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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

Orlando City vs. Cavalry FC, Concacaf Champions Cup: Preview, How to Watch, TV Info, Live Stream, Lineups, Match Thread, and More

The Lions play their first competitive match of 2024 north of the border in the Concacaf Champions Cup.

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Dan MacDonald, The Mane Land

Welcome to your match thread for a Wednesday night Concacaf Champions Cup matchup between Orlando City and Cavalry FC of the Canadian Premier League at Starlight Stadium in Langford, British Columbia at 10 p.m. (FOX Sports 2, TUDN). It’s the first meeting ever between the teams and Orlando City’s first ever match against a CPL team.

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

History

There isn’t any. These teams have never met, nor has Orlando City faced anyone in the Canadian Premier League before.

The Lions will be experiencing their fourth international cup competition and their second foray into Concacaf Champions League/Cup, having drawn twice against Tigres UANL last season. Orlando bowed out of last year’s competition due to the away goals tiebreaker. Orlando City has also competed twice in Leagues Cup.

Overview

Both teams will be playing their first competitive match of the 2024 season. Orlando City is coming off a 4-0-1 preseason, drawing 1-1 against Flamengo before reeling off four straight wins against Rhode Island FC, the New England Revolution, the Houston Dynamo, and the Colorado Rapids. City reached the Eastern Conference quarterfinals in 2023 and is looking to build on its most successful season to date in MLS.

Cavalry FC is coming off a season in which it finished top of the table in the regular season, but fell 2-1 after extra time in the CPL championship match against Forge FC. As far as CPL teams go, the Lions will be facing one of the league’s best, as you’d expect in a competition called “Champions Cup.”

“We’re very proud and very happy to bring Orlando City to this beautiful city and this excellent competition,” Orlando City Head Coach Oscar Pareja said. “(We’re) Feeling proud of playing in Champions Cup in Concacaf and obviously aiming for the best prize, and here we are starting the season with obviously a very competitive game.”

Pareja is suspended for tonight due to his red card in the second leg against Tigres in 2023.


Projected Lineups

Orlando City (4-2-3-1)

Goalkeeper: Pedro Gallese.

Defenders: Rafael Santos, Robin Jansson, Rodrigo Schlegel, Michael Halliday.

Defensive Midfielders: Cesar Araujo, Wilder Cartagena.

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

Forward: Duncan McGuire.

Cavalry FC (4-2-3-1)

Goalkeeper: Marco Carducci.

Defenders: Bradley Kamdem, Daan Klomp, Eryk Kobza, Fraser Aird.

Defensive Midfielders: Charlie Trafford, Jesse Daley.

Attacking Midfielders: William Akio, Sergio Camargo, Ali Musse.

Forward: Myer Bevan.

Officials:

REF: Juan Gabriel Calderon (Costa Rica).
AR1: William Arrieta (Costa Rica).
AR2: Henri Pupiro (Nicaragua).
4TH: Keylor Herrera (Costa Rica).
VAR: Oscar Mejia (Mexico).
VAR1: Erick Miranda (Mexico).


How to Watch

Match Time: 10 p.m.

Venue: Starlight Stadium — Langford, British Columbia.

TV: FOX Sports 2, TUDN.

Streaming: The match can be streamed on FOX Sports GO, the FOX Sports app TUDN.com, and the TUDN app.

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


Enjoy the match. Go City!

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Lion Links: 2/21/24

Orlando City takes on Cavalry FC tonight, Lions sign Jeorgio Kocevski, USWNT wins in Concacaf W Gold Cup, and more.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Hello, Mane Landers. I hope all is well with you in Florida as we get to watch the Lions in action tonight in the Concacaf Champions Cup. There’s not much new with me this week other than staying busy covering high school basketball and hockey. Let’s wish a happy birthday to Orlando Pride forward Amanda Allen. There is plenty to cover today, so let’s get to the links.

Orlando City Takes on Cavalry FC Tonight

Orlando City will be in action tonight in the first round of the Concacaf Champions Cup, as it takes on Cavalry FC at Starlight Stadium at 10 p.m. This matchup will be the Lions’ first competitive match of 2024, with their MLS season opener against CF Montreal set for Saturday. The Lions were knocked out by Tigres due to away goals in last year’s Concacaf Champions League. Cavalry FC will make its debut in this competition tonight and qualified by winning the 2023 Canadian Premier League Shield. The second leg between these two sides will be on Feb. 27 in Orlando.

Orlando City Signs First-Round Draft Pick Jeorgio Kocevski

Orlando City signed 2024 MLS SuperDraft pick Jeorgio Kocevski to a contract through the 2024 season with club options for 2025, 2026, and 2027. Kocevski scored the game-winning goal in stoppage time in Orlando’s final preseason match against the Colorado Rapids this past weekend. The midfielder was selected 21st overall in the first round of the MLS SuperDraft by the Lions in December. He played four years for Syracuse, recording seven goals and 18 assists in 71 matches. Kocevski is the only player the club has signed from the Lions’ 2024 draft class and will likely get some minutes with Orlando City B this season.

St. Louis City and Philadelphia Union Win in Champions Cup

Orlando City isn’t the only MLS team kicking off its Concacaf Champions Cup campaign this week. St. Louis City edged out the Houston Dynamo 2-1, with rookie Hosei Kijima scoring the winner in stoppage time. The Philadelphia Union were on the road in Costa Rica to face off against Deportivo Saprissa and won 3-2, thanks to a hat trick from Julian Carranza in the second half. As for other tournament matches this week, the New England Revolution face Independiente in Panama tonight, with Nashville playing Moca FC in the Dominican Republic and FC Cincinnati taking on Jamaica’s Cavalier SC tomorrow.

USWNT Beats the Dominican Republic in W Gold Cup

The United States Women’s National Team got its Concacaf W Gold Cup campaign off to a great start with a 5-0 win against the Dominican Republic in Group A. Olivia Moultrie scored her first USWNT goal to give her team an early lead, with Lynn Williams giving the U.S. another goal before halftime. Moultrie scored another in the second half to earn her brace, and Jenna Nighswonger converted a penalty for her first USWNT goal as well. Former Pride forward Alex Morgan replaced Mia Fishel on the roster due to injury and scored from the penalty spot in stoppage time. The USWNT’s next game will be against Argentina on Friday at 10:15 p.m.

UEFA Champions League Roundup

The UEFA Champions League had plenty of drama as the round of 16 continued. Inter Milan won 1-0 in its first leg against Atletico Madrid at home, with Mark Arnautovic scoring the only goal in the match. In the Netherlands, PSV Eindhoven and Borussia Dortmund played to a thrilling 1-1 draw. The second legs for both matchups will be played on March 13. There is more Champions League action today, as FC Porto hosts Arsenal while Napoli takes on Barcelona.

Free Kicks

  • The latest MLS power rankings are out just before the regular season begins. Orlando City begins the season in the fifth spot.
  • Orlando City and the Orlando Pride announced fan experience upgrades at Inter&Co Stadium featuring Amazon’s Just Walk Out technology in merchandise shops, stadium Wi-Fi upgrades, and a jersey history experience.
  • The MLS Players Association released a statement on the ongoing referee lockout.
  • Here is the list of MLS Season Pass commentator assignments for opening week.

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

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Orlando City

Orlando City Signs First-Round Draft Pick Jeorgio Kocevski

Orlando City signs its first-round draft pick Jeorgio Kocevski to a one-year deal with three option years.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Orlando City SC announced the signing of first-round 2024 MLS SuperDraft pick Jeorgio Kocevski today. The deal is through the upcoming 2024 season with club options for 2025, 2026, and 2027. The Lions selected the Syracuse midfielder with the 21st overall pick in the draft in December.

“Jeorgio has had a really strong preseason camp with us, demonstrating everything we saw in him when we were scouting him and analyzing his game in college,” Orlando City Executive Vice President of Soccer Operations and General Manager Luiz Muzzi said in a club press release. “He’s done well working his way into the group, even starting in our friendly against Flamengo and holding his own against some of the best in Brazil, and we’re excited to have him with us this season.”

The box-to-box midfielder made three appearances this preseason, starting against Brazilian club Flamengo and the following scrimmage against USL Championship side Rhode Island FC. He came on at halftime against the Colorado Rapids last weekend, scoring the winning goal in the 90th minute.

Prior to being selected by the Lions, the Liverpool, NY, native made 71 appearances with 65 starts and logged 5,599 minutes for Syracuse in four years. He scored seven goals and recorded 18 assists, putting 33 of his 93 shots on frame. Additionally, he was part of Syracuse’s 2022 NCAA national championship team, playing 90 minutes in the 2-2 draw, but missing in the team’s victorious shootout over Indiana.

Kocevski had a breakout junior year, being named to the United Soccer Coaches’ All-South Region third team, All-ACC third team, NCAA All-Tournament team, and ACC All-Tournament team. During his senior year, he wore the armband for the Orange and was named All-ACC first team and ACC Co-Midfielder of the Year.

What It Means for Orlando City

Kocevski was the most likely pick from this most recent draft to be signed by Orlando City. The departure of club captain Mauricio Pereyra left a spot in the midfield and Head Coach Oscar Pareja seemed to feel the rookie could fill it from early on. His start against Flamengo was in the place of regular starter Cesar Araujo, who was on international duty with the Uruguay U-23 national team. He played against Flamengo’s best lineup and did quite well in almost an hour on the field in his first minutes of play at the professional level.

While a spot was open for the signing of Kocevski, he likely won’t see much of the field for the first team this season. In addition to being behind starters Araujo and Wilder Cartagena, the defensive midfielder will be behind Felipe on the depth chart. In all likelihood, the rookie will slot in with Orlando City B in MLS NEXT Pro to get some minutes, but there is room for him to start regularly with that team.

Kocevski is currently the only player signed by the club from the Lions’ 2024 draft class. West Virginia midfielder Yutaro Tsukada, Pittsburgh midfielder Filip Mirkovic, and Charlotte midfielder Riyon Tori remained unsigned, with the latter opting to return to school for his senior season.

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