Orlando City won 1-0 against the Chicago Fire, with Ercan Kara scoring his first goal for the Lions. Brian Gutierrez received two yellow cards in the first half and the Fire had to play the entire second half with just 10 men. Orlando had multiple opportunities to score, but ended up putting just one in the back of the net and it was enough for all three points against an Eastern Conference foe.
Here’s how I saw the individual performances of each Lion on the pitch.
GK, Pedro Gallese, 6 — It was a quiet day for Gallese as the Fire only put two shots on target and played with 10 men for the entire second half. He saved both shots, the tougher of the two being a low effort from Gutierrez that Gallese did well to parry out for a corner. He only had 15 passes in the match, completing 93% of them, and his only attempted long ball was inaccurate. It was his fourth clean sheet of the season and he now leads the league alongside Fire goalkeeper Gabriel Slonina.
D, Joao Moutinho, 6.5 — Moutinho’s strong start to the season continued in this match as he led the team with six tackles to snuff out Chicago’s chances on his side of the field. The left back was accurate on just one of his five crosses but completed both of his long balls as he contended with a stingy Chicago defense that was comfortable pinning numbers back to defend. Moutinho was accurate on 90% of his 59 passes and recorded a key pass as well. His only shot of the game was a great attempt from distance that went just over the bar. He’s still hunting for his first assist of the season, but it was another good performance on both sides of the ball from the 24-year-old defender.
D, Rodrigo Schlegel, 6 — Starting in place of the injured Antonio Carlos, Schlegel did well with two tackles, two clearances, and two interceptions. The Argentine center back also had a terrific day in terms of passing, as he was successful on 93% of his 60 passes and was accurate on all three of his attempted long balls. Schlegel had one shot in the match, sending a header wide of goal after a nice pass from Pato. While it’s worth noting Chicago’s offense lacked Xherdan Shaqiri and played half the game with 10 men, Schlegel played his part to keep Kacper Przybylko and the Fire quiet. With stronger offenses on the horizon, this was a nice game for Schlegel to settle in as a starter and help the team get a clean sheet.
D, Robin Jansson, 6 — The Beefy Swede led the Lions with four clearances and also did well to block a shot early in the match. Jansson came up big when Orlando needed him to, but that wasn’t all too often, considering how the game played out. He didn’t have a shot or a key pass and didn’t make much of an impact on Orlando’s set pieces, but he was an anchor along Orlando’s back line. Jansson had 55 passes at a decent 85% success rate and was inaccurate on his one attempted long ball. He picked up a yellow card in the second half, but it was a solid outing overall for the center back.
D, Ruan, 6 — His speed was useful against Chicago’s defensive pressure, allowing teammates to safely send the ball into space for him to chase down. Ruan completed just one of his four crosses, but he was accurate on all but one of his 31 passes for a great 97% success rate as he worked well with Pato. The right back finished the game with a key pass and a shot that was on target but easily saved by Slonina. He added a tackle on the defensive side of things and was subbed off in the 74th minute.
MF, Cesar Araujo, 6 — The 21-year-old started his seventh game of the season and continued to give Orlando some stability in its midfield. He completed 25 of his 27 passes for a strong 93% success rate and helped out on defense with a tackle. Offensively, he had a key pass and his lone shot was on target, although it didn’t cause any trouble at all for Slonina. He won four fouls, including the one that earned Gutierrez his second yellow card, and was swapped for Junior Urso at halftime to give Orlando some more firepower.
MF, Sebas Mendez, 6.5 — In his second start of the season, Mendez gave the kind of performance we’ve grown to expect from him since joining Orlando. The Ecuadorian led the Lions with 114 touches and completed 100 of his 105 passes for a great 95% success rate. Defensively, he added a tackle, an interception, a clearance, and two blocked shots. He didn’t take a shot, but did make two key passes to help on offense and was accurate on three of his four long balls. With Carlos injured, we may see more games like this from Mendez to add some bite defensively while facilitating the team’s passing.
MF, Facundo Torres, 6.5 — Torres won a foul in the attacking half and then whipped in a cross from the resulting free kick that found Pato open near the back post for him to set up Kara for the game’s only goal. He also set up a shot for Pato that was saved and contributed two shots of his own — one off target and the other blocked. Torres was accurate on one of his two crosses and two of his three long balls and had 35 passes at an 83% success rate. He also chipped in defensively with three tackles. Chicago’s defense was smothering at times though, as he had three unstable touches and was successful on just one of his five attempted dribbles before being substituted out in the 74th minute.
MF, Mauricio Pereyra, 7 — Orlando City’s captain did well pulling the strings on offense, leading the team with six key passes, with five of those coming in the first half while the Fire still had all 11 men. He’s becoming more and more familiar with the new offensive weapons at his disposal, particularly Kara, as he found the striker in dangerous areas. Chicago’s pressure put him under stress at times, but he completed an impressive 88% of his 80 passes. He was accurate on two of his three crosses and all three of his long balls found their targets as well. Pereyra also showed plenty of hustle on defense, making three tackles. The Designated Player didn’t have an assist, but continues to prove why he’s crucial to Orlando’s offense.
F, Alexandre Pato, 7.5 (MotM) — Pato recorded his second assist of the season with a patient and pinpoint header near the end line that found Kara wide open in front of goal. The Brazilian led the Lions with eight shots and nearly doubled Orlando’s lead in the 88th minute but his shot right in front of goal hit the crossbar. Two of his shots were on target, including a powerful strike from outside the box that Slonina saved but the rebound fell to Kara, who missed the open header. Five of his other shots were sent off target and another was blocked. He made four key passes, was accurate on two of his five crosses, and connected on two of his three long balls as he created chances for Orlando from start to finish. He could’ve taken better care of the ball at times as he was successful on two of five dribbles, had three unstable touches, and completed just 73% of his 37 passes. Regardless, Pato fueled Orlando’s offense. He is our Man of the Match for setting up the game’s only goal and creating a majority of Orlando’s chances to widen its lead.
F, Ercan Kara , 7 — The Austrian striker made his first goal for Orlando look easy with an open header directly in front of goal. It was also the first goal Orlando’s scored from a set piece this season as Kara made himself an easy target for Pato to find in the box following a free kick. He’s certainly fulfilling his role as Orlando’s target man in the box and nearly had a second goal with another open header but missed the open net. Kara had five shots in the match, putting two of them on target. The 26-year-old was accurate on 75% of his 12 passes and did well making runs for Pato, Pereyra, and Torres to find him in dangerous positions. It was a strong showing from Kara as he continues to find his footing in MLS.
MF, Júnior Urso (45’), 6 — The Bear came on at halftime for Araujo as Orlando shifted gears to score once Chicago was a man down. Although he didn’t have a shot or a key pass, his presence was felt on offense as he helped Orlando quickly build possession and find Lions in open space. It wasn’t a statistically dominant game from Urso but he saw quite a bit of the ball with 36 touches and 31 passes at a 90% success rate. After starting the first five games of the season, Urso received some rest in the first half and didn’t have to pick himself up from hard fouls in the second.
F, Tesho Akindele (74’), 6 — The Canadian striker came on in the second half and his best moment of the match was a nice pass from the right wing that gave Pato a chance to score in the box. His only shot was close but his header went wide of goal. He completed five of his six passes for an 83% success rate and his lone long ball found its mark. Although he didn’t record his first goal or assist of this season, his performance was enough to help Orlando see the game out.
F, Benji Michel (74’), 5 — He did well crashing the box for a header that he couldn’t get on target for his only shot of the game. It was otherwise a quiet appearance from Michel, although he was successful on two of his three dribbles. Although his speed didn’t help grow Orlando’s lead, it helped him apply pressure to the Fire when they were on the ball. The Homegrown Player completed both of his passes in the match and had eight touches.
D, Kyle Smith (74’), 5 — Coming on for Ruan, Smith didn’t have any crosses but was accurate on both of his long balls. He made a tackle and took care of the ball, completing all eight of his passes. Smith had 11 touches in another short appearance for Orlando this season as he helped see the Lions to a clean sheet.
MF, Andres Perea (85’), N/A — There wasn’t enough from Perea for us to grade him as he came on late in the match and helped secure the victory. Perea completed five of his six passes for an 83% success rate and had six touches in his cameo.
That’s how I saw the performances in Orlando City’s win at home against the previously undefeated Chicago Fire. The score doesn’t reflect a game Orlando controlled from start to finish, but the Lions couldn’t put away many of their chances.
Be sure to vote in the poll below for your Man of the Match.
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Orlando City vs. CF Montreal: Three Keys to Victory
What does Orlando City need to do to secure all three points in the home opener against CF Montreal?
Orlando City will host CF Montreal in the club’s first match of the 2024 MLS regular season this Saturday night. The Lions are coming off the Concacaf Champions Cup match against Cavalry FC Wednesday night. Orlando City will want to get things started the right way as expectations and aspirations are higher than ever for the club.
What does Orlando City need to do to secure a victory in the home opener against their Canadian opponents?
Orlando City has four matches in 11 days — the previously mentioned Wednesday match against Cavalry in Canada, the match against Montreal on Saturday, the return match against Cavalry in Orlando next Tuesday, and then a trip to Ft. Lauderdale to take on Inter Miami. That is quite a start to competitive play in 2024.
Because of the schedule congestion, Oscar Pareja will need to rotate players. That means we’re not likely to have the preferred starting 11 as much as any of us will like. Kyle Smith, Michael Halliday, Jeorgio Kocevski, and others will likely see playing time. How well Pareja manages when to use which players, and for how long, will determine not just the result of this match against Montreal, but for each of the other matches as well.
Rodrigo Schlegel is serving a suspension in this first league match and will not be available. That means Orlando City’s newest center back, David Brekalo, will probably get the start alongside Robin “The Beefy Swede” Jansson. Having a good center back pairing is absolutely essential to the success of any defense. We know that because once Jansson and former Lion Antonio Carlos worked together for a while, they became an absolute fortress on the back line.
Now, Jansson will need to build the same chemistry with Brekalo if the Lions want to maintain their position as one of the best defenses in the league. With Schlegel unavailable, there is no question that Jansson and Brekalo will have the opportunity to start building that relationship. Hopefully, it will be good enough to keep Montreal — especially Josef Martinez — out of the goal.
Keep Torres Scoring
Facundo Torres had a great preseason. Orlando City’s new owner of the No. 10 shirt needs to keep doing the same. He’ll need to score goals, provide assists, and create problems for Montreal’s defense. Traditionally, Montreal has put out a three-man back line. While that means it’ll be a five-man back line when Orlando City has the ball, during changes of possession there should be space for Torres to get free and get scoring opportunities.
If Montreal smartly tried to contain Torres, then it will have to deal with Duncan McGuire, Nico Lodeiro, and Ivan Angulo. Orlando City’s offense has the potential to score quite a few more goals this season, and it all starts Saturday night against Montreal. Get two on the board and I think it will mean three points in the standings.
That is what I will be looking for Saturday night. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below. Vamos Orlando!
Lion Links: 2/22/24
Orlando City beats Cavalry FC, Lions receive General Allocation Money for Junior Urso’s rights, USWNT gets ready for Argentina, and more.
How’s it going, Mane Landers? It’s nice to start the morning fresh off of a huge win and I’m hoping that becomes a regular occurrence this year. Hopefully the work week has been kind to you as we ride the high of the Concacaf Champions Cup into Orlando City’s first game of the MLS season this weekend. For now, let’s dive into today’s links from around the soccer world.
Lions Win in Concacaf Champions Cup Opener
Orlando City kicked off its Concacaf Champions Cup campaign with a solid 3-0 win against Cavalry FC in Canada. Some players did better playing on the turf of Starlight Stadium in British Columbia than others, but the Lions ultimately did well on the road to make things less stressful for themselves for the second leg on Tuesday in Orlando at 6 p.m. Orlando’s offense showed little rust and the defense did its part in its first competitive match of 2024. Before the match, Head Coach Oscar Pareja announced that Robin Jansson will serve as the team’s captain this year, so it’s nice to see his tenure start with a clean sheet.
Junior Urso Signs With Charlotte FC
Orlando City received $50,000 in 2025 General Allocation Money from Charlotte FC in exchange for Brazilian midfielder Junior Urso’s right of first refusal. This transaction cleared the way for Urso to sign with Charlotte, joining on a deal through 2024, with an option for 2025. The Bear became a Lion back in 2020 and was an integral part of Orlando’s transformation under Head Coach Oscar Pareja that included winning the 2022 U.S. Open Cup. The 34-year-old impressed as a trialist with Charlotte during the preseason and should give Dean Smith’s side a veteran presence both on and off the field. While it’s never fun seeing a fan favorite playing for another Eastern Conference foe, I wish nothing but the best for Urso and hope he gets a warm reception when Charlotte visits Orlando this season on Sept. 18.
MLS Coaching Changes for 2024
There was a considerable amount of coaching turnover in MLS since last season, adding some intriguing storylines for this year. After a rough time in Miami, Phil Neville has a chance at redemption with a Portland Timbers side that narrowly missed out on the playoffs last year. The Colorado Rapids’ Chris Armas, D.C. United’s Troy Lesesne, and the New England Revolution’s Caleb Porter are other familiar faces in new places who could impress. As for those new to the scene, Dean Smith joined Charlotte from England, while Sandro Schwarz is now at the helm of the New York Red Bulls after years in Germany and Russia. I’m also interested to see how long it takes for John Herdman to turn things around with Toronto FC.
Analyzing Argentina Ahead of USWNT Clash
After a dominant 5-0 win over the Dominican Republic, the United States Women’s National Team will take on Argentina tomorrow in the Concacaf W Gold Cup’s group stage. The U.S. has won the past four meetings between the past two nations, and Argentina is coming off of a scoreless draw with Mexico. The Orlando Pride’s Mariana Larroquette spearheads an Argentine attack that can be a bit inconsistent when it comes to creating chances. That being said, Vanina Preininger can pull strings from the midfield and Argentina has multiple players capable of scoring from distance. Laurina Oliveros will likely start in goal after her clean sheet in the opener, and the defense also includes Kansas City Current center back Sophia Braun.
- The Orlando Pride’s Rafaelle and Adriana both started in Brazil’s 1-0 win over Puerto Rico.
- The LA Galaxy signed Ghanaian winger Joseph Paintsil as their third Designated Player. The 26-year-old joins from Genk in Belgium and signed a contract with the Galaxy through 2027.
- The Revolution beat Panama’s Independiente 1-0 on the road in the Champions Cup opener for both teams.
- The new changes to MLS’ competitive rules, such as in-stadium VAR announcements and off-field treatments, have been postponed amid the league’s referee situation.
- The United Soccer League announced that all 47 of the teams under its umbrella will take part in this year’s U.S. Open Cup.
- Bayern Munich officially announced that Thomas Tuchel will leave once this season is over. Although Bayern is second in the Bundesliga standings, it’s lost its past three games, including a defeat to Lazio in the Champions League.
- Porto scored a stunning goal in stoppage time to shock Arsenal in the UEFA Champions League.
- Manchester United left back Luke Shaw may be done for the season due to a leg injury.
- In the Europa Conference League, Israeli club Maccabi Haifa secured a 1-1 draw with Belgium’s Gent to advance to the round of 16.
That’s all I have for you today. I hope you all have a wonderful Thursday and rest of your week!
Orlando City vs. Cavalry FC, Concacaf Champions Cup: Final Score 3-0 as Torres Brace Leads Lions to Road Win
The Lions are in the driver’s seat after a comprehensive victory over Cavalry FC in western Canada.
Duncan McGuire opened the scoring and Facundo Torres added a brace to lead Orlando City SC to a comfortable 3-0 win over Cavalry FC at Starlight Stadium in Langford, British Columbia in the first leg of Concacaf Champions Cup play. Orlando scored their first road goals in the competition and have a huge advantage heading into next week’s return leg.
“It’s very good for the team. The clean sheet is very important for us and scoring three goals is a good score for returning home,” Orlando City Assistant Coach Diego Torres said after the match. “Cavalry is a good team. The Canada league is a good league. All of our team respects all rivals. The team came here serious for the game.”
With Oscar Pareja sidelined due to suspension for a red card after the second leg against Tigres in 2023, Diego Torres’ lineup was made up mostly of presumed starters for the 2024 season, with Pedro Gallese starting in goal behind a back line of Kyle Smith, Robin Jansson, Rodrigo Schlegel, and Dagur Dan Thorhallsson. Cesar Araujo and Wilder Cartagena took their usual spots in the central midfield behind an attacking line of Ivan Angulo, Martin Ojeda, and Facundo Torres with McGuire up top. Presumed starters Rafael Santos, Nico Lodeiro, David Brekalo, and Luis Muriel were not in the lineup, with the latter two new Lions not in the matchday squad.
Center back Daan Klomp was positioned on the line and was able to get in front of Araujo’s header on frame. On the ensuing corner, Schlegel got under his header and sent it well over the bar.
Cavalry’s defense again denied a shot off a corner moments later. This time it was Callum Montgomery knocking it away. The Lions recycled and a shot appeared to go out off the goalkeeper but a goal kick was awarded.
Araujo again got forward in the 13th minute and the defense again blocked it, although this time it was outside the six-yard box rather than on the line. Moments later, McGuire had a go from a tough angle on the left but he mishit his shot and it went out on the other side for a throw-in. Torres then fired from the top of the box in the 19th minute but his effort was always rising and sailed well over the bar.
The Lions found the breakthrough moments later. Cartagena sent the ball wide to Angulo on the left and the Colombian sent Ojeda down the flank. The Argentine sent a great cross into the area and McGuire redirected it past Cavalry goalkeeper Marco Carducci to make it 1-0 in the 21st minute.
Orlando stayed on the front foot and in the 27th minute it was Angulo dancing through the defense and sending a lethal-looking cross through the six. Unfortunately, none of his teammates were making runs on the far side and it skipped harmlessly through.
Cavalry then nearly fashioned something out of nothing when a ball into the area nearly found Sergio Camargo right in front. However, the ball got through to Gallese, who scooped it up.
Thorhallsson, who had a terrific first half, nearly sent in Angulo in the 28th minute on a quick counterattack and then sent a dangerous cross over Carducci in the 32nd that just needed a touch from a teammate but didn’t get one.
No matter though, the Icelandic fullback got his assist in the 38th minute. Tucking inside for much of the night, he sent Torres wide on the right. The Uruguayan cut inside from the right at the top of the box and sent a shot on target. The ball bounced off the artificial turf in front of Carducci, who got a hand on it but couldn’t knock it wide of the post. Torres’ strike made it 2-0.
Cavalry won a late corner but sent the cross right at Gallese at the end of the half and that was it as far as the scoring chances. The Lions took their 2-0 advantage to the locker room.
At the break, the Lions held the advantage in shots (9-2), shots on target (3-0), passing accuracy (97.3%-73.5%), and corners (3-2).
Cavalry started the second half with more energy. Smith did well to win a goal kick to thwart an early attack and Schlegel got a head to a dangerous cross in the 49th to clear Orlando’s lines.
Orlando’s first decent chance of the second period came in the 53rd minute when Araujo stole a ball in the attacking third on the press. He found Ojeda on the left and the Argentine sent a cross in front, however, the defense again cut it out for a corner. The Lions couldn’t do anything with the set piece.
The game got a little chippy after that, with Cavalry’s Charlie Trafford picking up a yellow card for stepping on McGuire’s foot during a challenge. Moments later, a worse-looking challenge by Trafford on Thorhallsson went unpunished with a second yellow, despite being a worse foul.
Torres was then taken down on a rough challenge by Montgomery, who was booked. Ojeda went for goal from distance on the set piece, but Carducci made the save at the hour mark.
Gallese nearly got crossed up in the 61st minute when a fluttering ball fooled him and he had to fight it off to avoid an embarrassing situation. That was the start of a couple of chances for the hosts, sandwiching the Orlando City debut of Lodeiro, who subbed on for Ojeda.
In the 62nd minute, Cavalry created something off a throw-in, sending a ball into the box for Jesse Daley, who sent his weak effort right at Gallese on a wasted opportunity. Moments later, Jansson conceded a free kick and Cavalry nearly paid it off. Klomp got his head to the service but sent it just inches over the crossbar.
Cartagena nearly scored a surprising goal in the 68th minute when he sent a chip towards Carducci’s goal. The Cavalry goalkeeper was backpedaling and had to tip the shot over his crossbar.
Five minutes later, substitute Ramiro Enrique set up Lodeiro in the box but the midfielder sent his shot off the crossbar in the 73rd minute. Angulo followed with a shot that was blocked by the defense for a corner.
Two minutes later, the Lions put the game to bed. A fantastic sequence set up Torres’ brace. Enrique did well to send Angulo in behind the defense on the left. The Colombian sent a perfect cross to the back post and Torres sent a diving header off of Carducci’s hands and in to make it 3-0 in the 75th minute.
Cavalry got back on the front foot for a few minutes after the third goal. Camargo sent a shot right at Gallese in the 79th minute
Orlando should have scored again seconds later. Another excellent buildup play from Enrique and Angulo ended up on Araujo’s foot right in front of goal, but the midfielder couldn’t dig it out of his feet and the defense arrived to knock it away.
A poor giveaway by substitute Rafael Santos on the left sideline gave Cavalry a chance in the 82nd minute. The cross in front was deflected out to the top of the area. Diego Gutierrez smashed a shot toward goal, but Felipe took one for the team and blocked it out for a corner. Klomp was nearly sent in behind on the recycle of the ensuing set piece but the defender was either offside or was judged to have fouled Gallese and Orlando was awarded a free kick. Gallese then scooped up a one-hopper off a shot from a tight angle to his right in the 88th minute.
That was the last half chance for either side and the Lions saw out three minutes of injury time to claim their first Concacaf Champions Cup victory.
The final statistics were more flattering for the hosts than the halftime numbers. Orlando led in possession (55.4%-44.6%), shots (13-9), shots on target (5-4), passing accuracy (85.1%-82%), and corners (6-4).
“Now we prepare for the next leg at home,” Diego Torres said. “I know this game is very important. And the next game now is very important.”
“I wanted the players to be brave, and there’s certainly things that we can learn from it,” Cavalry Head Coach Tommy Wheeldon said. “I don’t think it was a three-nil game. I think between both boxes we matched up with them very, very well. I think they probably defended better in there’s and they finished better in ours, and that’s the difference.”
Orlando City will host Cavalry FC next Tuesday night in the second leg. Prior to that, the Lions have a quick turnaround ahead of Saturday’s MLS opener at home against CF Montreal at 7:30 p.m.
Orlando Pride Place Megan Montefusco on Season-Ending Injury List
Orlando City vs. CF Montreal: Three Keys to Victory
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