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Orlando City vs. Philadelphia Union, U.S. Open Cup: Five Takeaways

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Orlando City drew the toughest possible opponent out of the three in the team’s draw for the fourth round of the 2022 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. Rather than facing USL League One side South Georgia Tormenta or 13th-place Eastern Conference foe Inter Miami, the Lions had to face Eastern Conference-leading Philadelphia. No matter. The Lions took care of business at home with a 2-1 victory over the Union at Exploria Stadium Tuesday night.

Goals by Ercan Kara and Andres Perea in the second half lifted Orlando to a 2-0 lead. The Union pulled one back late off a second ball in on a set piece but otherwise Orlando City took care of business to advance to the Round of 16.

Here are the things that stood out to me in the match:

Caution: Bear Active in Area

Junior Urso was asked to play as a winger when Orlando was in possession and to be his usual hard-working self when the Union had the ball. Oscar Pareja praised his veteran Brazilian midfielder after the match, saying he had a “phenomenal game.” The Bear was definitely not hibernating in this match. He was one of the game’s most active participants. Urso led Orlando City with half of the team’s 12 shot attempts, putting two on target. His teammates combined to get only three other shots on target, but at least two of those were goals. Urso led the team in passing rate (92%), got into the box, and pressured the Union throughout the match, and he also tracked back well, won balls back in the midfield, earned fouls to relieve pressure (five of them!), and did all the little things we’ve come to expect from him.

Mixed Night for Mikey

Michael Halliday finally got some first-team minutes with the start at right back against the Union. The Homegrown defender had some injury issues early in the season and, aside from some minutes with OCB, he hadn’t seen the pitch much in competitive action in 2022. Halliday’s night was, well, frankly brutal at times, but that’s what rust and comparative inexperience looks like. Halliday had some miscommunication and poor passing issues, particularly in the first half, a few poor crosses in the attacking third, and two absolutely brutal first touches that cost the Lions potential scoring opportunities. However, it wasn’t all bad for the Homegrown Player. The teenager had a vital defensive intercession in the first half to prevent a 1-v-1 opportunity for Philadelphia. And he grew into the match as the game progressed. While it would have been completely justified for Pareja to sub the 19-year-old off at halftime, Halliday played better in the second period and he showed glimpses of the kind of player the Orlando City technical staff believe he could become. He created two scoring chances, which trailed only Facundo Torres on the team. Halliday may not be ready to step into regular-season matches just yet but he may have earned another Open Cup start with his second half and kudos to Pareja, because — and I’m speaking from experience here — it’s not always easy to be patient with a teenager.

Hail César!

It was another standout performance from 20-year-old central midfielder César Nahuel Araújo Vilches, just days after his 21st birthday. The Uruguayan turned in another workmanlike effort, shielding his back line and goalkeeper Mason Stajduhar. He deftly won balls and put out fires. Like Urso, he drew five fouls on the Union. He won a team-high four tackles and passed at a solid 84.9% rate, which was fifth on the team among starters — third among those not on the back line. Araújo has made a solid case for being the team’s most valuable player thus far on the season.

Three Key Defensive Plays Saved the Day

Tuesday night’s win could have gone very differently if not for three massive defensive plays that Orlando City absolutely had to get right — and did. I’ve already mentioned one of those above, which was Halliday getting back in the first half on a Union counter-attack opportunity and toe-poking the ball away for Stajduhar to clear. Another of those plays came when Robin Jansson prevented Daniel Gazdag from being in 1-v-1 against Stajduhar in the 16th minute after a badly misplaced pass from Halliday. Those two plays alone kept the game scoreless at the break. Rodrigo Schlegel made the third critical defensive stop late in the match. With the Union sending more numbers forward in search of the equalizer, the Argentine was faced with multiple attackers on a transition opportunity. Just as the ball was being slipped in for a 1-v-1 chance, Schlegel, tracking back, was able to contort his body and dangle out a foot to prevent a key pass in the 85th minute. If any of those desperation defensive plays had gone differently, the Union could have turned things around.

Signs of Connectivity…Finally

For the past three games, Orlando City has been missing its connection between the back and the front. As a result, the Lions had only mustered a total of 12 shot attempts across three games, with five on target. Four of those five shots on target came against expansion Charlotte FC. Orlando had only three shots (none on target) in the loss to the New York Red Bulls and only two (one on target) in the loss at Montreal. The offense has been brutal and Kara has been isolated on an island, unable to affect matches the way he should. Last night was different. Against a good, and active, Philadelphia midfield, the Lions had more success. In addition to Urso’s help as mentioned above, Pareja utilized Andres Perea and dropped forward Alexandre Pato into much deeper role.

It wasn’t perfect. Perea still had some curiously poor passes and touches and showed too much of the ball to defenders at times (how about that golazo, though?). Pato didn’t have a good passing rate — just 62.1% — and tried a few too-fancy maneuvers in traffic that didn’t come off. Still, the duo made very few critical mistakes and, more importantly, created space and held the ball long enough for players to make the transition from defense to offense. This has been a missing component of the team. Against the Union, Kara and Torres were able to stay higher on the pitch than they’ve been in recent games, and that helped the offense. Kara fired two shots and one of them went in. Torres also had a shot on target and created a team-best four scoring chances. With more time on the ball, as well as receiving it in better positions, both of the Lions’ two most advanced attacking players passed at 80% or better (85.3% for Torres). It was a small adjustment that led to a much bigger performance. A little better night from Pato — who came tantalizingly close several times to pulling off audacious moves in traffic — and Perea would have helped Orlando become even more dominant.

Bonus Takeaway: She Said Yes!

Stajduhar made a diving stop off a set piece chance at the death to preserve the victory — one of three saves on the night. He stayed focused all game long and couldn’t do much about the lone Union goal, which was placed beyond his reach. His focus was just as sharp after the match, as he quickly tracked down the member of the Orlando City staff with whom he’d left a ring. After securing that ring and getting his girlfriend, Tatiana, onto the pitch, the Homegrown goalkeeper got down on one knee and popped the question.

Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

She accepted, and I’d like to think she would have said yes even if that final Union shot had gone in. But would Stajduhar have popped the question on the pitch after a loss? We didn’t ask him in the postgame press conference, and thankfully the result prevented us from finding out. Congratulations to the happy couple!


That’s what stood out to me from Orlando City’s best performance in weeks. What did you notice? Let me know in the comments.

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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