Orlando City looked like the team below the line and Atlanta appeared to be the conference’s second-place team as the Lions were played completely off the field in a 3-0 loss at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. The Lions (10-5-8, 38 points) saw their seven-match unbeaten streak snapped by the same Atlanta (7-7-9, 30 points) club that it started against and split the points in the season series, finishing 1-1-1 in the three meetings.
It was a poor night from the Lions in every facet of the game. They didn’t press, defend, pass, attack, or even touch the ball well all night. Orlando City Head Coach Oscar Pareja lost against Atlanta for the first time since taking over the Lions and Gonzalo Pineda won his first game as the Five Stripes’ new coach. George Campbell and Ezequiel Barco scored for Atlanta, sandwiched around a Daryl Dike own goal.
“Very disappointed today. Not just the result but the way that we played,” Pareja said after the game. “I think it’s one of those nights where we couldn’t put our game on the field and Atlanta took advantage of two silly mistakes on those set plays that we had in the first half.”
Pareja’s lineup again featured Adam Grinwis in goal behind a back line of Joao Moutinho, Robin Jansson, Antonio Carlos, and Ruan. Andres Perea started in place of the suspended Junior Urso, beside Joey DeZart in the central midfield. Mauricio Pereyra and Benji Michel were tasked with facilitating the attack in the middle third, with Nani and Dike at the top of the formation.
Despite it being a strong lineup for Orlando, and outside of the central midfield and goalkeeper was more or less a first-choice starting XI, the Lions were never in this one. From the opening minutes, the Lions did little to bother Atlanta or even let the Five Stripes know they were in the game. There was no organization when the Lions pressed, and there were no clear game tactics on display. It was simply an entire game played on the back foot.
Part of the problem was a curious lack of energy by Orlando City, but the midfield was also an issue all night and the forwards’ poor touches and wayward passes didn’t help in those few instances that some semblance of buildup took place. Without Urso or Sebas Mendez, there was no bite in the midfield. Atlanta ran through the Lions in the middle of the pitch with ease, and it wasn’t until Uri Rosell checked in during the game’s later stages that anyone wearing an Atlanta uniform had to turn back with the ball.
“We didn’t look urgent today,” Pareja said. “We were outplayed by intensity, especially in the middle, and then the reactions when the goals came in the first half, they were not natural for us. We were slow to react. The middle of the field looked so big for us. I think we were very spacey.”
Atlanta dominated the opening 45 minutes and it always seemed like a matter of when the hosts would score and how many. Luiz Araujo couldn’t capitalize on a couple of early chances. He hit the left post from the right side in the fourth minute, sending a curling shot off the woodwork after the Lions failed to get anywhere near closing him down from just outside the area.
— Atlanta United FC (@ATLUTD) September 10, 2021
Five minutes later, Grinwis made a diving save to deny Marcelino Moreno from outside the area when he too was given space. In the 12th minute, it was Araujo again failing to capitalize on a good opportunity, sending a shot just wide of the right post.
During all of these Atlanta chances, the hosts were comfortable in possession as the Lions struggled to even gain possession, let alone string passes together. Orlando hardly crossed the midfield stripe in the opening 20 minutes.
Orlando’s first opportunity came in the 17th minute when Dike was fouled by Alan Franco just outside the area but Nani’s free kick smacked off the wall and skipped out for a throw.
The first dangerous shot by the Lions came in the 20th minute. Moutinho did well to cut inside and find Michel on the left side. Michel fired with his left foot toward the far post but the shot stayed high and sailed just over the bar.
Five minutes later, the hosts scored. Atlanta played a corner kick short, and the Lions kind of milled around as spectators as Moreno was given acres of space to send a cross into the box. Nobody seemed interested in reacting to the cross except Campbell, who headed off the fake grass and past Grinwis to open the scoring.
— Major League Soccer (@MLS) September 10, 2021
Atlanta scored off another set piece in the 34th minute. Carlos committed a foul and drew a yellow card just outside the area to Grinwis’ right. Ezequiel Barco sent in a cross that bounced off Nani, hit Dike, then deflected in for an own goal. It was the second Orlando City own goal in the last two matches.
With a little help from our friendly neighbors 🤷 pic.twitter.com/dFQR42IiFA
— Atlanta United FC (@ATLUTD) September 11, 2021
“Tactically they were better than us,” Pereyra said. “They played without a center forward and they’ve got many people with quality in the half pitch. We didn’t know how to accommodate in the pressing that we’d been working on in the week and it’s something that we need to grow now because we should adapt in the game.”
The only potential opportunities Orlando had to break in transition were both broken up by Atlanta defenders. Franco and Campbell were each booked for taking down Michel on the counter. The first would have been a 2-v-1 with Dike but Franco was likely in position to thwart the second, when Campbell drew a yellow for his foul.
It was a deserved lead at the half for the hosts and they honestly didn’t need to work that hard for it. The Lions just seemed flat, bereft of ideas, and both their touch and passing was poor throughout the opening half.
Atlanta United dominated the opening half statistically as it did on the scoreboard, leading in shots (7-3), shots on goal (2-0), possession (63.3%-36.7%), and passing accuracy (90.2%-79%), with each team earning one corner kick.
Any hope that things would change in the second half were quickly dashed. The Lions, trailing by two and needing to show some kind of urgency, failed to register a shot attempt until a weak effort from distance right at Brad Guzan from Perea in the 62nd minute. So, it took 17 minutes to even get an attempt.
In that 17 minutes, Moreno had three chances, sending one well over the bar, hitting a free kick wide, and then hitting a shot just wide after a Michel turnover. Barco also fired just over the net in transition after a Pereyra turnover.
Nani fired a shot from distance in the 71st minute but didn’t get the placement he wanted and it ended up comfortable for Guzan on only the second Orlando shot on target.
Barco put the game away a minute later. Brooks Lennon sent a ball over the top that found Barco, who moved to his right around Ruan, avoided a tackle attempt from Carlos, then beat Grinwis to make it 3-0 in the 72nd minute.
— Major League Soccer (@MLS) September 11, 2021
Pareja made some substitutions, including sending Tesho Akindele on for his 200th career MLS appearance, but nothing really changed. Grinwis made two huge stops late on Lennon and George Bello to keep it at 3-0 but the Lions couldn’t threaten Guzan.
Atlanta finished with a whopping 18-8 advantage in shots (5-2 on target), more possession (55.1%-44.9%), more corners (4-3), and a higher passing percentage (87.8%-82.7%). It was simply a terrible game for Orlando and perhaps behind only the trip to play New York City FC that preceded the seven-game unbeaten streak.
“We have to accept it, we have to move on, and the boys will be prepared for the next game,” Pareja said.
The Lions return home for a midweek match-up against Montreal at Exploria Stadium on Wednesday night.
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.
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.
- 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.
- In the Carabao Cup, Newcastle eliminated Manchester City in a 1-0 win. Liverpool, Chelsea, and Arsenal all advanced as well. The fourth round is set, with Newcastle taking on Manchester United, Bournemouth hosting Liverpool, and West Ham facing off against Arsenal.
- Speaking of Bournemouth, American midfielder Tyler Adams made his debut in the club’s 2-0 win over Stoke CIty.
- Inter Milan’s five-game win streak in Serie A was snapped after a 2-1 loss to Sassuolo.
- Morocco won the hosting rights for the 2025 Africa Cup of Nations, while a joint bid from Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda won the rights to host in 2027.
- FIFA’s legal department and other teams are moving from Switzerland to Coral Gables in Florida for a permanent office there.
That’s all I have for you today. Have a wonderful Thursday and rest of your week!
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.
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.
- 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.
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?
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.
Lion Links: 9/28/23
SkoPurp Soccer Episode 25: Viviana Villacorta’s Injury, the USWNT, NWSL Expansion, Angel City Preview, and More
Lion Links: 9/27/23
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