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Orlando City vs. Atlanta United: Final Score 3-2 as Lions Roar Back from Two Deficits to Win

The Lions showed resiliency to bounce back from a pair of one-goal deficits and Mason Stajduhar earned his first win in his MLS debut.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC

Orlando City fell behind twice but showed resiliency to bounce back and claim a 3-2 come-from-behind victory over Atlanta United at Exploria Stadium. Nani’s 87th-minute winner completed the comeback after Kyle Smith and Silvester van der Water had brought the Lions (8-4-4, 28 points) back from two one-goal deficits against the rival Five Stripes (2-6-8, 14 points).

With the win, Orlando City has now gone six consecutive matches without a loss to their northern rivals (3-0-3) and climbed back to second in the Eastern Conference race, at least for the moment.

“Obviously excited. Happy to see the players celebrate with our fans in a difficult victory but in the end a victory that means a lot for us,” Orlando City Head Coach Oscar Pareja said after the game. “It’s been a difficult week for us. It’s well known that the performance we had last week, we needed to just erase and then learn from it and bounce back. Many things needed to happen. The players were incredible today.”

Pareja gave Homegrown goalkeeper Mason Stajduhar his first MLS start in goal behind a back line of Smith, a masked Robin Jansson, Antonio Carlos, and Ruan. Uri Rosell and Andres Perea started in central midfield, with Chris Mueller and Mauricio Pereyra facilitating the attack and Nani and Benji Michel up top. Junior Urso made the game day squad on the bench. Tesho Akindele, who played last night for Canada in Austin, TX, also was on the bench for Orlando.

Orlando got forward in the opening seconds and Ruan was dangerous from the get-go but when a cross didn’t find its intended target, Atlanta scored going the other way. A quick cross from Brooks Lennon on the left found Martinez near the top of the box and he sent a rocket off the right post that caromed in. The visitors led before the first minute of the match had expired.

“Just trying to get through some hurdles there,” Pareja said of his team falling behind twice. “The first goal that they scored in the first 30-45 seconds and then we needed to overcome that. And then also the second goal was a difficult moment. But I think we showed what the team is made of. The players need all the recognition, and seriously today they won a very important match — not just the three points, but just the way they brought things back. It’s a credit for them.”

The Lions should have pulled that goal right back in the third minute. Ruan got down the right and had Michel breaking in alone at the back post but the Brazilian hit his cross too hard and it skipped through the box before Michel could get onto it, wasting a tap-in opportunity.

Ruan had a go himself in the 15th minute, firing Orlando’s first shot on goal but hitting it right at goalkeeper Alec Kann. A minute later, Stajduhar came up big to stop a shot from Erik Lopez at the other end as the game went back and forth.

Michel thought he’d tied the match in the 21st minute but Kann did well to make a sprawling, one-armed save. Atlanta immediately earned a corner at the other end and the Lions inexplicably left Martinez uncovered, but the Atlanta striker headed well over the bar. Carlos headed just wide on an Orlando corner in the 27th as the two teams continued battling end to end.

Michel struggled with his touch and his finishing throughout the first half. Nani tried to send him in alone in the 29th minute but he couldn’t control it. He was getting into dangerous positions but just couldn’t find the handle at the critical moment. In the 39th minute Ruan set him up right in front but Michel hit his shot right at Kann, and when the rebound came back to him, he couldn’t dig it out of his feet and the goalkeeper was able to regather it.

Ruan again got down the right in the 42nd minute and without a good option in front he sent a hard, low shot on target from a tight angle. Kann made the save, but the Lions scored on the ensuing corner kick. Nani sent his service across the box and Smith went low to get his head to it, knocking it past Kann to tie the match at 1-1 in the 43rd minute. It was Smith’s first goal with Orlando City.

“I was making a late run in the box and then I was just trying to keep moving to create space for myself if a ball did come in that I could hit,” Smith said. “That’s what happened and the ball comes in and two people I think jumped in front of me, and so neither one of them headed it, so I didn’t even really have to jump, and after that I just tried to get as much power on it as I could, and keep it low so that I knew the goalie would have trouble with it, and it worked.

“It’s been a long time since I’ve scored a goal. I haven’t scored a goal for this club yet, going on about three years now, so I was very happy and glad I could tie things up for us in an important part of the game before half.”

The Lions kept coming at the end of the half and Mueller nearly gave Orlando the lead in stoppage time but Kann robbed him blind with a huge save on the goal line.

The teams went to the break all knotted up.

Orlando generated more shots (9-4) and shots on target (7-2) and passed more accurately (90.9%-86.7%). Atlanta held slightly more possession (51.8%-48.2%) and had more corners (3-2).

Nani won a corner early in the second half as the Lions continued to get forward in the attack. Pereyra sent a ball well wide of goal while falling after a rare mistake by Kann trying to play a cross. The Uruguayan lost his balance trying to change directions to get on the ball just outside the area and couldn’t get the effort on target. Ruan won another corner in the 53rd minute as he continued to give Atlanta problems down the wing.

Atlanta regained the lead against the run of play in the 66th minute. Pereyra made an ill-advised play to allow a pass across the midfield to go through him, but Nani couldn’t get onto it in time and Atlanta caught the Lions with Ruan and Mueller too far up field. Marcelino Moreno got the ball with time and space on the left corner of the area, cut to his right and smashed a ball just inside the upper right corner where Stajduhar couldn’t reach it, putting Atlanta up 2-1.

The Lions continued to earn set pieces and get half chances, but the game changed in the 74th minute when Pareja sent on van der Water and Akindele for Rosell and Mueller. Van der Water nearly made an impact four minutes later when he got into space but Pereyra’s pass was a rocket that he couldn’t settle. However, he changed the match a minute later. Pereyra sent a beautiful ball over the top to Michel on the left. Benji headed the ball across the box and van der Water was there to head it past Kann to tie the match at 2-2 in the 79th minute.

Smith turned over the ball in his own end moments later and gave Atlanta a chance to regain the lead again from a corner kick. The cross was low and deflected to Anton Walkes, who hit his shot just wide of the goal in the 82nd minute, although it appeared Stajduhar may have had it covered.

Orlando finally took the lead in the 87th minute. Van der Water got the ball on the right, cut back to the corner of the box and sent in a dangerous cross. Nani timed his run perfectly, got his head on the cross, and knocked it past Kann to make it 3-2 with his eighth goal of the season.

“It’s important to let you all know, and the fans, that Silvester has done a great effort trying to adjust to many things,” Pareja said of the evening’s star substitute. “I think he’s doing a good job in learning but it takes some time. Last week he presented some tightness. He needed to come out from the game. During the week he had that tightness and he was brave to be part of the game today despite that difficulty that he had, and I think the game rewarded him tonight. He’s an important player. We brought him to do those things. Silvester today he came in and showed us all the potential that he has and I’m very happy for him.”

The Lions saw out five minutes of stoppage time with the help of Urso and Joey DeZart, who came on for Nani and Pereyra, and prevented the Five Stripes from mounting any kind of danger down the stretch.

Orlando out-shot Atlanta 15-6 (9-3 on target), earned more corners (6-4), and passed more accurately (88.5%-85.1%). The Five Stripes managed a bit more possession (50.8%-49.2%).

“We needed to win, especially after the last match in New York City,” Smith said. “It was a big, big, win for us, so I’m very excited for all of us (and) excited to score my first goal in my career in the MLS.”

Stajduhar had only one save but it was a big one and he couldn’t do anything about either of the goals as he earned his first MLS win. As a cancer survivor, it was an emotional moment for the Homegrown Player to get his first start and first victory in front of friends and family.

“It was a great feeling just to get the win — obviously that, most importantly — and then it feels like a big weight off my shoulders,” Stajduhar said. “It’s almost been six years to make my debut, so I’m very happy. It felt just so natural and right in front of The Wall. Unfortunately they banged in a goal first 45 seconds. That’s how it rolls sometimes but we got the win and that’s what matters.”


Orlando City will host its second straight rival on Wednesday when Inter Miami visits for the season’s second Tropic Thunder match.

Orlando City

Orlando City vs. Cavalry FC, Concacaf Champions Cup: Preview, How to Watch, TV Info, Live Stream, Lineups, Match Thread, and More

The Lions play their first competitive match of 2024 north of the border in the Concacaf Champions Cup.

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Dan MacDonald, The Mane Land

Welcome to your match thread for a Wednesday night Concacaf Champions Cup matchup between Orlando City and Cavalry FC of the Canadian Premier League at Starlight Stadium in Langford, British Columbia at 10 p.m. (FOX Sports 2, TUDN). It’s the first meeting ever between the teams and Orlando City’s first ever match against a CPL team.

Here’s what you need to know ahead of the match.

History

There isn’t any. These teams have never met, nor has Orlando City faced anyone in the Canadian Premier League before.

The Lions will be experiencing their fourth international cup competition and their second foray into Concacaf Champions League/Cup, having drawn twice against Tigres UANL last season. Orlando bowed out of last year’s competition due to the away goals tiebreaker. Orlando City has also competed twice in Leagues Cup.

Overview

Both teams will be playing their first competitive match of the 2024 season. Orlando City is coming off a 4-0-1 preseason, drawing 1-1 against Flamengo before reeling off four straight wins against Rhode Island FC, the New England Revolution, the Houston Dynamo, and the Colorado Rapids. City reached the Eastern Conference quarterfinals in 2023 and is looking to build on its most successful season to date in MLS.

Cavalry FC is coming off a season in which it finished top of the table in the regular season, but fell 2-1 after extra time in the CPL championship match against Forge FC. As far as CPL teams go, the Lions will be facing one of the league’s best, as you’d expect in a competition called “Champions Cup.”

“We’re very proud and very happy to bring Orlando City to this beautiful city and this excellent competition,” Orlando City Head Coach Oscar Pareja said. “(We’re) Feeling proud of playing in Champions Cup in Concacaf and obviously aiming for the best prize, and here we are starting the season with obviously a very competitive game.”

Pareja is suspended for tonight due to his red card in the second leg against Tigres in 2023.


Projected Lineups

Orlando City (4-2-3-1)

Goalkeeper: Pedro Gallese.

Defenders: Rafael Santos, Robin Jansson, Rodrigo Schlegel, Michael Halliday.

Defensive Midfielders: Cesar Araujo, Wilder Cartagena.

Attacking Midfielders: Ivan Angulo, Nico Lodeiro, Facundo Torres.

Forward: Duncan McGuire.

Cavalry FC (4-2-3-1)

Goalkeeper: Marco Carducci.

Defenders: Bradley Kamdem, Daan Klomp, Eryk Kobza, Fraser Aird.

Defensive Midfielders: Charlie Trafford, Jesse Daley.

Attacking Midfielders: William Akio, Sergio Camargo, Ali Musse.

Forward: Myer Bevan.

Officials:

REF: Juan Gabriel Calderon (Costa Rica).
AR1: William Arrieta (Costa Rica).
AR2: Henri Pupiro (Nicaragua).
4TH: Keylor Herrera (Costa Rica).
VAR: Oscar Mejia (Mexico).
VAR1: Erick Miranda (Mexico).


How to Watch

Match Time: 10 p.m.

Venue: Starlight Stadium — Langford, British Columbia.

TV: FOX Sports 2, TUDN.

Streaming: The match can be streamed on FOX Sports GO, the FOX Sports app TUDN.com, and the TUDN app.

Twitter: For rapid reaction and live updates, follow along at @TheManeLand, as well as Orlando City’s official Twitter feed (@OrlandoCitySC).


Enjoy the match. Go City!

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Lion Links

Lion Links: 2/21/24

Orlando City takes on Cavalry FC tonight, Lions sign Jeorgio Kocevski, USWNT wins in Concacaf W Gold Cup, and more.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Hello, Mane Landers. I hope all is well with you in Florida as we get to watch the Lions in action tonight in the Concacaf Champions Cup. There’s not much new with me this week other than staying busy covering high school basketball and hockey. Let’s wish a happy birthday to Orlando Pride forward Amanda Allen. There is plenty to cover today, so let’s get to the links.

Orlando City Takes on Cavalry FC Tonight

Orlando City will be in action tonight in the first round of the Concacaf Champions Cup, as it takes on Cavalry FC at Starlight Stadium at 10 p.m. This matchup will be the Lions’ first competitive match of 2024, with their MLS season opener against CF Montreal set for Saturday. The Lions were knocked out by Tigres due to away goals in last year’s Concacaf Champions League. Cavalry FC will make its debut in this competition tonight and qualified by winning the 2023 Canadian Premier League Shield. The second leg between these two sides will be on Feb. 27 in Orlando.

Orlando City Signs First-Round Draft Pick Jeorgio Kocevski

Orlando City signed 2024 MLS SuperDraft pick Jeorgio Kocevski to a contract through the 2024 season with club options for 2025, 2026, and 2027. Kocevski scored the game-winning goal in stoppage time in Orlando’s final preseason match against the Colorado Rapids this past weekend. The midfielder was selected 21st overall in the first round of the MLS SuperDraft by the Lions in December. He played four years for Syracuse, recording seven goals and 18 assists in 71 matches. Kocevski is the only player the club has signed from the Lions’ 2024 draft class and will likely get some minutes with Orlando City B this season.

St. Louis City and Philadelphia Union Win in Champions Cup

Orlando City isn’t the only MLS team kicking off its Concacaf Champions Cup campaign this week. St. Louis City edged out the Houston Dynamo 2-1, with rookie Hosei Kijima scoring the winner in stoppage time. The Philadelphia Union were on the road in Costa Rica to face off against Deportivo Saprissa and won 3-2, thanks to a hat trick from Julian Carranza in the second half. As for other tournament matches this week, the New England Revolution face Independiente in Panama tonight, with Nashville playing Moca FC in the Dominican Republic and FC Cincinnati taking on Jamaica’s Cavalier SC tomorrow.

USWNT Beats the Dominican Republic in W Gold Cup

The United States Women’s National Team got its Concacaf W Gold Cup campaign off to a great start with a 5-0 win against the Dominican Republic in Group A. Olivia Moultrie scored her first USWNT goal to give her team an early lead, with Lynn Williams giving the U.S. another goal before halftime. Moultrie scored another in the second half to earn her brace, and Jenna Nighswonger converted a penalty for her first USWNT goal as well. Former Pride forward Alex Morgan replaced Mia Fishel on the roster due to injury and scored from the penalty spot in stoppage time. The USWNT’s next game will be against Argentina on Friday at 10:15 p.m.

UEFA Champions League Roundup

The UEFA Champions League had plenty of drama as the round of 16 continued. Inter Milan won 1-0 in its first leg against Atletico Madrid at home, with Mark Arnautovic scoring the only goal in the match. In the Netherlands, PSV Eindhoven and Borussia Dortmund played to a thrilling 1-1 draw. The second legs for both matchups will be played on March 13. There is more Champions League action today, as FC Porto hosts Arsenal while Napoli takes on Barcelona.

Free Kicks

  • The latest MLS power rankings are out just before the regular season begins. Orlando City begins the season in the fifth spot.
  • Orlando City and the Orlando Pride announced fan experience upgrades at Inter&Co Stadium featuring Amazon’s Just Walk Out technology in merchandise shops, stadium Wi-Fi upgrades, and a jersey history experience.
  • The MLS Players Association released a statement on the ongoing referee lockout.
  • Here is the list of MLS Season Pass commentator assignments for opening week.

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

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Orlando City

Orlando City Signs First-Round Draft Pick Jeorgio Kocevski

Orlando City signs its first-round draft pick Jeorgio Kocevski to a one-year deal with three option years.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Orlando City SC announced the signing of first-round 2024 MLS SuperDraft pick Jeorgio Kocevski today. The deal is through the upcoming 2024 season with club options for 2025, 2026, and 2027. The Lions selected the Syracuse midfielder with the 21st overall pick in the draft in December.

“Jeorgio has had a really strong preseason camp with us, demonstrating everything we saw in him when we were scouting him and analyzing his game in college,” Orlando City Executive Vice President of Soccer Operations and General Manager Luiz Muzzi said in a club press release. “He’s done well working his way into the group, even starting in our friendly against Flamengo and holding his own against some of the best in Brazil, and we’re excited to have him with us this season.”

The box-to-box midfielder made three appearances this preseason, starting against Brazilian club Flamengo and the following scrimmage against USL Championship side Rhode Island FC. He came on at halftime against the Colorado Rapids last weekend, scoring the winning goal in the 90th minute.

Prior to being selected by the Lions, the Liverpool, NY, native made 71 appearances with 65 starts and logged 5,599 minutes for Syracuse in four years. He scored seven goals and recorded 18 assists, putting 33 of his 93 shots on frame. Additionally, he was part of Syracuse’s 2022 NCAA national championship team, playing 90 minutes in the 2-2 draw, but missing in the team’s victorious shootout over Indiana.

Kocevski had a breakout junior year, being named to the United Soccer Coaches’ All-South Region third team, All-ACC third team, NCAA All-Tournament team, and ACC All-Tournament team. During his senior year, he wore the armband for the Orange and was named All-ACC first team and ACC Co-Midfielder of the Year.

What It Means for Orlando City

Kocevski was the most likely pick from this most recent draft to be signed by Orlando City. The departure of club captain Mauricio Pereyra left a spot in the midfield and Head Coach Oscar Pareja seemed to feel the rookie could fill it from early on. His start against Flamengo was in the place of regular starter Cesar Araujo, who was on international duty with the Uruguay U-23 national team. He played against Flamengo’s best lineup and did quite well in almost an hour on the field in his first minutes of play at the professional level.

While a spot was open for the signing of Kocevski, he likely won’t see much of the field for the first team this season. In addition to being behind starters Araujo and Wilder Cartagena, the defensive midfielder will be behind Felipe on the depth chart. In all likelihood, the rookie will slot in with Orlando City B in MLS NEXT Pro to get some minutes, but there is room for him to start regularly with that team.

Kocevski is currently the only player signed by the club from the Lions’ 2024 draft class. West Virginia midfielder Yutaro Tsukada, Pittsburgh midfielder Filip Mirkovic, and Charlotte midfielder Riyon Tori remained unsigned, with the latter opting to return to school for his senior season.

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