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Orlando City

Orlando City vs. CF Montreal: Final Score 2-0 as Lions Get Road Shutout to Earn Playoff Spot

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Orlando City didn’t want to wait around for other results. The Lions got second-half goals from Sebas Mendez and Daryl Dike to win 2-0 at Stade Saputo in Montreal and punch their ticket to the MLS playoffs. It was a nervy game but Orlando (13-9-12, 51 points) finished with a club record in points and wins and showed fortitude to beat a desperate CF Montreal (12-12-10, 46 points) in its own building after the disappointment a week ago in stoppage time.

Mendez’s goal was his first as a Lion and Dike finished the season with 10 by scoring the insurance tally late. Orlando finished in sixth place in the Eastern Conference after the Decision Day results were in, and although it looked for a while like a win might bring a home playoff match to Orlando, other results changed and the Lions will visit Nashville in the first round of the postseason.

“Once again, a very difficult match with urgencies today. There was no tomorrow,” Orlando City Head Coach Oscar Pareja said after the match. “It must be done today, here in Montreal. After what happened against Nashville at home, it was very difficult to absorb, but the players showed a lot of character. I liked our game. I thought we were very smart today. We tried to neutralize them and just take our special moments to find the game. So we are very pleased, very happy for for the club, and we will get ready for Nashville.”

Pareja turned in his 34th team sheet of the season without his first-choice starting XI. Pedro Gallese took his spot in goal behind a back line of Emmanuel Mas, Robin Jansson, Antonio Carlos, and Ruan. Mendez and Junior Urso roamed central midfield with an attacking midfield line of Benji Michel, Mauricio Pereyra, and Silvester van der Water, with Dike up top. Nani was on the bench and Uri Rosell returned to the game day roster but notably missing were Joao Moutinho, who had been upgraded to questionable this week, and Chris Mueller.

The first half had an obvious playoff feel with both teams playing hard and looking for an advantage. The hosts pressed high and made life difficult for Orlando to play out of the back, which was an interesting tactic given that Montreal played on Wednesday. While the press didn’t create many turnovers, it did prevent Orlando from finding space between the Montreal lines.

Orlando had the first good flurry of opportunities. Michel cut onto his right foot and fired over the bar in the 10th minute and a minute later Samuel Piette upended Dike just outside the area, conceding a dangerous free kick. Pereyra got his shot up over the wall and it was on target but it was saved by a diving Sebastian Breza as the ball was too close to the center of goal.

On the ensuing corner kick, a good delivery from van der Water found Dike but his flicked header skipped wide of the far post.

After that flurry, the hosts got on the front foot for a few minutes and should have scored in the 16th minute. A ball across the front of goal by Zachary Brault-Guillard just needed a tap-in but Sunusi Ibrahim’s touch took the ball across the front of the goal line and Gallese scooped it up.

Five minutes later, Mas tried to cut in front of an attacking player but missed the ball. Torres was in alone but Gallese came off his line, made himself big, and produced a vital save to keep it scoreless.

“They came out with a lot of pressure today, and especially in the first half created some chances,” Jansson said. “And we had our big guy back there, Pedro, saving us sometimes today and he’s just fantastic.”

In the 23rd minute, Carlos sent a diving header wide of the left post on a set piece, although it appeared that Breza had the play covered.

Orlando’s best chance came in the 37th minute. Urso was fouled about 30 yards out and Pereyra tapped the ball to Jansson. The Beefy Swede smashed a left-footed shot toward goal but it crashed off the right post and went out of play as the Lions came within inches of opening the scoring. It was Orlando’s third time hitting the woodwork in a game and a half.

Two minutes later, Montreal appeared to score the opener but Ibrahim was well offside before firing home.

Rudy Camacho blocked another long-range effort from Jansson in the 41st minute and the ensuing corner kick cross skipped through the 6-yard box but no Lions were lurking to knock it in. That was the last good chance of the half and the teams went to the locker room without a goal on the board.

Orlando had more first-half shots (7-6), but Montreal got more on target (2-1). The Lions held more possession (51.7%-48.3%), while the hosts earned more corners (4-2) and passed more accurately (84.9%-80.9%).

Pareja inserted Andres Perea into the match at halftime to help solidify the midfield, withdrawing van der Water. Meanwhile, Montreal brought on the dangerous Romell Quioto for Ibrahim.

Quioto’s presence made an instant difference in Montreal’s attack. Djordje Mihailovic fired a shot just four minutes after the restart that Jansson blocked. It fell to Quioto but he was in an offside position. Montreal continued to have success getting the ball to the dangerous Mihailovic, who always seemed just inches from picking out a teammate for a clear-cut chance.

But instead, it was Orlando that struck first.

A long throw-in by Mas was only partially cleared by the defense and it fell for Mendez outside the area on the left. The Ecuadorian took it on the bounce and placed a perfect shot just inside the far post to open his Orlando City account and put the Lions ahead in the 55th minute with a sensational goal.

“The goal is a great personal goal for me, and it was an important goal to help send us through to the playoffs, which is an objective that we’ve been working towards all year,” Mendez said through a club interpreter. “So, it was obviously a happy moment for me, but now we’ve got to turn our attention to start working towards a bigger goal and a bigger objective, which is to win our next playoff game.”

“That’s, amazing. What a hit from Sebas,” Jansson said. “I didn’t expect that when he hit the ball, but I’m so happy for him.”

It’s often said that a team is vulnerable right after scoring and that nearly proved the case for the Lions. Just four minutes after Mendez broke the deadlock, Quioto thought he had Montreal level. He headed home a good ball into the area but the flag came up immediately. The video assistant referee ruled that there was no error on the play. The play was certainly close, with Jansson possibly keeping Quioto on, but the TV camera angle on the broadcast wasn’t in a good spot to get a proper look at it. This is the angle we had and it’s not a straight down the line shot.

Broadcaster Evan Weston reported that VAR confirmed the call, which is quite different than just letting it stand due to it being inconclusive, but whatever angle showed it conclusively wasn’t on the broadcast.

The stadium showed the replay on the scoreboard and Montreal players started confronting referee Armando Villarreal. Montreal coach Wilfried Nancy was booked for his outburst on the bench. Eventually, order was restored and the teams played on.

Mihailovic again got into a dangerous position in the 64th minute but before he could shoot, Urso stopped him with a professional foul and received a booking. Mihailovic went for goal on the ensuing free kick but hit it well over the goal.

As the game entered its later stages, the Lions continued to sell out defensively, playing with urgency in their own end. Dike and Ruan earned free kicks with their hustle to shut down Montreal attacks. The hosts were able to win corners but Orlando did well to avoid allowing many clear-cut chances from them, although Victor Wanyama came free and bundled it wide on one such set piece in the 75th minute.

With the game still poised on a knife edge, Montreal went down a man in the 79th minute. Camacho came charging forward and flew into a challenge with studs up, taking out Dike. Villarreal wasted no time going to his pocket for his red card and the hosts were down to 10 men. It was the first red card by an Orlando opponent in the 2021 season.

After a couple more corners, the Lions capitalized on their manpower advantage as Montreal pressed more players into the attack. Ruan took possession of the ball and made a strong run up the field, cutting slightly inside to split two players. He then sent a perfect through ball into the path of Dike, who took a touch and then slotted past Breza to make it 2-0 in the 86th minute.

Pareja sent on defensive subs Rodrigo Schlegel, Kyle Smith, and Tesho Akindele to see the game out and the Lions were able to do that without allowing another good opportunity. Bjorn Johnsen got a weak header on frame in the 94th minute but it was an easy catch for Gallese. Orlando saw out the remaining minute of stoppage time and earned its playoff spot.

Montreal finished with more shots (12-10) but each team got three on target. The hosts also held more possession (55.1%-44.9%), won more corners (12-4), and passed with more accuracy (83.7%-76.6%).

“I think today we were more patient with the game,” Pareja said. “Our games at home against Montreal, we wanted to go press them high and and somehow we didn’t have that fina touch in the last third that can give us the opportunity to score. And Montreal on isolated plays hurt us. Today was the opposite.”

“We knew that we were going to come into a game that was going to be hotly contested,” Mendez said. “So, we came in with everything we had and now we’re in the playoffs and ready to move forward to the next weekend.”


That’s it for the 2021 MLS regular season. Orlando City will travel to Nashville for its first-ever road playoff game.

Orlando City

Intelligence Report: Orlando City vs. New York City FC

Get all the information you need on NYCFC, courtesy of someone who knows them best.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Another Orlando City match is right around the corner, and the Lions will try to keep the good vibes going during what has been a productive July. It won’t be easy though, as they welcome New York City FC to the familiar confines of the purple palace.

A date with the Pigeons means I caught up with Matthew Mangam, of the excellent Hudson River Blue. As always, he was very helpful in bringing us up to speed on New York City.

When last we talked, you said that this team needed to find its offensive spark again. It certainly managed to do that when it put four past Orlando City. Has that trend continued in the games since then?

Matthew Mangam: It definitely did not happen in the two matches after the win against Orlando. NYCFC did score first against Austin but ultimately lost, and couldn’t even manage two shots on goal against Chicago, drawing 0-0. Last game, NYCFC came back from 2-0 down to tie 2-2 with Atlanta United. The goals came from unusual scorers, Mounsef Bakrar and Talles Magno. So, the offense hasn’t been great recently but with the return of Magno, it can only get better. Players like Hannes Wolf and Santi Rodríguez have slowed down as of recently, resulting in guys like Alonso Martínez to see less of the ball and get fewer scoring chances.

With 29 goals conceded, NYCFC has one of the stingiest defenses in the league, what has made that unit so good?

MM:  NYCFC’s defense is solid, but it wouldn’t be complete without Matt Freese. The All-Star snub has made tons of amazing saves this season to earn NYCFC results and he seems to get better and better as time goes on. Also, the back line of Birk Risa and Thiago Martins has been consistent throughout the season, allowing for the two to get comfortable playing together. Although the right back spot has changed every so often, Kevin O’Toole has stayed as the starting left back. James Sands as the defensive midfielder does a great job in winning the ball back and protecting Martins and Risa. The defensive unit is the same from last season, so it’s only getting stronger with every game played.

It’s always fun to check in on former Lions, so tell me a bit about Andres Perea. How has he performed this season?

MM: Andrés Perea has been good this season, but not as good as he was last season during his loan spell. Perea does have two goals this season and one assist, but he’s given the ball away more than last season. He’s also not been as accurate passing-wise but I am still a huge advocate for him. He just suffered an injury against Chicago and may be out for some time, but I have no doubt that when he returns he’ll be back to his usual self. We’ve seen Nick Cushing use Perea in a three-man midfield with Keaton Parks and Sands as well. He doesn’t seem to be a certain starter, but he’s one of the few midfield depth pieces NYCFC has.

Will anyone be absent due to injuries, suspensions, call-ups, etc.? What is your projected starting XI and score prediction?

MM: NYCFC had five players out against Atlanta. The only set returner is Sands, who is back from yellow card suspension. I’m not sure if Cushing will want to rush back players such as Tayvon Gray, O’Toole, and Perea with such a quick turnaround. Malachi Jones had surgery after the injury he suffered against Orlando and will be out for several months. So, to guess a starting XI that I don’t think will be right, this is definitely the hardest one to predict yet this season.

4-2-3-1: Matt Freese, Christian McFarlane or Kevin O’Toole, Birk Risa, Thiago Martins, Ilenič or Tayvon Gray, James Sands, Keaton Parks, Agustin Ojeda, Santi Rodríguez, Hannes Wolf, Alonso Martínez.

I think the final score will be 2-2, it’ll be an entertaining game.


Thank you to Matthew for the information on NYCFC. Vamos Orlando!

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Lion Links

Lion Links: 7/19/24

Dagur Dan Thorhallsson signs new contract, Orlando Pride sign National Team Replacement Players, MLS roster rules change, and more.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Happy Friday! I’ll be spending a majority of the day traveling, as I have a flight to Boston this morning and then a drive up to Maine. It should be a nice weekend with friends, and I’m planning on consuming as much lobster as possible while I’m up there. Let’s dive into today’s links!

Dagur Dan Signs New Contract

Orlando City has signed Dagur Dan Thorhallsson to a new contract that will keep him in the City Beautiful through 2026, with an option for 2027 as well. The versatile player joined Orlando before the 2023 season and has flourished at right back since moving there. He’s locked down the position, so it makes all the sense in the world that Orlando would want to keep him around. Thorhallsson has two goals and three assists to his name so far this season and is a key part of the team’s game plan when attacking.

Ramiro Enrique Makes Team of the Matchday Bench

Forward Ramiro Enrique earned a spot on the bench of the latest Team of the Matchday for his efforts in Orlando’s 3-0 win over Nashville SC on Wednesday. Enrique’s rocketed strike capped off a solid performance, as he was also a force in the air and looked dangerous at the top of Orlando’s offense. The 23-year-old forward was also selected as Man of the Match in our Nic Josey’s player grades for the game. Enrique now has three goals in his past three games, so it’s nice to see him get some deserved recognition.

Orlando Pride Sign National Team Replacement Players

Midfielder Claire Winter and goalkeeper Kenna Caldwell were signed by the Pride as National Team Replacement Players for this international break. The Pride are without seven players due to the Olympics and Winter and Caldwell are available for selection for the upcoming  NWSL x Liga MX Femenil Summer Cup. Caldwell was a non-roster invitee to the Pride’s preseason and has been training with the team since. Winter has played in Denmark, Spain, Ireland, and Puerto Rico over the course of her career, and she was also a National Team Replacement Player for NJ/NY Gotham FC back in 2021.

MLS Makes Changes to Roster Rules

MLS clubs will have a bit more flexibility in terms of roster construction after the league announced changes that go into effect now that the secondary transfer window is open. Teams can now use all three Designated Player slots and all three U22 Initiative slots, eliminating the limitations that hamstrung some of those slots in the past. There’s also now an option for teams to build their roster with two DP slots, four U22 Initiative slots, and $2 million more in General Allocation Money. Speaking of GAM, up to $3 million of total transfer revenues can be converted into it, which is more than double the amount that it was before.

Only time will tell if these changes are enough to make the league more competitive with others, both on the field and in the transfer market. I feel like the increased flexibility is a positive, and I suspect savvy general managers will find ways to optimize their rosters fairly quickly. Let’s hope Luiz Muzzi can work some magic this transfer window.

USMNT Falls in Latest FIFA Rankings

After a disappointing Copa America that included a group stage exit, the United States fell five spots to 16th in the latest men’s FIFA rankings. While the U.S. underperformed, I do think it’s worth noting that strong tournaments from Uruguay, Germany, and Switzerland also played a part in them rising above the U.S. in the rankings. Mexico dropped two spots to 17th, while Panama and Canada both jumped up eight spots to 35th and 40th, respectively.

Spain moved up five places to third in the rankings following its dominant Euro 2024 run, while Argentina remained at the top after winning Copa America. Colombia jumped up three spots to claim ninth place, while Croatia fell out of the top 10 and is now in 12th.

Free Kicks

  • Former Lion Benji Michel will reportedly sign with Real Salt Lake. The Homegrown Player left Orlando on a free transfer to join FC Arouca in Portugal in January of 2023. It’s definitely going to be weird seeing him play for another MLS team if this comes to pass.
  • The Houston Dynamo made a splash by signing German winger Lawrence Ennali as a U22 Initiative Player. The 22-year-old joins from Polish club Gornik Zabrze for a reported transfer fee of $3 million and should give the Dynamo some needed firepower to compete in the Western Conference.
  • The Philadelphia Union traded away $150,000 in 2024 GAM to St. Louis City in exchange for Samuel Adeniran. The 25-year-old forward scored eight goals for St. Louis last season and the club can receive another $300,000 in GAM if conditions are met as well.
  • Toronto FC added American defender Henry Wingo as a free agent. although it gave $75,000 in 2025 GAM to D.C. United for his discovery rights. The 28-year-old has spent the past four years with Ferencvárosi and has MLS experience due to his time as a Homegrown Player with the Seattle Sounders.
  • The three divisions of the English Football League can be watched through CBS Sports this upcoming season. It’s notable news for those who want to watch Wrexham AFC or Americans like former Lion Daryl Dike.
  • Manchester United has officially signed 18-year-old defender Leny Yoro from Lille. Yoro started in 30 games for Lille last season and United reportedly paid a $67.6 million transfer fee for his services.
  • Patrick Vieira and Strasbourg have parted ways, leaving the French club without a manager just a month before the Ligue 1 season starts. Strasbourg finished 13th in the standings in Vieira’s first year with the club last season.
  • Borussia Dortmund has signed Serhou Guirassy, who scored a whopping 28 Bundesliga goals for Stuttgart last season.

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 Signs Dagur Dan Thorhallsson to New Contract

The Icelandic midfielder-turned-fullback extends his deal to stay in Orlando through at least 2026.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Orlando City announced this afternoon that the club has re-signed Icelandic midfielder/fullback Dagur Dan Thorhallsson to a new contract. The new deal will keep the 24-year-old in purple through the 2026 MLS season with a club option for 2027.

“Since Dagur has arrived at the club, he has proven himself to be someone who is adaptive and versatile in all situations, showing a willingness to do whatever the team requires of him in any scenario,” Executive Vice President of Soccer Operations and General Manager Luiz Muzzi said in a club press release. “His dedication to hard work and to his teammates is visible every day. He’s a consummate professional, both on and off the pitch, and we’re excited to have him representing our club for the foreseeable future.”

The Lions signed Thorhallsson on Jan. 31, 2023 to a two-year contract with a pair of option years. He joined OCSC from Breidablik in Iceland’s top flight and made his first appearance for the club less than a month later, coming off the bench in Orlando City’s 1-0 opening day win over the New York Red Bulls on Feb. 25, 2023, coming on in the 78th minute to replace Martin Ojeda. After spot duty to start his Orlando career, Thorhallsson converted to fullback and has developed his game and has become a regular starter.

In his career with Orlando City, Thorhallsson has made 54 appearances (34 starts), playing 2,998 minutes. He’s scored four goals and added six assists, passing at an 85.7% rate. He was a part of one of the league’s best defenses in 2023 and has been a key part of a recent improvement by the Lions in their own end. Counting all competitions, Thorhallsson has participated in 65 games (40 starts), adding an assist in non-MLS games to go along with the numbers above. After his first season with Orlando City, The Mane Land staff gave Thorhallsson a solid grade of 6.5 out of 10 for the 2023 season.

“I am so happy to have extended my contract with this amazing club,” Thorhallsson said in the club’s release. “Since I came to Orlando, it has felt like home, and I will be forever grateful for the opportunity I have gotten to play for the best fans in the country. There’s nothing better than a warm, Orlando night at Inter&Co Stadium, so I can’t wait for many more to come. The fans deserve the best, and that is what I will continue to try to give while I am here in Orlando.”

Prior to joining Orlando City, the native of Hafnarfjörður, Iceland native scored 11 goals and added seven assists in 40 appearances with Breidablik, helping the club win the Icelandic championship in 2022. He has appeared in four matches with Iceland’s national team and represented Iceland previously at the U-16, U-17, U-18, U-19, and U-21 levels, scoring two goals at the youth international level.

Thorhallson spent his youth career with Icelandic clubs Fylkir and Haukar, as well as Belgian side Gent from 2013-2018. He began his senior career with six appearances at Haukar in 2016 in his mid-teens. He returned to Iceland from Belgium and appeared in 16 matches with Keflavik, scoring one goal during the 2018-2019 season and appeared in one league match and four cup matches on loan with Norwegian side Mjøndalen IF. He signed with that club in 2019 and made 12 appearances in league play over two seasons from 2019-2021. During that time, he also played 12 games on loan with Kvik Halden FK in 2019, scoring five goals, and played in 20 matches on loan with Fylkir, scoring once.

What It Means for Orlando City

Thorhallsson arrived as a potential midfield replacement for Junior Urso at the beginning of 2023, but with his versatility and willingness to play anywhere, he cemented himself into the right back position around the Leagues Cup break in 2023, helping the Lions go on a successful final run that lifted the club to second in the Supporters’ Shield standings. While he is still developing at the position, and is sometimes still prone to errors, he’s only 24 and has plenty of upside.

Able to tuck inside and help in the midfield, play on the wing, and serve as a wingback or a fullback, Thorhallsson can plug into a lot of spots across multiple formations. He provides Oscar Pareja with some tactical options on how to use him. Thorhallsson has already equaled his goal (2) and assist (3) totals from 2023 in fewer games (albeit more minutes). He has a good rapport with winger Facundo Torres on the right side of Orlando City’s attack and possesses good instincts about when to overlap and when to cut inside.

The signing extends a promising Orlando City career. He should be in the midst of his prime years over the next two seasons, and provides a solid and dependable player.

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