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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

2023 Orlando City Season in Review: Jack Lynn

The 2022 draft pick spent most of his time with Orlando City B during his second year in purple.

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Dan MacDonald, The Mane Land

Jack Lynn joined Orlando City through the 2022 MLS SuperDraft, when he was selected in the first round by the Lions with the No. 18 overall pick. He was then signed to a one-year deal in February of last year with options for the next three years. Much of his time during his first season was spent with Orlando City B, although he did make a few appearances for the first team.

Let’s take a look back at Lynn’s second year in purple.

Statistical Breakdown

Lynn made three appearances in Major League Soccer with the senior side, all of which came as a substitute, and finished with 33 minutes on the field. Defensively, he recorded one interception and two clearances, while committing one foul. Offensively, he won four aerial duels, took one shot, which was on target, drew two fouls, and completed three long balls while passing with 76% accuracy. He did not score a goal or assist on one.

As in 2022, the majority of Lynn’s season was spent in MLS Next PRO with Orlando City B. He had a phenomenal year in the developmental league, and his campaign finished with him being named the league’s MVP and winning the Golden Boot. He played in 27 games for the young Lions, 20 of which were starts, and racked up 1,826 minutes. Defensively, he recorded three interceptions, committed 16 fouls, and was shown four yellow cards. On offense, he took 72 shots and put 40 of them on target, scored 19 goals, drew 15 fouls, and passed with 74% accuracy while completing 13 long balls and 12 key passes but no assists.

Best Game

There weren’t a lot to pick from, but I’ve gone with his longest appearance of the year, which was a 20-minute shift during Orlando City’s 4-3 comeback win over the Columbus Crew. He didn’t record many statistics on the night, as he won two aerial duels, committed a foul, and passed with 50% accuracy. However, he provided a big target up front as the Lions continued to lump the ball forward in search of goals, and he factored in on Facundo Torres’ goal, pulling players away so Ramiro Enrique could collect the ball and start the move that ended with the ball in the back of the net. Michael Citro graded him as a 5 out of 10 in our Player Grades piece, the only game this year in which he received a grade.

2023 Final Grade

As he fell well short of the 450 minute threshold that we require for a player to be given, Lynn has been given a grade of incomplete for the 2023 season. After spending the bulk of his time with Orlando City B in his first two seasons as a Lion, we still don’t have a great idea of what he might be able to contribute to the first team, and we simply need to see more of him to get a better read on his abilities.

2024 Outlook

Lynn remains fairly young and inexpensive, has option years left on his contract, and just tore up MLS Next PRO with Orlando City B. With there being some whispers about overseas teams scouting Duncan McGuire, and the Lions already a little thin at the striker position, it wouldn’t be at all surprising to see Lynn’s option year exercised. What sort of role he’ll have will then likely depend on what he’s able to show during preseason, but if nothing else he should remain a key part of OCB.


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Lion Links: 12/8/23

Orlando City will play Flamengo in preseason friendly, Kylie Strom signs new deal, USMNT’s Copa America group draw, and more.

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Dan MacDonald, The Mane Land

Happy Friday! The work week is almost over and I’m really looking forward to the weekend. I’ll be celebrating a friend’s birthday and knocking out most of the holiday shopping that I haven’t gotten around to just yet. Hopefully the malls aren’t too chaotic. Regardless, it should be a nice next few days. But for now, let’s get to the links!

Orlando Will Face Flamengo in 2024 FC Series

Orlando City’s first preseason game will take place on Jan. 27 when it takes on Flamengo at Camping World Stadium as part of the 2024 FC Series, which was previously known as the Florida Cup. Going up against one of Brazil’s powerhouses should be great preparation for the Lions after a record season in 2023 that earned them a spot in the 2024 Concacaf Champions Cup. It will be the second meeting between the two sides after a 2015 friendly in Brazil that Flamengo won 1-0. It will be nice to see the Lions in action at Camping World Stadium again and the kickoff time for next month’s match will be unveiled at a later time.

Kylie Strom Signs New Deal With Pride

Defender Kylie Strom, who was a free agent following the 2023 season, will return to the Orlando Pride after signing a three-year deal with the club. She joined the Pride in the summer of 2021 from Atletico Madrid and started in 26 games this past year, holding down the left back position. The Pride now retain their starting back line heading into 2024 and have full protection in Tuesday’s expansion draft. Although the defense struggled at times, it improved as the season wore on and the Pride nearly made the playoffs. Jordyn Listro is now the only free agent left from last year’s squad.

NWSL Announces Blueprint for 2024 Schedule

The framework for the 2024 NWSL season was revealed and the 182-match regular season has been formatted so that NWSL games don’t take place during international breaks. The biggest change is that the NWSL Challenge Cup is no longer a tournament and now just a match between the NWSL Shield winner and the NWSL champion, meaning San Diego Wave FC will play NJ/NY Gotham FC on March 15. However, there will be a weekend tournament organized by the league for all 14 teams during a break in the regular season while the Summer Olympics take place. The playoffs will feature eight teams and won’t include byes this year, with the quarterfinals starting on Nov. 9 and the NWSL Championship set for Nov. 23. Clubs can begin their preseason camps as early as Jan. 22 and no later than Jan. 29.

Copa America Teams Learn Their Groups

The United States Men’s National Team will take on Uruguay, Panama, and Bolivia in its group in the 2024 Copa America. Uruguay was one of the strongest opponents the U.S. could get drawn against, as the South American team has scored 13 goals so far in CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying. The important match between the USMNT and Uruguay will take place on July 1 in Kansas City. We’ll see how much Orlando City winger Facundo Torres plays for Uruguay in the tournament. As for Orlando’s Peruvian pair of Pedro Gallese and Wilder Cartagena, Peru is in a tough group against Argentina, Chile, and whichever nation prevails between Canada and Trinidad & Tobago.

We also have a clearer idea on which teams will be playing in Orlando. Two games will take place at Exploria Stadium, with Chile playing either Canada or Trinidad & Tobago on June 29 before Bolivia and Panama face off on July 1.

Gisele Thompson Signs With Angel City FC

Angel City FC signed young defender Gisele Thompson to a three-year contract that had this year count as the first year, with an option for an additional year in 2026. She turned 18 earlier this month and turned down an offer to play at Stanford to instead sign with Angel City, meaning the club did not need to use a draft pick for her to join. Gisele is the sister of Alyssa Thompson, who Angel City traded up to select with the first pick in the 2023 NWSL Draft. They are the youngest players on Angel City’s roster and will become the second pair of sisters to play in the league.

Free Kicks

  • The Colorado Rapids are reportedly in talks with American goalkeeper Zack Steffen to sign him from Manchester City.

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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2023 Orlando City Season in Review: Favian Loyola

The Homegrown midfielder spent most of the year with OCB but made his MLS debut in July.

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Dan MacDonald, The Mane Land

Orlando City signed midfielder Favian Loyola to a Homegrown Player deal through 2025 on Dec. 2, 2022, with club options for 2026 and 2027. The OCSC Academy product became the club’s 13th all-time Homegrown signing and it was no surprise after his fantastic 2022 season. The Camp Lejeune, NC, was coming off a breakout year in the club’s youth system, which culminated with his selection to the 2022 MLS NEXT All-Star Game, in which he was named MVP. After starting the 2022 season on an academy contract, Loyola earned an MLS NEXT Pro deal, signing it last August. When he signed his Homegrown deal in December he became the first player to climb the club’s developmental ladder from the academy, to the current OCB setup in MLS NEXT Pro, to the first team.

Let’s take a look back at Loyola’s 2023 campaign, which was abbreviated due to surgery on his arm to remove a blood clot on Aug. 27.

Statistical Breakdown

Loyola played in just one MLS match with the Lions, making his first-team debut July 1 in a 3-1 home win over the Chicago Fire. The 18-year-old came on as a substitute in the third minute of stoppage time for Facundo Torres and is officially credited with one minute played, although that match went to nine minutes of stoppage. In that short amount of time he managed six touches and attempted six passes, completing all of them — one of them being a key pass. Loyola did not attempt a shot or record any defensive stats, but he did commit one foul, but he was not booked for it.

The bulk of Loyola’s 2023 season was spent with Orlando City B in MLS NEXT Pro, where he was a key player off the bench for Martin Perelman’s side. He appeared in 20 of the team’s 28 matches, starting seven, and logging 732 minutes. He scored two goals and added three assists, putting 10 of his 21 shots on target during the year. Loyola completed 80.3% of his passes with OCB, served up seven key passes and six successful long balls, and completed three crosses. He recorded four tackles and three interceptions, committed 11 fouls while drawing 10, and was booked three times.

Best Game

With just the one MLS match to his credit, Loyola’s MLS debut against Chicago was his best game of the 2023 Major League Soccer Season. It was a memorable match, as he subbed on for Torres, who set the tone for the Lions with a brace that night, and it was also the game in which Mauricio Pereyra made his 100th appearance with Orlando City. Loyola made the most of his short amount of time on the pitch, despite committing a foul during his first minute of MLS play. He settled in and completed all six of his passes and created a scoring chance just seconds after his foul, when he sent a ball to Ramiro Enrique, although the Argentine had his shot attempt blocked from a tight angle.

2023 Final Grade

As Loyola came up short of the minimum total of 450 minutes played to receive a rating on our 1-10 scale, The Mane Land has no choice but to mark his grade as incomplete for the 2023 season. If his meteoric growth continues, Loyola will likely have much more than one appearance next season as his skills at passing and finding pockets of space translate well to the next level. He wasn’t able to return to the pitch after the surgery for his blood clot, but he should be ready to go for 2024.

2024 Outlook

With Loyola being just 18 years old and the club having him under contract, I would expect his role to be the same in 2024. He’ll be learning the ropes with OCB, playing most of the season with the club’s reserve side in MLS NEXT Pro, where he will continue to be a key player. However, if he continues to develop his game, he could push for more late substitute appearances with the first team or even get a start if the Lions draw a lower-league team in the U.S. Open Cup. One thing Loyola will need to work on is controlling the ball, as he turned the ball over 15 times with OCB in 2023.


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