Connect with us

Orlando City

Orlando City vs. CF Montreal: Final Score 2-0 as Lions Remain Unbeaten in Season Openers



Second-half goals from Alexandre Pato and Benji Michel lifted Orlando City to a 2-0 opening day victory over CF Montreal (0-1-0, 0 points) at Exploria Stadium. The Lions (1-0-0, 3 points) improved to 2-0-6 on opening day since joining MLS, winning the season’s first match for the first time since a 1-0 stadium-christening victory over New York City FC in 2017. The Lions have not conceded a goal on opening day since Oscar Pareja became head coach.

“I like the game. I thought we played against a very good team. Montreal has been in competition earlier than everybody else and we find that as difficulty,” Head Coach Oscar Pareja said after the match. “But we matched that up and we ended up scoring goals and being precise when we had to.”

“It’s a good start of the season to get a first win, especially at home,” Michel said.

Pareja’s lineup featured goalkeeper Pedro Gallese behind the first-choice back line of Joao Moutinho, Robin Jansson, Antonio Carlos, and Ruan. U22 Initiative midfielder Cesar Araujo got his first MLS start as the No. 6 in place of Sebas Mendez, with Andres Perea in the box-to-box role. Mauricio Pereyra, Facu Torres, and Michel made up the attacking midfield with Pato as the starting striker.

Montreal started the game with more energy than the hosts, keeping the ball deep in Orlando’s end for most of the first five minutes and earning multiple set piece. Romell Quioto got the game’s first half-chance in the 16th minute when he got to the end line and eluded Gallese but flashed a sharp-angle shot across the front of goal.

Orlando’s first shot attempt came in the 20th minute. After Michel was fouled by Alistair Johnston on the left side, just outside the top of the box, Pato sent a shot that hit the wall and caromed back to Torres. The Young Designated Player fired a shot that took a deflection off a defender and went wide.

The Lions should have scored on the counter in the 29th minute. Montreal turned it over in their own half and a pass for Pato was just behind the forward, so he dropped it off for Pereyra to run onto. The captain fired a shot that sailed just over the bar.

Djordje Mihailovic was open at the top of the box for a shot in the 36th minute on a Montreal counter but he hit his shot right at Gallese.

Five minutes later, the Lions got their best look of the first half. A ball in for Pato was headed up in the air by the defense. Pato did well to follow it and send a strong header low toward the near post. Sebastian Breza did well to get down and make a good save to keep the game scoreless in the 41st.

Orlando then had numbers in transition in first-half stoppage time but Michel hesitated while wide open on the right side of the area, looking for a pass instead. The chance evaporated when the defense knocked the ball away.

Orlando out-shot the visitors 4-2 in the opening 45 minutes, with each getting one on target. Montreal had slightly more possession (51.6%-48.4%), was more accurate in passing (87.8%-84.3%), and won more corners (5-3).

Pareja sent Junior Urso in for Perea at the break and it helped solidify the midfield. Urso’s instinctive play helped Orlando turn Montreal over more in the second 45.

However, Montreal came out of the locker room with good energy and created a flurry of shots in the opening moments. Moutinho blocked the first effort and a second shot from distance was easy for Gallese to collect. Matko Miljevic tried a long shot from the left but again Gallese handled it easily.

The Lions opened the scoring moments later. Torres sent the ball to Pereyra on the right side and the captain sent Ruan in behind Kamal Miller down the flank. Ruan sent a low cross to the back post. Despite a defender getting a slight touch on it, the ball got through to Pato, who calmly fired home to make it 1-0 in the 49th minute. It was Pato’s first MLS goal.

After the goal, Pato ran over and celebrated with Pareja on the sideline.

“It has been a rocky journey for Alex the last year. An injury kept him out of the team for so long,” Pareja said. “He wants to help the team and I thought (the goal) was a joy that we wanted to share because I know how much he has worked for that.”

Pato’s goal snapped a 244-minute opening day scoring drought by the Lions that dates back to the 75th minute in 2019 against New York City FC.

The Lions stayed on the front foot after the goal. A good attacking possession in the 58th minute ended with Michel redirecting a Pato pass wide of the net. But a minute later, Benji got his goal. Urso intercepted a pass off a goal kick and fed the ball to Pereyra in the middle. The Uruguayan sent a ball in for Michel, who was slicing diagonally through the area. Michel beat his defender and slotted home to make it 2-0 in the 59th minute.

“I saw Urso steal the ball and I was just very alert, like the ball could be coming to me, so I was just ready, making sure I was in a good position,” Michel said of the goal. “Before (Pereyra) got the ball, he looked at me, and as soon as he got the ball I knew was coming and I had to be ready and execute the play.” 

Joaquin Torres had a chance to cut the lead in half in the 62nd minute, as he found space just outside the area in the middle to turn and fire. His shot went over Gallese’s crossbar.

Four minutes later, Montreal’s situation got even worse. Quioto was bodied off the ball in the area and it went behind for a goal kick. Frustrated, the Montreal defender got up and threw a shoulder into Carlos’ chest. Jansson stepped between Quioto and his teammate and the Montreal striker struck the Swede with both fists in the chest. Referee Marcos de Oliveira showed Quioto a straight red. Importantly, Jansson was also given a yellow card, although he did very little other than get in between the two players.

Striker Ercan Kara made his MLS debut for Orlando in the 69th minute, coming on for Michel.

Down a man, Montreal continued to chase the game, but struggled to create clear-cut chances, settling for shots from long range and not doing much with a corner kick opportunity.

Jansson picked up a second yellow for a tactical foul in the 81st minute and will miss next weekend’s road match as a result. The game got a bit chaotic after that, with Rodrigo Schlegel coming on for Torres and the teams played 10-v-10.

“At the end the game became a bit messy. That we don’t want, but I thought we had the matureness to deal with it and just bring these three points to the people. We’re happy for this start,” said Pareja.

The Lions struggled to maintain control of the ball. Montreal’s best chance to get back in the game came in the 85th minute, when Johnston fizzed a ball through the six, but Carlos and Ruan did well at the back post to wall off defenders and prevent a scoring chance.

Schlegel conceded a dangerous free kick in the 89th minute but Joaquin Torres missed the mark badly on the set piece, sending his shot high into the stands.

Orlando saw out the six minutes of stoppage time without incident and took all three points.

Each team attempted eight shots in the match, with Orlando getting more on target (3-2). Montreal held a smidge more possession (50.7%-49.3%) and was more accurate in the passing department (89.9%-85.3%), winning more corners (7-3).

“We were more aggressive today. I thought we were pushing them,” Pareja said of his team’s performance against Montreal. “We were trying to force them into a mistake and that’s why the control of the game was coming to our side many times. They did a good job. They have good midfielders and they have a good model. And today we just matched up.”  

“I know (the team is) not as connected as it can be. It’s just going to get better from here,” Michel said.

The Lions improved to 7-7-3 in the all-time series against Montreal and 3-4-2 at home.

The Lions hit the road for the first time in 2022 this Saturday as they travel to Chicago to take on the Fire.

Lion Links

Lion Links: 5/29/23

Pareja disappointed with draw, Julie Doyle returns from injury, OCB hosts Red Bulls II, and more.



Happy Memorial Day, Mane Landers! There is a whole lot of soccer to cover today, following a weekend full of news, including your local teams in purple having matches, although not the results we wanted with the Lions allowing a late goal to draw 1-1 and the Pride falling in Chicago. The English Premier League came to an exciting close Sunday. The Young Lions have a match of their own tonight. So, while Mondays can often bring the work week blues (for those who don’t have today off, anyway), at least you have a whole lot of soccer reading to get you up and at it this week.

But before we dive all the way in, please join me in wishing former Orlando City defender and current Orlando Pride Head Coach Seb Hines a happy birthday. Now, let’s get down to it in the links!

Oscar Pareja Disappointed for Fans

Following the Lions late draw on Saturday night, Orlando City Head Coach Oscar Pareja showed some strong feelings towards the disappointing result. He said the team has to do better for its supporters and grind out wins after good performances.

“I have to say that we played well today and I want to congratulate that group of players that pushed that match and that energy. That’s the team that we want to see. The other part is the frustration of giving up another goal at the end and not walking away with the three points. At that part, the equation gets through things, soccer, fútbol, concentration, many things. But we want to see that team more often and we want to see that energy more often. We want to see that Orlando City. And to our fans, that support deserves much, much more.”

Check out the full post game press conference, which also featured interviews with goal scorer Kyle Smith and Orlando City defensive midfielder Wilder Cartagena.

Pride’s Loss Mars Doyle’s Return to the Pitch

The Orlando Pride dominated play but could not score on Saturday night, and that led to the end of the club’s four-game unbeaten run. With her start, Marta tied former teammates Ashlyn Harris and Toni Pressley for most regular-season appearances in Pride history with her 81st league match. Meanwhile, forward Julie Doyle also made her return to the field as a second-half substitute. Doyle had not played since the beginning of April due to an ankle injury. Head Coach Seb Hines said he was disappointed with the result but glad to see Doyle return to the lineup. Here’s what Hines had to say about Doyle:

“She’s an exciting player, she’s always active. We felt like it was the right time to bring her in, chasing the goal. She’s always on the move, making defenders defend and it’s nice to have another attacking option come off the bench, along with Ally Watt and Summer Yates. It just shows that we were being more aggressive towards the end again to try and get ourselves back in it. We felt that with the likes of Julie and Ally, Adriana, Marta, and Summer, we had an opportunity to get back in the game and ultimately win the game at the end, but we fell a little bit short. I can’t fault the players’ efforts. They put a lot into it, they’re working extremely hard and we have to just keep going and look forward to the next game away at Houston.”

Orlando City B Hosts New York Red Bulls II

The Young Lions of OCB are ready to host the Young Red Bulls tonight at Osceola Heritage Park. Leading the way for the team is forward Jack Lynn in red-hot form. Lynn has found the back of the net three times in the last two matches, with a game winner against intrastate rivals Inter Miami CF II on Thursday night. Lynn now leads the Young Lions in goals scored this campaign, with five in 2023, and has 20 goals total in his MLS NEXT Pro career. OCB will look to maintain its unbeaten record at home this season tonight, entering the match with a 3-0-2 record at Osceola County Stadium.

Premier League Relegation Battle

Heading into Matchday 38 of the English Premier League campaign, one team was already sure of its fate regarding relegation. Southampton was a good distance behind Leicester City and Leeds United, but both of those clubs had a chance to jump Everton in the standings. Southampton didn’t go quietly into the night though, as the team played to a 4-4 draw against Liverpool. Ultimately, Leicester City and Leeds United were relegated from the EPL on the final day of the season after Everton ensured its own survival with a narrow victory on Sunday. Leicester City fought to a 2-1 victory over West Ham United, while Leeds suffered a 4-1 defeat to Tottenham Hotspur. Everton extended its unbroken 69-year tenure in the English top flight as midfielder Abdoulaye Doucoure’s stunning strike earned the Toffees a 1-0 victory over Bournemouth as they avoided relegation on the final day of the season.

Free Kicks

I hope you have a great week, Mane Landers. Do something special for someone today. And, best of luck to the Young Lions tonight. Vamos Orlando!

Continue Reading

Orlando City

Orlando City vs. Atlanta United: Player Grades and Man of the Match

How did your favorite Lions individually perform in Orlando City’s 1-1 draw against Atlanta United?



Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Orlando City closed out a busy May with a frustrating 1-1 draw against Atlanta United at Exploria Stadium. The Lions played well throughout the match, but couldn’t double their lead and paid the price yet again, as Atlanta scored a late equalizer to leave Orlando with a point. Here’s how each Lion individually performed in this rivalry match.


GK, Pedro Gallese, 6.5  — Gallese didn’t have much to do until the 86th minute, when he pushed a deflected shot out for a corner. El Pulpo made a superb save on Matheus Rossetto’s low shot from the corner kick, but couldn’t get a hand on Tyler Wolff’s strike after the rebound fell to him. His distribution was good, as he was accurate on four of his seven long balls and 81.6% of his 16 passes.

D, Rafael Santos, 6 — His passing needed to be a bit better. Completing 78.3% of his 46 passes isn’t bad, but there were a few turnovers from him that mirrored his mistake last week. Only two of his seven crosses were accurate, but the misses weren’t egregious and many were still delivered into good areas that were difficult to defend. Santos was accurate on three of his seven long balls as well. Atlanta wasn’t able to get too much going when attacking his side of the field, and he finished with two tackles and a blocked shot.

D, Robin Jansson, 7.5 (MotM) — The Beefy Swede was extra beefy in this one. Jansson was tasked with keeping Giorgos Giakoumakis quiet and did well marking him to prevent him from taking a shot for just the second match this season. Jansson had two tackles, two clearances, an interception, and blocked a shot from Thiago Almada. On the attacking side of things, Jansson was accurate on seven of his 11 long balls and had 35 passes at an 82.9% success rate. The center back was a major reason why the league-leading offense didn’t manage a shot on target until late in the match.

D, Antonio Carlos, 7 — Carlos was a force to be reckoned with in the air, as he won three of his four aerial duels and led the Lions with six clearances. While an early yellow card limited how physically he played, it didn’t stop his effectiveness when dealing with Atlanta’s attack. He had an opportunity to score early on off of a free kick, with Mauricio Pereyra finding him crashing the far post. Carlos got to it with clean contact, but the header was directly at Brad Guzan. His other shot was a header from a corner kick, but it was sent off target. The Brazilian center back was successful on 88.9% of his 36 passes and was accurate on four of his eight long balls. His next yellow card will result in a suspension for accumulation.

D, Kyle Smith, 7 — The right back scored his first goal of the year and fourth in MLS by being in a great position to bury a rebound from Facundo Torres’ shot. Smith was all alone at the far post after a series of passes and a blocked shot and smashed the ball between Brad Guzan’s legs before the goalkeeper could close them. He had another shot after Torres laid the ball off to him in the box, but his strike was blocked. Derrick Etienne beat him a couple of times and he wasn’t able to get a body on Tyler Wolff on the equalizer, but he was defensively sound for most of the match. Smith came up with four clearances, an interception, and a huge tackle against Almada late in the match. He also won both of his aerial duels. The 31-year-old completed all but two of his 30 passes for a great 93.3% success rate as well. Although his only cross of the match didn’t find its target, both of his long balls did.

MF, Cesar Araujo, 6.5 — The 22-year-old was composed in this rivalry match and did well to connect Orlando’s attack and defense. He was fairly active on offense, particularly on the right wing alongside Torres in the second half. Araujo recorded a pair of key passes and didn’t miss by much with a swerving shot from range. Defensively, he chipped in with two tackles and blocked a shot. The Uruguayan had 42 passes at an 83.3% success rate and one of his two long balls found its mark. It was another solid outing from Araujo in his 11th consecutive match playing all 90 minutes.

MF, Wilder Cartagena, 6.5 — The Peruvian midfielder led the Lions with five tackles, taking advantage of the pressure his teammates applied to win the ball and get it to Orlando’s playmakers. Cartagena also only committed one foul while doing so. He led the Lions with 54 passes, completing them at a great 92.6% success rate, and was accurate on two of his three long balls. Both of his shots were from outside the box, with one blocked and the other sent high and wide of goal. Cartagena made a few great passes, but a few disappointing ones that could have spelled danger as well.

MF, Ivan Angulo, 6.5 — The winger did well to help create Orlando’s first goal, beating his man and making the cutback pass to kickstart the pinballing in the box that led to Smith’s goal. It was nice to see some fruit from Angulo’s efforts on the left wing, as he used his speed and skill to surge into the box and earn set pieces. He wasn’t as clinical as he should be in the attack, taking no shots, making no key passes, and sending his only cross out of bounds. Although he was successful on all four of his dribbles, he also had six unstable touches and 28 passes at an 82.1% success rate. While he didn’t have any defensive stats, he was quick to collect loose balls or put a body on Atlanta players. He did well in this match for the most part, but made some mistakes and couldn’t capitalize on some of the chances he created.

MF, Facundo Torres, 7 — He wasn’t credited with an assist, but his shot in the box was deflected and fell for Smith to put away. It was his second shot of the match, with his other effort sent just over the crossbar. Torres also had two key passes and was successful on 83% of his 53 passes. Neither of his two crosses were successful, but both of his long balls were. His preference for his left foot continues to limit him, as defenders know he will cut back towards the middle. Still, Torres did well creating space for his teammates and was at his best when he had a fellow Lion making a run to his right or behind him. He led the Lions with 79 touches, completed six of his 12 attempted dribbles, and was fouled three times. Torres helped fuel Orlando’s press and he had a tackle and an interception in this one.

MF, Mauricio Pereyra, 7 — Orlando’s captain didn’t show many signs of rust in his first start since April 22. Although he finished with 27 passes at just a 74.1% success rate and was accurate on just one of his four crosses, Pereyra was sharp and daring throughout the match. He was successful on six of his seven long balls to really stretch Atlanta’s defense. He did the dirty work in Orlando’s first goal, springing Angulo forward and then finding a good position for the return pass so he could slip the ball in for Kara. The 33-year-old also won a crucial race against Almada, snuffing out a counter attack and quickly turning the tables with a pinpoint long ball. His lone shot of the match had to be taken quickly right in front of goal and Guzan made the save. Defensively, he helped apply pressure and made a pair of tackles.

F, Ercan Kara, 6 — He wasn’t able to score, but still did well spearheading Orlando’s attack. The Austrian forward had two shots, putting one on target that required a good save from Guzan and having the other blocked. Kara contributed two key passes as well. He had 17 touches in 72 minutes of action and completed all but one of his seven passes. Atlanta had him in its sights, marking him well and fouling him three times in a physical match. On Orlando’s goal, he cycled the ball into the path of Torres for him to get a shot off.


MF, Martin Ojeda (63′), 6.5 — Ojeda came on for Pereyra in the second half and helped keep Orlando’s offense moving. He had a key pass and his only shot of the match was a venomous strike from outside the box that forced a save from Guzan for a corner. Ojeda completed seven of his 10 passes and one of his three crosses. Defensively, he helped out with two tackles. Ultimately, he wasn’t able to find that insurance goal for Orlando, but looked dangerous with the ball at his feet.

F, Duncan McGuire (72′), 6  — The rookie subbed in for Kara and had good vision to set up a nice shot for Araujo. It was his only key pass and his best chance to score came a few minutes earlier with a cross into the box he couldn’t get on the end of before Atlanta cleared it. McGuire had six touches, completed all three of his passes, and had a clearance.

F, Ramiro Enrique (87′), N/A  — The forward made another brief appearance, coming on late to give the Lions another attacker to chase a winning goal. Enrique only had two touches, completed his one pass, and was successful on a dribble.

That’s how I saw each performance from the Lions in their 1-1 draw at home to Atlanta United. It was a frustrating result, but many Lions had positive performances. Who was your Man of the Match? Make sure to vote in our poll and let us know what you think in the comments!

Continue Reading

Orlando City

Orlando City vs. Atlanta United: Five Takeaways

Here’s what we learned from Orlando City’s 1-1 draw vs. Atlanta United.



Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Orlando faced off against local rival Atlanta United in the friendly confines of Exploria Stadium on Saturday night but a late goal conceded for the second time in as many home games led to two dropped points in a 1-1 draw. What can we takeaway from sharing points at home against a bitter rival?

Playing with Purpose

For a good majority of the first half and even into the second, the Lions’ tactics and drive seemed to connect from the back line to the forwards in an aggressive attacking style. In the first 15 minutes, Orlando dominated the ball and possession, but the Lions didn’t start to generate chances until after the first 20 minutes had gone. And while they ultimately did not come away with results to show for their aggression, the effort to come out on the front foot was not in vain and eventually led to Orlando’s first goal of the match. It also continued a coaching trend over the last several matches that demonstrated the team’s ability to dictate the pace of play as opposed to being forced to be reactionary.

Defense Delivers Again

For the second week in a row, Orlando City benefited from a goal from the back line. Instead of a screamer from Rafael Santos, as was the case last week against Miami, this week, Orlando City found its first goal from defender Kyle Smith. It was Smith’s first goal of the year and came in the 30th minute at the end of a team wide effort to put pressure on the goal. Finding the back of the net for defensive players has become a welcome trend over the last two weekends and spreading out the goals and getting them from less likely sources can only help the club moving forward.

Smith’s Travels

Although he played fullback according to the lineup sheet, Smith essentially played in the midfield against Atlanta. His work helped Orlando boss the middle of the pitch throughout the first half and much of the second, preventing Atlanta from building momentum in its attack. Smith’s position on the pitch was often inverted, playing where one might normally expect to see Facundo Torres. He did an excellent job of helping win the ball back and getting into spaces that Atlanta wanted to play into. It also helped create space down the right for Torres. It was an unusual game plan but it worked well and Smith did a fine job in playing his role.

Captain Back in the Fray

Orlando City captain Mauricio Pereyra rejoined the starting 11 for the first time in several weeks and he contributed one shot that was unfortunately deflected right into Brad Guzan’s hands. He passed well and even helped defensively with two successful tackles — one of which was a vital one to dispossess Thiago Almada in transition. While it may take a few matches to fully reintegrate the maestro back into the attack, it’s apparent that Pereyra’s ability to pull the strings helps drive the attack. The team needs its captain to be on the field as he unlocks more options in the attack, but more importantly, it will need to see a defensive effort throughout the remainder of the year like the captain registered on Saturday.

Failure to Launch

For the third time in three matches, Orlando City has taken an early lead. In two out of those three matches, the Lions only have two points to show for their efforts. To make matters worse, two of those three results came at home. In their last three matches, the Lions have mustered five points from a potential nine that they held in hand before coughing up late results against New York City FC and Atlanta United. Despite continuing to climb the standings with a draw, Orlando City is dangerously close to creating a habit which its season may not recover from…good teams cover at home, and great teams secure all three points. While a draw against a team who is ahead in the table isn’t the worst result in the world, being able to score a win against both main rivals one week apart would have been so…so…so much sweeter.

Those were my big takeaways from a match that felt like it slipped through the Lions’ fingers. What were your most important moments of the match? Let us know in the comments below.

Continue Reading