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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.

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.



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

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.



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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Orlando City

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.



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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