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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.



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

Orlando City vs. Inter Miami: Player Grades and Man of the Match

How did your favorite Lions perform in Orlando City’s 1-1 home draw against the Herons?



Dan MacDonald, The Mane Land

Draws are never satisfying but there’s at least a much better feeling when your team scores the final goal that earns the point rather than conceding so the other team takes two away. Thus was Orlando City’s 1-1 draw at home against Inter Miami on Sunday. It feels better to score the last goal, despite the fact that the same number of goals are scored either way. It’s a grand illusion.

Duncan McGuire’s blast through the legs of Drake Callender at least kept the Pepto-Bismol-colored team from winning at the purple palace and added another point to Orlando’s fine 2023 total.

Here’s how I saw the individual performances from a feisty affair at Exploria Stadium.


GK, Pedro Gallese, 7.5 — It was another standout game from the Peruvian shot stopper, who made four saves on the night, including a big one to stop a Leonardo Campana attempt from just a couple yards out. Gallese couldn’t do much about the lone goal conceded, as it came off a rebound of a wicked Josef Martinez shot, offering Gallese little opportunity to control the rebound due to the angle and pace. El Pulpo also recorded a clearance and passed at an 81.8% rate, connecting on five of his nine long balls.

D, Rafael Santos, 6.5 — After a couple of somewhat underwhelming performances, the Brazilian had a solid night. He didn’t have a shot attempt, but he managed two key passes despite completing only 71.4% of his passes. He connected on three of his eight long balls and one of his four crosses, but that latter number says more about his teammates not getting onto some good-looking balls into the area. Defensively, he provided two clearances and an interception, committing just one foul and completing a dribble. He even led the team in touches (60).

D, Robin Jansson, 7.5 (MotM) — In the first half, Jansson was the best player on the pitch and, in my opinion, it wasn’t close. The Beefy Swede vaccuumed up almost everything sent forward by Miami that was intended for Campana and Martinez on his side of the field. He finished the night with two tackles and two interceptions but it seemed like more than that. His passing was magnificent, as he completed 89.4% of his 47 passes, including six of seven long balls and his only through ball attempt. He had a key pass as well. He didn’t attempt a shot but he completed one dribble and drew a foul as he stymied the Miami attack. He did his best to cover Martinez’s quick, incisive run to the opposite side but couldn’t block the shot with his sliding effort. His biggest blemish was getting yet another yellow card for dissent — something he’s mostly been able to avoid this season.

D, Rodrigo Schlegel, 5.5 —While I thought Schlegel had a much better night Sunday than he had in the previous two games, it was far from where he was just a week or two earlier. The quick transition gave him a tough choice of backing off Campana and allowing a dangerous shot or doing what he did — stepping out and allowing a through ball. His closeout wasn’t tight enough. His marking on set pieces also left a lot to be desired at times. His passing was mostly accurate (91.5%), and he connected on two of three long balls, but there were a few dicey ones in his own end. He recorded two aerials won, one tackle, two interceptions, and a clearance. He committed three fouls and picked up a yellow card, conceding a dangerous free kick. His lone shot attempt was an off-target header.

D, Dagur Dan Thorhallsson, 6.5 — After a couple of tough games, the Icelandic midfielder-turned-fullback acquitted himself pretty well, considering Inter Miami attacked his side quite a bit. He passed well, connecting 82.5% of the time with one key pass and hitting the target once on two crosses, four times on six long balls, and sent a marvelous through ball that should have resulted in an Ivan Angulo goal, but the winger flubbed his lines. His lone shot attempt was a difficult one and did not threaten goal. He did not record a single defensive stat, although much of the time his opponent curled in toward the top of the area and was passed off to another defender.

MF, Cesar Araujo, 5.5 — The young Uruguayan had a quiet night, without recording any defensive statistics in his 45 minutes before being subbed out at the break for Martin Ojeda. He managed only 23 touches and his passing rate of 73.3% was much lower than his usual standard and he completed one of his two long balls. He also drew two fouls and completed a dribble. He simply wasn’t able to impact the game to the extent we’re used to seeing.

MF, Wilder Cartagena, 7 — It was a good night for the Peruvian midfielder, who was constantly getting under the opponents’ skin. He drew yellow card fouls on Dixon Arroyo and Benjamin Cremaschi — the latter after a slick nutmeg move — and had a steal that was set to ignite the break called back for a foul that I don’t agree was committed. Defensively, he recorded a tackle, a clearance, and an interception. He passed at a 91.1% success rate, created one scoring chance, and completed both of his long-ball attempts.

MF, Ivan Angulo, 5 — Whether it’s a lack of confidence and/or composure or being intimidated by a good goalkeeper, the Ivan Angulo who shoots in warmups is not the same guy in front of goal once the game is underway. He completely flubbed his lines when Thorhallsson sent him in behind for a 1-v-1 chance against Callender. The number of times he gets into dangerous spots and either a bad pass, shot, or decision keeps Orlando City from generating a scoring chance from it is maddening. Angulo failed to get any of his three shot attempts on target. His passing rate was just 60%, he did not have a single key pass, and neither of his two crosses were on target, although his single long ball was. He also didn’t record a single defensive statistic. There are many things Angulo does well, and his speed is tantalizing, but the final product is often lacking.

MF, Mauricio Pereyra, 6 — The captain had a mostly quiet match except when he was scissored down from behind by David Ruiz, somehow only producing a yellow card for the Miami midfielder. Pereyra produced only one key pass and no shot attempts, starting at central attacking midfielder before dropping into central midfield in the second half to pull the strings from a deeper position. He passed at an 80.5% success rate, completing one of three crosses and two of five long balls. He did not record any defensive stats and committed two fouls while drawing three.

MF, Facundo Torres, 6.5 — Torres led the Lions in shots (4), putting two on target, contributing one key pass and winning an aerial. He passed pretty well overall (81.5%), though he did not complete either of his two crosses or his lone long ball. He contributed an interception and a clearance defensively. Miami concentrated on double-teaming the Designated Player whenever possible. Torres still created some opportunities for himself and others, but it was a fairly quiet night overall.

F, Duncan McGuire, 7.5 — The rookie is still getting back to form after returning from injury, so he managed only 18 touches on the night but he did well with the touches he had. Both of McGuire’s shots were on target and both were rockets. Unfortunately, both were right at goalkeeper Callender. Fortunately, the second of those went through the keeper’s legs for the equalizing goal — his ninth of the MLS season. He also created a chance with a key pass, completed 83.3% of his pass attempts, and connected on his only long ball. He even contributed a defensive clearance. It was a good night for the rookie striker, although he wasn’t able to get that many touches.


MF, Martin Ojeda (46′), 6.5 — The Argentine Designated Player came on at halftime for Araujo to give the Lions more attacking presence and an extra playmaker on the field. He continues to grow in recent games, as he put his only shot attempt on target, created a chance with a key pass, and completed two dribbles, although he did have four unstable touches and was dispossessed once. He completed 89.5% of his 19 passes and all three long balls, but missed on his only cross attempt. He helped with the ball back with two tackles, and added a clearance.

MF/F, Ramiro Enrique (74′), 5 — Enrique came on for Angulo, which I thought at the time was the exact sub that was needed, but the Argentine didn’t offer much for the second straight game after winning Player of the Matchday. He did not attempt a shot or create a key pass and managed only seven touches on the night, passing at an 83.3% clip. He chipped in a clearance.

D, Michael Halliday (77′), 5 — The Homegrown defender spelled Thorhallsson but didn’t offer much, despite completing all four of his passes on 13 total touches. He had two unstable touches and was dispossessed once, which is not what you want to see from your fullback in the final 15 minutes of the match. Defensively, he blocked a shot, but he also conceded an unnecessary late corner when he pulled up, thinking he’d won a foul that didn’t end up getting called.

MF, Gaston Gonzalez (84′), N/A — As the MLS U22 Initiative attacker works his way back to fitness, he got a late runout, replacing McGuire, which pushed Enrique to the top of the formation. He conceded a free kick, but I honestly thought his challenge was clean and should have led to an Orlando counterattack. He put his only shot on frame, but it was a weak dribbler right at Callender. He did not complete his only pass attempt of the match.

MF, Junior Urso (84′), N/A — The Bear entered for Pereyra and was active, gettin 12 touches in late. His 90% passing rate on 10 attempts was solid, missing only on his only attempted long ball. He didn’t record any defensive stats, but he also didn’t make any mistakes in his brief spell.

That’s how I saw the individual performances by Orlando City on Sunday night at the stadium. Let me know where I got things right or wrong in the comments below and be sure to vote for your Man of the Match in our poll below.

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Lion Links

Lion Links: 9/26/23

Pedro Gallese honored, Orlando Pride and Lions celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, Campeones Cup preview, and more.



Dan MacDonald, The Mane Land

Happy Tuesday, everyone. I won’t lie to you, I’m dragging a bit to start this week. I’m still recovering from being sick and frankly had to fight the urge to take Monday off. I’m soldiering on though, and there’s plenty of soccer happening this week to help keep me entertained and in good spirits. Let’s have a look at today’s links.

Pedro Gallese Recognized

Pedro Gallese turned in another superb performance during Orlando City’s 1-1 draw with Inter Miami on Sunday, and he’s been rewarded with a place in the most recent edition of the MLS Team of the Matchday. El Pulpo made four saves on the night, including a fantastic stop on a header from close range, and helped the Lions stay in the game until they could find the equalizer. Congratulations to Pedro, and here’s hoping he keeps up the good work!

Orlando Pride and Orlando City Celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month

In celebration of National Hispanic Heritage Month, Orlando Pride defender Celia fielded questions for fans to learn more about both her and Spain. Celia is from Alicante, a port city in southern Spain, and shared her favorite food, music, and activity while in her home country. She also spoke on a common misconception about spices used in Spain being spicy.

Orlando City’s Facundo Torres also shared the meaning behind some of his tattoos, which include the Uruguayan flag and La Paz, the city he grew up in. Orlando City’s match with CF Montreal on Saturday will also be Hispanic Heritage Night at Exploria Stadium.

Campeones Cup Preview

You can be forgiven if you forgot that the Campeones Cup is still a thing, because I know I did. Here’s a little refresher on the annual match. It’s being played tomorrow night at BMO Stadium between LAFC and Tigres, which are the reigning MLS and Liga MX champions, respectively. The MLS representative has won three out of the four contests, with Tigres beating Toronto FC 3-1 in the first iteration of the competition in 2018. This match will also be a rematch of the 2020 Concacaf Champions League final, which saw Tigres emerge victorious 2-1 at Exploria Stadium.

Americans in Midweek Action

A number of Americans will be taking part in games for their clubs this week. Tim Weah and Weston McKennie’s Juventus will take on Lecce today in Serie A, while Chris Richards and Crystal Palace face Manchester United in the Carabao Cup. Christian Pulisic and Yunus Musah have a league match when AC Milan plays Cagliari tomorrow. PSV Eindhoven has a game against Go Ahead Eagles tomorrow as well, which means Ricardo Pepi, Sergino Dest and Malik Tillman could all be involved. Friday closes out the week with Hoffenheim taking on Borussia Dortmund, which could see John Brooks matched up against Gio Reyna depending on Reyna’s fitness.

Spanish Players Will Testify Against Rubiales

Alexia Putellas, Irene Paredes and Misa Rodriguez have all been called to testify as witnesses in the case against Luis Rubiales. Jenni Hermoso’s brother and a friend of the player both testified on Monday afternoon, as Rubiales is facing charges of sexual assault and coercion. Rubiales has already testified and maintains he did nothing wrong amid uproar that has led to a number of Spanish players refusing to return to the team until changes are made, and a general overshadowing of Spain’s victory at the Women’s World Cup. Putellas, Paredes and Rodriguez will testify next Monday.

Free Kicks

That’s all I have for today. Y’all stay safe out there!

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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 scoring goals 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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