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Orlando City

Orlando City vs. D.C. United: Final Score 2-1 as Daryl Dike’s Header Wins It at the Death



Daryl Dike saved his best moment for last with a perfect header off a Chris Mueller cross to lift Orlando City to a 2-1 win over D.C. United at Exploria Stadium. The Lions (11-8-9, 42 points) snapped a five-game winless streak when Mueller’s corner kick delivery found Dike’s head and the ball skipped off the underside of the crossbar and in for the winner to beat D.C. (12-12-4, 40 points).

Robin Jansson’s goal off an earlier corner kick scramble had canceled out a Julian Gressel cannon shot in the first half and the teams seemed destined to split the points until Dike’s goal. It was the forward’s third straight game with a goal and lifted the Lions back over United in the tight Eastern Conference standings. Orlando swept the season series from D.C. (2-0-0) — the first time the Lions have done that to United since 2017.

“I think it was a very important night for us,” Orlando City Head Coach Oscar Pareja said after the match. “And it was emotional for us, of course, because we have seen how hard (the players) worked to get over this hurdle, this period of three weeks where we couldn’t get results. Our players were very united.”

Pareja had just about his pick of the roster for this match as everyone was available except the injured Alexandre Pato and Uri Rosell and the suspended Rodrigo Schlegel. Pedro Gallese started behind a back line of Joao Moutinho, Jansson, Antonio Carlos, and Ruan. Sebas Mendez and Junior Urso took their spots in the central midfield, with Benji Michel and Mauricio Pereyra connecting with Nani and Dike up top.

There wasn’t much going on for the first five minutes of the game except 22 guys kicking the ball around, but that changed in the sixth minute. A ball forward for Dike was won by D.C. and sent to the right side. Gressel smashed a shot from distance that caught Gallese a bit off guard and it had the power to beat him to make it 1-0.

The first look for Orlando came in the 14th minute when a corner kick found Nani who fired a shot that was deflected. The ball pinged around in traffic and found Dike, who hit a shot over the bar. Two minutes later, Ruan got down the right and sent in a good low cross that Steve Birnbaum deflected just inches wide of his own left post. But the ensuing corner led to the Lions’ equalizer.

A good service into the area was headed on goal by Urso and Bill Hamid made a sprawling save. Jansson was there to smash the rebound into the roof of the net to tie the game at 1-1 in the 17th minute.

“I went to the second post and I saw the guys were in the middle there,” Jansson said. “I think it was Antonio, Dike, and maybe Urso or someone else. They got a touch to the goalkeeper, who put the rebound off on the second post and I was there to grab that rebound up and hit it in the net. I’m happy about the goal and happy for the team that we broke the bad momentum we have had. Hopefully this is something we can keep building now the last couple of games.”

Orlando looked vulnerable after scoring, with Carlos doing some emergency defending a couple of times to break up play but conceding dangerous corners. But the Lions settled back down and held some possession to calm the game back down.

Michel should have put Orlando on top in the 35th minute. Nani made a ridiculous pass to send Michel into the box on the left side. The winger made a good move to cut inside on his right foot but then sent his shot just inches wide of the far post.

That was the last good opportunity for either side in the first half and the teams went into the break all even. Orlando dominated possession in the first half (64.7%-35.3%) but often couldn’t decide what to do with it in the final third. The Lions had more shots (7-4) and shots on goal (2-1), and was more accurate with the ball when passing (87.1%-76.7%).

Emmanuel Mas came on for Moutinho to start the second half and D.C. pressed to try to find a goal early in the half, keeping Orlando penned in its own end for the half’s opening minutes. The Lions helped them with that by being loose with the ball, turning it over and playing into D.C.’s hands.

The first good chance came when Paul Arriola fired over the bar in the 48th minute. A minute later, Gallese spilled a seemingly routine ball and allowed D.C. to recycle an attack into the area, ending in a weak header on goal. Moments after that, Urso gave the ball away cheaply and ended up having to clean up the ball just in front of his own goal line.

Shortly after that, Orlando started to settle down and pass the ball better. D.C. began to drop into a defensive formation, content to earn a point on the road at worst and to ideally score on the counter, if possible. The Lions were able to get into some good positions but couldn’t quite find that final pass to unlock the defense.

In the 88th minute, the Lions created some danger in transition. Second-half sub Silvester van der Water did well to deflect a ball and Dike got onto it. The big forward passed up a shooting opportunity to slip between defenders but lost his balance after contact with a defender and he could only slide the ball to the right. Tesho Akindele made a sliding effort to direct the ball toward goal but Hamid made a huge initial save and then it was cleared off the line before van der Water could tap it home.

That looked like it was going to be the last good chance of the match but the Lions won a late free kick and made the most of it. Mueller sent in a fantastic cross and Dike flicked it on, sneaking it just under the bar for the late winner in the 97th minute. For Mueller, it was his first direct goal contribution since July 3, when he scored in a 2-1 loss to the New York Red Bulls.

“Chris had just served a good ball near post, and so I decided to go near post this time and flicked it on to the goal and the ball went in and emotion just came over me,” Dike said. “I’m just so happy we got a win in front of the fans.”

Dike celebrated and somehow ended up with a pair of sunglasses on his face. He said that Andres Perea brought them to him.

“I don’t know where he got them from but they ended up on my face,” Dike said.

“It seems like one point was not enough for them in front of our fans,” Pareja said of his team. “They brought that energy at the end that was what we were looking for to change the road now.”

With D.C. content to look for counter opportunities, the Lions led in most statistical categories, leading in shots (12-11), shots on target (4-2), corners (9-5), possession (64.8%-35.2%), and passing accuracy (86%-75.3%).

“I think we were the best team on the field,” Pareja said. “I think we got the three points because we always were constant on our intentions in trying to hurt United, which is a very good team also, who have strong transitions. But today our heart was bigger and that’s why we’re very proud.”

The win, combined with other results, lifted Orlando from seventh back into third place in the Eastern Conference.

“At this time of the year, every single point matters,” Dike said. “We tell each other every single second of the game matters, every play matters, whether it be the first minute, whether it be the 90th minute. You saw it from last game, you saw it from this game, that we’re going to keep fighting until the whistle is blown in order to get the points that we need.”

Orlando City now gets a rare rest with the international break, resuming play on Oct. 16 at FC Cincinnati.

Lion Links

Lion Links: 11/30/23

Orlando City faces big questions, Matt Miazga suspended, Emma Hayes meets USWNT for first time, and more.



Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

November is finally coming to a close. It’s been a bit of a rollercoaster of a month for me, with highs, lows, and many things in between. All in all, I’m pretty glad it’s nearly over, although I expect December to be similarly hectic. At least this weather is allowing me to break out some winter clothes and turn on the fireplace in this new apartment. I’m not sure why a fireplace was installed in a Floridian apartment, but I’m not complaining. Let’s dive into today’s links!

Big Decisions Await Orlando City

With Orlando City’s season over, attention now turns to a critical off-season for the club. Head Coach Oscar Pareja is out of contract after leading the Lions to the playoffs for the past four years. The club will also need to decide if it will exercise the 2024 options on the contracts of both Executive Vice President of Soccer Operations and General Manager Luiz Muzzi and Technical Director and Assistant General Manager Ricardo Moreira. All three have orchestrated Orlando’s transformation that’s included winning its first trophy, having its best season this year, and qualifying for both the Concacaf Champions League and Champions Cup. Potentially transferring Facundo Torres to Europe, filling the empty Designated Player slot, and deciding which players to bring back for 2024 are also on the agenda. However, figuring out who will lead the Lions into this exciting next chapter is paramount. Personally, I think the club should do everything in its power to keep the people who brought Orlando to this point.

Matt Miazga Suspended for Three Games

FC Cincinnati will be without MLS Defender of the Year Matt Miazga for Saturday’s Eastern Conference final, as he was suspended by MLS for three games due to his misconduct after the match with the New York Red Bulls on Nov. 4. Miazga was also fined an undisclosed amount and will undergo a behavioral assessment as part of the league’s Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health Program. Following that aforementioned playoff match, reports surfaced that Miazga gained unauthorized access to an area reserved for the referees and acted aggressively. Any suspended games not served during Cincy’s playoff run will carry over into the 2024 season, although Miazga can petition for a reduction based on compliance with recommended treatment plans.

Emma Hayes Meets With USWNT Players and Staff

Emma Hayes, who was hired as the next United States Women’s National Team Head Coach earlier this month, made the trip to Florida to meet the team for the first time. Although she won’t be coaching the team for its upcoming pair of friendlies against China, she collaborated with interim head coach Twila Kilgore on the latest training camp roster and will continue to work with her until taking over in May. There won’t be much time between Hayes’ official start date and the 2024 Summer Olympics, making these moments of face time between player and future coach all the more important. USWNT captain Lindsey Horan spoke on the team’s goals after meeting Hayes for the first time.

“There’s so much talent in this team, and I don’t think the world has seen enough of it yet just because we need to go out and show it,” Horan said. “We need to be able to mesh together and show everything that we have, and what we’re all about, and how we can really collaborate and play together — be more of a team and be a powerhouse again.

“It’s going to be exciting for us to have her and see what she can do with this team and how she can help us moving forward.”

Ricardo Pepi Sends PSV Into Champions League Knockout Stage

PSV Eindhoven clinched its spot in the next round of the UEFA Champions League in dramatic fashion, with American forward Ricardo Pepi scoring the winner in a 3-2 comeback win over Sevilla in Spain. Trailing 2-0 in the second half, American left back Sergino Dest provided the assist on PSV’s first goal and Pepi found the winner in stoppage time, with fellow American Malik Tillman also coming off the bench. From his little flick to send a teammate forward to his run and clinical header, it was a great goal by the 20-year-old.

Elsewhere in the Champions League, Arsenal beat Lens 6-0 to advance, Real Madrid won 4-2 against Napoli to win its group, and Real Sociedad played to a scoreless draw with RB Salzburg. Manchester United remains in last place of its group after a 3-3 draw with Galatasaray, with goalkeeper Andre Onana unable to stop Hakim Ziyech from scoring off of two free kicks. All’s not lost for United though, as it can still qualify for the round of 16 by beating Bayern Munich at home so long as the other match ends in the group ends in a draw. It all makes for what should be an exciting final matchday in the group stage.

Free Kicks

  • The Kansas City Current announced that American midfielder Sam Mewis will not be returning to the club for the 2024 season. The 31-year-old has not played since 2021 as she continues to recover from a knee injury.
  • The Utah Royals have signed free agent forward Imani Dorsey on a contract through the 2025 season. Dorsey has most recently played for NJ/NY Gotham FC, although she didn’t participate in this past season due to mental health reasons.
  • Manchester United is reportedly ready to move on from Mason Mount just six months after he joined the team from Chelsea.
  • Tomasz Kwiatkowski, the video assistant referee involved in a controversial handball that eventually led to Paris Saint-Germain’s equalizer in stoppage time against Newcastle, was removed from his next scheduled duty by UEFA.
  • Amidst a four-game winless streak, French club Nantes has fired Pierre Aristouy as its manager, immediately replacing him with Jocelyn Gourvennec.
  • We’ll end our links with this interesting article that dives into how Romelu Lukaku unexpectedly arrived at AS Roma and how he’s thriving at the Italian club.

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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Orlando City

2023 Orlando City Season in Review: Alex Freeman

We start our Orlando City player reviews with a look at a Homegrown fullback who made his MLS debut this season.



Image courtesy of Orlando City B

Orlando City signed fullback Alex Freeman to a Homegrown Player contract on February 15, 2022. He became the Lions’ 12th Homegrown signing and his deal runs through the 2025 season with a club option for 2026, but the youngster did not see action in Major League Soccer last season. With the departure of Ruan, there was an opportunity for Freeman to win a job with the first team in camp but he wasn’t quite ready to make the jump, instead playing an important role with Orlando City B throughout the 2023 MLS NEXT Pro season.

Let’s take a look back at Freeman’s 2023 campaign.

Statistical Breakdown

Freeman made his MLS debut on April 29 in a 2-0 home win over the LA Galaxy. It was not just his debut with the first team, but it was also his only appearance with the senior squad in 2023, although he did make the substitutes’ bench a few times after that. Officially, he logged only one minute, entering in the 93rd minute. He was only on the pitch a matter of seconds, so it’s unsurprising that he registered nothing on the stats sheet.

The son of former NFL receiver Antonio Freeman, Alex starred with OCB in 2023. In MLS NEXT Pro play, Freeman appeared in 24 of OCB’s 28 matches, starting 22, and logging 1,855 minutes. He finished tied for third on the squad in goals (4), adding three assists and passing at a 79.1% success rate. Freeman attempted 25 shots, putting 11 on target, and contributed 10 key passes. He committed 22 fouls, drew 27 on the opposition, and was booked four times. He also started OCB’s playoff match at Columbus, playing 89 minutes in the Young Lions’ 2-1 road loss. Freeman didn’t contribute a goal or assist or attempt a shot in the match, but he passed at an 88% rate, created one scoring chance, and committed one foul.

Best Game

With only one MLS appearance to his credit, the default best game for Freeman came on April 29 in Orlando City’s 2-0 home win over the LA Galaxy. Freeman didn’t even officially touch the ball in the game, but it’s not every day a teenager gets to play in an MLS match, and I’m sure it was a special moment for him. It was certainly a milestone in his professional soccer career.

2023 Final Grade

As Freeman fell well short of the minimum 450 minutes played mark to receive a rating on our 1-10 scale, The Mane Land has no choice but to mark his grade as incomplete for the 2023 season. There are areas of Freeman’s game that need a bit of refining, but at the same time, it’s easy to see why he landed a Homegrown contract, why Orlando City would find him an intriguing prospect, and why he’s been getting called up by the United States for U-20 international duty. His attacking presence was huge for OCB in 2023 and he was one of the key players that led the Young Lions to the postseason.

2024 Outlook

I would expect Freeman to get more seasoning at OCB in 2024, although he’ll be given opportunities in preseason camp to show whether he’s closed the gap on the likes of Michael Halliday and Kyle Smith (assuming both return). If the club moves on from both Halliday and Smith, it’s not hard to picture Freeman starting the season providing depth at right back for the first team. Having just turned 19 in August, Freeman has a lot of potential and he should start to unlock that within the next year or so.

This is the first of our 2023 Orlando City Season in Review articles. Every player who played minutes this past season and who finished the year on the club roster will be reviewed (exceptions may be made for players let go when the club officially announces its roster moves). Players who logged fewer than 450 minutes (combined regular season plus playoffs, Concacaf Champions League, U.S. Open Cup, and Leagues Cup) will receive a composite score between 1 and 10 as determined by a panel of The Mane Land writers, while those who did not reach that threshold will receive an incomplete grade.

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Lion Links

Lion Links: 11/29/23

Orlando Pride players called up by Brazil, MLS announces 2023 Best XI, latest MLS roster moves, and more.



Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Hello, Mane Landers I hope all is well down in Florida. I’ve been very busy working throughout the holiday weekend at Under Armour. This week I’ll be working at Wrigley Field for Winterland while getting ready to cover high school wrestling tomorrow night. There is plenty to cover today, so let’s get to the links.

Pride Players Called Up By Brazil for Friendlies

Orlando Pride defender Rafaelle and forwards Marta and Adriana have been called up to the Brazil Women’s National Team for its upcoming friendlies.

Brazil will play two matches against Japan on Nov. 30 and Dec. 3 in Sao Paulo before playing Nicaragua on Dec. 6 at Estadio Fonte Luminosa in Araraquara.

MLS Announces the 2023 Best XI

Major League Soccer announced its 2023 Best XI, recognizing the league’s top players at each position. There were no Orlando City players selected for the team and eight players received the honor for the first time. Those players are St. Louis City’s Roman Burki and Tim Parker, FC Cincinnati defender Matt Miazga, Atlanta United duo Thiago Almada and Giorgos Giakoumakis, Houston Dynamo midfielder Hector Herrera, LAFC’s Denis Bouanga, and Columbus Crew forward Cucho Hernandez. Nashville SC’s Hany Mukhtar made the Best XI for the third consecutive time, while teammate Walker Zimmerman was named to it for the fifth time. MLS MVP Luciano Acosta of FC Cincinnati rounds out the list.

Latest MLS Off-season Roster Moves

The Colorado Rapids announced their latest roster changes as they prepare for the the 2024 season under new Head Coach Chris Armas. The club exercised its options for defender Andrew Gutman, midfielder Ralph Priso, and forward Calvin Harris. The Rapids declined contract offers to seven players, with the most notable names being defender Steven Beitashour and goalkeeper William Yarbrough, although the Rapids are in discussions about re-signing Yarbrough. Elsewhere, the New England Revolution exercised the permanent transfer option on forward Tomas Chancalay, signing him to a Designated Player contract through 2026, with a club option for the 2027 season.

UEFA Champions League Roundup

Champions League action returned in Europe, as we get close to wrapping up the group stage in a couple of weeks. Manchester City overcame a two-goal deficit to beat RB Leipzig 3-2 and win Group G. Newcastle United had a chance to qualify for the round of 16 but gave up a late penalty to Paris Saint-Germain, which Kylian Mbappe converted to end the match in a 1-1 draw. Borussia Dortmund beat AC Milan 3-1 to book its spot in the knockout stage. PSG, Newcastle, and AC Milan are all still alive in Group F heading into the final matchday in December. Shakhtar Donetsk won 1-0 against Royal Antwerp and also still has a shot to advance on the final matchday. Lazio, Atletico Madrid, Barcelona, and Young Boys all won their respective matches as well. Today’s matches include Manchester United on the road against Galatasaray, Real Madrid taking on Napoli, and Sevilla facing off with PSV Eindhoven.

Free Kicks

  • Concacaf has announced that BMO Stadium, Dignity Health Sports Park, Shell Energy Stadium, and Snapdragon Stadium will be the four venues that will host matches for the 2024 Concacaf W Gold Cup.
  • Barcelona midfielder Gavi will be sidelined for up to 10 months after undergoing knee surgery after suffering a torn ACL in his right knee.
  • The International Football Association Board approved a trial for sin bins, meaning players punished for dissent or specific tactical offense would be temporarily removed from the match for a set amount of minutes.
  • You have got to see this goal from Cwrt Rawlin FC in the Welsh seventh division.

That will do it for me today, Mane Landers. Enjoy your Wednesday and I’ll see you next time.

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