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Orlando City

Orlando City vs. Nashville SC: Final Score 3-1 as Lions Crash Out of Playoffs



Orlando City’s 2021 season is over.

The Lions scored first, but fell victim to a fluky goal and the Nashville SC counter attack in a 3-1 loss at Nissan Stadium. The game was closer than the final score would indicate, but the fourth meeting of the year between the two sides — the third in Nashville — went to the hosts. Daryl Dike put the Lions ahead early but Hany Mukhtar scored twice and Jhonder Cadiz got an insurance goal deep in stoppage time.

The team to score first has still never won in the series and a solid second season under Oscar Pareja — despite a plethora of injuries, suspensions, and international call-ups — came to a close after the franchise’s first ever road playoff contest.

“Those counters affected us today and that was a difference maker in the game,” Orlando City Head Coach Oscar Pareja said after the match. “I think the effort from the players and the desire and the willingness to be as we’re always asking them, it was there on the field. So there’s nothing to regret, and it’s painful but the boys left it on the field and there’s nothing we can complain about.”

Despite David Loera being the only player on the injury report, Pareja still didn’t have his first-choice starting XI in the lineup. Joao Moutinho did not dress and Nani started on the bench. Pareja had Pedro Gallese in goal behind a back line of Emmanuel Mas, Robin Jansson, Antonio Carlos, and Ruan. Sebas Mendez and Junior Urso slotted into central midfield, with Mauricio Pereyra and Chris Mueller facilitating the attack to Benji Michel and Daryl Dike up top.

Orlando City started strong and looked to be growing into the game first. A good bit of buildup nearly resulted in a chance for Mueller in the 10th minute. The Lions worked the ball into the area but the final ball from Dike was too far out in front. But Orlando got the opener four minutes later.

Michel won a corner kick for Orlando and the Lions made the set piece pay off. Pereyra sent in a great cross and Dike peeled away from the defense and placed his header toward the far post and in for the first goal in the 14th minute. It was Dike’s first playoff goal.

Nashville tried to get back into it using the dark arts. CJ Sapong took a dive and Ismail Elfath rewarded it by giving the hosts a free kick in a dangerous area. Mukhtar’s free kick hit the wall and came back to him. He tried to pick out Walker Zimmerman with a recycled ball but Jansson cleared it away.

Unfortunately, Nashville tied the match in the 21st minute. Urso was unaware of Anibal Godoy’s quick close-down and gave away the ball in the middle of the field. Godoy poked it off of Urso to Mukhtar who dribbled toward Orlando’s area and tried a long-distance shot. Carlos was unlucky in trying to block it because instead of Gallese having a good chance to make a save, the ball deflected up and over the goalkeeper and in to make it 1-1.

“They bet for counters and they they don’t want to be the team to dictate the tempo,” Pareja said. “They wait and that’s what they do, and they did it well.” 

Randall Leal tried to put Nashville on top three minutes later from Gallese’s left as the defense failed to close him down, but he fired a laser shot right at El Pulpo and the goalkeeper gave no rebound.

Godoy thought he’d scored in the 41st minute off a rebound of a Mukhtar shot that Gallese saved but couldn’t control, but the midfielder was offside on the play and the game remained tied.

That was all the scoring in a bit of a sloppy first half that saw both teams slipping on the football field of Nissan Stadium. Michel had one moment of slippage in his own end that nearly gifted Nashville a scoring chance but Carlos headed a cross intended for Sapong out of harm’s way. Aside from the footing, Orlando had some heavy touches but overall played a solid first half on the road.

Nashville led in most of the statistical categories at the break, holding more possession (55.8%-44.2%), firing more shots (5-1), notching more shots on target (3-1), and passing slightly more accurately (82.4%-82.3%). Orlando City won more corner kicks (2-0).

The first chance of the second half fell to Sapong in the 47th minute as he attempted a header from near the top of the area but didn’t get anything on it and Gallese wasn’t troubled.

Orlando grew into the second half but then got too timid when approaching dangerous areas. Dike laid off a pass for Michel in the 48th minute but the winger opted to take a touch rather than fire first time and the touch was heavy. He tried to drag it back around a defender but ended up losing it and wasting the opportunity.

“In that moment we didn’t have the confidence to do it or we were not sharp enough,” Pareja said of those chances. “And there’s many things that you can say but this is a group has been competing for two years and they have done the job many, many times and unfortunately today we (came up) short.”

A minute later, Pereyra sent a seeing-eye ball that would have sent Mueller in but Daniel Lovitz did well to make a sliding challenge to knock the pass away at the last second.

Michel was again hesitant in the area in the 57th minute, missing a chance to get a shot on target but he did win a corner. The ensuing set piece was knocked to the top of the area to Mendez who fired a shot that was heading on target but it was blocked out for another corner. Mendez again got a chance on the following corner after an initial clearance by Joe Willis, but he sent a rocket just wide to the right.

In the 60th minute, Pereyra led a counter into the top of the box and laid a pass off for Ruan on the right. Urso was trailing the play and didn’t see Ruan. The midfielder made a sliding effort to get a shot on goal but instead took out his right back, wasting another opportunity.

As Pareja was preparing to bring Nani on as a sub, disaster struck. A blocked shot at the top of the Nashville area turned into a Nashville counter and Mukhtar ended up on the right side 1-v-1 with Mas. The Nashville Designated Player cut in from the right toward the middle and Mas couldn’t keep up. Mendez, sitting on a yellow card, was too passive in closing down. Meanwhile, Sapong made a diagonal run that caused confusion between the two center backs and that gave Mukhtar room to shoot. He beat Gallese to make it 2-1 in the 74th minute.

Although the circumstances had changed, Nani’s introduction seemed to have the desired effect. Pareja said after the match that Nani had been having some recent difficulties but was fine to play and they decided to bring him off the bench to have him at his best. Unfortunately, the timing of the second Mukhtar goal meant Pareja was sending him on with the Lions chasing the game rather than level.

Just after he came on, Urso came free in the middle and fired a long-range shot but he hit it right at Willis in the 76th minute. Moments later, Nani cut in left to right at the corner of the area and smashed a rocket toward goal that Zimmerman blocked with his midsection.

The captain then won a corner in the 80th but Orlando could do nothing with it. In the 86th, Nani sent a free kick into the area that deflected to substitute Tesho Akindele. Lovitz closed him down and he tried to pull his shot around the defender but ended up sending it wide.

Moments later, Orlando should have had a set piece in the middle just outside the area. Dike made a good turn and got beyond his defender. He still had to deal with Zimmerman but before he could do that he was knocked down from behind. Elfath swallowed his whistle and Nashville cleared the danger.

The last chance at an equalizer came on a cross from late sub Silvester van der Water. Akindele got his head on it but couldn’t make enough contact to direct it inside the far post.

Cadiz put the game away in the 94th minute after outmuscling Carlos and slotting home.

Both teams finished the game with just nine shots but Nashville got more on target (6-2). Orlando City ended up with more possession (54.3%-45.7%), won more corners (5-0), and passed more accurately for the game (81.3%-79.1%).

“If you ask me for one difference between the teams I think it’s just that they scored the second goal when maybe they didn’t deserve it, because they didn’t (generate much attack) in the second half,” Pereyra said. “But that’s soccer, and that’s what we need to accept and we need to say congratulations to Nashville.”

The home team has won in every MLS playoff game so far this postseason, and that has to rub the Lions the wrong way after a terrible refereeing decision the last time these teams played ended up dropping Orlando from what would have been a home game to having to travel to Nashville.

The Lions will next play a competitive match in late February when they host CF Montreal in the 2022 season opener. Nashville will go to Philadelphia for a conference semifinal match on Sunday.

Orlando City

Orlando City Can Build Valuable Momentum in April

The last two games of April present a good chance for the Lions to keep building momentum ahead of a challenging May.



Dan MacDonald, The Mane Land

Orlando City got back to winning ways last Saturday and started a mini-undefeated streak in the process, as the Lions have now gone three games on the bounce without tasting defeat. OCSC has two more games to play during the month of April, and the scheduling gods have given the men in purple a chance to keep building on the recent run of good form, as a tricky and packed May schedule looms on the horizon. The last two April fixtures won’t be easy by any stretch, but an opportunity has presented itself if the Lions can play well and take advantage of it.

First, let’s turn our attention to Saturday’s game against CF Montreal up in Canada. Montreal currently has a record of 3-3-1 which is good for 10 points and eighth place in the Eastern Conference. These two teams faced each other in the very first game of the season, and it ended as a 0-0 draw, thanks largely in part to some shaky finishing on Orlando’s part and a couple excellent Pedro Gallese saves. Since then, Montreal has defeated a struggling FC Dallas team, an Inter Miami team that has looked equal parts unbeatable and extremely vulnerable at the back, and an FC Cincinnati side that so far has struggled to replace the goals of Brandon Vazquez. In other words, the wins haven’t come over bad teams, (aside from maybe Dallas) but rather teams that have had flawed, uneven starts to the season.

To be fair, many of the same criticisms could be leveled at Orlando City’s record. OCSC’s wins have come against Austin FC and D.C. United — two teams with leaky defenses that have each had uneven starts to the season — and the Lions have suffered losses that have ranged from uninspiring against Atlanta, to abhorrent against Miami. Where the two teams differ is that Orlando started the year battling on two fronts and then had key players missing through a combination of injury and international call-ups afterward. The Lions now have a nearly clean bill of health and looked much more cohesive with Wilder Cartagena and Cesar Araujo partnered in midfield once more — a welcome sight after some of the struggles that were endured when one or both were missing at various times.

The Canadian side also hasn’t kept a clean sheet since that opening game of the season against the Lions, a fact that could bode well for an Orlando side which has scored six goals in its last three games. As long as the defense can tighten up and not make the sorts of mental errors that led to goals against D.C. and the New York Red Bulls, there will be opportunities at the other end of the field for an attacking corps that has done a better job at putting the ball in the net than we saw during the first game of the season. In short, the game is a winnable one, and while getting road results in MLS is never easy, OCSC should feel reasonably confident about its chances to get points on its trip north of the border.

That leaves Toronto FC’s visit to the Purple Palace on Saturday, April 27. The Reds currently sit one spot below CF Montreal, in ninth place, with a record of 3-4-1 and 10 points. TFC’s victories have been over a New England team that has been struggling mightily, a Charlotte FC side that has had a decent but slightly inconsistent start to the year, and an Atlanta United outfit that can have the same said of it as Charlotte. The wins have all been solid ones, and the team looked pretty good in those three games.

On the flip side of things, the last of those wins came on March 23, with Toronto dropping its last three games in a row and conceding 10 goals in the process. They’ve got the second leakiest defense of any of the nine teams in the playoff places, while being tied with Cincinnati for scoring the fewest goals.

Then there’s the issue of player availability. The Reds’ injury list is a long one, with six players currently listed as out and an additional one as questionable. Among those listed out are Lorenzo Insigne, Richie Laryea, Brandon Servania, and Shane O’Neill. In other words, they’re likely to be missing guys that are key contributors for the team when healthy, and part of the recent losing streak can be attributed to dealing with the injury bug that’s bit the team with a vengeance. Playing on the road without a number of important key players is rarely a recipe for success, and Orlando City should have another good chance to pick up three points.

Now, this isn’t to say that taking all six points from these games is a foregone conclusion. MLS is a tricky league to get results in, and we have no way of knowing how the fortunes of Orlando, Montreal, and Toronto will change in the next eight days. But given the leaky defenses of the two Canadian sides, TFC’s injury situation, and Orlando City seemingly starting to find a better patch of form, the Lions have an opportunity to keep picking up points and climbing the Eastern Conference standings. Vamos Orlando!

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Lion Links

Lion Links: 4/19/24

Orlando Pride host the San Diego Wave, Orlando City B faces Crown Legacy FC, Europa League action, and more.



Image courtesy of Orlando Pride

Happy Friday! Make sure to get your night plans in order as both the Orlando Pride and Orlando City B have games tonight. Figure out your drink of choice, charge those devices if you don’t plan on heading to the stadium for the Pride game, and knock out any chores before things get rolling. It should be a fun day, so let’s get it started with some links!

Orlando Pride Host the San Diego Wave Tonight

After earning their first win last week in Utah, the Orlando Pride are back in the City Beautiful for tonight’s game against the San Diego Wave at 8 p.m. The Pride’s four-game unbeaten run is on the line and will be put to the test against a Wave team that has four points from three games. San Diego has only scored two goals this season, but it has also secured a pair of clean sheets so far. The biggest storyline heading into the match is whether or not Barbra Banda will make her Pride debut. Hopefully Orlando can light it up at home and keep former Pride forward Alex Morgan and the rest of the Wave’s offense in check.

Orlando City B Takes On Crown Legacy FC

The Young Lions are also in action tonight at 7:30 p.m., with a match against Crown Legacy FC in North Carolina. Crown Legacy is only a point behind OCB, but is still searching for its first win of this MLS NEXT Pro season. OCB has played every game away from the Orlando area so far and ground out a 1-1 draw against Philadelphia Union II last weekend. Orlando hasn’t won a game since its season opener on March 16, but has been proven capable of getting points on the road. Wilfredo Rivera and Yutaro Tsukada linked up for the equalizer in that match, so hopefully they can keep that momentum rolling into tonight’s game.

Americans to Watch This Weekend

European soccer seasons and tournaments are nearing their ends and there are many Americans in important games this weekend. Haji Wright’s heroics put Coventry City into the FA Cup semifinals, and he will have a chance to impress again on Sunday against Manchester United. Elsewhere in England, Fulham duo Antonee Robinson and Tim Ream could put a dent in Liverpool’s title hopes, while Nottingham Forest’s Matt Turner and Giovanni Reyna will square off against Everton, as both sides aim to avoid relegation. Over in Italy, AC Milan duo Christian Pulisic and Yunus Musah will try to stop Inter Milan from claiming the Serie A title in a rivalry match at San Siro. There’s also a showdown between Americans in the Scottish Cup semifinals, with Celtic’s Cameron Carter-Vickers going up against Aberdeen and Dante Polvara.

Europa League Quarterfinals Come to a Close

The Europa League quarterfinals are done and dusted and only four teams remain in contention for some silverware. West Ham United took the lead against Bayer Leverkusen, but couldn’t overcome the aggregate deficit and the German club advanced. Leverkusen also scored a late equalizer to make it a 1-1 draw and extend its unbeaten streak to 44 games. Marseille scored at home against Benfica to send the game to extra time and then won the eventual penalty shootout. Atalanta did enough in a 1-0 loss to Liverpool to advance on aggregate, with Liverpool’s lone goal coming from an early Mohamed Salah penalty kick. AS Roma is also through to the semifinals after a 2-1 win against AC Milan, despite a red card in the first half. In the semifinals, Marseille will face Atalanta and Leverkusen will take on Roma.

Free Kicks

  • Houston Dynamo Head Coach Ben Olsen has agreed to a new contract that will keep him with the club through 2026. Olsen has quietly dragged the Dynamo out of the Western Conference’s basement and won last year’s U.S. Open Cup as well.
  • New York Red Bulls defender Andres Reyes was suspended an additional match for violent conduct in the team’s match against the Chicago Fire. This means Reyes will miss tomorrow’s match against LAFC and the home game against the Vancouver Whitecaps on April 27.
  • American left back Jorge Villafana is hanging up his cleats. He won the MLS Cup with the Portland Timbers back in 2015 and the Concacaf Gold Cup with the U.S. in 2017.
  • Replays won’t be a part of the FA Cup for the next six years. This will ease some of the schedule congestion for English Premier League teams, but it denies lower-division sides the chance at more revenue.
  • The folks over at Stars and Stripes FC shined a spotlight on forward Jubilo Iwata, who currently leads Japan’s J1 League in scoring after eight games. It’s always cool to learn more about some of the lesser-known players in the U.S. player pool.
  • An NFL game between the Philadelphia Eagles and Green Bay Packers will be played in Brazil at Corinthians Arena. However, there’s an unofficial rule at the stadium that green can’t be worn, as it is the color of Corinthians rival, so we’ll see if that’s adhered to come September.
  • Megan Rapinoe and Sue Bird’s production company will adapt Cleat Cute, a romance novel by Meryl Wilsner about love between teammates on a women’s soccer team. As someone who’s read it and loved it, I’m pretty excited for the show to say the least.

That’s all I have for you today. Stay hydrated and enjoy the games today. Go Orlando!

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Orlando City

Orlando City at CF Montreal: Three Keys to Victory

What does Orlando City need to do on the road against CF Montreal to take home all three points ?



Dan MacDonald, The Mane Land

Orlando City opened the season against CF Montreal, playing to a 0-0 draw at Inter&Co Stadium back in February. Now, the Lions head to the Great White North to play the pesky Canadian club again. There’s no Concacaf Champions Cup competition to worry about this time, so hopefully Orlando City can get a victory.

What does Orlando City need to do to follow up the D.C. United victory with another win?

Just Say No

Outscoring your opponents while giving up two goals is all well and good, but outscoring your opponents while also keeping a clean sheet is much better. Orlando City has given up 13 goals over seven matches. It’s actually worse than that considering that the club has two clean sheets meaning those 13 goals came in just five matches. The Lions need to do better at not conceding goals.

Of course, one of those clean sheets came against Montreal to start the season, and the entire defense is seemingly healthy and ready to go. Our old foe Josef Martinez is always a threat and Matias Coccaro has three goals for Montreal so far this season. Stopping them is crucial. If Orlando City can maintain the same defensive discipline it showed in the previous match against Montreal, it will make earning points on the road much easier.

Designated Player Goals

Orlando City has scored seven goals so far this season. Duncan McGuire leads the team with three goals, thanks to his goal last week. Do you know who hasn’t scored yet? If you said any of Orlando City’s Designated Players, you would be correct. I’m not going to ring any emergency bells just yet, but it’d be a lot cooler if Luis Muriel, Martin Ojeda, or Facundo Torres scored a goal this week.

I think they are all close to breaking out. Torres has scored this year, just not in the MLS regular season. Muriel has been getting closer each match, and is still contributing in other ways. The same can be said of Ojeda. My point is that the goals are coming. Perhaps a trip to another country is exactly what they need to get off the mark.

The Battle on the Wings

Orlando City will be playing against former Lion Ruan. He lines up on the right for Montreal and will be a challenge for either Rafael Santos or Kyle Smith, depending on who gets the start. Of course, if Ivan Angulo is playing in his usual role on the left side of Orlando City’s attack, there could be some interesting races between the two speedy players.

I think that the other side of the field is where the match might be won or lost. Since Orlando City fell out of the Concacaf Champions Cup, the team has been on a more regular schedule. That has allowed Dagur Dan Thorhallsson to regain his form in the right fullback position for the Lions. He scored a goal last week, has an assist on the season, four crosses, and 10 key passes. He is an integral part of Orlando City’s attack and if he can win the battles against Raheem Edwards and Joaquin Sosa on the right side of Montreal’s lineup, he could have another big night.

That is what I will be looking for Saturday night. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below. Vamos Orlando!

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