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Orlando City vs. CF Montreal: Final Score 1-1 as Lions Squander Lead at Home

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Chris Mueller gave Orlando City a halftime lead but the Lions gave up a set piece goal early in the second half to drop valuable points in a 1-1 draw against CF Montreal at Exploria Stadium. The Lions (12-8-10, 46 points) ran their unbeaten streak to four matches (2-0-2) but a lack of sharpness around goal in the first half and a flat start to the second period helped Montreal (11-10-9, 42 points) escape with a point on Rudy Camacho goal.

The dropped points will sting with four games remaining in a tight playoff race as the Lions must still face the top two teams in the Eastern Conference in their last two home games and go on the road to Columbus and Montreal — two places they’ve rarely won.

“I think we can divide the game into two different halves,” Orlando City Head Coach Oscar Pareja said after the match. “We felt that we needed to put the game away but we could not score more than one goal and just left the game there for any opportunity that they had.”

Pareja’s lineup featured Pedro Gallese in goal behind a back line of Emmanuel Mas, Robin Jansson, Rodrigo Schlegel (for the suspended Antonio Carlos), and Ruan. Uri Rosell slotted into the central midfield with Junior Urso, with Mauricio Pereyra and Chris Mueller tasked with facilitating the attack to Benji Michel and Daryl Dike. Nani started on the bench.

Orlando spent much of the first half on the front foot, but had little to show for it. The first good opportunity came in the 13th minute off a corner kick that fell for Urso in the box. The Bear fired a shot toward goal but it took a deflection off a defender and hit the crossbar before flying out of play.

Two minutes later, Jansson was forward for a set piece, took the ball up the left side and fired a shot that was deflected out for a corner. In the 17th minute, Dike bulled his way through multiple defenders to get into the box but Samuel Piette got his foot on the ball and was able to clear the danger just as the forward was shooting.

In the 26th minute it was Michel’s turn to get his effort blocked out of play but for some reason a goal kick was awarded despite the obvious deflection. Dike then headed just over the bar in the 29th minute off a Michel cross.

The Lions looked to counter in the 35th minute when former Orlando City defender Kamal Miller was caught upfield, but Pereyra couldn’t get his outlet pass out wide, where only teammates Mueller and Ruan were waiting to break in on goal.

Orlando was finally rewarded for all of its pressure just before the break. Urso found Dike in transition and as he tried to get past the defense, Miller fouled him but play continued as the ball fell into the path of Ruan. The speedy right back tried to cross for a streaking Michel in the area but the pass was off line. However, Mueller was on the other side of the area and hit his shot into the netting inside the right post to put the Lions ahead in the 45th minute.

It was Mueller’s third goal of the season, the 21st of his Orlando City career, and first since July 3 against the New York Red Bulls. It snapped a 14-game goal drought for the Money Badger.

“The team made a nice combination play out the back end,” Mueller said. “The ball accelerated up the right side, found Daryl, who slipped in Ruan. I just did my job and got to the back post and it just felt good to score.”

Montreal had slightly more possession (51%-49%) although it didn’t seem like it. Orlando dominated in shots (8-0) — but only got one on goal for a 1-0 edge in that category — and corners (5-1). The visitors passed more accurately (85.3%-83.3%).

The goal just before the half should have buoyed the Lions but instead the opposite happened. Montreal came out of the locker room on the front foot and Orlando struggled to maintain possession, break pressure, and connect passes. The visitors quickly got on the front foot.

Just four minutes after the restart Orlando fell asleep defensively and left second-half substitute Sunusi Ibrahim alone as he cut through the area. A good cross found the Nigerian right in front and Gallese made a huge save to protect the lead.

Unfortunately, the lead lasted only two more minutes. Djordje Mihailovic sent in a dangerous cross on a corner kick and Camacho beat Rosell to the near post and equalized in the 51st minute, scoring for just the second time all season.

With the game tied, Montreal started sitting back and looking for counter opportunities, content to draw on the road while hoping to steal all three points. To the visitors’ credit, they did a good job of staying compact and giving Orlando problems fighting through their lines. Passes and touches needed to be precise and the Lions had trouble maintaining enough sharpness to finish plays.

Pareja put on Nani and Silvester van der Water to try to go for all three points but the Dutchman had a poor night as Montreal overplayed his left side. Rather than using his weaker foot to make plays, van der Water tried to force the ball through congested spaces and ended up either losing it or being forced to play negative balls to his midfield and defense.

Orlando settled down somewhat and started to generate better attacks after that but couldn’t find the winner. Pereyra found some space between the center backs at the top of the box in the 74th minute but his shot was just wide of the left post. Two minutes later, the Lions should have regained the lead. Ruan cut inside and sent a pass to Dike, who got himself into a good position in the box. Dike fired a shot that was saved by goalkeeper James Pantemis but the rebound popped back out in front of goal. With Nani teeing up a shot on his right foot, Ruan got to the ball first and fired with his left foot but it was blocked by a defender.

On the ensuing corner, Jansson sent in another shot after the ball pinged around the box for a moment but his shot too was blocked. Pareja sent Tesho Akindele and Alexandre Pato on for Pereyra and Dike to add fresh legs to the attack in the 86th minute. Pato’s seven months off and lack of time on the pitch in games showed in his late appearance, as he had a couple of opportunities in the attack but wasn’t on the same page as his teammates.

The later it got, the tighter Montreal’s bunker became and the final whistle blew on a 1-1 draw. The dropped points were somewhat mitigated by results elsewhere but it wasn’t a good enough result given the chances generated and the dominating nature of the first half.

Orlando finished with more possession (52.5%-47.5%), shots (13-6), shots on target (4-2), and corners (7-3), and the teams were even in passing accuracy at 84.4% each

“We came out the first 10-15 minutes where they got the ball and started creating some chances,” Pareja said. “After that the reaction from our group was better but at the end it was playing against a team sitting there. That last pass. That ball that needed to break that line of five plus the midfielders, that was difficult. But I know it’s a bitter result because we chased and we fought for those three points but we’ll keep building on that performance, especially in the first half when we were very sharp.”


Orlando City has another quick turnaround with the first-place New England Revolution coming to the City Beautiful on Sunday.

Orlando City

Orlando City vs. Inter Miami: Preview, How to Watch, TV Info, Live Stream, Lineups, Match Thread, and More

The Lions meet the Herons in the first Tropic Thunder battle of 2024.

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Dan MacDonald, The Mane Land

Welcome to your match thread for a Saturday afternoon Tropic Thunder matchup between Orlando City and the team’s Publix Enemies, Inter Miami CF at Chase Stadium (4:30 p.m., FOX, MLS Season Pass on Apple TV+). It’s the first of two scheduled meetings between the sides this season with the return leg in Orlando set for Wednesday, May 15. It is the only scheduled meeting in Fort Lauderdale.

Here’s what you need to know ahead of the match.

History

Orlando City is 5-4-4 in the series in all competitions, 2-3-0 on the road in the MLS regular season, and 2-4-0 away in all competitions. The most recent meeting resulted in a 1-1 draw in Orlando on Sept. 24, 2023. Duncan McGuire brought Orlando back from a 1-0 deficit after David Ruiz had given the Herons a 1-0 lead early in the second half.

The most recent meeting in South Florida took place on Aug. 2 of last year in Leagues Cup action. The Herons were fortunate to not see Lionel Messi sent off with a second yellow late in the first half and even more fortunate to get a soft penalty call on Antonio Carlos as they won, 3-1. Messi opened the scoring after being ignored in the box early. Cesar Araujo made up for his uncharacteristic defensive lapse by scoring 10 minutes later. Josef Martinez put Miami back on top with the Downy-soft penalty just after halftime and Messi sunk in the dagger in the final 20 minutes.

The teams also met in Fort Lauderdale in MLS play on May 20, 2023, with Orlando City winning, 3-1. Ercan Kara’s early goal was canceled out by Leonardo Campana shortly before the hour mark, but Martin Ojeda and Rafael Santos found the net in the second half to power the Lions.

Inter Miami won at home, 4-1, on Oct. 5, 2022. Campana scored in the game’s first minute and Orlando City never settled in. Gonzalo Higuain added two goals — one from the spot — and Ariel Lassiter also scored before Kara pulled one back to spoil the shutout.

The first regular-season meeting of 2022 resulted in a 1-0 Orlando City win at Exploria Stadium on July 9, as a stoppage-time own goal by Damion Lowe was the difference between the Lions earning just one point or all three. The ball was sent into the box by Jake Mulraney.

The teams also met at Exploria Stadium on May 25, 2022 in U.S. Open Cup action, with the two sides needing extra time after a scoreless 90 minutes. In extra time, Miami got a goal from Jean Mota against the run of play, but Facundo Torres quickly equalized for Orlando. The match ended 1-1 and Orlando won the ensuing penalty shootout, 4-2. Bryce Duke was denied by Mason Stajduhar and DeAndre Yedlin missed the net during the spot kicks, while all four Orlando shooters scored.

The intrastate rivals played to a scoreless draw in Orlando on Aug. 27, 2021. Tesho Akindele missed a penalty in the match, but the Lions had several other good opportunities to score (but didn’t) in a wasteful performance. Orlando and Miami battled to a 1-1 draw at Exploria Stadium on Aug. 4, 2021. Carlos scored in first-half stoppage time but was knocked into concussion protocol on the play by Kelvin Leerdam. Kieran Gibbs equalized in the 66th minute on a header in front of a less-than-attentive Ruan. Akindele had a goal called back after video review for being offside and the teams split the points. Earlier in the season, the Lions came from behind in Fort Lauderdale to win 2-1 on a pair of brilliant goals by Chris Mueller and Nani on June 25, 2021.

In the final meeting of 2020, the Lions saw their 12-match unbeaten streak end on Oct. 24 in a 2-1 road loss in Fort Lauderdale. Miami defender Leandro Gonzalez Pirez’s header in the 89th minute was the difference after a Daryl Dike goal and an own goal off Robin Jansson saw the game tied up at halftime. The teams met in Orlando on Sept. 12, 2020 with Orlando battling to a 2-1 win on Mauricio Pereyra’s goal. The Lions had taken the lead on an own goal by Andres Reyes. Former Lion Brek Shea tied things up in the 65th, before Pereyra answered with a nice goal off the left post in the 69th minute.

The first meeting in Fort Lauderdale opened Phase 1 of Major League Soccer’s return to regular-season play after the MLS is Back Tournament. That one was an uncharacteristically sloppy match for the Lions, who fell 3-2 in Inter Miami’s first-ever home match. It was Miami’s first franchise win after an 0-5-0 start. Orlando trailed by more than one goal for the first time all season in that game. Dike and Nani provided the offense for Orlando, but Julian Carranza’s brace and Rodolfo Pizarro’s insurance goal were enough to lift the Herons.

The first Tropic Thunder match went Orlando City’s way, with Nani scoring late to lift the Lions to a 2-1 win over the upstarts from South Florida in the opening match of the MLS is Back Tournament. Despite it being a tournament match, it was also a league game. Juan Agudelo opened the scoring for the Herons, but Mueller equalized, setting the stage for Nani’s 97th-minute winner.

Overview

The Lions are coming off a 3-1 win over Canadian Premier League side Cavalry FC Tuesday. That victory gave Orlando City a 6-1 aggregate score across two legs and the Lions advanced to the Round of 16 in Concacaf Champions Cup. Despite heavy rotation, Orlando got goals from Nico Lodeiro, Ramiro Enrique, and Kyle Smith to advance.

Orlando City last played in a regular-season match a week ago at home against CF Montreal, drawing 0-0. Tonight’s match represents Orlando’s first road game of the 2024 MLS season.

Inter Miami is coming off a 1-1 draw on the road against the LA Galaxy last Sunday. The Herons (stop me if you’ve heard this before) got an enormous break when Mark Delgado was sent off with a second yellow in the 87th minute. Messi scored five minutes later against the shorthanded Galaxy and Miami claimed a point. Delgado’s second yellow was, of course, overturned unanimously by the MLS Disciplinary Committee, but the damage has been done.

The Herons are 1-0-0 at home, having dispatched Real Salt Lake 2-0 in Inter Miami’s home opener Feb. 21.

Miami is one of the favorites in 2024 and is playing confidently under Gerardo Martino and is one of the league’s heavy favorites to win MLS Cup. The Lions must do what they can to limit Messi’s involvement as much as possible. Miami’s attack is formidable enough that it helps the team’s defense, as it is often difficult to dispossess the Herons and maintain extended spells of possession long enough to get at Inter Miami’s back line. That’s exactly what the Lions love to do, so today’s match will be an interesting battle of wills.

It’s a rivalry game, so anything can happen. History suggests it’ll be tight.

“We’re very optimistic after advancing in the Champions Cup and in the performance that we had (at home) in the opener,” Orlando City Head Coach Oscar Pareja said. “We’re very confident to keep going in this journey. I know we’ll be busy in the next few weeks, but the boys are ready. We’re ready to compete. Now, we’re refocusing on going to Miami, the first time against our rival and getting a result there. Then we’ll think about the game on Tuesday (against Tigres), but first is focusing on our next rival. We already have our feedback, already have our reviews in, but now we’re ready.”

The Lions don’t have any players listed on the team’s availabilitly report. Miami will be without Benjamin Cremaschi (sports hernia), Facundo Farias (knee), Ian Fray (knee), Franco Negri (knee), and Robbie Robinson (medical evaluation), while Ryan Sailor (oblique) is questionable.

Match Content


Projected Lineups:

Orlando City (4-2-3-1)

Goalkeeper: Pedro Gallese.

Defenders: Rafael Santos, Robin Jansson, David Brekalo, Dagur Dan Thorhallsson.

Defensive Midfielders: Cesar Araujo, Wilder Cartagena.

Attacking Midfielders: Ivan Angulo, Nico Lodeiro, Facundo Torres.

Forward: Duncan McGuire.

Inter Miami (4-3-3)

Goalkeeper: Drake Callender.

Defenders: Jordi Alba, Sergii Kryvstov, Tomas Aviles, DeAndre Yedlin.

Midfielders: Julian Gressel, Sergio Busquets, Diego Gomez.

Forwards: Robert Taylor, Luis Suarez, Lionel Messi.

Referees:

REF: TBA.
AR1: TBA.
AR2: TBA.
4TH: TBA.
VAR: TBA.
AVAR: TBA.


How to Watch

Match Time: 4:30 p.m.

Venue: Chase Stadium — Fort Lauderdale.

TV/Live Stream: FOX, MLS Season Pass on Apple TV+.

Radio: Real Radio 104.1 FM (English), Acción 97.9 FM, 810 AM (Spanish).

Twitter: For rapid reaction and live updates, follow along at @TheManeLand, as well as Orlando City’s official Twitter feed (@OrlandoCitySC).


Enjoy the game. Go City!

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Orlando City

Luis Muriel Flashed Playmaking Ability vs. Cavalry FC

Luis Muriel showed signs of what he can do with a strong performance in his Orlando City debut.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Luis Muriel is the newest man to wear the no. 9 shirt for Orlando City, taking over for Ercan Kara after the big Austrian left the City Beautiful for the Turkish top flight last summer. Muriel arrived just before the season officially got underway, and we had to wait until the third game of the year against Cavalry FC to see him take the field, as the necessary paperwork had to be completed first.

Once he was on the field, he was a joy to watch. While Cavalry isn’t the toughest opposition that OCSC will face this year, the Canadians (et al) aren’t slouches either, and the Colombian gave them all sorts of trouble as soon as the game got underway. With 14 minutes gone, he directed a header on target, and moments later he broke through the defense with a great run, and only last-gasp closing down from two defenders and an excellent save from Marco Carducci denied him a goal on his debut. He also fizzed a dangerous shot just outside the post with a little under 30 minutes played, continuing his high level of involvement to start the match.

He wasn’t limited to just taking shots though. When Muriel’s signing was announced, Luiz Muzzi went out of his way to highlight the striker’s “…ability to combine with and make his teammates better.” That’s something that we got to see quite a bit of on Tuesday night, as the no. 9 repeatedly dropped into the midfield in search of the ball, showing up as far back as the defensive midfielders at times. Doing so pulled Cavalry players out of position, opened up space in the center, and made it easier for him to either connect with teammates or drive at the defense once he had collected the ball. He spoke after the game about how he liked to go find the ball and get into unexpected areas, and he certainly did a lot of that.

Muriel’s playmaking chops eventually paid dividends on the scoreboard when the Lions grabbed the opening goal of the game. He collected the ball on the right side of the box, and cut onto his left foot where he could have had a shot at goal. Instead, he picked his head up and squared a perfect ball for Nico Lodiero at the top of the 18-yard box, who made it look easy as he hit the well-weighted ball first time and put it off the inside of the left post and into the back of the net.

If you did your research, you had a pretty good idea of what the Lions would be getting when they signed the Colombian international to a three-year deal. Per FBref.com, in the last year, Muriel is in the 99th percentile for passes attempted per 90, progressive passes per 90, expected assisted goals per 90, shot-creating actions per 90, and successful take-ons per 90. He’s in the 98th percentile for shots per 90, and the 86th percentile for non-penalty goals per 90. Those numbers all paint the picture of a forward who scores but is also comfortable as a playmaker, doesn’t hesitate to get his teammates involved, and does so at a high level.

His numbers on Tuesday night only served to reinforce what the scouting told us. Muriel finished with three shots, two of which were on target, and completed 87% of his passes while recording a key pass and an assist — in his first competitive minutes with his new teammates. It was a well-rounded performance that allowed more traditional playmakers like Facundo Torres and Lodeiro to be limited to substitute appearances, helping to preserve their legs at a time when fixture congestion is high.


Tuesday night was a nice preview of what fans can expect when Muriel is on the field. His tendency to go looking for the ball and willingness to bring his teammates into play means that Orlando has the sort of striker that the club hasn’t really had before. It gives the team more options and tactical flexibility, and that’s going to be something to watch as the season continues. Vamos Orlando!

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Lion Links: 3/1/24

Orlando’s girls teams playing in national event this weekend, USWNT will face Colombia, Paul Pogba banned for four years, and more.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Welcome to March! It always feels like a good sign when a month starts on a Friday. Spring may not officially be here, but it definitely feels like winter is truly behind us. I plan on getting plenty of spring cleaning done this weekend before a fairly busy month. Let’s get this month started with today’s links!

ECNL Girls National Event Kicks Off Today

Some of the best youth soccer players are coming to Florida this weekend for the Elite Club National League’s spring event at Lakewood Ranch. It’s a great chance for clubs to play teams outside of their conference and there are plenty of scouts to impress as well. Orlando City will have four youth teams take part and each team will play at least three games over the three days. Orlando’s G07 squad has notably won five of its eight games in conference play and will take on Real Colorado National today. Orlando’s squads in the other age groups have some strong opponents lined up as well, so it should be a great experience for the club.

USWNT Will Face Colombia in Concacaf W Gold Cup

After finishing second in its group after a loss to Mexico, the United States Women’s National Team will take on Colombia this Sunday in the Concacaf W Gold Cup quarterfinals. The U.S. and Colombia squared off in friendlies last fall, with the teams playing to a scoreless draw in Utah before the U.S. won 3-0 in San Diego a few days later. Colombia also finished second in its group, conceding just once so far this tournament. The winner of Sunday’s match will play whichever team advances from tomorrow’s game between Canada and Costa Rica. On the other side of the bracket, Orlando Pride players square off when Rafaelle, Adriana, and Brazil play Mariana Larroquette and Argentina tomorrow. The winner of that match will play the victor between Mexico and Paraguay.

Portland Timbers Cut Ties With Jersey Sponsor

The Portland Timbers have dropped DaBella Exteriors as their jersey sponsor amid allegations that the company’s CEO, Donnie McMillan, Jr., sexually harassed employees. The accusations did not become public until Feb. 23 and the Timbers have removed DaBella’s image from their website as well. It makes sense that the Timbers would want to distance themselves from this. There was an investigation by U.S. Soccer in 2022 regarding former Portland Thorns head coach Paul Riley, and the club was also fined by MLS for not reporting an incident of alleged domestic violence involving former Timbers player Andy Polo in a timely manner. DaBella replaced Alaska Airlines as the team’s shirt sponsor for this season and the Timbers will now go without one until a new sponsor is chosen.

Paul Pogba Banned for Four Years

After testing positive for testosterone while playing for Juventus, French midfielder Paul Pogba was banned for the maximum four years by Italy’s anti-doping court. In response to the ruling, Pogba stated that the verdict was “incorrect” and that he will appeal this decision.

“I am sad, shocked and heartbroken that everything I have built in my professional playing career has been taken away from me,” Pogba said. “When I am free of legal restrictions the full story will become clear, but I have never knowingly or deliberately taken any supplements that violate anti-doping regulations.”

It’s fair to wonder just where this news leaves his career if his appeal is denied and he serves the full ban. Pogba turns 31 later this month and he is still under contract with Juventus through 2026, although this ban may obviously change that. Injuries have limited him in recent years as well, as he missed out on the most recent World Cup with France.

Free Kicks

  • Toronto FC signed English midfielder Matty Longstaff to a contract through the 2025 season. Longstaff has previous played for Newcastle United and should help improve a Toronto team that hasn’t made the playoffs since 2020.
  • LA Galaxy midfielder Mark Delgado’s second yellow card he received in his team’s opener has been rescinded and he’s eligible for Saturday’s match against the San Jose Earthquakes. Delgado was sent off while the Galaxy were up against Inter Miami, and the Herons then went on to score and leave with a point.
  • The New England Revolution beat Independiente to advance to the Concacaf Champions Cup’s round of 16.
  • Bay FC forward Racheal Kundananji had to exit Zambia’s Olympic qualifier against Ghana due to an injury.
  • The United States Men’s National Team’s next away kit was reportedly leaked and it sure is something. It’s like a Bomb Pop got mixed into the team’s laundry.
  • The USL Super League’s Fort Lauderdale United unveiled its branding and the colors are pretty nice. However, the logo has a bit too much alphabet soup going on for my liking.

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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