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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.

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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

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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