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Intelligence Report: Orlando City vs. Portland Timbers

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It’s Friday yet again party people, and that means that another Orlando City game is almost upon us. It’s a packed weekend for soccer with the Orlando Pride, Orlando City B, the United States Men’s National Team, and the Lions all playing. For now, we zero in on OCSC’s opponent on Sunday, the Portland Timbers.

With Orlando traveling to take on Portland I spoke to Sam Svilar, one of the staff writers at SBNation’s Stumptown Footy. Sam was kind enough to bring us up to speed on the Timbers.

It’s been a tough start to the season for Portland, as three of the four teams the Timbers have played are fifth or higher in the Western Conference, with the lone exception being last year’s Supporters Shield winners. With that being the case, what do you make of the results the team has gotten up to this point?

Sam Svilar: The schedule makers definitely threw the Timbers into the thick of it with their opening slate of games, especially as you said with many of their opening games being against teams that they will presumably be battling against at the sticky end of the season.

That being said, up until last week the Timbers have handled their early season schedule remarkably well. A bevy of injuries and form issues have kept many of their best players from seeing the field, which includes the leading goal scorer from last year in Felipe Mora, their top playmaker in Sebastian Blanco, and their starting center back duo that anchored the back line to an appearance in MLS Cup. And despite those losses, the Timbers have gotten results: draws against the Revolution at home and LAFC in LA, and an important home win against a revamped Austin FC.

The most impressive part of those results has been how the Timbers have gotten them. They’ve shown a great amount of resilience over the start of the year, coming back from a goal down twice in the home opener and dang near snatching a win in LA after defending for their lives down a man after a red card. They’ve shown grit, determination, and a good deal of skill to get results despite being down 3-4 presumptive starters. The first three weeks of the season were pretty neat.

Of course, the 4-1 faceplant in Frisco against FC Dallas last weekend took a lot of the shine off of this opening season stretch. That game, and the first half in particular, was like the antithesis of the ways Portland has been playing all year — lack of urgency, lack of grit, and just losing individual battles way too easily. Portland never plays well in Texas, so the hope is that that game was more of “just a bad day at the office” and not the start of a more worrying trend.

Obviously, Diego Valeri is no longer with the team, something that feels strange even as a fan of another team. How has the team tried to replace him?

SS: Still not over this emotional and beautiful goodbye Valeri penned to Portland when he left:

pic.twitter.com/pfhDod46Cz

— Diego Valeri (@DiegoDv8) January 20, 2022

Valeri’s departure, and the fact that he couldn’t go out with a trophy, hurts. The reality though is that the impact of his departure is more sentimental than on-field. Valeri’s role on the team diminished in 2021, to the point where he became more of a late-game super sub off the bench.

Gradually, the team turned to become more reliant on Blanco. His dynamism unlocks so many facets of Portland’s attack, and whether he is scoring goals himself or providing assists, Blanco has been the main playmaker for the Timbers in the attack.

However, the start of 2022 has been marked by Blanco not being quite 100% game fit. He has yet to start a match (although he might on Sunday), and hasn’t quite rounded into his full form on the field.

In his stead, it’s been Yimmi Chara taking the playmaking reigns for the Timbers. Less of a traditional attacking midfielder and more of a lively presser and passer, Yimmi likes to drift to one side of the field to create overloads, and have quick interplay with the ball between the wingers and forwards at the top of the box. He’s tallied two goals (yes, both of them bicycle kicks) and two assists to start the season, so he’s been doing an admirable job.

Still, the Timbers (and Yimmi) are better when Blanco is on the field. The attack won’t feel whole until he’s fully back.

It’s still very early in the season but what do you think the expectations should be for the Timbers?

SS: When you look at the roster, you realize that it is basically the same team that came within a couple penalty kicks from winning it all last year. So reaching that summit has to be this team’s goal: trophies or bust.

The Timbers are still squarely in a championship window. When Diego Chara, Blanco, and Mora are all on their game, then Portland can go toe to toe with basically any team in the league. They have steadily gotten younger with their new additions, particularly U-22 signings Santiago Moreno and David Ayala, in a move that both builds depth and also extends that window just a bit more.

For a team that won the MLS Back Tournament and made two MLS Cup finals in the last four years, the expectation is squarely on adding more silverware to the trophy case.

Are there any injuries, suspensions or call-ups that will keep players unavailable for selection? What is your projected starting lineup and score prediction?

SS: The only international absence this window is Bill Tuiloma. He’s started Portland’s last four games, and so that’s one player who has been relied upon to start absent. Thankfully, Dario Zuparic is healthy and came off the bench in Portland’s last game, and is likely in line to make his first start of the season.

As for injuries, striker Felipe Mora is still out recovering from knee surgery. Midfielder Eryk Williamson, once in the mix with the U.S. Men’s National Team, has been recovering from a torn ACL suffered last fall. The rumors are that he could be getting his first minutes since then on Sunday.

Lineup prediction (4-2-3-1): Aljaz Ivacic; Josecarlos Van Rankin, Zac McGraw, Dario Zuparic, Claudio Bravo; Diego Chara, Cristhian Paredes; Santiago Moreno, Yimmi Chara, Dairon Asprilla; Jaroslaw Niezgoda.

Score prediction: I think Portland responds from last week, especially now being back at home. We see the same motivation and focus that marked the beginning of the year return, and Yimmi Chara continues to pull the strings well. It won’t be perfect, but it will get the job done. 2-1 Portland.


Big thank you to Sam for the excellent update on Portland. Vamos Orlando!

Lion Links

Lion Links: 6/12/24

Leagues Cup forgets Orlando’s U.S. Open Cup win, USMNT U-23 loses to Japan, NWSL expansion options, and more.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC

Welcome to Wednesday, Mane Landers. The USMNT plays tonight in Orlando, and I hope that you have tickets. If not, we can still watch as we wait for the Orlando City and Orlando Pride matches this Saturday. On a personal note, this Friday will mark my ninth anniversary with The Mane Land. It’s been a heck of a ride, and I’m glad you’ve been there with us. Here’s to many more years to come. Let’s get to the links.

Leagues Cup Forgets Orlando’s U.S. Open Cup Win

Orlando City is playing in the Leagues Cup starting at the end of July and here’s a nice guide to Orlando’s group for the tournament. Of course, the Leagues Cup organizers want you to be pumped so that you watch and buy tickets. I think that is something we should do simply to support the club. However, I don’t think they went about promoting the competition in quite the right way. In a tweet that has since been deleted, the tournament’s social media team stated the Leagues Cup would be Orlando’s chance to win its first trophy. Did you catch the mistake? Taylor Twellman did.

Good on you, Taylor. Facundo Torres was indeed brilliant in that match, as was Benji Michel. Of course, there were others that caught the faux pas as well.

I think we should also be mentioning the USL Championships, but what do I know? Evidently, more than the Leagues Cup’s social media team.

USMNT to Honor Pulse Victims

There’s plenty of fake, corporate shows of support for Pride Month , but in general I think that the USMNT and USWNT have done a good job of being legitimate allies to the LGBTQIA+ community. Tonight, the USMNT will play a friendly against Brazil at Camping World Stadium on the anniversary of the Pulse nightclub shooting. The players will be wearing Pride jerseys to honor those that lost their lives so senselessly eight years ago.

In terms of the game, the USMNT will be without Josh Sargent for the match, and Tyler Adams will only get limited minutes if he plays, as both are coming back from injuries. Get well before the Copa America, lads.

Lions on International Duty

The United States U-23 Men’s National Team lost 2-0 to Japan in its final friendly match before the Olympics. Orlando City’s Duncan McGuire found himself on a bit of an island up top as the U.S. had difficulty moving the ball through the midfield. Hopefully, the U.S. got such play out of their system heading into the Olympics.

OCB’s Wilfredo Rivera made the most of his time playing in Puerto Rico’s World Cup qualifier against Anguilla, scoring a brace in the 8-0 victory. This win comes after a scoreless draw with El Salvador last week and Puerto Rico’s remaining group games during this round of qualifying will be next June.

Exploring NWSL Expansion Options

The NWSL will be expanding to 16 teams in 2026 with many cities vying for the next franchise. The leaders include Cleveland, Cincinnati, and Minneapolis. Atlanta, Denver, and Jacksonville are potential choices as well. If it was to be given to either Atlanta or Jacksonville they would be regional rivals for the Orlando Pride. The league is expected to make a decision by the fourth quarter of 2024.

Free Kicks

  • Congratulations to the United States U-15 Women’s National Team, which won 4-0 over Germany.
  • Did you ever have one of those dreams that was a little scary, but also absolutely hilarious? This preview of Inter Miami’s new mascot is a bit like that. To misquote Jaws: “Ever seen an Inter Miami mascot’s eyes, Chief? He’s got lifeless eyes, black eyes, like a doll’s eyes.”
  • The Cayman Islands Men’s National Football Team forfeited its match against Cuba because many of its players are on visas in the United States. If those players were to travel to Cuba, the U.S. may have canceled those visas due to travel restrictions.
  • This is one of the most ridiculous no-calls I’ve ever seen. India got royally hosed.

That will do it for today. Check back as we get you ready for the Orlando City and Orlando Pride matches this Saturday night. Vamos Orlando!

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Lion Links

Lion Links: 6/11/24

Julie Doyle up for Goal of the Week, scouting Brazil ahead of USMNT match, Valencia fans convicted of racial abuse, and more.

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Dan MacDonald, The Mane Land

Happy Tuesday, everyone. After a brief break, Orlando City will be back in action when it takes on LAFC at home on Saturday. The Orlando Pride will visit a struggling North Carolina Courage side on the same day, while Orlando City B will have an oddly placed Thursday match against Chattanooga FC. With such a busy week ahead of us, it’s little surprise that we have a lot to talk over this morning. Let’s get into it.

Julie Doyle Up for Goal of the Week

Pride forward Julie Doyle has been nominated for NWSL Goal of the Week for her strike against the San Diego Wave during Friday’s 1-1 draw. Doyle opened the scoring in the 36th minute with an extremely well taken goal that came from a Barbra Banda assist. The Zambian forward made a run down the right wing and crossed for Doyle, but the ball was a little behind her and the chance looked to have gone. It hadn’t though, because Doyle contorted her body, hung out a foot, and let the momentum from the ball carry it into the back of San Diego’s net. Make sure you go vote for her to win!

Brazil Scouting Report

The United States Men’s National Team will play its final friendly before Copa America tomorrow at Camping World Stadium, right here in Orlando. The idea of any USMNT game is slightly nauseating after the Yanks were throttled 5-1 by Colombia on Saturday, but the fact that they’ll square off against a loaded Brazil side means things aren’t going to be any easier. While Brazil has struggled early on in World Cup qualifying, it will likely run out a front three of Rodrygo, Vinicius Jr., and Raphina that’s capable of causing plenty of damage. Brazil prefers to control the ball and build from the back with short passing movements, but has no qualms about ceding possession and breaking on the counter, something that caused no shortage of issues for the U.S. against Colombia.

Valencia Fans Convicted of Racial Abuse

A trio of Valencia fans will serve eight months in prison after being convicted of racially abusing Vinicius Jr. Additionally, they are barred from entering soccer stadiums for two years and will pay for court proceedings. The convictions are the first for racism in professional soccer in Spain, and a case was opened after the fans made monkey noises and gestures during a game in May of 2023. The Brazilian forward in particular has faced racial abuse during his time playing in Spain, but he’s far from the only player, as the trial for a fan accused of abusing Inaki Williams during a match in 2020 has still yet to even begin.

The Soccer Tournament Concludes

The Soccer Tournament wrapped up last night with a pair of engrossing championship matches. In the women’s bracket, US Women defeated the North Carolina Courage by a score of 6-3, with Talia Dellapuerta scoring the winning goal. US Women featured United States Women’s National Team greats Heather O’Reilly and Ali Kreiger, and the team won the first women’s edition of the tournament and the $1 million prize that comes with it.

On the men’s side, former Orlando City player Nani and his team Nani FC fell to La Bombonera, which scored mere minutes into the match and never looked back on its way to a convincing 4-0 win. La Bombonera becomes the second team to win it all following Newtown Pride FC’s victory in last year’s inaugural tournament.

Free Kicks


That’s all I have for you this morning. Vamos Orlando!

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Lion Links

Lion Links: 6/10/24

Facundo Torres and Cesar Araujo won’t play for Uruguay in Copa America, Pride and OCB draw, USMNT drilled by Colombia, and more.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Alex Corrie

Hello, Mane Landers! I hope all is well down in Florida. I was busy at Under Armour all weekend and managing the broadcast operations for the NISA league’s matches last night. The Lions were off this weekend, but we had the Orlando Pride and OCB in action. We’ve got plenty to cover today, so let’s get to the links. 

Torres and Araujo Not On Uruguay Squad for Copa America

Uruguay National Team manager Marcelo Bielsa confirmed his roster for the 2024 Copa America over the weekend, and Orlando City’s Facundo Torres and Cesar Araujo didn’t make the final roster.

Torres and Araujo played briefly in the second half in Uruguay’s 4-0 win over Mexico in a friendly match last week. Uruguay will now prepare for its upcoming group stage matches in the Copa America against Panama, Bolivia, and the United States. Torres and Araujo will be back with Orlando City this week to get ready for their upcoming matchup against LAFC on Saturday.

Orlando Pride, San Diego Wave Play to 1-1 Draw

The Orlando Pride drew 1-1 Friday against the San Diego Wave at Snapdragon Stadium and saw their NWSL record win streak end at eight matches. Julie Doyle scored the opener for the Pride, but the Wave were able to grab an equalizer in the second half as both sides got a point. The Pride remains unbeaten this season in the NWSL. After this weekend’s results across the league, Orlando and the Kansas City Current are tied with 28 points, but Kansas City is in first on goal differential. The Pride will be on the road again this weekend to take on the North Carolina Courage Saturday.

OCB Draws at Home vs. Carolina Core FC, Snags Shootout Point

On Friday, Orlando City B drew 2-2 against Carolina Core FC at Osceola County Stadium. The Young Lions were off to a poor start early in the match, trailing 2-0 in the first half. In the second half, OCB got things back on track with goals from Alex Freeman and Imanol Almaguer to tie the match. It went to penalties after finishing tied. OCB won the extra point with a 6-5 shootout win over Carolina. That result puts the Young Lions back in the playoff hunt in seventh in the Eastern Conference with 18 points. OCB will be back in action Thursday at home against Chattanooga FC.

Colombia Dominates USMNT in Friendly Action

The U.S. Men’s National Team fell 5-1 to Colombia Saturday at FedEx Field and suffered its heaviest defeat under Head Coach Gregg Berhalter. It wasn’t good from the start as the USMNT conceded two goals in the first 19 minutes of the match in the first half. Tim Weah pulled one back for the U.S. before Colombia added three more goals towards the end of the second half to seal the win. Colombia is on a seven-match winning streak and is unbeaten in 22 matches. The last time the USMNT gave up this many goals was in the 2009 Gold Cup final in a 5-0 defeat to Mexico. The U.S. needs to improve fast with its Copa America opener less than two weeks from now. It will be a quick turnaround for the Americans as they take on Brazil Wednesday at Camping World Stadium in their final friendly match before Copa America starts.

Free Kicks

  • FC Dallas has announced the departure of Head Coach Nico Estevez. Assistant Coach Peter Luccin will lead the team on an interim basis while the club begins its search for a new head coach. FC Dallas is 13th in the Western Conference with 14 points.
  • The Chicago Red Stars broke an NWSL attendance record in their match over the weekend as 35,038 fans showed up at Wrigley Field, but the Red Stars lost 2-1 to Bay FC.
  • Wrexham co-owner Rob McElhenney is renewing his efforts to lure former Real Madrid star Gareth Bale out of retirement to join the club. He also stated that the club’s offer is still on the table.
  • In Jesse Marsch’s second match as Canada’s head coach, Canada held France to a scoreless draw in a friendly match on Sunday.

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

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