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Orlando City vs. New York Red Bulls: Final Score 3-0 as Lions Played Off Their Own Pitch

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Orlando City’s three-game winning streak in all competitions came to a crashing halt, as the team’s worst performance of the year resulted in a 3-0 loss to the New York Red Bulls at Exploria Stadium. The Lions (4-3-2, 14 points) were second best from the jump, had no sense of urgency or precision, lacked ideas, were careless with the ball, and were generally played off the pitch by New York (4-2-2, 14 points), which moved into second place in the Eastern Conference with the win. Luquinhas, Cristian Casseres, and Lewis Morgan scored the goals for New York.

Orlando has now lost three straight games to the Red Bulls and the loss drops the Lions to 5-9-2 in the all-time series. The Lions were so comprehensively outplayed that they attempted just three shots in 90+ minutes and failed to get a single one on frame.

“Obviously very disappointed with the result,” Orlando City Head Coach Oscar Pareja said after the match. “When we compete, we are trying to get a result, but more than that, I thought our performance, where I’m fully responsible, was far from our normal one. I thought New York outplayed us today and I have to accept that they were much better than us.”

“This is the worst game for us and this is difficult to understand now,” captain Mauricio Pereyra said. “Sometimes everything that you plan is good and it’s perfect and you get the result and you get the good soccer. Today it wasn’t like that.”

Pareja’s lineup included Pedro Gallese in net behind a back line of Joao Moutinho, Robin Jansson, Rodrigo Schlegel, and Ruan. Cesar Araujo and Junior Urso played central midfield behind an attacking line of Facundo Torres, Mauricio Pereyra, and Alexandre Pato, with Ercan Kara up top.

Neither team got much going in the first 20 minutes. The Red Bulls came in looking to make it an ugly game and succeeded, committing fouls and being physical all over the pitch. Ruan got run over from behind and stepped on by Ashley Fletcher in the early going but got only a foul call and a warning. He later received another warning just before the first-half water break and finally got his yellow card just after the restart on what might have been his third bookable offense.

Orlando City moved too slowly and deliberately the entire first half and, as a result, the Lions spent most of the half penned in their own half. New York punished any off-line or poorly weighted ball by taking it the other way in transition.

That’s exactly how the Lions conceded the game’s first goal in the 26th minute. Several Orlando City players were caught up field and no one seemed particularly eager to get back defensively as the Red Bulls came forward. No one closed down Luquinhas at the top of the area and he slotted a well-placed ball just inside the left post to make it 1-0.

The chippy play continued as New York simply took fouls any time Orlando seemed to have even the slightest thing going offensively. That ended up in a double yellow card situation late in the first half, with Luquinhas and Morgan each getting booked on a play when Kara was knocked down to deny a counter opportunity.

Gallese made a huge save on Fletcher late in the half to keep it 1-0 at the break.

Orlando City held 62.8% of the first-half possession to New York’s 37.2% but most of that was kicking it around the back trying to figure out how to attack the Red Bulls’ 3-5-2 formation and press. The Lions were also the more accurate passing team (79.9%-65.8%), but New York had more shots (9-0), shots on target (3-0), and corners won (2-0) with the Lions seldom possessing the ball in the attacking half.

Pareja sent Benji Michel and Thomas Williams into the match at the break to change the shape. But a poor pass from Ruan in the attacking half allowed the Red Bulls a transition opportunity and the visitors doubled the lead just moments after the game resumed. New York broke toward goal with numbers and Casseres ended up in front of Gallese with the ball. El Pulpo made a great initial save but Casseres tapped in the rebound to make it 2-0 in the 48th minute.

Orlando looked to have a decent counter opportunity in the 54th minute, with the ball ending up at Michel’s feet in the box. Michel lost his balance and went down, shouting for a penalty but there was nothing in the challenge.

Araujo finally gave Orlando a shot attempt in the 60th minute, launching a shot well off target from outside the area.

Schlegel got his head to a Ruan cross in the 72nd minute on a recycled set piece but his shot was just wide and Carlos Coronel looked to have it covered.

The Red Bulls added a third after referee Alex Chilowicz went to video review and determined that Rodrigo Schlegel was guilty of a handball in the box. Schlegel went up for a 50/50 challenge but the ball cleared his head by inches. The attacking player in behind him appeared to head the ball into Schlegel’s arm and there’s little doubt nothing would have come of the play. But Chilowicz ruled in New York’s favor and Lewis Morgan scored from the spot for the final margin of victory.

Rookie Jack Lynn was given a cameo appearance late and made his MLS debut but the match was over and the Lions were cooked.

“It was a moment I’ve been looking forward to for a long time, so I was ecstatic to get on the field, but you know what’s important is getting the three points,” Lynn said after his debut. “So, it’s always a little bit of a gut punch when we don’t get that.”

New York finished with more shots (17-3), shots on target (6-0), and corners (4-1), while Orlando City held more possession (64.2%-35.8%) and passed more accurately (80.8%-62.8%). But the Lions did nothing with that possession, passing sloppily and lazily all game long and falling into the traps the Red Bulls wanted them to walk into.

“We knew already how New York plays and we prepared in the week some plan, and we couldn’t do it in a good way,” Pereyra said. “I think we we didn’t have many positive things today. We know that this is maybe the worst game that we played in the season. Even the other games that we lost, we created many chances and we played so good, and today is the exception because we didn’t play and we didn’t create any chances.”

“We were outplayed, really,” Pareja reiterated. “The first step that we need to recognize today is that we couldn’t put together the soccer that we normally play because with their intensity they destroyed any idea that we wanted. And basically with recovering the ball in the middle third they started just creating their sequences and tried to create their chances. We were not connected. It’s not that they had more energy but they had more ideas up front too, and I thought it was a fair result.”


The Lions remain at home for their next match when Charlotte FC visits Exploria Stadium for the first time ever.

Orlando City

Orlando City Signs First-Round Draft Pick Jeorgio Kocevski

Orlando City signs its first-round draft pick Jeorgio Kocevski to a one-year deal with three option years.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Orlando City SC announced the signing of first-round 2024 MLS SuperDraft pick Jeorgio Kocevski today. The deal is through the upcoming 2024 season with club options for 2025, 2026, and 2027. The Lions selected the Syracuse midfielder with the 21st overall pick in the draft in December.

“Jeorgio has had a really strong preseason camp with us, demonstrating everything we saw in him when we were scouting him and analyzing his game in college,” Orlando City Executive Vice President of Soccer Operations and General Manager Luiz Muzzi said in a club press release. “He’s done well working his way into the group, even starting in our friendly against Flamengo and holding his own against some of the best in Brazil, and we’re excited to have him with us this season.”

The box-to-box midfielder made three appearances this preseason, starting against Brazilian club Flamengo and the following scrimmage against USL Championship side Rhode Island FC. He came on at halftime against the Colorado Rapids last weekend, scoring the winning goal in the 90th minute.

Prior to being selected by the Lions, the Liverpool, NY, native made 71 appearances with 65 starts and logged 5,599 minutes for Syracuse in four years. He scored seven goals and recorded 18 assists, putting 33 of his 93 shots on frame. Additionally, he was part of Syracuse’s 2022 NCAA national championship team, playing 90 minutes in the 2-2 draw, but missing in the team’s victorious shootout over Indiana.

Kocevski had a breakout junior year, being named to the United Soccer Coaches’ All-South Region third team, All-ACC third team, NCAA All-Tournament team, and ACC All-Tournament team. During his senior year, he wore the armband for the Orange and was named All-ACC first team and ACC Co-Midfielder of the Year.

What It Means for Orlando City

Kocevski was the most likely pick from this most recent draft to be signed by Orlando City. The departure of club captain Mauricio Pereyra left a spot in the midfield and Head Coach Oscar Pareja seemed to feel the rookie could fill it from early on. His start against Flamengo was in the place of regular starter Cesar Araujo, who was on international duty with the Uruguay U-23 national team. He played against Flamengo’s best lineup and did quite well in almost an hour on the field in his first minutes of play at the professional level.

While a spot was open for the signing of Kocevski, he likely won’t see much of the field for the first team this season. In addition to being behind starters Araujo and Wilder Cartagena, the defensive midfielder will be behind Felipe on the depth chart. In all likelihood, the rookie will slot in with Orlando City B in MLS NEXT Pro to get some minutes, but there is room for him to start regularly with that team.

Kocevski is currently the only player signed by the club from the Lions’ 2024 draft class. West Virginia midfielder Yutaro Tsukada, Pittsburgh midfielder Filip Mirkovic, and Charlotte midfielder Riyon Tori remained unsigned, with the latter opting to return to school for his senior season.

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Lion Links

Lion Links: 2/20/24

The Wall sells out, Robin Jansson earns recognition, Concacaf W Gold cup preview, and more.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Happy Tuesday, everyone! We’re now just one day away from the first competitive Orlando City game of the year, and it can’t get here fast enough. As usual, we have plenty to cover this morning, so let’s jump straight into it.

The Wall Sells Out for Orlando City’s Season Opener

The Wall, the supporters section of Orlando City’s stadium, has sold out of single-match tickets ahead of Saturday’s home opener against CF Montreal. Limited tickets for the match are still available for the rest of the stadium, and hopefully it will fully sell out for the first match of the season. This Saturday will be the 10th consecutive time in which the Lions start their MLS season at home. It should be a great match and a chance for Orlando to get its season off to a good start between Concacaf Champions Cup matches against Cavalry FC.

Robin Jansson Praised as a Top Defender in MLS

Orlando City center back Robin Jansson was recognized as one of the best center backs in MLS by MLSsoccer.com‘s Joseph Lowery. The 32-year-old has been an integral part of Orlando’s defense since joining the league in 2019 and should continue anchoring the team’s back line this season. Not only is he excellent in terms of defense, but the Beefy Swede can also make an impact on offense with his passing and surprising runs up the field. Jansson is one of the most consistent defenders in the league and agreed to a new contract with the club earlier this month.

MLS Transfer News Roundup

The 2024 Major League Soccer season might kick off tomorrow, but transfers are still flying thick and fast, which means we have things to catch up on. We start with one of the teams opening the season tomorrow, Inter Miami, which has officially transferred midfielder Gregore to Botafogo in the Brazilian top flight. We move on to NYCFC, which has completed the signing of striker Jovan Mijatović from Red Star Belgrade. The 18-year-old Serbian youth international has inked a deal that runs through the 2028 season, with an option year for 2029. We finish up with the Houston Dynamo, which have signed Coco Carasquilla to a contract extension. The Panamanian midfielder’s deal now runs through the 2025 season and has option years for 2026 and 2027.

Concacaf W Gold Cup Preview

The inaugural Concacaf W Gold Cup kicks off later today, so make sure you get up to speed on everything you need to know about the competition. The United States Women’s National Team has been grouped with Argentina, the Dominican Republic, and Mexico, and will be looking for a strong showing following a disappointing campaign at last summer’s World Cup. The tournament will feature a total of 12 teams, with eight Concacaf representatives and four from CONMEBOL. The top two finishers in each of the three groups advance to the knockout round, along with the top two third-place finishers. The USWNT begin play tonight against the Dominican Republican at 10:15 p.m. from Dignity Health Sports Park.

Americans in Midweek Action

With a number of American players taking part in games during the working week, get everything marked down on your calendar so you don’t miss anything. Things get started this afternoon with a huge game, as Malik Tillman, Ricardo Pepi, Sergino Dest, and PSV Eindhoven take on Borussia Dortmund in the UEFA Champions League. European competition continues on Thursday as well, with Christian Pulisc, Yunus Musah, and AC Milan facing Rennes in the Europa League play. Things finish out on Friday as the red-hot Brandon Vazquez and Monterrey face Juarez in Liga MX competition.

Minnesota United Close to Coaching Hire

A coaching search that will surely go down as one of the most thorough in MLS history is nearing its conclusion, as Minnesota United is reportedly close to naming Manchester United assistant Eric Ramsay as the team’s new skipper. While nothing is official yet, Ramsay is said to be the leading candidate, and The Athletic‘s Tom Bogert says that the team is closing in on the hire. If he joins, Ramsay will become the youngest coach in league history at the tender age of 32, and he will also become Minnesota’s second coach following Adrian Heath’s departure in October of last year.

Free Kicks


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

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Opinion

Orlando City’s 10th Anniversary is the Time to Remember the Club’s Originals

Orlando City’s 10th year in MLS should be used to honor the players who built the club.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC

The 2024 season is Orlando City’s 10th in Major League Soccer. The club has scheduled several events throughout the year to celebrate having been in the country’s top division for a decade, but the season should also be a time for fans to reflect on the people who made it happen without getting to experience the result.

Orlando City arrived in Orlando in 2010 with the goal of reaching MLS. However, it was the first professional soccer team in the city since the 1990s and resides in a football hotbed, leaving many to wonder if the team would be successful. The most famous doubt came at the team’s inaugural media day, when longtime WESH 2 sportscaster Pat Clake told club founder Phil Rawlins and inaugural Head Coach Adrian Heath that, while he wished them luck, a professional soccer team in Orlando would never work.

The Orlando project got off to a much better start than the Austin Aztex, Rawlins’ former project. During the team’s first season in 2011, Orlando City substantially outdrew its predecessor, proving there was an appetite for soccer. But there was another factor to the team’s popularity. The Lions won…a lot.

The success of a team at home has a significant impact on the enjoyment of attending games. In four USL Pro seasons, Orlando City was 40-3-9 (W-L-D) at the Citrus Bowl (now Camping World Stadium) and Walt Disney World’s ESPN Wide World of Sports, winning three regular season titles and two USL Pro championships. Seeing the local team win and score frequently is much more likely to result in people returning for more games. That’s exactly what the Lions did, and it helped to create a following.

When MLS considered Orlando City for expansion, the league looked at average attendance, season ticket numbers, and community involvement. All of these factors were directly related to the team’s success on the field. For this reason, the key players on those teams are responsible for Orlando City being in MLS in the first place. 

In addition to their work on the field, the players from the USL Pro era worked in the community to build a following. They spoke with local groups and were active throughout Central Florida, convincing people to attend games. It was all about the effort of getting the team into MLS. Unfortunately, many of those players didn’t get to experience the results of their labor.

The core of Orlando City’s team from 2011 to 2013 remained the same, with Miguel Gallardo in goal, Luke Boden at left back, Rob Valentino at center back, Kevin Molino and Jamie Watson in the midfield, and Dennis Chin up top. The success they had resulted in the club being announced as the newest expansion side on Nov. 19, 2013. However, of those six stalwarts, only Boden and Molino continued with the team into MLS.

Over the past 10 years, Orlando City has had several star and fan favorite players come and go. As the club’s USL Pro era gets further in the rearview mirror, the players who built the organization are forgotten or unknown by a large portion of the fanbase that didn’t experience the early seasons.

To the club’s credit, Orlando City worked to keep the memory of the team’s foundation alive in recent years. This preseason, Chin, Lewis Neal (a 2011 original who returned to the team in MLS), and Dom Dwyer (who was on loan with the team in 2013 and returned in 2017) were involved in the popular away jersey unveiling. Additionally, Chin signed autographs and took part in a Q&A session during the Society XXI preseason game against the New England Revolution. They’ve had other events, like the 2022 U.S. Open Cup games against the Tampa Bay Rowdies, when former players have been invited back.

Additionally, the club raised banners last year for the 2011 and 2013 USL Pro championships and announced this year that it will display the trophies in a new permanent exhibit called “The Vault.” The club also released an updated version of the three-lion USL Pro logo from those first four seasons.

When people consider the factors that resulted in Orlando City joining MLS in 2015, the fan support during the USL Pro years is the first thing that comes to mind. But without the success of those teams and the work the players put into building the following, the club likely never would’ve made it to the top division. This 10th anniversary season is a good time to remember those club legends.

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