele scored the game’s only goal on a Montreal defensive mistake.

Orlando City snapped a six-game winless streak against Montreal (0-5-1) in MLS regular-season play dating back to 2016 when the Lions put the Impact to the sword in a 3-0 drubbing at Stade Saputo on June 1, 2019. Nani (penalty), Akindele, and Will Johnson supplied the offense that day. The Lions fell 3-1 at Exploria Stadium back on March 16, 2019, and Ignacio Piatti was a big reason why, scoring his ninth and 10th career goals against Orlando, adding to a strike by Orji Okwonkwo. Dom Dwyer added a cosmetic goal late for Orlando City to spoil the clean sheet.

Montreal did not allow a goal against the Lions in 2018, sweeping the two-game set from Orlando, and the Impact shut out Orlando City in three of the six meetings in that 5-0-1 run. The lone draw in that time frame was a 3-3 shootout in Orlando in 2017, in which the Impact led deep in stoppage time, only to see Jonathan Spector’s well-placed header steal the Lions a point.

Orlando won the first two meetings in 2016 by a combined score of 6-2. The teams split three meetings in 2015, with each going 1-1-1.

Match Overview

The Lions went 4-0-1 in preseason and enter this match fresh off a 3-0 win over Cavalry FC in Concacaf Champions Cup play on Wednesday night in British Columbia. Torres provided a brace after Duncan McGuire’s opening goal. As the Lions played during the midweek with mostly a first-choice lineup, it’s logical to expect some rotation for this match, including a change in defense as Rodrigo Schlegel serves his suspension for the red card he picked up in the playoff match against Columbus at the end of the 2023 season.

Orlando City comes off a 2023 campaign that saw the club go 9-3-5 in league play, 0-0-1 in Concacaf Champions League, 1-0-1 in Leagues Cup, and 1-1-0 in the playoffs at home. The Lions are 3-0-6 all-time in league openers (all at home), are 2-0-2 under Head Coach Oscar Pareja in openers, have won their last two straight, and are 1-0-0 in MLS openers against Montreal.

Tonight’s visitors have yet to play a competitive match in 2024 under their new head coach, Laurent Courtois, and went 0-3-1 in the preseason, which doesn’t usually mean much. The club was dreadful on the road in 2023, finishing 2-13-2 away from home. That terrible road record largely prevented the Canadian side from making the postseason. Montreal finished just two points out of the playoff places, ending up 12-17-5 and in 10th place in the Eastern Conference.

Looking to improve from scoring just 36 goals during the 2023 season — tied for third worst in the Eastern Conference — Montreal has added former Inter Miami and Atlanta United striker Josef Martinez. He’s always a handful, and Orlando City will not only be without Schlegel, but as of Friday the club was still waiting for the international paperwork for new center back David Brekalo, who has been training with the Lions. Likewise, the paperwork had not yet arrived as of training on Friday for new striker Luis Muriel, so either McGuire will need to play on short rest or Ramiro Enrique could get the start.

The visitors tonight will feature a familiar face as former Lion Ruan is now with CF Montreal after spending last season with D.C. United. Other new faces for Montreal include Uruguayan striker Matias Coccaro, midfielder Dominic Iankov, and fullback Raheem Edwards.

“We’re feeling good. The boys have approached the match in a very professional manner this time when we have been busy, but we were missing the competition, so it’s good,” Orlando City Head Coach Oscar Pareja said. “After the result in Canada, we came up with big expectations of ourselves. The opener, being in front of our fans, and having a good start. So, we’ll get optimistic and it’s going to be a long journey, like always, but we’re ready to do it.”

The Lions have no one listed on their availability report. Schlegel will miss the match with his suspension, and it remains to be seen if Brekalo and/or Muriel will be cleared to play. Montreal will be without Róbert Thorkelsson (adductor) and Lappalainen (ankle), while Nathan Saliba (bone bruise) and Joaquín Sosa (lower leg) are day-to-day.

Match Content


Official Lineups:

Orlando City (4-2-3-1)

Goalkeeper: Pedro Gallese.

Defenders: Rafael Santos, Robin Jansson, David Brekalo, Dagur Dan Thorhallsson.

Defensive Midfielders: Cesar Araujo, Wilder Cartagena.

Attacking Midfielders: Ivan Angulo, Nico Lodeio, Facundo Torres.

Forward: Duncan McGuire.

Bench: Mason Stajduhar, Kyle Smith, Michael Halliday, Abdi Salim, Felipe, Jeorgio Kocevski, Martin Ojeda, Ramiro Enrique, Jack Lynn.

CF Montreal (3-4-3)

Goalkeeper: Jonathan Sirois.

Defenders: Gabriele Corbo, Joel Waterman, George Campbell.

Midfielders: Ariel Lassiter, Mathieu Choiniere, Samuel Piette, Ruan.

Forwards: Bryce Duke, Matias Coccaro, Dominik Iankov.

Bench: Sebastian Breza, Raheem Edwards, Fernando Alvarez, Ousman Jabang, Victor Wanyama, Rida Zouhir, Kwadwo Opoku, Sunusi Ibrahim, Josef Martinez.

Referees:

REF: Rafael Santos.
AR1: Andrew Hanks.
AR2: Albert Kyei-Mensah.
4TH: Amin Hadzic.
VAR: ?.
AVAR: ?.


How to Watch

Match Time: 7:30 p.m.

Venue: Inter&Co Stadium — Orlando.

TV/Live Stream: MLS Season Pass on Apple TV+.

Radio: Real Radio 104.1 FM (English), Acción 97.9 FM and 810 AM (Spanish).

Twitter: For rapid reaction and live updates, follow along at @TheManeLand, as well as Orlando City’s official Twitter feed (@OrlandoCitySC).


Enjoy the match. Go City!

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Opinion

Three Bold Orlando City Predictions for 2024

Here are three specific bold predictions for the MLS season ahead.

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Dan MacDonald, The Mane Land

Orlando City kicks off the 2024 MLS regular season this evening at home against Eastern Conference foe CF Montreal. After having disposed of one Canadian team already this week with the Concacaf Champions Cup victory Wednesday night in Langford, B.C., the Lions will look to continue the opening day success that they have enjoyed throughout their years at the expense of some other friends from the great white north.

You can catch up with all of our pregame coverage here at The Mane Land, but prior to the season officially starting this evening, I thought it was the perfect time to cover my three biggest and boldest predictions for the squad this year.

Oscar Pareja Wins Coach of the Year

While the 2023 MLS Sigi Schmid Coach of the Year recipient was the much deserving Pat Noonan for the work that he did somewhat unexpectedly with former wooden spoon winning, FC Cincinnati, there were grumblings that Orlando City Head Coach Oscar Pareja should have been the coach to take the award home. Doing more with less and boasting the league’s best road record, as well as one of the best overall records throughout the final months of the season, it would have been easy to make the argument that Papi deserved the award. What is even more impressive with the coaching job that Pareja did last year was that after an up-and-down beginning to the campaign, many (not yours truly included) thought that the team should move on from the head coach.

After signing a new contract with the team in the off-season, Pareja returns a strong lineup, and the players without a doubt would run through a wall for their manager. Papi brings a distinctly South American flair to the Orlando City sideline, which resonates with his players, and if the end of the season form from 2023 can be reached just a little earlier this season, then Orlando and Pareja should find themselves at or near the top of the table. Playing with a target on their backs as favorites to end this season with hardware may be a new position for the Lions, but Pareja is seasoned enough to help his players drown out the noise and hunt for results. For those reasons, I think he will be named the 2024 Coach of the Year.

Multiple Players at the MLS All-Star Game

Orlando did not have anyone selected to the 2023 MLS All-Star squad last year, nor the 2022 version a year prior. But that trend ends this year, as I predict that a minimum of two Lions will see their names selected for the annual all-star matchup. Captain Robin Jansson, long recognized as one of the top center backs in Major League Soccer, will be selected to represent the purple and gold, and Designated Player Facundo Torres will also see his name selected, based upon what is going to be a stellar start to the season.

This feels less like an incredibly bold prediction, but it makes sense both on the surface and when you break down the caliber of both players. It will probably wind up being my safest of the bold predictions. Jansson has already been called upon as the new team captain and he will be the instrumental piece in keeping the Lions’ defense organized and efficient. Add in the ability for him to find a goal or two from some set pieces this year, and he becomes an instant need on the All-Star squad. Torres, on the other hand, has put up All-Star quality numbers in each of his first two seasons with Orlando City. The main problem is that he has gone on heaters to put up those numbers after the All-Star Game has come and gone. If Torres has the start to the season that everyone is projecting that he is capable of, then there is no denying his name on the ballot.

Orlando City Finishes the Year Third Overall in MLS

Success of any kind in professional sports is incredibly hard to achieve, which is why teams like the 1990s-2000s Yankees, the Tom Brady-led Patriots, and the last two decades of the Alabama Crimson Tide have been so special to witness. In a seller’s league, where top talent often finds its way across the pond, it becomes even more difficult for MLS squads to put up multiple successful years back to back as they deal with continual roster turnover.

Orlando benefits this year from bringing back a large majority of its seasoned players and has had the chance to build chemistry and continuity on and off the field. That fact alone should do wonders for the early season results. I suspect Eastern Conference teams like Cincinnati or Columbus to push towards the top of the table, as well as a team like New York City FC, which fell off last year. And there are several top quality squads out west, which will continue to pile up results against a somewhat weaker conference. With all of that said, Orlando has already proved that it can play with the best talent in MLS, and if the Lions can start the year stronger than last and continue to hunt for results on the road like they did a year ago, then they should find themselves near the top of the table come the end of the year once again.


Those are my three bold predictions for Orlando City as we start the 2024 MLS season. Do you agree with my hot takes or do you think I am riding too high on the team to start the year? Let us know the answer in the comments below. If you see me in the stadium tonight then don’t be afraid to say hey, and as always, vamos Orlando!

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Opinion

Wide Players Made the Difference in Victory Over Cavalry FC

Orlando’s fullbacks and wingers had great games against Cavalry, and it helped propel the Lions to victory.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Orlando City began its 2024 season with a resounding and confident 3-0 win over Cavalry FC on the road up in Canada. The Lions grabbed control of the game with an early goal and never let up, and now go into next week’s home leg in excellent position to advance to the next round. Everyone who played out wide for OCSC can and should take a well-earned bow for their performances, as it was their excellent games that pushed the Lions to a big advantage after the first leg.

The first goal looked easy enough, but it was a product of good vision and better execution. After collecting the ball near midfield, Wilder Cartagena turned into space and played a quick ball out to Ivan Angulo on the left wing. Martin Ojeda began his run in a fairly central position, but recognized that there was space behind fullback Shamit Shome, and immediately went to it. He was rewarded when Angulo took one touch to collect the ball, another to settle it, and used his third to play Ojeda into the space behind Shome, with defensive midfielder Jesse Daley coming back to cover. However, the pass from Angulo was perfectly weighted and Ojeda was able to use his first touch to play a cross into the box, preventing Daley from getting in the way of his delivery. Ojeda laid the ball on a plate, and Duncan McGuire made no mistake from close range.

The second goal also came as a result of play out wide, although it was more a goal of individual brilliance than team skill. Dagur Dan Thorhallsson drove at the heart of the retreating Cavalry defense, and pulled three players to him before releasing the ball at precisely the correct time to Facundo Torres on the right wing. Once there, the man defending Torres, William Akio, made the cardinal sin of allowing Facu to cut in on his left foot, and Orlando’s new no. 10 made the opposition pay with a shot to the near post that skipped off the turf and beat Marco Carducci, who admittedly maybe should have done better with it than he did.

The dagger came as a result of more excellent play down the left-hand side. Nicolas Lodeiro, Angulo, and Ramiro Enrique used some slick one-touch passing that resulted in Enrique sending Angulo in behind on the left. Enrique’s ball to free his fellow Colombian was perfectly weighted, and Angulo was able to use his first touch to play a perfect lofted cross to the back post, where Torres dispatched it with a beautiful diving header for his second of the match.

Numbers don’t lie, and they back up the assertion that the wide players had good games. Thorhallsson promptly picked up where he left off at right back, finishing with 81% passing accuracy, one key pass, one assist, one clearance, and one interception. If he keeps this up, then Mikey Halliday is going to have a fight on his hands when it comes to the starting job. Kyle Smith quietly had a good game on the opposite side of the defense, completing one dribble, winning a tackle, and recording four clearances, although his 72% passing accuracy could have been better.

Ivan Angulo was an absolute terror, and looked even more dangerous on the slick turf than he normally does on grass fields. He gave the Cavalry defense fits, and completed four dribbles, recording two key passes, a cross, two long balls, an interception, a tackle, and an assist while completing 84% of his passes. As in seasons past, the big question for him this year surrounds his decision-making in the final third and his finishing. If both of those attributes continue to improve, then he’ll be an almighty handful for opposing defenses.

Torres was, well, Torres. He’s been the straw that stirs Orlando City’s drink for two years now, and Wednesday night was no different. Facu took three shots and scored with the two he put on target, completed 86% of his passes, logging one key pass. He also completed a dribble and chipped in with a clearance and an interception on defense. Time will tell if he’s managed to add the use of his right foot to his game yet, but he was a pleasure to watch, as usual.

I also want to take a moment to shout-out Ojeda. While he was deployed through the middle in the no. 10 role, rather than out wide, where we’re used to seeing him, he was excellent. The Argentine repeatedly drifted into the half-spaces between center back and fullback and had a field day pulling the strings, as he finished with a whopping five key passes. If he can translate that sort of performance to MLS, then a lot of pressure will be taken off the aging legs of Nico Lodeiro.


In short, the Lions made their living on Wednesday by stretching the field, getting the ball to their dangerous players out wide, and then making and executing the correct decisions once it was there. There were a lot of things to like offensively about the performance, and it provided plenty to build on when OCSC opens MLS play against CF Montreal tomorrow. Vamos Orlando!

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