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Orlando City vs. Inter Miami CF: Final Score 0-0 as Wasteful Lions Drop Points at Home

A missed Tesho Akindele penalty was the best opportunity but there were others in an unsatisfying scoreless draw at Exploria Stadium.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Orlando City outplayed Tropic Thunder rival Inter Miami but couldn’t find the back of the net in an unsatisfying 0-0 draw at Exploria Stadium. Tesho Akindele had an opportunity from the penalty spot, but there were other good chances that went unfulfilled as well in a frustrating night that still saw the Lions (9-4-8, 35 points) finish undefeated against Inter Miami (6-9-5, 23 points) with a mark of 1-0-2 on the season.

The Lions ran their unbeaten streak to six straight matches (2-0-4), equaling their longest of the season, and remain in second place in the Eastern Conference for the time being. Orlando hasn’t allowed a goal in two games, and tonight’s shutout came against a team that had scored six times in its last two outings.

“We think we did enough to (win) it, but humbly we have to accept it, take the point, and understand that’s the game,” Orlando City Head Coach Oscar Pareja said after the game. “But a great effort by our players. Competitive match. Obviously we needed to score goals. We needed to be more clinical, just missing that PK as well and with the goal that was called off too. Those things make us feel like it was not enough to get a result but we will keep going forward.”

Pareja’s lineup included Pedro Gallese for the first time since July 25. El Pulpo lined up behind a first-choice back line of Joao Moutinho, Robin Jansson, Antonio Carlos, and Ruan. Junior Urso wore the captain’s armband next to Joey DeZart in the central midfield, with Chris Mueller and Benji Michel facilitating the attack to Silvester van der Water and Akindele at the top of the formation. Nani started the match on the bench, as did Daryl Dike.

Orlando outplayed Miami throughout the opening 45 minutes but, as has been the case far too many times in 2021, couldn’t produce that final moment of magic. Mueller and van der Water sent shots well over the bar in the opening minutes and Urso missed a free header wide of the left post off a Mueller corner kick in the fifth minute.

But the biggest wasted opportunity of the first half came after Nicolas Figal was called for a handball in the area. Akindele took the spot kick for Orlando City and fired to his left, but Nick Marsman guessed correctly and made the save in the 12th minute.

Miami’s first good opportunity came off a corner kick in the 22nd minute. The cross bounced around in the box and Rodolfo Pizarro got his foot on it, sending a soft shot toward goal. Gallese was able to get over and swat it off the line.

The Lions thought they’d scored in the 24th minute when a short corner to Robin Jansson was fired toward goal and deflected into the far corner by Akindele. However, the Miami defense had stepped forward just in time to put the forward off and Ismael Elfath waved off the goal after reviewing the play on the video monitor.

“I felt it directly when it left my foot and it touched Tesho that he was standing offside,” Jansson said. “That was my first feeling, but then I haven’t seen it afterwards so I don’t know if it goes on the frame if Tesho doesn’t touch it. But it is what it is. I mean, we tried to do some stuff on the set pieces and this time it was close for me but we have to look forward to next time.”

The last decent look for Orlando in the half came on a header attempt in the 33rd by Michel, but he mistimed his effort and sent a weak dribbler well wide. Moutinho tried recycling it from the end line but could only sky his cross high into the air. Akindele made an attempt for it but was bodied off by the defense and couldn’t get anything on the shot.

Miami got a ball over the top in first-half stoppage time and Gallese was late getting off his line. Gonzalo Higuain put the ball in the net but the flag came up immediately and the video assistant referee confirmed the offside call.

The teams went to the break scoreless and Miami had to feel fortunate that Orlando didn’t take its chances.

Orlando doubled up Miami in shots (8-4) and each team got only one on target. The Lions held a 4-3 edge in corners and had the advantage in both possession (54.6%-45.4%) and passing accuracy (89.8%-84.3%).

Pareja put Dike into the lineup in place of Akindele to start the second half but the big man didn’t have the impact fans might have hoped. He managed one shot attempt that was well off target and only touched the ball 11 times in his 45 minutes on the pitch in his first match since returning from the Gold Cup. Dike last suited up for the Lions on July 3.

The second half was played mostly between the boxes for the first 15 minutes of the second half with each team getting some set pieces but doing nothing with them.

The first decent look of the half came from Mueller in the 64th when he sent a rocket from distance that he couldn’t get to dip enough at the end.

Much of the half was bereft of chances for either side, with Orlando getting six shot attempts off and conceding only one the other way.

Dike’s cross nearly resulted in a Miami own goal in the 83rd minute with a sliding clearance that didn’t miss the net by much. Second-half sub Nani sent in a good corner kick cross in the 85th minute that found Carlos’ shoulder. The ball deflected on target but Marsman did well to get over and make a huge save to keep the game scoreless.

Urso sent a curling effort toward the upper left corner in the 89th minute, but it was just a smidge off target on a good shot from outside the box. Orlando got a couple more corners but couldn’t make them pay off and the game ended all square at 0-0.

The Lions out-shot Miami 14-5, and got marginally more on target (3-2). Orlando held the advantage in corners (10-4), possession (55.4%-44.6%), and passing accuracy (91.1%-83.4%). It was a dominating performance everywhere but on the scoreboard.

Gallese’s shutout was his eighth in an Orlando City uniform, tying Brian Rowe for second on the team’s all-time list, five behind career leader Joe Bendik’s 13.

“Today to get back in goal for my team and to help us achieve our goals and continue advancing forward in this season is just great,” Gallese said through a club interpreter. “We had a very strong defensive game plan today coming into the game. We knew that Miami had a very strong attack with players like Pizarro and Higuain, so we just really needed to stay concentrated together as a unit, and being able to play that way defensively just really helped us have a strong game.”

Orlando’s six-game unbeaten run could have yielded more points with better finishing. The Lions have scored just four times in the last five matches.

“That’s the game,” Pareja said about the team’s missed opportunities. “It’s not easy. Scoring goals is all that we work for. But right now we don’t have that volume or we don’t have that clinical touch to put the ball in the back of the net — not even on a PK. I have to accept it but I have to see the whole thing. We will keep working. The boys have obviously the energy and the commitment to get better.”


Orlando City welcomes the Columbus Crew on Saturday, Sept. 4 in the Lions’ next match.

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.

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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.

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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?

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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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