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Orlando City

Orlando City vs. Inter Miami CF: Final Score 2-1 as Lions Complete Comeback to Drop Herons

Chris Mueller and Nani scored phenomenal goals to bring the Lions back from 1-0 down late in Ft. Lauderdale.



Image courtesy of Orlando City SC

A tired-looking Orlando City team withstood some lumps in their third match in a week but goals by Chris Mueller and Nani brought the Lions back from a 1-0 deficit to win for the first time at DRV PNK Stadium in Fort Lauderdale. Orlando (6-1-3, 21 points) earned all nine possible points in a difficult stretch of three matches in a seven-day span, finishing it off by keeping rival Inter Miami (2-6-2, 8 points) winless at home on the season.

With the win, Orlando took a 3-2-0 edge in the Tropic Thunder series. Every meeting so far has been decided by a single goal.

“Three points — that means a lot for us,” Orlando City Head Coach Oscar Pareja said after the match. “It’s a derby. This is a game that we wanted to win, playing in their place here. We haven’t done it. After a long week, we felt it. We have heavy legs, and I think the boys did an excellent job overcoming that part.”

Pareja made only a few changes from Tuesday’s lineup, playing Brandon Austin in goal again behind a back line of Kyle Smith, Robin Jansson, Antonio Carlos, and Michael Halliday. The fact that Joao Moutinho didn’t dress is telling and perhaps a bad sign for the young left back. Junior Urso and Andres Perea took their usual spots in the central midfield, but Silvester van der Water and Mauricio Pereyra displaced Mueller and Benji Michel in the lineup. Nani and Daryl Dike again led the attack.

Miami came out with a lot of emotion, as expected considering the recent events surrounding the building collapse and the full stands. The Herons pressed all over the field, knowing Orlando was playing its third match in a week.

Austin made a big save just three minutes in on a Jay Chapman effort after Smith failed to clear a ball in the corner and the deflection fell for Miami. The hosts won a couple of early corners but didn’t do much with them.

Orlando started growing into the game after the first quarter hour, with Urso getting onto a long ball from Nani but firing high of the goal. The Lions dealt with a corner and looked to break in the 19th minute on a great long ball from Dike, but van der Water opted to pass instead of shoot and his weak pass was off target and easily cut out by the defense.

Former Lion Brek Shea fired wide in the 23rd minute after a terrible giveaway just outside the area by the Orlando defense. Four minutes later, Nani wasted a promising opportunity by trying a shot from long range that was off target. A minute later, Urso stepped in front of a pass out of the back from Miami and fired but his shot was deflected out for a corner. Again, van der Water’s delivery let him down on the ensuing set piece, as his low delivery was easily cleared and nearly led to a transition opportunity.

Orlando started seeing more of the ball but every movement was slow, deliberate, and posed no threat to the Miami defense. There was no service to Dike, who managed just 10 touches in the opening 45 minutes.

Urso had a terrible giveaway late in the half that led to another chance from Chapman but he fired his shot straight at Austin.

Miami led in shots (6-4), shots on goal (2-0), corners (4-1), and passing accuracy (83.6%-83.3%) in the first half. Orlando held a 54%-46% edge in possession but didn’t do a lot with it.

Looking for some energy and tempo, Pareja sent on Mueller and Michel for van der Water and Pereyra at the half.

The move seemed to pay off almost right away. After an early header by Victor Ulloa was headed wide, the Lions got into the attack. Mueller sent a cross just a couple inches too high for Urso in the 49th minute and the ball fell to Nani. The captain sent a shot on target but John McCarthy was able to make the save. Moments later, Halliday sent in a cross that was just a few inches over Dike.

In the 58th minute, the Lions fashioned their best chance of the night to that point when Urso slipped Mueller down the right side of the box. Cash fired on frame but McCarthy was able to get a foot to it and keep it out.

Nani fizzed a free kick — drawn by Dike — just wide of goal in the 64th as the Lions continued to get opportunities in the second half. But the goal seemed like it would never come for an obviously tired Orlando City team.

Just three minutes after Nani’s free kick miss, the hosts opened the scoring. Second-half sub Gonzalo Higuain got the ball 30 yards out from goal and Urso just didn’t have the gas left in the tank needed to stay with him. Higuain sent a hard, low shot just inside the left post to make it 1-0.

Orlando kept coming, getting a couple of half chances from set pieces after the Higuain goal and eventually the breakthrough came on a play that started deep in the Lions’ own end. Jansson sent a fantastic long ball down the right channel for Nani, who used his first touch to send the ball across the penalty area. Mueller ran onto it and he sent his first touch past McCarthy, tying the game at 1-1 in the 73rd minute. It was Mueller’s first goal of the 2021 season.

“It’s nice obviously to get the first one but honestly I wasn’t really trippin’ about it,” Mueller said of opening his 2021 account. “I know that when you stick to the process and just keep doing the right things day in and day out those things are bound to come in time. I knew I was getting myself in some good spots and I was going to get my first goal. And obviously that was a great way to do it. I mean, the ball was so high up in the air. I was just trying to get on the end of it before it bounced and I don’t even know how I hit it, honestly. It just went off my foot and went in, and thankfully we got that goal to get back into the game.”

“I look forward to helping the team in anything I can do on the field,” Nani said. “That’s why on that pass from Jansson I tried to assist any of my teammates in the box and that was the change of the game. It was a beautiful assist and a great goal from Chris Mueller. And it gave us a little more energy.”

The Lions weren’t content with the tie score. Nani sent a shot through on net in the 75th minute but McCarthy was able to make a comfortable save. A minute later, Halliday got down the right but took one touch too many and then sent his cross over the net and out of play. Moments later, the captain called game.

Nani got the ball out wide on Orlando’s attacking left and cut toward the corner of the box. Miami failed to close him down, so he sent a rocket between two defenders into the upper right corner where McCarthy had no chance to reach it. The Lions led 2-1 in the 80th minute.

Miami lumped a few balls into the area down the stretch but nothing came of it. The Herons sent a shot wide in the 87th minute and chief antagonist Leandro Gonzalez Pirez headed well over the bar in the third minute of stoppage time. Orlando walked off the field for the third time in seven days with all three points.

The Lions turned the stats sheet around in the second half, finishing with more shots (11-10), more shots on goal (6-3), and more possession (52.9%-47.1%). Miami held slim margins in corners (5-4) and passing accuracy (84.3%-84.2%).

“First half was difficult for us,” Pareja said. “We had players who were doing a terrific effort on overcoming the tiredness. Then we knew with Benji and Chris and Tesho we’d have fresh legs. They came in the second half to do that and they lifted us up. The transformation in the second half is due to their energy, their discipline, and obviously that magic touch we have with Luis Nani.”

“We wanted to win this game more than anything,” Nani said. “We came here not to perform, but to win the game, so we knew (it would be) very difficult at the beginning, because we had three games in one week. We lost a lot a lot of energy, but our team, our strength, our mentality, gave us extra strength in the last minutes so we could handle the game and then win the game at the last minute.”

“We’re going to enjoy this one obviously for the night and get back to Orlando, and do our full recovery and take care of ourselves,” Mueller said. “You know, do the things that we’ve got to do to make sure our bodies are all feeling right, so that we can come back out next week against Red Bulls and give it our all again. That’s what this game is.”

The Lions now get a normal week to rest before hosting the New York Red Bulls next Saturday night, July 3.

Orlando City

Orlando City vs. CF Montreal: Three Keys to Victory

What does Orlando City need to do to earn all three points against CF Montreal this Saturday in Exploria Stadium?



Dan MacDonald, The Mane Land

Orlando City hosts CF Montreal in the second-to-last home match of the 2023 MLS regular season at Exploria Stadium this Saturday night. The Lions have already secured a spot in the playoffs but are now fighting for home field advantage. Montreal is currently sitting in eighth place in the Eastern Conference and is fighting for a playoff spot.

What does Orlando City need to do to secure three important points against the Canadian Club Foots?

Time to Make the Donuts

It had been a minute since Duncan McGuire scored a goal for Orlando City — and by a minute I mean since July 29. McGuire had a few opportunities against Inter Miami and managed to get one to equalize for the Lions and ensure a point at home. I do think he might have scored on another of those chances if he was fully back in form after his injury time, but I’ll take the goal. 

My hope is that getting that goal will remind him that he can score goals when given the opportunity, and he will be better about finishing the chances he gets against Montreal. Sometimes it just takes getting that first goal to open up the muscle memory and to unlock the confidence needed in a striker. It’s time for Duncan to score more goals, and the match against Montreal is the first and best opportunity to do so since Montreal starting center back Joel Waterman will be serving a red card suspension.

Switch up the Lineup

I propose a change to the starting lineup — something Oscar Pareja does not do very often. Due to injuries and other factors such a move wasn’t possible earlier in the season, but I think it could work now. I have a ton of respect for Mauricio Pereyra, but he could probably use a rest to be fresh for the playoffs as the regular season winds down. 

I suggest letting Martin Ojeda get the start in the 10 spot, moving Dagur Dan Thorhallsson up the wing, and having Michael Halliday take over at right back. Ojeda’s play as of late has been much improved, and with Halliday healthy again, why not take advantage of Dagur Dan’s versatility along the wing. I think this move provides energy, a surprise for opposing defenses, and allows Facundo Torres more freedom. 

Same Old Effective Defense

Orlando City’s defense has only allowed 37 goals this season — which is good enough to tie for sixth place in the Eastern Conference. On the flip side, Montreal has only scored 30 goals so far — which is only better than Toronto at 24 goals. Montreal has a goal differential of -15.If the Lions play their normally solid defense in front of the outstanding goalkeeping of Pedro Gallese, Montreal should not get too many opportunities to score. There’s no doubt that we will see Robin Jansson and Rodrigo Schlegel paired together with Rafael Santos on the left and either Dagur Dan — or Michael Halliday as I suggested — on the right. Cesar Araujo and Wilder Cartagena can stop most attacks before they get to the back line. If Orlando City plays defense as well as the club did against Miami, things should be fine.

That is what I will be looking for this Saturday as the Lions take on the boys from North of the border. Vamos Orlando!

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Lion Links

Lion Links: 9/28/23

Ajax is reportedly scouting Facundo Torres, Orlando Pride focus on upcoming matches, Houston Dynamo win U.S. Open Cup, and more.



Dan MacDonald, The Mane Land

How’s it going, Mane Landers? I hope this work week has gone smoothly for you as we get ready to bid farewell to September. It’s been a hectic week for me, but I started and then promptly devoured all of Fourth Wing by Rebecca Yarros. It was a nice read, albeit a bit intense at times. I’m not sure what I’ll read next as most of my reading list is packed up for a move, but if you have any recommendations then let me know in the comments below. Let’s dive into today’s links!

Ajax Reportedly Interested in Facundo Torres

Orlando City forward Facundo Torres has reportedly garnered the interest of Dutch club Ajax according to Fabrizio Romano.

It’s not too surprising that Ajax, which currently sits in 14th in the Eredivisie with just seven goals from five games, has scouts keeping tabs on Torres. The 23-year-old has scored 12 goals this season, powering Orlando to second in the Eastern Conference. It wouldn’t be the first time Torres has received attention from European clubs and likely won’t be the last as he continues to impress with the Lions

Orlando Pride Focus During Playoff Push

The Orlando Pride are back in action on Monday for a crucial road match with Angel City FC. Both teams have 25 points this season, one point from the sixth and final playoff spot currently held by the Washington Spirit. It will be the first of three remaining games for the Pride this season, with matches against fellow playoff hopefuls Racing Louisville and the Houston Dash set for later in October. As a result, there’s not much margin for error if the Pride wish to make the playoffs and Kylie Strom talked about how the team is focused for these games.

MLS NEXT Pro Playoffs Begin This Weekend

The first round of the MLS NEXT Pro playoffs kicks off this weekend with six matches that can all be watched on MLS Season Pass. Unlike last year, Orlando City B will be taking part and is set to face off with Columbus Crew 2 on Sunday at 5:30 p.m. Although the Young Lions have struggled on the road against Columbus, Jack Lynn and Shak Mohammed can make things difficult for the hosts. Hopefully we’ll see OCB make Columbus regret its choice of opponent in the postseason. I like the wrinkle and mind games to the playoffs the new rule gave and am interested to see which of the lower seeds plays with a chip on their shoulder. The playoffs begin on Friday when Sporting Kansas City II hosts Austin FC II in a battle between the third and fourth seeds of the Western Conference.

Houston Dynamo Win U.S. Open Cup

The Houston Dynamo have lifted the U.S. Open Cup trophy after winning 2-1 on the road against Inter Miami. A pair of goals in the first half were enough for Houston to win its second U.S. Open Cup title after also winning in 2018. A goal in stoppage time from Josef Martinez made things interesting, but the Dynamo defense did well to secure the win and deny Miami its second tournament title this year. It was a strong end to a solid tournament campaign from the Dynamo, as they beat four MLS sides before taking down Miami in the final.

Albertin Montoya Hired as Bay FC Head Coach

Ahead of its inaugural NWSL season next year, Bay FC named Albertin Montoya as the club’s first head coach. Montoya, who has lived in California for most of his life, served as the interim coach for the Washington Spirit in 2022 and also coached the U.S. U-17 women’s national team in 2011. Bay FC General Manager Lucy Rushton spoke on how Montoya’s name came up often while the club searched for a head coach, as well as how his skill at developing players will help build the club’s foundation.

Free Kicks

  • Orlando City Head Coach Oscar Pareja called for the supporters to continue filling Exploria Stadium and pushing the Lions forward for the team’s remaining home games this season.
  • St. Louis City midfielder Njabulo Blom won MLS Goal of the Week for his winner against Minnesota United. It was also the 23-year-old’s first professional goal.

That’s all I have for you today. Have a wonderful Thursday and rest of your week!

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Lion Links

Lion Links: 9/27/23

Orlando City falls in power rankings, OCB will take on Columbus Crew 2 in MLS NEXT Pro playoffs, U.S. Open Cup final preview, and more.



Dan MacDonald, The Mane Land

Hello, Mane Landers. I hope all is well with you down in Florida. There’s not much new with me, I’m just staying busy at work lately and hoping to catch some soccer this weekend. There is plenty to cover today, so let’s get to the links.

Orlando City Drops Two Spots in Power Rankings

The latest MLS power rankings have been released and Orlando City fell two spots to fourth. The Lions lost their midweek matchup 2-0 on the road against New York City FC last Wednesday and closed out the weekend with a 1-1 draw against rival Inter Miami at Exploria Stadium. It wasn’t all bad this past week for the Lions, as Duncan McGuire scored his 11th goal of the year across all competitions. Despite losing to NYCFC a week ago, the Lions remain in second place in the Eastern Conference and are two points ahead of the Columbus Crew, Philadelphia Union, Atlanta United, and the New England Revolution.

OCB Will Take On Columbus Crew 2 in MLS NEXT Pro Playoffs

Orlando City B’s opponent for the first round of the MLS NEXT Pro playoffs was announced on Tuesday, as it will go on the road to take on defending champion Columbus Crew 2 on Oct. 1 at Historic Crew Stadium. As part of the new playoff format that lets higher seeds choose their opponents, Columbus chose to host OCB in the quarterfinals. The Young Lions closed out their regular season this past weekend with a 2-1 win against FC Cincinnati and finished fifth in the Eastern Conference. The Columbus Crew 2 finished its regular season with a 3-2 win against Atlanta United 2 to place third. The clubs split the regular season series, with OCB winning 4-1 on Aug. 27 and Columbus winning 4-0 on May 14. The conference semifinals will be on the following weekend, and the MLS NEXT Pro Cup final is set for Oct. 22.

U.S. Open Cup Final Preview

The 2023 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup will conclude tonight with the final at DRV PNK Stadium as Inter Miami takes on the Houston Dynamo. The match will kick off at 8:30 p.m. and you can watch the match on Paramount+ or CBS Sports Network. Inter Miami’s journey included edging out Nashville SC 2-1 in the Round of 16 and needing to go all the way to penalties to knock out FC Cincinnati after a thrilling 3-3 draw in the semifinals. The Houston Dynamo began their run with a pair of 1-0 wins against the Tampa Bay Rowdies and Sporting Kansas City. Since the Round of 16, the Dynamo cruised past Minnesota United, the Chicago Fire, and Real Salt Lake to get to the final. Houston was on a seven-match unbeaten run before losing to Sporting Kansas City this past weekend. The Dynamo will look to add another U.S. Open Cup title after winning it back in 2018. Lionel Messi will reportedly be a game-time decision for tonight’s final after he didn’t play in Miami’s draw with Orlando.

Spain Wins First Home Match Since World Cup Victory

Spain’s women’s national team won its first match since lifting the World Cup trophy last month, cruising to a 5-0 win against Switzerland in a UEFA Nations League matchup. After dealing with the fallout of former Spanish FA president Luis Rubiales and players boycotting call-ups to the national team before a deal was reached last week, the team wore wristbands that read “Se Acabo,” meaning “this is over,” and players from both teams held a banner with the same phrase before the match. Spain celebrated its win in front of a record-breaking crowd of 14,194 fans that came out to support the team at Nuevo Arcangel Stadium.

Free Kicks

  • Carrie Lawrence and the Orlando Pride were hard at work preparing for the match on Monday against Angel City FC.
  • Angel City exercised its club option to extend former Pride forward Sydney Leroux’s contract through the end of the 2024 NWSL season.
  • The Canadian Women’s National Team defeated Jamaica 4-1 on aggregate to book a spot in next summer’s Olympics.
  • The Seattle Sounders have unveiled their new crest for next year.

That will do it for me today, Mane Landers. Enjoy your Wednesday and I’ll see you next time.

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