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Orlando City

Orlando City vs. Chicago Fire: Final Score 1-0 as Ercan Kara Opens His Account in Lions Win



Ercan Kara opened his Orlando City account to lift a massively wasteful Lions team to a 1-0 win over the 10-man Chicago Fire at Exploria Stadium. Orlando (3-2-2, 11 points) snapped a two-match home losing streak and finished the season set against the Fire (2-1-3, 9 points) with a 1-0-1 record and four points. It was Chicago’s first loss of the season, which might have been two if not for a poor refereeing decision in the two teams’ first match-up of the season.

The Lions wasted numerous opportunities to stretch the lead by missing the net from excellent scoring positions throughout the second half against the 10-man Fire, who were without Brian Gutierrez from the 43rd minute on. The 18-year-old Chicago Homegrown Player received two first-half yellow cards, putting his team a man down.

“Good day to walk out with three points,” Head Coach Oscar Pareja said after the match. “The red card changed a lot for the rival. We may think that just winning 1-0 isn’t enough, but I said to the players that we can choose just being worried about things, be negative about things that didn’t work the way we wanted, or enjoy the victory that was necessary for the team. It was not an easy game and we created a ton of chances. I know we all have that feeling now we need to be more precise. Sometimes we get worried by not creating them.”

Pareja’s lineup included goalkeeper Pedro Gallese behind a back line of Joao Moutinho, Robin Jansson, Rodrigo Schlegel (in for the injured Antonio Carlos), and Ruan. Sebas Mendez replaced Junior Urso in central midfield with Cesar Araujo behind an attacking midfield line of Facu Torres, Mauricio Pereyra, and Alexandre Pato, with Ercan Kara at striker.

The opening minutes were played between the boxes as the teams settled in and Gutierrez took a silly early yellow for delaying a restart, which ended up coming back to haunt him later in the half.

Orlando got the game’s first scoring opportunity when Pereyra slipped a ball down the left side of the penalty area for Kara. The Austrian fired a hard, low shot from a tough angle and Gabriel Slonina made a good save.

Four minutes later, Pato sent either a shot or a cross wide of the left post from the right side and afterward said something to Kara, so I’m inclined to think it was a pass.

Gutierrez found himself in acres of space at the top of the Orlando area in the 15th minute. He fired a shot but it was parried away by Gallese, who kept the game scoreless. Two minutes later, Jansson did well to block a shot by Stanislav Ivanov.

Pato forced a near-post save from Slonina in the 20th minute as the Lions regrouped and continued to look dangerous. However, Orlando often struggled to get that final pass through Chicago’s defense or get the proper weight on the ball.

Orlando City was fortunate not to fall behind in the 24th minute after a Mendez turnover ended up giving Kacper Przybylko an open look from the right. He fizzed his shot just off target.

Pereyra slipped Ruan down the right side of the box in the 31st minute and the fullback sent an easy near-post shot at Slonina when a better option may have been a cut-back ball across the top of the six for Kara and Pato.

Three minutes later, the Lions were fortunate again when they turned the ball over on a too-deliberate counter-attack and Schlegel was caught up the field. Chicago came forward and Gutierrez tried an ill-advised long-range shot that didn’t trouble Gallese.

Moutinho came close in the 37th minute with a volleyed effort that went just over the crossbar. Torres fired a shot into the ground a few minutes later and it bounced over the net.

Gutierrez fouled Araujo from behind in the 43rd minute and saw his second yellow card of the match, putting the Fire down a man for the remainder of the match.

Orlando didn’t do much with the last two minutes of normal time and a minute of stoppage, getting just a long-range Araujo shot that the midfielder wasn’t able to get any power into, and Slonina easily stopped it.

The Lions held a halftime advantage in possession (57.2%-42.8%), shots (10-5), shots on target (4-2), and passing accuracy (86.7%-79.1%), with each team earning just one corner.

Pareja sent Junior Urso into the game for Araujo at the break and it helped the Lions play quicker through the Chicago defense. He won the Lions an early corner and Orlando fashioned a chance in the 51st minute on a ball over the top that Kara took in the air but hit well over the bar.

“It (was) a big difference when Junior Urso on the field because Junior Urso is more box to box,” Mendez said. “It was a little better for our team because Junior Urso helps in the marking and to attack, and Junior Urso is a very good player for us.”

Pato smashed a shot just wide in the 56th minute and then had a shot deflected out by the defense a minute later for an Orlando corner. Jansson got a head to the ensuing cross but could only knock it up in the air and Chicago cleared.

The breakthrough came in the 59th minute. Torres was fouled near the left corner of the box, setting up an Orlando free kick. The Young Designated Player took the kick and sent a cross to Pato at the back post. Pato headed the ball across the top of the six and Kara nodded it home for his first MLS goal.

“I saw the space and it was a great assist from (Pato) and he played a very good header to me,” Kara said. “It was not the hardest goal for me but I’m happy.”

“We have suffered a lot of fouls. It was a concern for us,” Pareja said after his team finally punished a team for fouling often. “But then we need to take advantage of those moments. We were not taking advantage. Today we did. We’ll take it. Being effective in set plays is important.”

The Fire sent offensive subs into the match after the goal and had a bit more possession for the next five minutes before Orlando regained control of the match. Ruan’s last opportunity to affect the match took place in the 73rd minute when he got forward in transition but again opted to take a bad-angle shot that gave Slonina no trouble, despite having some passing options.

A minute later, the Lions should have doubled the lead. Torres got on the ball in the box but opted not to shoot, instead passing back to Pato, who fired from the top of the area. Slonina made a sprawling save but couldn’t control the rebound, which popped up into the air perfectly for Kara, who sent his point-blank header wide of goal.

Pareja subbed off Kara, Torres, and Ruan just after that, sending on Benji Michel, Tesho Akindele, and Kyle Smith.

Michel’s introduction almost paid dividends instantly, as Pato found him at the back post with a cross, but the Homegrown sent his header wide in the 77th minute. Akindele’s hustle won the team a corner shortly after that and a well-worked short corner ended up getting crossed in by Pato but this time it was Schlegel heading wide of the near post.

Orlando City again should have put the game away in the 88th minute. Akindele slipped Pato in between the defenders and he managed to work around Slonina but sent his shot off the crossbar.

That was the last good opportunity and the Lions were content to knock the ball around and eat up the final few minutes of the match to earn the victory.

Orlando held lopsided advantages in possession (61.7%-38.3%), shots (21-7), shots on target (6-2), corners (6-2), and passing accuracy (89.3%-78.9%).

“The players did a terrific effort today and they walked out with three points that (were) very necessary, so we’re good,” Pareja said.

“Today was a very important game for us because we lost the last game against LAFC,” Mendez said. “But now we need to continue to work because we have another game. Every single game in MLS is difficult so we need to continue to work.”

The Lions are back on the road next Saturday when they visit the Columbus Crew at 7:30 p.m.

Orlando City

Orlando City vs. Columbus Crew: Three Keys to Victory

What does Orlando City need to do to earn all three points at home against the Crew?



Image courtesy of Orlando City SC

Orlando City earned seven points during a three-match stretch over eight days. Now the Lions will look to keep things rolling against the Columbus Crew this Saturday night at Inter&Co Stadium. The Crew are currently sitting in seventh place in the Eastern Conference with 21 points compared to Orlando City in 10th with 16 points.

What do the Lions need to do to get a victory at home against the Crew?

Switch Focus

Orlando City has lucked out because Columbus striker Cucho Hernández will not play, as he is nursing a back injury. Hernández has often been a thorn in Orlando’s side when the clubs play, so his absence is definitely good news. However, that doesn’t mean that the defense can relax. The Crew still have a potent attack with players like Diego Rossi, Jacen Russell-Rowe, Aidan Morris, and others. Columbus has scored 19 goals so far this season, which is four more than Orlando’s 15. I think it is likely that Oscar Pareja will stick with the 3-5-2 formation, meaning the pressure will be on the back three of David Brekalo, Wilder Cartagena, and Rodrigo Schlegel.

Goals Needed

Orlando City left it late against San Jose before Jack Lynn scored in the 89th minute to give the Lions a victory. That’s not to say there weren’t wasted chances — because there were — but it was enough that night. It likely won’t be enough against Columbus. We don’t know the status of Duncan McGuire’s injury as of this writing, but I would be surprised to see him in the lineup, let alone getting the start. That means we will likely see Jack Lynn alongside Luis Muriel up top. Lynn is no McGuire, but he is able to get into good spaces in the box and has a nose for goal. Another goal from him or Muriel could make a big difference.

Scheduling Factors

I’m not saying that Wilfried Nancy will be looking ahead to the Concacaf Champions Cup final against Pachuca the following week, but a trophy is a trophy, and it could impact who he plays and for how long. He might be keeping Hernández out for precautionary reasons to allow him time to be ready for the final. It’s possible that he risks points against Orlando City in pursuit of hardware. Pareja doesn’t have it any easier with Orlando City playing a midweek match at the Chicago Fire next Wednesday before heading to New Jersey for a match against the New York Red Bulls on Saturday, June 1. May has been brutal for the Lions, and though the team has made the most of it so far, it doesn’t get any easier. How much will rotation affect Orlando’s ability to get all three points?

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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Lion Links

Lion Links: 5/23/24

Orlando Pride prepare for the Portland Thorns, Pride Brazilian trio called up, Atalanta wins Europa League, and more.



Image courtesy of Orlando Pride

How’s it going, Mane Landers? I hope this Thursday finds you well as we all get ready for a busy next few days of Orlando soccer to enjoy. It’s been a fairly busy couple of days for me, and I plan on knocking out a few errands before enjoying the upcoming matches. Until then, let’s enjoy today’s links!

Pride Prepare to Host the Portland Thorns

The Orlando Pride have a huge home game against the Portland Thorns tomorrow night. It will be a clash of win streaks, as the Pride have won their past seven games and the Thorns have won their last six. Pride Head Coach Seb Hines is well aware that Portland is a formidable foe with talented players such as Sophia Smith, Becky Sauerbrunn, and Sam Coffey. He spoke on how tomorrow will be a challenge, as well as how playing at home will give the Pride a boost during the game.

Pride Trio Called Up by Brazil

The Pride’s Marta, Rafaelle, and Adriana were all called up for Brazil’s pair of friendlies against Jamaica in Brazil on June 1 and June 4.

These matches will help Brazil prepare for a tough group in the Olympics against Spain, Japan, and Nigeria. Angelina, who featured for Brazil during the SheBelieves Cup, was not called up due to an injury sustained while with the Pride. Although these games will take place during an international break, the Pride do have a road game against the San Diego Wave on June 7, so I wouldn’t be surprised if Hines gives them some rest for that match.

Assessing Emma Hayes’ Time With Chelsea

It felt like forever ago that it was announced Chelsea’s Emma Hayes would leave the club to replace Vlatko Andonovski and coach the USWNT. A great article by ESPN broke down what USWNT fans can learn from her time with Chelsea, including how she’s dealt with the adversity she’s faced both on and off the field. Her impending exit put a spotlight on Chelsea’s season, and she still managed to secure the league title despite the pressure. Chelsea also announced that five members of the coaching staff will leave the club to join Hayes at the USWNT. It’s a new era for the USWNT, and Hayes brings plenty of experience and leadership to the position.

Atalanta Crushes Leverkusen to Win Europa League

Italian club Atalanta lifted the Europa League trophy after a 3-0 win over Bayer Leverkusen in Dublin. The day belonged to Nigerian winger Ademola Lookman, who scored a hat trick that included this stunner that doubled Atalanta’s lead in the first half.

It’s Atalanta’s second trophy in club history, and first in 61 years. It’s also the first trophy for manager Gian Piero Gasperini after coaching in Italy for 30 years. This result snapped Leverkusen’s remarkable unbeaten streak at 51 games, and ended the club’s bid at a treble. Bayer Leverkusen will aim to bounce back Saturday when it plays FC Kaiserslautern in the German Cup final.

Free Kicks

  • Orlando City President of Business Operations Jarrod Dillon has issued a challenge to Orlando City fans for the upcoming trio of Orlando soccer home games, so it may be worth your while to get tickets for the Lions, Pride, and OCB this weekend.
  • Pride forward Amanda Allen placed 16th in ESPN‘s rankings of the 17 teenagers currently playing in the National Women’s Soccer League (the author deemed it unfair to assess Milly Clegg without seeing her on the field more). Allen mostly just hasn’t had much playing time, but that could change over the summer.
  • Former Pride player Camille Ashton (known as Cami Levin when she played in the Pride midfield in 2016 and 2017) has resigned as the general manager of the Kansas City Current.

That’s all I have for you today. I hope you all have a wonderful Thursday and rest of your week.

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Lion Links

Lion Links: 5/22/24

Lions and Pride reflect on victories, Christian Pulisic’s Serie A recognition, the USWNT roster drops, and more.



Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Welcome to Wednesday, Mane Landers. I know that a lot of you are Orlando Pride supporters as well as Orlando City supporters, but for those of you who aren’t, you are really missing out. Superstar players, undefeated, top of the table, and this team hasn’t even played up to its potential yet. Seriously, you need to get out to a match if you can. For now, let’s get to the links.

Talking About Orlando City

You can tell Oscar Pareja loves his players. He is the type of coach that nearly always has only good things to say regardless of the result. Of course, when the club gets a win on the road in the third match in eight days, thanks to the fourth striker on the depth chart. Jack Lynn takes a professional approach to being the backup and prepares to play in every match. It’s also nice when he scores a match-winning goal.

So how did the power rankings treat the Lions for the road victory? Orlando City moved up three spots to 19, thanks to earning seven points in the last three matches. That’s better than the ESPN rankings we shared yesterday. ESPN also had the Lions at 19 but dropped them a spot in doing so.

Seb and Sams Speak

The Orlando Pride have a chance this Friday to set an NWSL win streak record in the match against the Portland Thorns, but first Seb Hines, Rafaelle, and Emily Sams reflected on the win against the Seattle Reign. Hines was rightly happy with the result but said he still feels his team has room to improve. I agree with him, despite the Pride being on top of the table and undefeated.

Rafaelle felt the victory showed the team how much mental fortitude the Pride have to be able to secure the road win. She also thinks that being at home with a chance to break the win streak record will make the team work that much harder. Sams reflected on her first NWSL goal but said she just wants to focus on getting three points each match.

Pulisic and Wright Shine

Christian Pulisic’s year keeps getting better. He had such a a good season for AC Milan that he has been named a finalist for Serie A Midfielder of the Year. The other finalists are Inter Milan’s Hakan Calhanoglu and Atalanta’s Teun Koopmeiners. Pulisic has 19 goal contributions in 35 appearances for AC Milan.

The USMNT’s pre-Copa America roster dropped Monday, and it looks like Haji Wright will potentially see some action at winger for Gregg Berhalter. The move provides some needed depth at the position and may give Wright more playing time. Of course, Wright and Pulisic aren’t the only players of interest. You can check out a breakdown of the players called up here.

Hayes’ First USWNT Roster Announced

The Olympics are rapidly approaching and new USWNT Head Coach Emma Hayes has announced the 23-player roster for the final two matches against South Korea before the final Olympic roster is named. There are a mix of veteran and younger players in the group. Notably, there are 19 players who won the SheBelieves Cup back in April. It also sees the return of Rose Lavelle, who missed the SheBelieves Cup due to injury. While not altogether surprising, it is still disappointing on one level for Pride fans that Emily Sams didn’t get a call-up.

Free Kicks

  • Congratulations to Orlando Pride midfielder Ally Lemos on her call-up to the USWNT U-20s for the matches against the Korea Republic.
  • Philadelphia Union keeper Andre Blake has reportedly signed a new longterm contract with the club.
  • The USMNT U-15 squad defeated Japan to take first place in the Vlatko Markovic Tournament. Congratulations to the young Yanks.
  • Bayer Leverkusen will play in two cup finals in four days, starting with today’s Europa League championship against Atalanta. The second final is for the German Cup this Saturday against Kaiserslautern.
  • Mauricio Pochettino and Chelsea have parted ways after only one season. Potchettino’s departure was mutually agreed upon. The coaching carousel continues.
  • Emanuel Reynoso from Minnesota United is reportedly headed to Liga MX side Club Tijuana.

That will do it for today. Check back as we get you ready for the matches this weekend. Vamos Orlando!

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