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Orlando City

Orlando City vs. San Jose Earthquakes: Final Score 5-0 as Lions Run Rampant Over Quakes

Daryl Dike and Benji Michel bagged braces to lead Orlando to its largest shutout victory in the MLS era.



Image courtesy of Orlando City SC

Daryl Dike and Benji Michel both bagged braces and Brandon Austin got his first MLS shutout as Orlando City destroyed the San Jose Earthquakes 5-0 on a rainy night at Exploria Stadium in front of 15,476 fans. Nani also scored for the Lions (5-1-3, 18 points), who conceded possession and picked apart the Quakes (3-6-1, 10 points) in transition throughout the match.

Orlando won its second straight, scoring multiple goals in consecutive matches for the first time in 2021. With the win, the Lions improved to 2-1-3 in the all-time series and 2-0-1 at home against San Jose.

“We’re feeling very proud of many things that we saw tonight,” Orlando City Head Coach Oscar Pareja said after the match. “We were very sharp in the box today. Having that efficiency in our forwards just makes us feel very optimistic. For me, the highlight is just to be able to recover our solidness defensively. Sometimes you get relaxed when the game gets to 2-0 early, as happened against Toronto. And they kept that solidness. Just keeping our goal clean is is very important for us, if we want to win things this year.”

Pareja deployed the same back five as Saturday night, with Brandon Austin in goal behind a back line of Joao Moutinho, Robin Jansson, Antonio Carlos, and Kyle Smith. Junior Urso and Andres Perea slotted into the central midfield behind attackers Chris Mueller and Michel (replacing Mauricio Pereyra and Silvester van der Water), with Nani and Dike (in place of Tesho Akindele) up top.

After a half hour delay due to inclement weather, the teams took to the rain-soaked pitch. The Lions wasted no time in jumping on the visitors. Urso fired a shot in the first minute that was partially deflected, allowing JT Marcinkowski to collect it.

Six minutes later, the Lions took the lead from the penalty spot. Michel took the ball into the area down the left and Florian Jungwirth made contact, sending Michel sprawling. Chris Penso wasted no time pointing to the spot. Nani did his usual stutter-step approach and sent an unstoppable shot past Marcinkowski, who guessed right but still couldn’t make the save. Nani’s fifth goal of the season put Orlando City up 1-0 in the seventh minute.

The Lions kept coming. Just a minute after Nani’s goal, Michel fired wide after getting down the left. He had an opportunity to play Dike in but took an extra touch and the San Jose defense cut off his passing lane, forcing him to shoot. Perea got into the box alone in the 11th minute but fired his shot dead straight at Marcinkowski. Seconds later, Urso fired just a foot or so wide.

Michel doubled the lead in the 16th minute. Mueller played a through ball in behind the defense and Paul Marie tried to shield the ball for Marcinkowski to come collect. But Michel pressed hard, stuck his foot around Marie and poked the ball into the net to make it 2-0.

After Michel’s goal he celebrated with a cowboy hat from out of the stands.

“One of the fans gave me a hat, and I was like ‘oh I’m going to celebrate with it,’” Michel said. “I was actually thinking about grabbing the corner flag and start trying to ride it like a horse, but I didn’t want to do too much.”

Orlando eased its high press a bit after the second goal, which allowed the Earthquakes to get a bit more possession, but San Jose wasn’t able to create much with it. In fact, it was Orlando that struck again in the 31st minute.

Nani played a through ball up the middle to Dike into the penalty area. Dike got to the ball first, played it around Marcinkowski with his first touch, then cut back a left-footed shot to score his first goal since returning to the team. The Lions led 3-0.

“Anytime you see people like Nani driving with the ball, you know he’s going to make a nice pass,” Dike said. “So you know all you have to do is make the run. And so I made the run and JT was coming out and I just touched around him and tried to redirect it back towards the goal and it went in.”

“It means a lot to have Daryl back, for sure,” Pareja said.

San Jose managed to earn a couple of corners after the third Orlando goal but the Lions didn’t yield much.

And then the weather moved back into the area. In the 40th minute, heavy rain and some lightning caused Penso to blow the whistle and send the teams to the locker room.

At the time of the stoppage, San Jose was holding a deceptive 61.5%-38.5% advantage in possession, but it hardly seemed that way. Orlando held a 7-4 edge in shots and a 4-0 advantage in shots on goal, with the Quakes getting all four of their shots blocked to that point. San Jose had the game’s only two corner kicks and an 89.4%-85.3% edge in passing accuracy.

After a weather delay of 55 minutes, the game resumed. San Jose coach Matias Almeyda made a bold lineup change, subbing on Cade Cowell and Shea Salinas for Jungwirth and Marie.

Orlando had two excellent chances to add to the lead in the final few minutes of the first half. Urso played Dike down the right side of the box in the 44th minute and the big striker got all of his shot but sent his screamer just wide.

After Eduardo Lopez smashed San Jose’s first shot on target — fought off by Austin for a corner — the Lions closed the half with a golden opportunity at a fourth in stoppage time when Mueller slipped Dike in behind the defense. Dike tried to chip Marcinkowski but didn’t get the shot up high enough and the keeper was able to make a huge save. That was it for the half.

San Jose’s halftime advantage in possession grew to 62.5%-37.5%. The Quakes had more corners (3-0) and were more accurate in passing (89.3%-83.7%). Orlando led in shots (10-6) and shots on target (5-1).

The Lions added to their lead just four minutes after the restart. Nani sent in a good free kick service from the right side and Dike got his head to it, sending it in to make it 4-0 in the 49th minute.

“A good delivery and luckily the ball ended up in the back of the net,” Dike said. “I just made sure I was there, trying to put myself in the best possible position to score.”

Orlando came close a couple of more times following the goal, with Michel taking a crack from distance, but hitting his shot right at Marcinkowski, and Dike getting a shot blocked in front that the San Jose goalkeeper would not have been able to stop had it gone through.

Pareja subbed liberally in the second half, giving Michael Halliday 45 minutes at right back and giving Uri Rosell his first minutes of the season.

Substitute Tesho Akindele fired a shot just over the bar in the 79th minute as Orlando continued to look like the more likely team to score the next goal. That goal came in the 90th minute as Akindele played Michel down the right side of the box and he fired past Marcinkowski just inside the near post for the final margin.

After Mauricio Pereyra hit the post on what could have been a sixth goal deep in stoppage time, the match came to an end.

Orlando out-shot the Quakes 17-11 (8-1 on target). The visitors held an edge in corners (5-2), possession (56.9%-43.1%), and passing accuracy (88.8%-84.3%).

“The vibe in the locker room, you know, everyone’s positive, everyone’s happy we got the ‘dub,’ and you know we’re going up,” Michel said. “We’re going up from here. We’re not stopping until we get to the top, until we’re in first place.” 

The Lions will play their third match in a week when they travel south to play Inter Miami on Friday night.

Orlando City

Intelligence Report: Orlando City vs. Columbus Crew

Find out what you should expect from the Columbus Crew on Saturday, courtesy of someone who knows them best.



Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

After returning from a successful trip to the West Coast, Orlando City will be staying in town for Memorial Day weekend. Next up on the schedule for the Lions is a visit from the reigning MLS Cup Champions, the Columbus Crew.

A date with Columbus means I spoke with Collin Johnson of the always excellent Massive Report, and he was kind enough to help bring us up to speed on what to expect from the Crew this year. I also answered some of Massive Report’s questions about Orlando City, which you can find over at their place.

Talk me through the Crew’s off-season transfer business. Who were some of the big departures, and who has been brought in to replace them?

Collin Johnson: It was a pretty quiet off-season from the Crew. They focused on extending current contracts (and getting rid of bad contracts) rather than bringing in a big name acquisition. The bigger news were the contracts they were able to get rid of. Kevin Molino’s $700k+ salary was bought out before the season started, while Julian Gressel ($900k+) opted to take a deal with Inter Miami after losing his place in the starting lineup during the 2023 MLS Cup playoffs.

Rudy Camacho, Steven Moreira, Darlington Nagbe, Mohamed Farsi, and Sean Zawadzki all signed new deals. Academy and Crew 2 midfielders Cole Mrowka and Taha Habroune signed full first-team deals, though both are expected to jump back and forth between the second team and the first team. Derrick Jones was signed as a free agent. Many thought the very tall defensive midfielder would slot in as a center back in the Wilfried Nancy system, but all of his time has been spent as a DM (and it has gone relatively well aside from a shocking red card against Charlotte).

The only transfer fee paid this off-season was, ironically, to Pachuca for Marino Hinestroza. Hinestroza is an MLS U22 Initiative player who plays a similar style to Alex Matan but is faster and a bit better at finishing. With Hinestroza on the field, Columbus looks to stretch defenses in a different way than the typical wingback defensive stretching.

Columbus has been excellent defensively, with the 13 goals conceded on the season tied for second-fewest in the league. What’s been working so well at the back?

CJ: The defensive recovery extends back to the 2023 season and probably has two factors. First is the team getting comfortable in the Wilfried Nancy system. The expectation is that players will hold onto the ball until the last second before playing a pass to get out of trouble. At times last year that resulted in turnovers and goals by opponents. You can really see this in the play of Yeven Cheberko. Cheberko struggled in his half season with the Black & Gold in 2023 but this season has played like a new signing, splitting time as the starting left center back. Cheberko has the ability to break multiple lines with his passing, and now that he has improved in his Nancy system confidence, he has begun to live up with the potential he had as a new signing.

The other factor is Rudy Camacho. Camacho joined in the summer transfer window from Montreal, so he was already familiar with the Nancy system. Immediately he slotted into the center spot of the back three and conducted the rest of the defense. As soon as he joined the team, the defense took a huge step forward.

The Crew have done about as good a job balancing Concacaf Champions Cup play and the MLS schedule as possible, and currently sit above the playoff line. How have they been able to find a good balance, when most teams struggle mightily in one competition or the other?

CJ: Realistically it has been a bit of a struggle. Columbus is getting results now but most of the matches during the meat of the Concacaf Champions Cup run were draws. When the Crew beat Montreal on May 16, that was their first league win since March 16. Still, grabbing some draws during that run and staying alive in the playoff hunt are absolutely accomplishments for this team. Part of the reason for this success is the team’s depth. Hinestroza adds another attacking option up top while Derrick Jones is able to spell Aidan Morris/Darlington Nagbe in the midfield. Zawadzki has been a Swiss Army knife for the Black & Gold, slotting in at nearly every position on the field aside from goalkeeper. Nancy has also been willing to use his substitutes after a 2023 season when his sub pattern was frustratingly limited.

The Black & Gold also have the good fortune to get a bye through the group stage of this summer’s Leagues Cup, so they can push a bit harder during a congested few months with the expectation of multiple weeks off in July.

Are there any players who will be unavailable due to injury, suspensions, etc.? What is your projected starting lineup and score prediction?

CJ: Cucho Hernandez is officially out for Saturday’s match. He has had a nagging back injury and it is expected that he is being held out as a precaution and to be healthy for the Concacaf Champions Cup final in June. Without Cucho these last two weeks, the Crew have grabbed back-to-back road wins for the first time in what seems like forever. Without Cucho, the attack is a bit more multi-faceted. Diego Rossi has picked up the slack and started to look like the former Golden Boot winner that he is.

Rossi will start with a target striker, assuming this is Christian Ramirez, and likely Alex Matan. Depending on the game state, Nancy will slot Jacen Russell-Rowe into Matan’s spot to attack with two target strikers up top. The midfield duo of Nagbe and Morris is a mainstay, though the team has tried to manage Morris’ minutes as the season has gone on. Expect to see Zawadzki or Jones replace Morris/Nagbe around the 75th or 80th minute. In the back we’ll see Yaw Yeboah, Malte Admundsen or Cheberko, Camacho, Steven Moreira, and Mohamed Farsi.

I’m guessing the below is what they roll out:
Patrick Schulte; Malte Amundsen, Rudy Camacho, Steven Moreira, Yaw Yeboah, Mohamed Farsi; Aidan Morris, Darlington Nagbe; Alex Matan, Christian Ramirez, Diego Rossi.

I don’t see Columbus grabbing a third straight road win but they are playing well right now so I’m guessing we see a hard-fought draw. Columbus 2-2 Orlando. 

Thank you to Collin for providing the scoop on the Crew. Vamos Orlando!

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Lion Links

Lion Links: 5/24/24

Orlando City prepares for the Crew, Barbra Banda an NWSL MVP favorite, Orlando Pride announce sleeve sponsor, and more.



Image courtesy of Orlando Pride / Mark Thor

Happy Friday! The gauntlet of Orlando soccer home games starts tonight when the Orlando Pride take on the Portland Thorns in a clash of win streaks. I’m working for most of the weekend, but am looking forward to watching some soccer and playing my way through the Ace Attorney games during my spare time. For now though, let’s dive into today’s links from around the soccer world.

Orlando City Gets Ready to Host the Crew

Orlando City is on a three-game unbeaten run and will take on the Columbus Crew Saturday night in an Eastern Conference showdown. The last time these two sides met was in the 2023 Eastern Conference semifinals with the Crew winning in extra time to eliminate the Lions. It’s the third consecutive road game for the Crew after winning 3-1 against both CF Montreal and the Chicago Fire. Saturday’s match is also the Crew’s last match before the Concacaf Champions Cup final on June 1. Orlando City Head Coach Oscar Pareja spoke on how the Lions will be up to the task regardless of which players take the field for Columbus. Pareja also spoke about how Duncan McGuire is working his way back from the injury he suffered last week.

Barbra Banda Named MVP Frontrunner

ESPN updated its rankings of players in contention to be named NWSL MVP this season and Orlando Pride forward Barbra Banda tops the list. The Zambian forward hasn’t been with the Pride for long, but she has scored six goals in six games to help the Pride win seven straight games. Opposing defenses haven’t figured out a way to stop her, and it’s fair to think of her as an MVP favorite alongside fellow attackers in the league like Sophia Smith and Temwa Chawinga. Pride defender Emily Sams also earned herself a spot on the list, ranking 11th. It’s nice to see her get some deserved recognition for her role in the Pride’s stellar defense this year.

Orlando Pride Announce Sleeve Sponsor

A partnership was announced between the Orlando Pride and Heart of Florida United Way, a charity that’s supported families in Central Florida for the past 85 years. As part of the partnership, Heart of Florida United Way will become the first sleeve sponsor for the Pride and its logo will be on the right sleeve of both of the Pride’s jerseys this year. A new ticket program is also being created for 50 tickets to be donated to a local charity for each Pride home game.

Orlando City Unveils Watch Party Schedule

The schedule for this Orlando City season’s watch parties is out, along with the lineup of this year’s included pubs. Each pub will have MLS Season Pass access for fans to watch Orlando’s games this year and there will be chances to win tickets and autographed items at the watch parties as well. There are three new pubs added to the lineup this year, including The Castle Irish Pub at College Park, Paddywagon Irish Pub in Dr. Phillips, and Winter Garden’s Hagan O’Reilly’s. The first watch party will be at The Hammered Lamb in Ivanhoe Village on June 1 when the Lions face off against the New York Red Bulls.

Free Kicks

  • Pride midfielder Evelina Duljan was called up to join Sweden’s U-23 team for the upcoming Four Nations Tournament.
  • NWSL Commissioner Jessica Berman became the first woman to be named Sports Business Journal‘s Sports Executive of the Year.

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

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Orlando City

Orlando City vs. Columbus Crew: Three Keys to Victory

What does Orlando City need to do to earn all three points at home against the Crew?



Image courtesy of Orlando City SC

Orlando City earned seven points during a three-match stretch over eight days. Now the Lions will look to keep things rolling against the Columbus Crew this Saturday night at Inter&Co Stadium. The Crew are currently sitting in seventh place in the Eastern Conference with 21 points compared to Orlando City in 10th with 16 points.

What do the Lions need to do to get a victory at home against the Crew?

Switch Focus

Orlando City has lucked out because Columbus striker Cucho Hernández will not play, as he is nursing a back injury. Hernández has often been a thorn in Orlando’s side when the clubs play, so his absence is definitely good news. However, that doesn’t mean that the defense can relax. The Crew still have a potent attack with players like Diego Rossi, Jacen Russell-Rowe, Aidan Morris, and others. Columbus has scored 19 goals so far this season, which is four more than Orlando’s 15. I think it is likely that Oscar Pareja will stick with the 3-5-2 formation, meaning the pressure will be on the back three of David Brekalo, Wilder Cartagena, and Rodrigo Schlegel.

Goals Needed

Orlando City left it late against San Jose before Jack Lynn scored in the 89th minute to give the Lions a victory. That’s not to say there weren’t wasted chances — because there were — but it was enough that night. It likely won’t be enough against Columbus. We don’t know the status of Duncan McGuire’s injury as of this writing, but I would be surprised to see him in the lineup, let alone getting the start. That means we will likely see Jack Lynn alongside Luis Muriel up top. Lynn is no McGuire, but he is able to get into good spaces in the box and has a nose for goal. Another goal from him or Muriel could make a big difference.

Scheduling Factors

I’m not saying that Wilfried Nancy will be looking ahead to the Concacaf Champions Cup final against Pachuca the following week, but a trophy is a trophy, and it could impact who he plays and for how long. He might be keeping Hernández out for precautionary reasons to allow him time to be ready for the final. It’s possible that he risks points against Orlando City in pursuit of hardware. Pareja doesn’t have it any easier with Orlando City playing a midweek match at the Chicago Fire next Wednesday before heading to New Jersey for a match against the New York Red Bulls on Saturday, June 1. May has been brutal for the Lions, and though the team has made the most of it so far, it doesn’t get any easier. How much will rotation affect Orlando’s ability to get all three points?

That is what I will be looking for Saturday night. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below. Vamos Orlando!

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