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Orlando City vs. New England Revolution: Final Score 2-2 as Lions Blow Two-Goal Lead



Orlando City continues throwing away points at Exploria Stadium like they’re junk mail. This time the Lions (12-8-11, 47 points) blew a late two-goal lead at home against Supporters’ Shield winners New England Revolution (21-4-7, 70 points) after an excellent 80 minutes of soccer and lost two vital points in the playoff race.

Nani and Daryl Dike staked the Lions to a 2-0 lead but no one could handle the size of Adam Buksa, who scored in the 81st and 93rd minutes to turn a two-goal lead into another unsatisfying home draw. Both of Orlando’s home games this week end up with a bad taste in the Lions’ mouths after four points dropped from a winning position.

Orlando did manage to run its unbeaten streak to five matches (2-0-3) but the last two draws felt more like losses than wins for a team trying to clinch a spot in the postseason.

“We’re disappointed, obviously, with giving up those two goals at the end and not accomplishing the objective, which is no less than those three points that we were pursuing tonight,” Orlando City Head Coach Oscar Pareja said after the match. “Difficult as well just to recognize we did such good things today that we could put the game away very early again. And then at the end we just finished with a very tight game with them, sending in crosses, and that’s the way they scored the goals.”

Pareja’s lineup was nearly a first-choice starting XI. Pedro Gallese started behind a back line of Joao Moutinho, Rodrigo Schlegel, Antonio Carlos, and Ruan, with Robin Jansson reportedly suffering from a stiff neck. Junior Urso and Sebas Mendez slotted into the central midfield, with Chris Mueller and Mauricio Pereyra facilitating the attack to Nani and Daryl Dike.

Orlando dominated play in the first half much like Wednesday against Montreal but — also like Wednesday against Montreal — had only a 1-0 halftime lead to show for it. Orlando’s first opportunity came nine minutes in when a fantastic cross from Nani was heading for Dike’s head but Jonathan Bell arrived at the last second to head it away. Nani tried his luck from just inside the top of the box three minutes later but his effort was blocked by the defense.

Mueller tried his luck from just outside the area in the 18th minute but got under the wet ball and hit it well over Matt Turner’s goal. Moutinho got up into the attack in the 28th and fired from the top of the box but his shot skipped right at Turner for the easy save.

The Lions could have opened the scoring in the 34th minute. Urso collected the ball on the left and sent in a cross to Dike but his header was straight at Turner for the save.

On a corner played short, the ball was played around the top of the box and eventually Urso ran it down in the left corner. He passed back to Moutinho, who curled in an inch-perfect cross for Nani to head home to make it 1-0 in the 39th minute. It was the captain’s 10th goal of the season and first since Aug. 7 at FC Cincinnati.

“This is our game. We need to cross the balls, we need to have the players in the box,” Nani said. “The more we cross, the more we have players in the box, we have a chance. We’ve been scoring a lot of goals like that. I think the first half was a great performance from the team. We controlled the game. We were on top of the New England team.”

Nani was shaken up on the play and got a nosebleed but was able to continue.

Orlando had a promising buildup three minutes after the goal that ended on Urso’s foot but the midfielder hit his shot over the bar.

New England won a late corner but committed a foul during the service and the first half ended with the Lions up a goal.

Orlando City led in shots (7-2), shots on target (3-0), possession (67.4%-32.6%), passing accuracy (90.2%-79.9%), and corners (3-2).

Bruce Arena sent Designated Players Buksa and Carles Gil on to start the second half, but unlike the last couple of matches, the Lions didn’t allow their opponents to dictate the game at the beginning of the second half. They did concede a set piece but nothing came of it. Instead, it was Orlando doubling the lead moments later.

Nani was fouled in the box by AJ DeLaGarza, who he had a spirited battle with all evening. Referee Chris Penso pointed to the spot, giving Orlando its third penalty against the Revs in the last three meetings between the teams. Pereyra appeared to be handing the ball to Mueller when Nani got involved and Dike ended up stepping to the spot.

“We players on the field, we are not sure who is going to take it. The players take the ball and ask the others (if they want to take it),” Nani said. “So, what I was telling them in that moment, I said, ‘Just take it. Don’t ask the others if they want to take it.’ Daryl (made) the decision and it was good for us.”

The big forward stepped up and slotted home past Turner just inside the right post to make it 2-0 in the 50th minute. It was Dike’s seventh goal of the season and the second-year player is now two-for-two on penalties.

Four minutes later, Orlando nearly made it 3-0 when a set piece delivery from Nani fell for Mueller at the near post. Mueller redirected it but Turner was able to make a diving save. In the 58th, Dike got to the end line and sent a ball toward the back post that was cleared off the line. It fell near Mueller, who swept it inches wide of the right post.

Just past the hour mark, New England sent on Designated Player Gustavo Bou and Tajon Buchanan to get more attackers on the field.

Orlando helped out the visitors by being more cautious in the attack, not wanting to allow the Revs a dangerous counter. Fewer players made runs in the attack and multiple players passed up opportunities to shoot when presented the opportunity and were eventually closed down after trying to work into a better position. Mendez did make a run to get forward in the 73rd minute and fizzed a cross through the 6-yard box, but no one made a back-post run.

“It’s not that we want to sit back and wait,” Pareja said of the late-game play tonight. “We wanted to control the game and when we have those opportunities, we want to just obviously put the game away.”

New England’s comeback started suddenly. Bou slowed play, lulled Orlando to sleep, and sent in a cross to Buksa who timed his run perfectly and got in behind, heading past Gallese in the 81st minute. The play was close, but looked to be onside.

“He’s a very strong player that’s really strong in the area, and we knew that coming into this game,” Gallese said of Buksa. “It caused problems for us tonight, so we know that we had issues, but we’re going to take a look at it, we’re going to fix it and get stronger moving forward.”

Michel got down the left side in the 83rd but didn’t shoot with his left and tried to dance around a defender. Instead, he ended up losing the ball and New England countered, ending in a shot by Buchanan that went just wide. DeJuan Jones then nearly equalized in the 86th minute but Gallese made a huge stop to preserve the lead for the moment.

Another ball up the left found Michel on the left in the 90th minute with Turner out of his goal. Rather than trying to chip the keeper from out wide, the winger carried into the box and got his shot blocked. The tying goal came three minutes later.

Jones got down the left and sent in a cross. Buksa made a run in between the center backs and got airborne before Schlegel could react. The much larger forward easily flicked in the cross to tie the game at 2-2 in the 93rd minute.

Buksa got another header opportunity in the 95th but missed the target or else the end could have gotten even more sour for Orlando.

The Lions finished with more shots (15-13) and shots on target (5-3), more possession (59.4%-40.6%), and better passing accuracy (88.2%-81.6%), while New England’s late flurry had the Revs ahead on corners (8-5).

“We faced a very strong team tonight,” Gallese said. “We came into those last 15 minutes and weren’t fully up to the task to take them on. In those last 15 minutes they were very direct, and we can learn from a few errors that cost us two points tonight. But moving forward, the thing that we need to realize is that this team is still very good. This team is still very strong. And we move on to the next one.”

“The proximity of the game doesn’t let us get too down,” Pareja said. “We have to move on and try to get the points in the three games that we have left.”

Orlando City will hit the road for the penultimate time in the regular season as the Lions head to Ohio to play the Columbus Crew on Wednesday.

Orlando City

2023 Orlando City Season in Review: Kyle Smith

Let’s look back at The Accountant’s fifth MLS season.



Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Fullback Kyle Smith was originally signed on Dec. 21, 2018 when James O’Connor was Orlando City’s head coach. He proved to be a valuable Swiss Army knife-type player and earned a new contract on March 29, 2021 through the 2022 season with a 2023 club option. Orlando City picked up his 2023 option at the end of the 2022 season but then signed Smith to a new one-year contract for 2023 just weeks later with an option for 2024.

Let’s have a look back at The Accountant’s fifth MLS season.

Statistical Breakdown

Smith appeared in 25 matches during the 2023 regular season, starting 17 times and logging 1,501 minutes. It was his third-most appearances but his second-most minutes since making the jump from Louisville City to MLS ahead of the 2019 season. He scored one goal and assisted on three others, setting a new career high in the latter category. Smith attempted seven shots, putting two on target. He passed at a 78.7% clip, including nine key passes, five successful crosses, and 36 successful long passes. Defensively, Smith recorded 35 tackles, 16 interceptions, 40 clearances, and two blocked shots. He drew eight fouls while committing 20 and was booked five times on the year.

The 31-year-old appeared in all three of Orlando City’s three playoff matches — both off the bench — and logged 65 minutes. He did not score a goal or assist on one, attempting one shot, which he put on frame. He passed at an 82.5% rate in the postseason. He posted two tackles and a clearance defensively. He did not commit a foul or draw one and he wasn’t booked.

In the 2023 Concacaf Champions League, Smith came off the bench in the first leg at Tigres, playing minutes, passing at just a 25% rate (small sample size), did not attempt a shot, did not draw or concede a foul, and was not booked.

During Leagues Cup play, Smith appeared in all three of Orlando’s matches (all starts), logging 150 minutes. He did not contribute to a goal or attempt a shot in the tournament, committing four fouls and earning two yellow cards. Smith did not play in Orlando City’s lone U.S. Open Cup match.

Best Game

Smith’s best match of 2023 came in Orlando City’s 1-1 home draw against Atlanta United on May 27, and not only because that’s when he scored his lone goal of the season, although that doesn’t hurt. El Soldado started and went the full 90 minutes. He fired two shots on the night, putting one on target (and in the net), and passed at an exceptional 90.3% rate on 31 attempts, which was his third-best passing night of the season. He completed two successful long balls on two attempts, chipping in four clearances (second only to Antonio Carlos), a tackle, and an interception on the night. His big moment came in the 30th minute, when a well-worked attack up the left kicked out to him on the right side. Smith was perfectly positioned and made no mistake in putting the Lions ahead 1-0.

Although the match was spoiled by a late equalizer, Smith turned in one of his best performances since joining Orlando City and if not for his goal, the outcome might have been a lot more somber than a 1-1 draw.

2023 Final Grade

Smith received a composite score of 6 out of 10 for his 2023 performance from The Mane Land staff. This is an improvement over the 5.5 he earned last year but slightly below the 6.5 he earned for the 2021 season. Previously, Smith was given a 5.5 in 2020 and he got the same score after the 2019 season. The staff awarded Smith for his effort, versatility, and willingness to do whatever it takes to win. He is the quintessential team player. But beyond all of the above, he simply played well most of his minutes on the pitch. At his age, he’s going to struggle to contain the league’s speediest wing players, particularly when playing on his weaker left side, but his ability to adapt is unquestioned. The perfect example of that was when he was tucking inside from his fullback spot earlier in the season to add an additional player to the midfield and freeing Facundo Torres up to have more space in which to operate on the right side.

2024 Outlook

Smith’s return may ultimately rest with whether or not Oscar Pareja stays on with the Lions, although a decision might need to be made earlier than that, as the club must make a decision on his option. Pareja has valued Smith’s versatility and work ethic over the last few years, and with more competitions and matches than ever before, it’s always good to have a depth player who can plug and play in multiple positions. He played his second-most MLS minutes in 2023, so he’s still seeing the field plenty.

If I had to guess, and this section is for exactly that, I’d say the club will either exercise his option or sign him to a new one-year deal with an option year for 2025. However, what complicates matters is that Smith is over age 24 and has played five MLS seasons, which means he’s eligible for free agency. If he’s back in 2024, I would expect him to again be a key backup at both fullback positions, getting some spot starts in U.S. Open Cup or when fixture congestion is heavy.

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Orlando City

2023 Orlando City Season in Review: Abdi Salim

We continue our Orlando City player retrospectives with a look at one of the Lions’ 2023 draft picks.



Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Orlando City used its third pick of the 2023 MLS SuperDraft to select Abdi Salim with the 17th overall pick. Salim played his college soccer at Syracuse and the Lions picked up the center back to help with depth at a position that didn’t really have a ton of established bodies behind Antonio Carlos, Robin Jansson, and Rodrigo Schlegel. He was then signed to a one-year deal in February that contained three option years for the 2024, 2025, and 2026 seasons.

Let’s have a look at Salim’s first season as a professional.

Statistical Breakdown

Salim made his Major League Soccer debut at home against FC Cincinnati on March 4. It was Salim’s only start of the year and he went the full 90 minutes as the Lions drew 0-0 against the eventual Supporters’ Shield winners. He made two other appearances in away games against D.C. United and Charlotte FC, both of which ended as 1-1 draws as he finished with 148 MLS minutes on the year.

Defensively he recorded four tackles, four interceptions, three clearances, a block, and won two aerial duels. He did not record any offensive statistics, but was solid with his distribution as he averaged 87.3% passing accuracy and completed one cross and one long ball each.

Given that it was only his first season as a professional, he spent the bulk of his time in MLS NEXT Pro with Orlando City B. With the Young Lions he played in 16 matches, starting 14 of them and racking up 1,162 minutes. He finished with 11 interceptions and a tackle while committing seven fouls and drawing 11 and picking up one yellow card. Salim took nine shots, put two of them on target, and scored a goal on each one he got on frame. He passed very well, finishing with a 90.2% success rate, two key passes, and 18 long balls.

Best Game

The honor of his best game goes to his first ever professional appearance, when he started and played the whole game in the aforementioned 0-0 draw against FC Cincinnati. Salim finished with three tackles, three clearances, and an interception while passing with 87% accuracy, completing a long ball on his only attempt, and helping the Lions keep a clean sheet at home. He was a bit shaky at first, as he was deployed as the third center back in a three-man back line, but he settled down in the second half and finished with a grade of 5.5 out of 10 from Nic Josey.

2023 Final Grade

Given that Salim didn’t crack 200 minutes and we require a minimum of 450 to award a grade for the season, he receives an incomplete for the 2023 season. He did some good things when down with Orlando City B, and filled in well enough with the senior side when called upon, but we simply need to see more of him in order to figure out what he’s really able to do.

2024 Outlook

It’s likely that Salim will spend more time with Orlando City B next season, but with no one seemingly laying claim to the fourth center back position, he should have a chance to show what he’s capable of during preseason. He seemed to be in competition with Thomas Williams for the back up spot not occupied by Rodrigo Schlegel, but he may have moved past him in the pecking order as he made more appearances than the Homegrown signing, both with OCSC and OCB. Regardless, as an inexpensive young player with potential, there’s no reason to think he won’t be here next year.

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Lion Links

Lion Links: 12/1/23

Rodrigo Schlegel fined, MLS roster updates, USWNT faces China tomorrow, and more.



Dan MacDonald, The Mane Land

Welcome to December, Mane Landers! It always feels like a good sign when a month starts on a Friday. I don’t have many plans this weekend beyond helping a friend move and trying to make pad Thai for the first time. It should be a nice next few days to reset after a hectic week. But for now, let’s dive into today’s links from around the soccer world.

MLS Issues Disciplinary Rulings After Playoff Games

Orlando City center back Rodrigo Schlegel was fined an undisclosed amount by the MLS Disciplinary Committee for not leaving the field in a timely manner after receiving a second yellow card in the team’s playoff match with the Columbus Crew. Schlegel did not crowd the referee or plead his case disruptively, but he did linger a bit before exiting the match. It was one of many fines handed out by the MLS Disciplinary Committee for violations during the playoffs, and Crew forward Cucho Hernandez was fined for embellishment for going to ground clutching his face after Schlegel shielded the ball from him.

The Vancouver Whitecaps players and staff received fines and suspensions for their actions during and after their playoff match with LAFC on Nov. 5. Head Coach Vanni Sartini was fined $20,000 and suspended for an additional five games for entering the field of play in a confrontational manner and his comments about the refereeing following his team’s elimination. Vancouver defender Mathias Laborda was also handed a one-match suspension for his actions during the match.

MLS Teams Update Rosters as Deadline Looms

The deadline for MLS teams to decline contract options is today and clubs around the league are getting their affairs in order. The Portland Timbers confirmed that Sebastian Blanco won’t be with the team next year, as he was out of contract after seven seasons with the club. Designated Player Jaroslaw Niezgoda and fellow forward Franck Boli had their options declined by Portland as well. FC Dallas triggered the options on the contracts of midfielder duo Asier Illarramendi and Liam Frasier, while declining the options for midfielder Facundo Quignon and defender Jose Martinez. The New York Red Bulls kept a key part of their defense by signing Dylan Nealis to a contract through the 2024 season. Nashville SC declined seven options, and veterans Dax McCarty and Fafa Picault are out of contract. Both players could be worth keeping an eye on as an Orlando supporter, depending on if Wilder Cartagena and Ivan Angulo will return. According to The Athletic‘s Tom Bogert, McCarty is not likely to return to Nashville.

Racing Louisville Names Beverly Yanez as Head Coach

Beverly Yanez was announced as Racing Louisville’s next head coach after serving as an assistant coach during the 2023 season. The 35-year-old retired as a player in 2020 and was an assistant coach with NJ/NY Gotham FC for two years before joining Louisville prior to this season. Louisville has yet to reach the playoffs since joining the NWSL in 2021 and Yanez is now the club’s third head coach. She’s earned plenty of praise from Louisville’s players and it will be interesting to see how her first season as a head coach goes in 2024.

Alejandro Bedoya Receives Impact Award

Philadelphia Union midfielder Alejandro Bedoya won the MLS Impact Award, along with a $100,000 contribution by Audi to The Philadelphia Equity Alliance. Bedoya has worked with the nonprofit to promote inclusive economic growth and reduce poverty. He was also named 2022 MLS WORKS Humanitarian of the Year for his efforts to make a difference in the Philadelphia community. The Crew’s Darlington Nagbe and Nashville’s Taylor Washington were the other finalists for this year’s award.

Analyzing China Ahead of USWNT Friendlies

The United States Women’s National Team will close out its 2023 schedule with a pair of friendlies against China this month. The two nations will clash tomorrow at 3 p.m. in Fort Lauderdale before playing again in Frisco on Tuesday at 8 p.m. Although China lost all three of its group stage games in this past summer’s World Cup, it recently won the bronze medal in the Asian Games. China fell short in Olympic qualifying though, and 2022 AFC Women’s Coach of the Year Shui Qingxia’s contract was terminated, with Wang Jun taking over in an interim capacity for these friendlies. The USWNT should be able to find success on set pieces and crosses, although China has been working on strength training this year to compensate for that weakness. Tang Jiali, Zhang Linyan, and Shen Menglu are a few of the players in China’s versatile attack that could spell trouble for the Americans.

Free Kicks

  • Orlando Pride defender Rafaelle started as Brazil’s captain and Marta and Adriana came off the bench in a 4-3 win over Japan in a friendly. In her international debut, 19-year-old forward Priscila gave Brazil the late winner. The two teams will play again on Sunday.
  • The Kansas City Current dedicated their press box to journalist and Kansas City native Grant Wahl.
  • The New England Revolution have promoted Curt Onalfo to sporting director after four years as the club’s technical director. Onalfo served as the interim sporting director after Bruce Arena’s resignation in September and now gets the job fulltime.
  • The MLS Players Association released a statement regarding Matt Miazga’s three-game suspension.
  • Pierre Emerick-Aubamayeng scored a bicycle kick and a late winner as part of his hat trick in Marseille’s 4-3 win over Ajax in the Europa League.
  • The 2023 Women’s College Cup semifinals kick off tonight, with Florida State facing Clemson and BYU playing Stanford. There are many talented players in action who are worth watching tonight before the NWSL Draft next month.
  • Lyon, which is last in Ligue 1 with just seven points from 12 games, has sacked Fabio Grosso after less than three months as head coach.

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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