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Orlando City vs. CF Montreal: Final Score 4-2 as 9-Man Lions Lose Second Straight

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Orlando City went down a man and two goals but battled back to even the score before suffering a second straight loss — this time 4-2 to CF Montreal at Exploria Stadium. Nani hit the showers before halftime after picking up a pair of yellow cards and Andres Perea joined him in the dressing room during the second half with a straight red. Romell Quioto led Montreal (9-8-7, 34 points) with a goal and two assists while defenders Robin Jansson and Ruan provided the only offense for Orlando City (10-6-8, 38 points).

The Lions have conceded nine times in the last three matches but at least they didn’t score on themselves as they had in the previous two. It was just Orlando’s second home loss of the season and a disappointing performance in all phases almost from the opening whistle.

“First, I apologize (for) our performance to our fans,” Orlando City Head Coach Oscar Pareja said after the match. “Not just because the game became messy with all these incidents and things, but because we’re much more than that. But at the end, you have a coach and you have a leader who takes the responsibilities on the way we line up, the way we choose to play the game, and our strategies, and all those things and today it didn’t work.”

Pedro Gallese returned to the starting lineup in goal for Orlando City behind a back line of Emmanuel Mas, Jansson, Antonio Carlos, and Ruan. Junior Urso returned from suspension to take his spot in central midfield beside Perea. Silvester van der Water and Mauricio Pereyra facilitated the attack to Nani and Daryl Dike.

Orlando City looked a bit out of sync to start the match and everything was just a little off. The Lions started several Montreal counters with poor passes and poor decisions with the ball and the one time they managed to put together a good attack early, the goal didn’t count. Van der Water got in behind and put the ball in the net in the seventh minute but he was flagged for a clear offside.

The first good look fell, literally, to Montreal. A cross from the right came to Jansson but he failed to clear it and only knocked it as far as Djordje Mihailovic, who fired a shot over the bar in the 11th minute. A minute later, Joaquin Torres fired just wide on a counter that was set up when Mas tried to flick a back pass to Pereyra in the attacking third but the ball got caught under his foot in the process and Montreal took it away.

In the 15th minute, Samuel Piette recycled a corner kick that Orlando cleared and sent a ball that Joel Waterman headed toward goal but Gallese was able to get over and save it.

Montreal broke the deadlock in the 18th minute after Perea turned it over. The visitors came forward and Ruan drifted too far inside. A quick pass outside and Quioto had plenty of space to send in a good cross. Montreal somehow had two runners — one on each side of Jansson, who was left to try to defend two men. The ball sailed over him to Mathieu Choiniere, who headed home.

Orlando tried to pull that goal back but lacked the quality and the creativity to do it. Nani sent in a cross for Urso but he was well covered and could only send a weak header toward goal. Moments later, Nani tried a shot from distance but it was always going over the bar.

The Lions got a set piece when Pereyra was fouled but it ended up doing more harm than good. Ruan played the free kick short to no one in particular and Nani raced forward to try to beat Torres to it and ended up fouling him and getting booked for it. That became a big booking shortly therafter. Nani coughed up the ball in the midfield for the second time in the game in the 35th minute and clipped Quioto from behind trying to stop the counter. Rubiel Vazquez showed him a second yellow and the Lions were forced to play at a manpower disadvantage for the rest of the match.

“Sometimes this happens,” Urso said of the sending off. “I know it’s hard to play with 10 players against 11. We have to be a team. Nani is our captain and he was sad and mad in the locker room, but we understand him and we are a team. We have to keep going. Nani has our respect (and) has our support.”

To make matters worse, Montreal scored right after the restart. Mihailovic played Quioto behind the defense and his shot hit off the far post and went in to make it 2-0 in the 37th minute.

Orlando managed to pull one back on a set piece. After Victor Wanyama fouled Dike from behind and was booked for it, Pereyra sent in a ball that fell to Wanyama to clear. The midfielder hit it only as far as Jansson near the top of the area and the Beefy Swede chipped in a shot toward the far post to make it 2-1 in the 40th minute.

Montreal out-shot the Lions in the opening half, 7-4, and got more on target (4-1). The visitors had more possession (57.2%-42.8%), more corners (4-0), and more accurate passing (92.5%-84.7%). The Orlando passing accuracy doesn’t look that bad as a statistic, but seemingly every wayward pass ignited some kind of Montreal transition.

Pareja subbed Benji Michel on for Chris Mueller to start the second half, which seemed odd because Mueller had replaced van der Water in the 41st minute. It turns out that both wingers picked up knocks in the match.

“When Chris came in for Silvester, Silvester was hurt,” Pareja said. “He asked for the substitution. And then when we came back to the locker room, Chris was hurt too. He got his ankle tweaked and then he couldn’t come out for the second half.”

The Lions had an excellent opportunity to tie it up in the 54th when Ruan got down the right flank and sent a ball toward the net that hit the goalkeeper and bounced straight to Dike. The big forward sent his shot over the gaping wide net.

Montreal seemed content to knock the ball around and keep possession, not attempting to get forward much. Orlando took advantage of that in the 63rd minute. Michel got down the left side and sent in a quick pass to Mas, who took an extra touch instead of shooting. Zachary Brault-Guillard swept in and knocked the ball off Mas and it bounced straight to Ruan in the middle. The right back fired immediately and scored his first career MLS goal, tying the game at 2-2.

CF Montreal was no longer content to just kick it around after the game was tied and started attacking again. Orlando managed to fight off the visitors for a while but only for about 10 minutes. Quioto got the ball on the right and sent a wicked low cross into the box. All substitute Lassi Lappalainen had to do was stick out a foot and redirect it to restore Montreal’s lead at 3-2 in the 73rd minute.

The visitors got an insurance goal off a corner in the 80th minute. Substitute Ibrahim Sunusi flicked home a near-post cross from Mihailovic to make it 4-2 and effectively end things.

Perea was sent off three minutes later trying to commit a tactical foul in transition. Rather than seeing yellow, Perea was shown a straight red by Vazquez for denial of a goal-scoring opportunity although the play was on Montreal’s attacking right and Carlos was charging down the center of the pitch. The center back appeared to be in position to potentially make a play, but Orlando finished out the match with just nine men.

Mihailovic sent the ensuing free kick just inches wide of the far post.

Michel had a final chance to pull one back for the Lions but hit a weak shot right at the goalkeeper from the left side in the 90th minute.

Montreal finished with more shots (15-7), shots on goal (7-3), corner kicks (9-0), and possession (59.7%-40.3%), and was the more accurate passing team (92.5%-84.8%).

“We can use it as an excuse of saying that we’re playing at first with 10 and nine and ejections and other things, but I didn’t like the way we were playing with 11 either,” Pareja said. “So, after that we played actually better. We cannot lose our mind. It’s something that’s happened to many teams in the league and this is our journey. We’re not we’re not going to lose our heads, for sure. We have to review and obviously try to see how can we find a way to be back (to) the team that we are. And definitely things need to be done and changes (need to be made). This needs to be evaluated for sure. It’s part of our job, and I take that responsibility.”


The Lions hit the road next for a pivotal Sunday afternoon match against the Philadelphia Union at 4 p.m.

Opinion

Wide Players Made the Difference in Victory Over Cavalry FC

Orlando’s fullbacks and wingers had great games against Cavalry, and it helped propel the Lions to victory.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Orlando City began its 2024 season with a resounding and confident 3-0 win over Cavalry FC on the road up in Canada. The Lions grabbed control of the game with an early goal and never let up, and now go into next week’s home leg in excellent position to advance to the next round. Everyone who played out wide for OCSC can and should take a well-earned bow for their performances, as it was their excellent games that pushed the Lions to a big advantage after the first leg.

The first goal looked easy enough, but it was a product of good vision and better execution. After collecting the ball near midfield, Wilder Cartagena turned into space and played a quick ball out to Ivan Angulo on the left wing. Martin Ojeda began his run in a fairly central position, but recognized that there was space behind fullback Shamit Shome, and immediately went to it. He was rewarded when Angulo took one touch to collect the ball, another to settle it, and used his third to play Ojeda into the space behind Shome, with defensive midfielder Jesse Daley coming back to cover. However, the pass from Angulo was perfectly weighted and Ojeda was able to use his first touch to play a cross into the box, preventing Daley from getting in the way of his delivery. Ojeda laid the ball on a plate, and Duncan McGuire made no mistake from close range.

The second goal also came as a result of play out wide, although it was more a goal of individual brilliance than team skill. Dagur Dan Thorhallsson drove at the heart of the retreating Cavalry defense, and pulled three players to him before releasing the ball at precisely the correct time to Facundo Torres on the right wing. Once there, the man defending Torres, William Akio, made the cardinal sin of allowing Facu to cut in on his left foot, and Orlando’s new no. 10 made the opposition pay with a shot to the near post that skipped off the turf and beat Marco Carducci, who admittedly maybe should have done better with it than he did.

The dagger came as a result of more excellent play down the left-hand side. Nicolas Lodeiro, Angulo, and Ramiro Enrique used some slick one-touch passing that resulted in Enrique sending Angulo in behind on the left. Enrique’s ball to free his fellow Colombian was perfectly weighted, and Angulo was able to use his first touch to play a perfect lofted cross to the back post, where Torres dispatched it with a beautiful diving header for his second of the match.

Numbers don’t lie, and they back up the assertion that the wide players had good games. Thorhallsson promptly picked up where he left off at right back, finishing with 81% passing accuracy, one key pass, one assist, one clearance, and one interception. If he keeps this up, then Mikey Halliday is going to have a fight on his hands when it comes to the starting job. Kyle Smith quietly had a good game on the opposite side of the defense, completing one dribble, winning a tackle, and recording four clearances, although his 72% passing accuracy could have been better.

Ivan Angulo was an absolute terror, and looked even more dangerous on the slick turf than he normally does on grass fields. He gave the Cavalry defense fits, and completed four dribbles, recording two key passes, a cross, two long balls, an interception, a tackle, and an assist while completing 84% of his passes. As in seasons past, the big question for him this year surrounds his decision-making in the final third and his finishing. If both of those attributes continue to improve, then he’ll be an almighty handful for opposing defenses.

Torres was, well, Torres. He’s been the straw that stirs Orlando City’s drink for two years now, and Wednesday night was no different. Facu took three shots and scored with the two he put on target, completed 86% of his passes, logging one key pass. He also completed a dribble and chipped in with a clearance and an interception on defense. Time will tell if he’s managed to add the use of his right foot to his game yet, but he was a pleasure to watch, as usual.

I also want to take a moment to shout-out Ojeda. While he was deployed through the middle in the no. 10 role, rather than out wide, where we’re used to seeing him, he was excellent. The Argentine repeatedly drifted into the half-spaces between center back and fullback and had a field day pulling the strings, as he finished with a whopping five key passes. If he can translate that sort of performance to MLS, then a lot of pressure will be taken off the aging legs of Nico Lodeiro.


In short, the Lions made their living on Wednesday by stretching the field, getting the ball to their dangerous players out wide, and then making and executing the correct decisions once it was there. There were a lot of things to like offensively about the performance, and it provided plenty to build on when OCSC opens MLS play against CF Montreal tomorrow. Vamos Orlando!

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Lion Links

Lion Links: 2/23/24

Orlando Pride’s Megan Montefusco placed on season-ending injury list, Orlando City’s chances to win it all, USWNT plays Argentina tonight, and more.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Happy Friday! It’s the final Friday before we spend pretty much every weekend screaming our hearts out for Orlando’s soccer teams. Although I won’t be in Orlando for tomorrow’s game, I’ll be cheering along from Tampa and am looking forward to a strong start to the season from the Lions. Before we get into today’s links, let’s all wish a happy birthday to our favorite octopus, Pedro Gallese!

Megan Montefusco Placed On Season-Ending Injury List

The Orlando Pride suffered a blow to their defense as center back Megan Montefusco was placed on the season-ending injury list after undergoing surgery on her right foot. Montefusco joined the Pride through a trade before the 2022 season and did well coming off the bench last season to keep Orlando’s defense strong as the year wore on. The Pride have options to fill the void, as Carrie Lawrence is back in the fray after missing last season due to injury and Tori Hansen will be back once her time on loan in Australia is up. Orlando could also go out and bring in a veteran to replace Montefusco or sign Cori Dyke, who was drafted by the Pride in the second round. Regardless, losing Montefusco is rough, considering Rafaella will likely be with Brazil for the Olympics this summer.

Orlando City’s Championship Credentials

Joseph Lowery of MLSsoccer.com detailed the strengths and weaknesses of each MLS team in terms of having what it takes to win it all this year. Orlando City followed up a pretty stellar off-season with a nearly perfect preseason. Head Coach Oscar Pareja, winger Ivan Angulo, and midfielder Wilder Cartagena are all sticking around, while Robin Jansson, Facundo Torres, and the front office brain trust of Luiz Muzzi and Ricardo Moreira were locked down as well. Additions of David Brekalo, Luis Muriel, and Nico Lodeiro also ensured this team has few holes. There’s concern that there are too many mouths to feed though, and that no single player can take the reins of the offense. I disagree on that being much of an issue though, as the attack is fluid enough to beat different teams in different ways. The Lions may go without All-Star representation as a result, but they should rack up plenty of points spreading the wealth on offense.

USWNT Takes on Argentina Tonight

The United States Women’s National Team will face Argentina tonight at 10:15 p.m. in its second game of the inaugural Concacaf W Gold Cup. The U.S. did well in its 5-0 win over the Dominican Republic, but there were opportunities to score even more. Since there will be reseeding for the knockout stages, scoring plenty of goals will benefit the USWNT. Midge Purce was excellent in the opener and the USWNT will need to be sharper at putting away good service from the wings. Argentina held Mexico to a scoreless draw in its opener and will likely be hungry to score its first goal of the tournament.

Keeping Up With the Europa League

The first round of the Europa League’s knockout stage came to a close after a drama-filled day of soccer. Only one game went to penalty kicks, as AS Roma beat Feyenoord after a 1-1 draw thanks to two saves from Mile Svilar in the shootout. There was a thriller in Azerbaijan as well. A red card reduced Qarabag FK to 10 men and Braga took full advantage, scoring twice to send the game into extra time. They then traded goals until 19-year-old winger Nariman Akhundzade gave Qarabag the winner in stoppage time. In Germany, SC Freiburg came back from a two-goal deficit to beat Lens in extra time as well.

Elsewhere, a red card doomed Galatasaray as Sparta Prague rallied late to win, and AC Milan survived a hat trick from Rennes midfielder Benjamin Bourigeaud to advance on aggregate. Sporting CP, Marseille, and Benfica all booked their spot in the round of 16 as well, with the draw set for today.

Free Kicks

  • New food vendors will be available for fans at Orlando City and Orlando Pride home games this year, with Flippers Pizzeria Company now a permanent addition. New options for the rotating carts include Pardon My Cheesesteak and Omusubee Japanese Rice Balls.
  • Congratulations to Pride defender Emily Madril on getting married!

That’s all I have for you today. I hope you all have a fantastic Friday and rest of your weekend!

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Orlando City

Orlando City vs. CF Montreal: Three Keys to Victory

What does Orlando City need to do to secure all three points in the home opener against CF Montreal?

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Orlando City will host CF Montreal in the club’s first match of the 2024 MLS regular season this Saturday night. The Lions are coming off the Concacaf Champions Cup match against Cavalry FC Wednesday night. Orlando City will want to get things started the right way as expectations and aspirations are higher than ever for the club.

What does Orlando City need to do to secure a victory in the home opener against their Canadian opponents?

Roster Management

Orlando City has four matches in 11 days — the previously mentioned Wednesday match against Cavalry in Canada, the match against Montreal on Saturday, the return match against Cavalry in Orlando next Tuesday, and then a trip to Ft. Lauderdale to take on Inter Miami. That is quite a start to competitive play in 2024.

Because of the schedule congestion, Oscar Pareja will need to rotate players. That means we’re not likely to have the preferred starting 11 as much as any of us will like. Kyle Smith, Michael Halliday, Jeorgio Kocevski, and others will likely see playing time. How well Pareja manages when to use which players, and for how long, will determine not just the result of this match against Montreal, but for each of the other matches as well.

Defensive Communication

Rodrigo Schlegel is serving a suspension in this first league match and will not be available. That means Orlando City’s newest center back, David Brekalo, will probably get the start alongside Robin “The Beefy Swede” Jansson. Having a good center back pairing is absolutely essential to the success of any defense. We know that because once Jansson and former Lion Antonio Carlos worked together for a while, they became an absolute fortress on the back line.

Now, Jansson will need to build the same chemistry with Brekalo if the Lions want to maintain their position as one of the best defenses in the league. With Schlegel unavailable, there is no question that Jansson and Brekalo will have the opportunity to start building that relationship. Hopefully, it will be good enough to keep Montreal — especially Josef Martinez — out of the goal.

Keep Torres Scoring

Facundo Torres had a great preseason. Orlando City’s new owner of the No. 10 shirt needs to keep doing the same. He’ll need to score goals, provide assists, and create problems for Montreal’s defense. Traditionally, Montreal has put out a three-man back line. While that means it’ll be a five-man back line when Orlando City has the ball, during changes of possession there should be space for Torres to get free and get scoring opportunities.

If Montreal smartly tried to contain Torres, then it will have to deal with Duncan McGuire, Nico Lodeiro, and Ivan Angulo. Orlando City’s offense has the potential to score quite a few more goals this season, and it all starts Saturday night against Montreal. Get two on the board and I think it will mean three points in the standings.


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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