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Orlando City

Orlando City vs. Chicago Fire: Final Score 1-0 as Benji Michel’s Goal Lifts Lions to Victory

The Lions are unbeaten in five league matches after a much-needed win over the Chicago Fire.



Dan MacDonald, The Mane Land

The Orlando City offense continues to struggle, but one goal was enough on a wet night at Exploria Stadium. Benji Michel’s second-half strike off a turnover forced by Tesho Akindele was the difference as Orlando City (9-4-7, 34 points) beat the Chicago Fire (5-11-5, 20 points) 1-0. Mason Stajduhar got his first career MLS shutout.

With the win, the Lions’ unbeaten streak grew to five straight matches (2-0-3) and it snapped a string of three consecutive 1-1 draws. Orlando improved to 4-5-5 in the all-time series against the Fire, and 2-2-3 at home. The Lions leapfrogged idle Nashville to climb back into second place in the Eastern Conference, while the Fire fell to 0-7-1 on the road in 2021.

“Another fantastic performance for the boys, especially for what they are getting through,” Orlando City Head Coach Oscar Pareja said after the match. “Competing and winning those three points means a lot for the players, for the club, for all.”

Pareja’s lineup included Stajduhar in goal and despite Pedro Gallese making the bench, although it was Adam Grinwis who came out for warmups. Joao Mouthino, Robin Jansson, Antonio Carlos, and Ruan made up the back line behind a central midfield of Junior Urso and Joey DeZart, as Andres Perea was again missing from the match day roster despite not being listed on the availability report. Michel and Silvester van der Water played the facilitator roles, with Nani returning to the starting lineup with Akindele up top. Mauricio Pereyra got the night off.

After an inclement weather delay of about 45 minutes, the teams took to the pitch. The wet ball and constant rain made play a bit sloppy and sluggish at times but both teams had chances.

The first good opportunity came Orlando’s way. Van der Water cut from right to left and hit a shot that crashed off the left post and trickled back across the face of goal but stayed out in the 11th minute.

Chicago’s first good look came on a cross from the right in the 15th minute that Stanislav Ivanov headed wide.

The Lions suffered yet another injury blow at the half-hour mark. Nani signaled to the bench that he couldn’t continue and Chris Mueller subbed on in his place.

Stajduhar made a good save in the 33rd minute on Ivanov, who was Chicago’s most dangerous player in the opening half.

A minute later, Ruan sent in a good cross and Mueller went up and got it but he headed it right at Fire goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth.

Akindele got forward after a Chicago corner attempt in the 38th minute and appeared to be pulled down just outside the area. Referee Tim Ford played on and eventually went to the monitor to review it. He determined there was no denial of a goal-scoring opportunity by Mauricio Pineda.

Van der Water was clipped from behind cutting between players in the 45th minute and then took a nasty accidental stomp but there was no foul given. Orlando did get a free kick a few minutes later as van der Water was fouled yet again from behind. The Fire cleared the entry ball, which fell to Jansson, but the defender fired his shot just over the bar in stoppage time. Michel then headed over moments later on the last chance of the half.

Chicago had more shot attempts in the half (8-7) and each team got one on target. Chicago had a 2-0 edge in corners taken and was the more accurate passing team (87.3%-84.8%), while Orlando held a slim margin in possession (50.2%-49.8%).

The Lions had a good opportunity just after the restart, with Urso getting his head on a cross from Mueller in the 49th minute, but Shuttleworth was there to make the save. But just two minutes later, the Lions broke through.

Akindele pressured and dispossessed Pineda, feeding the ball to Michel. The Homegrown forward stepped up to the top of the area and fired a shot past Shuttleworth just inside the left post to make it 1-0 in the 51st minute. It was Akindele’s career-high fifth assist on the season and Michel’s fourth goal of the 2021 campaign.

“I give all my credit to Tesho,” Michel said. “His work ethic, his relentless running, pressing the center back and (to) be able to nick the ball away from him, pick his pocket, and that just left me through on goal. And I knew this was probably my only chance to score, so I knew I had to be clinical and put the ball in the back of the net.”

“Sometimes it’s normal in the game, you see just the ones who score goals or the ones who make the pretty plays here and there,” Pareja said of the play Akindele made to set up the goal. “The value of the tactical movement and the tactical generosity of the players is what refreshes my soul. I can’t leave more content than seeing these guys giving all that they have for the tactical part of the game. This is a game that needs effort, collectively, and that is one of the most beautiful — in my opinion — attitude that the boys can have.”

The Lions looked to add to their lead in the 55th minute when van der Water made a great turn and pass to open up the defense. The ball ended up with Moutinho on the left but he fired his shot wide.

Akindele and van der Water played a good 1-2 pass that ended with the Dutchman firing wide off his weaker right foot as he tried to toe poke it home in the 64th.

Down the stretch it was a series of set pieces and long throws for Chicago but Orlando did just about enough to deal with the crosses, and when the Lions couldn’t win the ball in the air, Stajduhar was there to make the play. He made a big stop in the 81st minute on a curler by Robert Beric that looked to be headed inside the far post.

He made another important save in stoppage time off a corner kick that was redirected on goal through traffic, punching it away at the last second.

To help see the game out, Homegrown midfielder Raul Aguilera Jr. made his MLS debut, coming on for DeZart in the 85th minute.

Chicago fired more shots (18-11), got more on target (5-3), earned more corners (11-5), passed more accurately (86.1%-84.3%), and held more possession (54.5%-45.5%) on the night, but the Lions held the advantage in the only statistic that mattered — goals.

“It was a tough game. It was a lot of back and forth there,” DeZart said. “We try to impose ourselves but they were trying to do the same and that’s how it played out, but towards the end of the first half and the second half we started to figure it out. And I’m just glad we got the win.”

“Overall I thought our behavior was very good and what we want,” Pareja said. “We created our sequences. We created our chances. We would like to be more precise, as we have been saying, on scoring goals and obviously not suffering that much, but I’m proud of this group.

“A special night for the youngsters in Orlando, where Mason and Raul stood up today and showed their presence and the development of our academy here.”

Orlando City will host Inter Miami next Friday night in its next match, which is just two days after Nani and Pedro Gallese are scheduled to take part in the MLS All-Star Game in Los Angeles.

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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