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Orlando City vs. Nashville SC: Final Score 2-2 as Lions Roar Back from Two-Goal Deficit

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Daryl Dike scored from the penalty spot in his first career attempt and an own goal in stoppage time helped Orlando City come from 2-0 down to draw 2-2 at Nissan Stadium. The Lions (10-8-9, 39 points) were moments from their fifth consecutive loss but got some of the breaks late that have been going against them in recent weeks to earn a much-needed point at second-place Nashville (11-3-13, 46 points).

After Orlando fell behind on a soft penalty, Nashville could play its preferred style of sitting back, staying organized, and looking for opportunities to transition. Orlando played well but struggled to break down that stingy defense until Dike earned, then converted, the penalty.

Hany Mukhtar scored off his own saved penalty and Randall Leal added a second to seemingly put the Lions away but Orlando showed mental toughness to make it a game and got the break it needed.

Orlando City is now 0-0-3 at Nissan Stadium, 1-1-3 overall against Nashville, and the team scoring first has never won in this series.

“Tonight we saw the heart of our players,” Orlando City Head Coach Oscar Pareja said after the game. “It is a very important point against a good rival, and we take it very proudly.”

Pareja’s starting lineup included Pedro Gallese in goal behind a back line of Joao Moutinho, Rodrigo Schlegel, Antonio Carlos, and Ruan. Carlos returned from his one-game suspension but Jansson’s yellow card accumulation kept him out of this one, leaving Schlegel in the starting XI. Junior Urso and Sebas Mendez patrolled the central midfield, with Alexander Alvarado — his second MLS start — and Mauricio Pereyra facilitating the attack to Silvester van der Water and Dike.

Nashville took the lead early in the aftermath of a penalty that should never have been given. After a Nashville player collided with Gallese on a corner kick cross from the goalkeeper’s left, the ball skipped out to the edge of the box where Anibal Godoy picked it up with his back to goal. Sebas Mendez tried to nick it away, which he didn’t need to do, but there was only minimal contact. Godoy went down, and referee Drew Fischer bought it, giving Nashville a spot kick after a lengthy delay for video review. Fischer never went to look at it himself and the call stood. Gallese made the save on Mukhtar’s penalty, but the striker got to the rebound first and slipped it through to give the hosts a 1-0 lead just 11 minutes in.

The first Orlando City shot came in the 18th minute on a try from distance by Dike, who smashed it on target but right at goalkeeper Joe Wilis, who fought it off and recovered it before any Lions could pounce.

Mukhtar got around Carlos in the 23rd minute on the left but Schlegel came over to force him to shoot from a tough angle and he hit only side netting.

Nashville was content to sit deep, press only at advantageous moments, and gum up the final third for Orlando. The Lions did well to connect some passes together but even the slightest of heavy touches or off-line passes were cut out by the defense.

Dike won a free kick straight out from goal about 25 yards out and Pereyra took the set piece in the 40th minute. Pereyra’s free kick took a slight deflection off the wall and fizzed just wide of the right post.

Urso had a go from distance but didn’t trouble Willis much in the 44th minute on the last look of the half.

Nashville SC led in shots (8-5), shots on goal (3-2), and corners (4-1), while Orlando City held more possession in the first half (61.6%-38.4%) and was the better passing side (85.9%-80.4%).

The first good chance of the second half fell Orlando’s way when Pereyra fired a shot from distance that was heading in but Willis made a good diving save to keep the game at 1-0.

(Note: Look how Fischer moves into the path of the ball, which could easily have distracted Pereyra from taking it cleanly. SMH)

But, unfortunately, a strange bounce allowed Nashville to double the lead just six minutes later. Pereyra sent a pass forward that hit Moutinho in the back and fell perfectly for Nashville to counter-attack. Leal came right down the middle and Moutinho couldn’t recover after being further upfield. Schlegel had to respect the run of CJ Sapong and was late to step up as a result. Leal fired a blast inside the right post to make it 2-0 in the 59th minute.

Things got worse moments later when Schlegel was booked for a foul on Mukhtar and now he’ll be suspended for Saturday’s match.

Walker Zimmerman should have put the game away in the 66th minute when he got free for an uncontested header on a corner kick but he hit his shot wide. Orlando took advantage of the mistake.

Pareja sent on Nani and Benji Michel on the ensuing stoppage and it nearly paid off right away. A ball forward nearly put Dike in and Zimmerman appeared to impede the forward’s progress by throwing an arm out across his chest. Dike stumbled but didn’t go down until he fell over Willis, who was collecting the ball, and it was Dike called for a foul.

Leal was left with too much space a minute later and fired just a little high and wide of the right post on a dangerous chance.

Nani got his first look at goal in the 69th minute, trying his luck from distance but hitting a shot just wide of the left post. Two minutes later, the captain sent an incredible ball over the top that fell perfectly for Ruan. The right back couldn’t get the ball through to a teammate but did win a corner. Just after the set piece, Nani cut in from the right to the top of the area and fired again but his shot was at Willis.

In the 74th minute, the Lions finally caught a break. Dike tried to bring down a ball in the box and Jack Maher was draped all over him. The touch was heavy and in no way was Dike going to get to the ball first, but Maher still didn’t let go and pulled the forward down. Fischer pointed to the spot immediately and after a short check by the VAR, the call stood.

Dike took the penalty himself and powered it just inside the left post to put Orlando City on the board in the 76th minute. It was Dike’s first career penalty kick goal and his fifth of the season.

“When the ref blew the whistle I just went up and grabbed the ball,” Dike said. “I was confident that I wanted to score the goal and help spark the comeback. I just wanted to put it in the back of the net.”

Nashville tried to pounce right after the restart and Mukhtar got in a decent position on the right, smashing a shot on goal that Gallese saved. A minute later, Nani fired just over the bar again on yet another effort that didn’t miss by much.

Moutinho sent in a long cross in the 83rd minute that Michel got his head on but he couldn’t get on top of it, popping it out of play. With that stoppage, Tesho Akindele checked in for Sebas Mendez to add another attacker.

Schlegel directed a harmless shot at Willis on a training ground set piece that ended up on his foot in the 86th as the Lions kept the pressure on. That pressure finally paid off in stoppage time.

Akindele won a corner kick in the 93rd minute and Nani sent a good cross out in front of the six-yard box. Michel was battling with Brian Anunga on the back post and the ball hit the Nashville player and bounced in to tie the match, although it appeared on first look that Benji knocked it in, especially when seeing his celebration.

“After you have the whole initiative just trying to break them down and then in that counter they punished us, and they overcome those two goals,” Pareja said of his team. “It’s amazing to see how important is the heart of the team, and they have a big one. They have a huge heart and I’m happy for the players. They deserve it.”

Akindele won another late corner in the 96th minute but Fischer called Orlando for a foul while the cross was in the air and that was it for the match.

Nashville finished the game with more shot attempts (15-12) but both teams put six on target. The hosts led in corners (5-4) but Orlando held more possession (63.2%-36.8%) and passed more accurately (86.8%-77.7%).

“We’ve left the field (after recent games) with a sour taste in our mouth and then, after the New England game, I think we competed very well,” Dike said. “And we walked out of the game, even though we had not gotten any points, thinking, ‘Okay, this is when we start changing.’ Even after going down, we still knew that we were going to get a result, that we were gonna change things.”

“I thought we had the initiative the whole game,” Pareja said. “We did not want to give it up. This is the way we do it. This is the way we play, and the boys were faithful to their ways. They defend very low and they’re very effective in the counters, and obviously we lost them in the second goal, but the whole game we had that initiative that just made me feel that the players are intact and that we will keep fighting.”


Orlando City returns home to face D.C. United — which has suddenly leapt into third place — Saturday night at Exploria Stadium.

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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Lion Links

Lion Links: 2/22/24

Orlando City beats Cavalry FC, Lions receive General Allocation Money for Junior Urso’s rights, USWNT gets ready for Argentina, and more.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

How’s it going, Mane Landers? It’s nice to start the morning fresh off of a huge win and I’m hoping that becomes a regular occurrence this year. Hopefully the work week has been kind to you as we ride the high of the Concacaf Champions Cup into Orlando City’s first game of the MLS season this weekend. For now, let’s dive into today’s links from around the soccer world.

Lions Win in Concacaf Champions Cup Opener

Orlando City kicked off its Concacaf Champions Cup campaign with a solid 3-0 win against Cavalry FC in Canada. Some players did better playing on the turf of Starlight Stadium in British Columbia than others, but the Lions ultimately did well on the road to make things less stressful for themselves for the second leg on Tuesday in Orlando at 6 p.m. Orlando’s offense showed little rust and the defense did its part in its first competitive match of 2024. Before the match, Head Coach Oscar Pareja announced that Robin Jansson will serve as the team’s captain this year, so it’s nice to see his tenure start with a clean sheet.

Junior Urso Signs With Charlotte FC

Orlando City received $50,000 in 2025 General Allocation Money from Charlotte FC in exchange for Brazilian midfielder Junior Urso’s right of first refusal. This transaction cleared the way for Urso to sign with Charlotte, joining on a deal through 2024, with an option for 2025. The Bear became a Lion back in 2020 and was an integral part of Orlando’s transformation under Head Coach Oscar Pareja that included winning the 2022 U.S. Open Cup. The 34-year-old impressed as a trialist with Charlotte during the preseason and should give Dean Smith’s side a veteran presence both on and off the field. While it’s never fun seeing a fan favorite playing for another Eastern Conference foe, I wish nothing but the best for Urso and hope he gets a warm reception when Charlotte visits Orlando this season on Sept. 18.

MLS Coaching Changes for 2024

There was a considerable amount of coaching turnover in MLS since last season, adding some intriguing storylines for this year. After a rough time in Miami, Phil Neville has a chance at redemption with a Portland Timbers side that narrowly missed out on the playoffs last year. The Colorado Rapids’ Chris Armas, D.C. United’s Troy Lesesne, and the New England Revolution’s Caleb Porter are other familiar faces in new places who could impress. As for those new to the scene, Dean Smith joined Charlotte from England, while Sandro Schwarz is now at the helm of the New York Red Bulls after years in Germany and Russia. I’m also interested to see how long it takes for John Herdman to turn things around with Toronto FC.

Analyzing Argentina Ahead of USWNT Clash

After a dominant 5-0 win over the Dominican Republic, the United States Women’s National Team will take on Argentina tomorrow in the Concacaf W Gold Cup’s group stage. The U.S. has won the past four meetings between the past two nations, and Argentina is coming off of a scoreless draw with Mexico. The Orlando Pride’s Mariana Larroquette spearheads an Argentine attack that can be a bit inconsistent when it comes to creating chances. That being said, Vanina Preininger can pull strings from the midfield and Argentina has multiple players capable of scoring from distance. Laurina Oliveros will likely start in goal after her clean sheet in the opener, and the defense also includes Kansas City Current center back Sophia Braun.

Free Kicks

  • The Orlando Pride’s Rafaelle and Adriana both started in Brazil’s 1-0 win over Puerto Rico.
  • The LA Galaxy signed Ghanaian winger Joseph Paintsil as their third Designated Player. The 26-year-old joins from Genk in Belgium and signed a contract with the Galaxy through 2027.
  • The Revolution beat Panama’s Independiente 1-0 on the road in the Champions Cup opener for both teams.
  • The new changes to MLS’ competitive rules, such as in-stadium VAR announcements and off-field treatments, have been postponed amid the league’s referee situation.
  • The United Soccer League announced that all 47 of the teams under its umbrella will take part in this year’s U.S. Open Cup.
  • Bayern Munich officially announced that Thomas Tuchel will leave once this season is over. Although Bayern is second in the Bundesliga standings, it’s lost its past three games, including a defeat to Lazio in the Champions League.
  • Porto scored a stunning goal in stoppage time to shock Arsenal in the UEFA Champions League.

That’s all I have for you today. I hope you all have a wonderful Thursday and rest of your week!

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