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Orlando City

Orlando City vs. Toronto FC: Final Score 1-0 as Shorthanded Lions Extend Unbeaten Streak

Lions are unbeaten in six to start the season after Tesho Akindele’s goal buried Toronto FC.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC

For the second straight week, an early Orlando City goal was enough to win a 1-0 nailbiter as Tesho Akindele’s strike lifted the Lions to a 1-0 win over Toronto FC (1-3-2, 5 points) at Exploria Stadium. Pedro Gallese got his fourth shutout of the year and Orlando (3-0-3, 12 points) extended its best-ever MLS unbeaten streak to start the season to six games.

With the win — just Orlando’s third ever against Toronto — the Lions improved to 3-8-2 in the all-time series (3-4-0 at home). It was Orlando City’s first win over Toronto since July 14, 2018.

“Great three points against a very good rival,” Head Coach Oscar Pareja said after the match. “I think today we showed a lot of character. We’re learning how to suffer the moments where the other team is having the better initiative. We could have been more polished to finish but we have to realize that Toronto had some options too and that just highlights the performance of our team defense.”

Without the suspended Nani, and without starting fullbacks Ruan and Joao Moutinho in the lineup, Pareja went with a back line of Rodrigo Schlegel, Robin Jansson, Antonio Carlos, and Kyle Smith in front of goalkeeper Gallese. Junior Urso and Sebas Mendez patrolled central midfield behind an attacking group of Silvester van der Water — his first MLS start — Mauricio Pereyra, and Chris Mueller, with Akindele up top.

Pareja said that Ruan is getting close to returning but wasn’t quite ready and Moutinho had some soreness this week so they held him out as a precaution.

A cagey start to the game saw the two teams playing between the penalty areas, searching for space against the other team’s pressure. The first good look nearly fell to Toronto but the offside flag came up. Instead, van der Water nearly opened the scoring with a cheeky chip attempt from distance over Alex Bono, but the shot was wide of the target in the eighth minute. Four minutes later, the Dutchman set up a goal for someone else.

Taking the ball on the right side, van der Water sent a gorgeous cross into the box where both Urso and Akindele were making unmarked runs. The cross found Akindele, who nodded home his second goal of the season in the 12th minute. It was van der Water’s first assist with Orlando.

“I want always to give that ball with my left foot,” van der Water said of his pass to Akindele. “And this moment, I think, was a good moment in the game. It was a special moment of course and we train a lot about this. I’m really happy with the assist.”

A minute after the goal, van der Water had a go from the top of the area but his shot was blocked.

Toronto started growing in the game and finding some space, mainly down the wings. Yeferson Soteldo and Richie Laryea gave Smith and Schlegel fits. A shot from the top of the area was deflected and Gallese stuck out a foot to make a vital save in the 24th minute after the quick change of direction.

Mueller did well to get down the left side in the 30th minute and picked out a perfect pass to van der Water in the middle but the shot was sent straight at Bono.

Two minutes later, Toronto nearly scored. Soteldo got down the left side and beat the fallen Carlos, then chipped the ball to himself over Gallese before sending a shot toward goal that Jansson blocked. Schlegel cleaned up the loose change.

“In that situation I saw that the ball went behind the back line and Pedro went out, so I just tried to cover up behind him in case he was doing something like a chip or something to get through Pedro,” Jansson said. “But I feel like we’re trying to just back up each other, wherever on the field, so that’s the way we do it.”

In the 35th minute, Urso lost the ball in midfield but hustled back in time to block a shot from Jozy Altidore.

Toronto sent a shot over the bar from distance off a short corner kick late in stoppage time and the Lions held their 1-0 advantage at halftime.

Toronto had more shots (7-4), with each team getting two on target. The Reds had more corners (3-1), while the Lions held more possession (54.9%-45.1%) and were more accurate in passing (83.5%-78.8%).

Toronto came out on the front foot to start the second half, looking to equalize quickly, with Kemar Lawrence firing over the bar and Michael Bradley sending a shot wide in the opening minutes of the second period.

The Lions then settled down a bit and created some chances with Akindele getting clear for a shot but firing wide in the 49th minute, and Urso sending a shot off target in the 53rd.

The Reds then began pushing higher and creating some turnovers in the middle of the pitch with quick double-teams that Orlando was slow to play out of.

Still, Orlando didn’t allow many scoring opportunities despite Soteldo and Laryea creating problems on the flanks. Soteldo himself fired 14 crosses into the Orlando area, but only five of those found a teammate and none of them could fight through their defender to equalize.

The Lions should have put the game away in the 68th minute. A good ball over the top sprung Akindele behind the defense but Chris Mavinga hustled back and did just enough to body Tesho while he was trying to shoot and the chance fizzled.

Toronto nearly leveled the game in the 71st minute when substitute Jacob Shaffelburg got to the end line with just enough space to thread a seeing-eye shot along the line past Gallese but Schlegel was there to save it off the line.

The game opened up quite a bit as the Reds threw numbers forward and left gaps for Orlando to get into. Pereyra tried a tight-angle shot from the right in the 72nd minute but Bono was alert to it and made the save. Smith got forward and somehow found himself in the middle of the pitch for a cheeky pass from Urso in the 79th minute. Smith turned and fired but hit the shot at Bono.

Orlando City again should have put the game away in the 84th. Second-half sub Andres Perea sent fellow substitute Benji Michel in behind down the left for an opportunity and the Homegrown Player nearly found a hole. But Bono got enough of it to fight it off for a corner.

Carlos got his head on the ensuing corner but hit his shot just inches over the bar.

After those chances, Toronto did everything it could to tie the match but just couldn’t get anything past El Pulpo.

In the 90th minute, Shaffelburg had a lot of net to shoot at but missed after Gallese had stopped a shot by Ayo Akinola. As the six minutes of stoppage time wound down, Gallese made two big saves and the Lions cleared a last-gasp Toronto corner kick to claim the three points.

Toronto out-shot Orlando 18-10 (6-5 on target), and had more corners (9-4). The Lions held a slight edge in possession (50.6%-49.4%) and were more accurate passers (81.9%-78.9%).

“I think the boys have done a great job on taking care of the details, especially defending the last third when the other team is throwing a lot of numbers in,” Pareja said. “They’re being very generous with each other and helping each other and covering when it’s needed. We’re happy to see a team with that solidness. We would love to have games where we can play more comfortable.”

“I feel like we have been very mature, and we have developed,” Jansson said. “We are better closing down games in a way, but still today we got a lot of pressure. They found a lot of ways to get shots and create in the attack. So, from this game, I think we need to take with us that we need to keep the ball a little bit better, to rest with it in the second half. So, we need to be a little bit smarter there, but otherwise it’s wonderful to get the three points and the clean sheet again.”


The Lions head out on the road next Saturday for a date with the New York Red Bulls at Red Bull Arena. The team will then be off until June 19.

Orlando City

Intelligence Report: Orlando City vs. LAFC

Get some insider information on LAFC courtesy of someone who knows the team best.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

We find ourselves at the end of another week, which means that another Orlando City match is almost upon us. Following a two-week break, the Lions will return to action with a home contest against LAFC.

A date with LAFC means I got some insider info on the opposition from Trebor Tracy, the managing editor of Angels on Parade. They’re another former SBNation blog that has gone independent, and they continue to do excellent work covering LAFC, Angel City FC, and Orange County SC, so make sure you check them out!

Catch me up on some of LAFC’s off-season transfer business. Who are some names that were brought in, and who went out the door?

Trebor Tracy:  LAFC came into this season as close to a rebuild project as you can be for a team many expect to compete for championships and trophies each year. In the off-season the team saw 15 departures from the 2023 squad, and that’s not counting loans out. Among the bigger names leaving Los Angeles were both goalkeepers that helped lift LAFC to the 2022 MLS Cup, midfielder Kellyn Acosta, defenders Denil Maldonado and Diego Palacios, and of course, the departure of inaugural signing Carlos Vela. This was a team expected to look completely different this season and it has. As for the arrivals, the team spent the off-season loading up on the likes of goalkeeper Hugo Lloris, forwards Kei Kamara and Cristian Olivera, and defender Omar Campos. The rough start to the year for Los Angeles had a lot to do with the newness of the team and having to build that familiarity within the XI. 

Of the incoming transfers, who has made the biggest impression? Is there anyone who you’d like to see performing better than they have been so far?

TT: Its been hard for LAFC to replace a lot of the departures — not just in terms of production, but leadership and experience in several cases. While not technically an off-season arrival, Cristian Olivera, who arrived in summer window of 2023, really came into his own this season. With an entire off-season under his belt, he has by far been the best of the new arrivals for LAFC. He is producing goals, creating opportunities for others, and has that confidence this team thrives off of. On the other side of the coin, Hugo Lloris has been the biggest disappointment. In fairness to him, he has drastically improved during the team’s recent run, but the start of his MLS career had him easily one of the worst keepers in the league. 

LAFC is on a five-game unbeaten run in league play, what’s been working so well for the team during this stretch?

TT: Speaking of that run, the play of Lloris is why they have done so well recently. Well, that and Denis Bouanga appears to have found his soccer boots again. The 180 those two have done has been the catalyst for the team’s great run of form lately. 

Will any players be unavailable for selection due to injury, suspension, call-ups, etc.? What is your projected starting XI and score prediction?

TT: Availability reports come out night before the match, and we have the team presser this afternoon. with a few players set to return, I am unsure at the moment as to who exactly will be  ready to go.


Thank you to Trebor for helping get us caught up on LAFC. Vamos Orlando!

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Orlando City

Orlando City Needs to Start Using the Scoreboard Again

A deep statistical dive into Orlando City’s offensive struggles. We’re warning you…there will be math (but we do it for you).

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

One of the more memorable scenes in my favorite movie of all time, Bull Durham, is when the manager walks into the showers after another loss, yells at the team about their recent performance, and ends with “this (baseball) is a simple game: you throw the ball, you hit the ball, you catch the ball. You got it!?” Soccer is, of course, a little different but the concept remains the same. You pass the ball, you shoot the ball, you score the ball. Unless you are Orlando City, recently.

Anyone can look at the recent results for Orlando City and see that goals have been, shall we say, less than plentiful. But why is that happening? Well, one idea may be that another team in Orlando is using up all the goals, with the Orlando Pride having scored 19 (excluding opposition own goals) to Orlando City’s 15, with the Pride having played four fewer games to boot, but goals are not a zero-sum equation (I know you asked your math teacher for years when you would ever need to use equations in the real world; you’re welcome!), so let’s dive into what has been going on for Orlando City and take a look at what may be causing an average of 0.94 goals/game (again, excluding opposition own goals) in the 2024 MLS season after an average of 1.6 goals/game in 2023.

Wayne Gretzky famously said, “you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take,” but I do not think a lack of shots taken is the main culprit for this Orlando City team this season. Yes, in the last match against the Red Bulls the Lions only managed five shots (all stats in this article are courtesy of fbref.com,  in collaboration with Opta, which codes thousands of matches every weekend across hundreds of competitions all over the world), but for the 2024 season, Orlando City is averaging 11.8 shots/game, 1.1 shots/game fewer than the league average of 12.9 but actually 0.1 higher than Orlando City’s 11.7 shots/game from 2023. Orlando City’s 11.8 shots/game ranks 23rd in all of MLS — not great, but the team with the most shots/game, St. Louis FC at 16.8, has only earned one more point than Orlando City after playing the same number of games, and the correlation (I told you there would be math) between shots/game and goals is relatively weak (r = 0.25, a strong positive correlation would be an r between 0.7 and the maximum r value of 1.0), so a higher value of shots/game does not necessarily lead to more goals.

What does tend to lead to more goals is more shots on target. I know, I know, you never would have thought of that. And as we look into shots on target for Orlando City in 2024, lo and behold, this is where we start to really see where the problems have arisen this season. Orlando City ranks 26th in MLS this year with 29% shots on target, so when you combine a rank of 23rd in shots/game with a rank of no. 26 in shots on target, you get a team that has scored a low amount of Goals as compared to the rest of the league. Orlando City’s 29% shots on target rate in 2024 is an 18% decrease from its 2023 shots on target percentage of 36% (7% raw decrease (36%-29% = 7%) but an 18% percent decrease (29%/36% – 100% = -18%), and the Lions’ 29% shots on target percentage is 1.28 standard deviations below the MLS average.

This is probably the time for me to tell you I was that high school math teacher who students asked about using math in the real world, and I did teach AP statistics, where we frequently talked about standard deviations and 1.28 standard deviations below the average is, in this case, to use a technical term, u-g-l-y and they ain’t got no alibi.

Is it as ugly as Bubba Sparxxx rapped about back in 2000? Was that just a question to make a pop culture reference about a song I enjoyed when I was in high school? Yes and yes. The first time I ever heard former Orlando City coach Adrian Heath interviewed he said, “Goals change games,” which of course is obvious and means that those who are taking the most shots need to be game changers. Looking at the table below, we can see who has been taking the shots and the differences between 2024 and 2023:

At first glance there is some good news. Orlando City’s leading shot takers this year are generally shooting on target around the league average, but it is on the clinical side, the goals per shot on target and goals per shot attempt where we can see that Orlando City is struggling.

We do see that Duncan McGuire continues to be clinical when he gets his shots on target, but the big drop for him is that last year he put nearly three out of every four shots on target and this year he is down to something much closer to the league average of around one out of every three. Among players with at least 17 shots last year (I chose this number because it would be 0.5 shots/game across 34 games and because it is my father’s favorite number), Duncan ranked first out of 244 MLS players in shots on target percentage and in goals per shots on target, and though his numbers this year are still above average, he is down to 43rd and 13th out of the 108 players who have taken more than 17 shots, respectively (keeping the same shot volume threshold for consistency). Four other major takeaways from me on this chart:

  • Facundo Torres was second on the list for most shots taken in 2023 and was an excellent finisher (this does include penalties, but they are shots and you have to make them), but in 2024 he is tied for fifth in shots with Dagur Dan Thórhallsson at only 15 shots taken.
  • Martin Ojeda remains a high volume shooter, but he is looking much more like Jordan Poole than Steph Curry this year with a lot of shots on target but not a lot of makes. And by not a lot I mean, sadly, zero.
  • Orlando City as a whole is taking shots from slightly closer to the goal but the team’s most frequent shooters are shooting from farther away than last year, and you do not need me as a math major to tell you that goalkeepers would prefer long shots over close shots.
  • Ercan Kara was a somewhat maligned striker for Orlando City, but he was pretty lethal when he got a shot off, putting more than two out of every five shots on frame and scoring at twice the MLS average on goals/shot. His 2023 shot volume is low on this chart because he left halfway through the season, but in his two years in MLS he scored at 21% and 22% on goals/shot, which put him in the upper echelon of shooters in the league.

Going back to McGuire and where he ranked in all of MLS, here is a heat map, but with the corresponding percentile ranks of Orlando City’s players among players who took at least 17 (hi Dad) shots (red to green scale — 0% (dark red, very low performance) to 100% (dark green, very good performance).

The comparisons between 2024 and 2023 are the most stark again in the columns involving goals, as in 2023 Orlando City’s most frequent shooters were scoring in the upper echelons of all MLS players, and this year there is much more red/orange than green for those with at least 17 shots. The other biggest differences of course surround who is taking the shots. Luis Muriel has arrived and has taken the most shots in 2024, but looking at his career shooting stats there is not a lot of evidence that being a lethal finisher is something in his skillset. Barbra Banda he is not, but then again nobody is Barbra Banda (except Barbra Banda), and expecting Muriel to change his playing style to be more of a finisher rather than initiator while adapting to a new league and teammates is lot to ask for someone who joined after the season began.

The bigger need for Orlando City is to get McGuire back on the field and to get Torres going, Facundo’s shots/90 minutes is down more than 50% from last season (largely owing to playing a lot of wingback over the last several weeks), and for someone who was in the 94th percentile in goals/shot in 2023 to have decreased their shot volume by so much is the opposite of what you want. Plus, Facundo is my son’s favorite player and he misses seeing Torres’ selfie celebration.

I want to end with a positive, however, and that is wrapped around the concept of regression to the mean. In the case of Orlando City this would actually likely be a positive regression as opposed to a negative one. During the last four years, MLS has been remarkably stable in terms of goals/shot on target (35%, 32%, 33%, 33%) and goals/shot (12%, 11%, 11%, 11%). Just because the league has been stable does not mean that Orlando City automatically will improve, but with the talent of the players on the squad and their history, I think it is more likely than not that Orlando City’s low performance so far in 2024 will come back up towards league average — much like a Major League Baseball player’s batting average on balls in play often evens out over time based on their level of skill.

Orlando City has talented players, including many who led the team to the best record in the team’s history last season, and I believe it is likely that we will start seeing small increases in goals/shot on target and goals/shot as the season progresses. I certainly hope we do, because it is much more fun when Orlando City masters this simple game and scores the ball, scores the ball, and scores the ball.

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Lion Links

Lion Links: 6/14/24

Orlando City prepares to take on LAFC, Lions linked with Alan Saldivia, Orlando City B draws against Chattanooga FC, and more.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Happy Friday! I’m working for most of this weekend but am still looking forward to the absurd amount of soccer ahead of us. Both Orlando City and the Orlando Pride have games Saturday, and the 2024 Euros should give us some exciting matches from teams we don’t watch all too often. Let’s dive right into today’s links!

Orlando City Prepares for LAFC

The international break is over and Orlando City is back in action Saturday night for a home game against LAFC. It’s been a difficult season for the Lions so far, and they have been shut out in three of their past five games. Points have been hard to come by at home for Orlando and a match against one of the best teams in the Western Conference won’t make that any easier. With David Brekalo at the Euros, Rodrigo Schlegel is expected to start and it would be his 100th MLS appearance. Ramiro Enrique would also make his 50th appearance across all competitions as a Lion should he take the field.

Lions Linked Reportedly Bow Out of Bid to Sign Defender Alan Saldivia

With the MLS summer transfer window looming, a rumor surfaced of Orlando City making an offer to sign Uruguayan center back Alan Saldivia from Colo-Colo in Chile. The Lions reportedly offered $1.5 million for the 22-year-old, but that doesn’t reach the $2.2 million Colo-Colo wants at minimum. The Lions reportedly would not go higher. While center back isn’t exactly a pressing need for the Lions at this time, Saldivia would have given the team a young and talented player who could anchor the defense for years to come.

Orlando City B Drops Points in Disappointing Draw

OCB hosted Chattanooga FC and had to settle for a 2-2 draw after giving up a lead not once, but twice. The Young Lions had Chattanooga on the ropes late in the match, taking the lead just before the end of normal time, only to get punched in the mouth in stoppage time and then lose the penalty shootout. It was the second straight 2-2 draw at home for the Young Lions and they’re still on the hunt for their first win this month. OCB’s next game will be on the road against New York City FC II on Wednesday.

Getting Ready for the MLS NEXT Cup Playoffs

The MLS NEXT Cup playoffs kick off Saturday as the best teams across four age groups compete in a knockout format. Orlando City’s U-15 squad was recognized as one of the title contenders in its age group and will take on Real Salt Lake in the round of 32 on Saturday . The team also did well in MLS NEXT Flex, and Jakob Garcia, who has scored 18 goals in 21 games, is the kind of attacker who can make all the difference in knockout matches. Orlando’s U-17 team is capable of making a run as well, although it faces a tough first match on Sunday against the Philadelphia Union, which won the 2024 Generation Adidas Cup. It should be a fun tournament, and hopefully Orlando’s teams can advance far enough to be included in the games streamed on MLS Season Pass.

Free Kicks

  • Carl Robinson is back in MLS after Atlanta United hired him as an assistant coach. The 47-year-old played for Toronto FC and the New York Red Bulls to close out his playing career and also served as the head coach of the Vancouver Whitecaps.
  • Chicago Fire Designated Player Xherdan Shaqiri reportedly wants to return to Europe. The 32-year-old has been with the Fire since 2022 but hasn’t lived up to his billing and his contract is set to expire after this season.

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

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