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

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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 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.

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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: 4/19/24

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

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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 ?

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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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