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Orlando City vs. Toronto FC: Final Score 1-0 as Lions Earn Another Road Win

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Kyle Smith’s late flicked header rescued Orlando City from a wasteful performance in the attacking third as the Lions defeated Toronto FC 1-0 at BMO Field. Orlando (6-4-2, 20 points) sent the Reds (3-7-2, 11 points) to their fifth consecutive loss and extended the Lions’ unbeaten streak against Toronto to five matches.

The Lions improved to 3-1-2 on the road in 2022. Orlando City is now 5-8-3 against Toronto FC in the all-time series and 2-4-3 in road games, but this win was the team’s first at BMO Field. The previous “road” win came at Exploria Stadium during the time Toronto was playing in exile during the pandemic last year.

“Congratulations to the players today in such an important match in a difficult place, with that personality and collectiveness that we are pursuing in this project,” Orlando City Head Coach Oscar Pareja said after the match. “I like the way they controlled the game the whole time. I think we imposed our rhythms. We came here to win and the victory is ours and we’re very pleased and happy.”

Pareja’s lineup had just a few changes from Tuesday’s U.S. Open Cup lineup. Pedro Gallese returned to the goal behind a back line of Joao Moutinho, Robin Jansson, Rodrigo Schlegel, and Ruan. Cesar Araujo and Andres Perea took up residence in central midfield behind an attacking midfield line of Facundo Torres, Mauricio Pereyra, and Junior Urso, with Ercan Kara up top.

The Lions played the first half like a team that either played a few days ago 1,200 miles south of BMO Field or was assembled two weeks ago. Players failed to connect or read where their attacking partners would go, crosses were poor to the point of not being worthy of MLS-level players, and bad touches cost Orlando City multiple goals.

Torres fired the game’s first shot from long range in the fifth minute but missed wide to the right of goal. This was the theme of the opening 45 minutes as the Lions wasted several opportunities.

In the 12th minute, the first of Urso’s heavy touches cost the Lions a chance to score. He and Pereyra played a nice give-and-go but the first touch by the Bear was heavy and he had to make a sliding effort at a cross. The ball hit off the defender and back off of him for a harmless goal kick. It was a tough way to end a nice spell of attacking pressure set up by a great run up the field by Jansson.

Jordan Perruzza ended up with the ball after Pereyra turned it over in the corner of his own defensive half but the Toronto forward’s shot was blocked in the 15th minute.

Ruan was sent down the right by Urso moments later and had plenty of space to pick out one of his teammates in the box but instead he sent his cross lazily right at goalkeeper Alex Bono in the 17th minute. A minute later, Torres sent a cross over everyone as Orlando continued to waste opportunities in the final third.

Toronto nearly capitalized after the two poor crosses. In the 19th minute, the Reds got the ball in the right corner and a cross went through everyone in the area to find Luca Petrasso. The fullback took a shot but Ruan blocked it to keep it scoreless.

Jesus Jimenez was left all alone from long distance in the 24th minute and he got his shot on target, forcing a diving save from Gallese.

Seconds later, the Lions should have scored. A good line-breaking spell of passing ended up with Urso on the right. He led a 3-v-1 with Kara and Torres to his left and only one defender to beat. However, the Bear took a massively heavy touch and by the time he caught up with it, the chance was gone.

Three minutes later, Urso was served up a golden opportunity at the left post by a Ruan pass. All the ball needed was a touch toward net for the Lions to open the scoring. Urso, however, popped up his deflection over the net from just a few yards off the goal line, continuing the theme of Orlando letting Toronto off the hook.

The Lions lined up a dangerous set piece in the 38th minute when Torres was knocked down by Michael Bradley about 25 yards straight out from goal. Pereyra took the free kick and got it on target but left it too far from the right post and Bono did well to get a hand on it to knock it out for a corner. It was Orlando’s only shot on target of the half.

That was the last decent chance of the half for Orlando, which defended a late corner and went to the locker room tied at 0-0.

Orlando City led in most statistical categories, including possession (52.2%-47.8%), shots (7-3), corners (3-2), and passing accuracy (84%-78.8%). But both teams put just one shot on target, and that’s the only reason the Lions didn’t have at least a two-goal lead at the break.

Toronto sent on Ayo Akinola for Ralph Priso to start the second half and the last 45 minutes were much more wide open.

The Lions quickly won an early corner that was played short and sent to Jansson from about 30 yards out. The defender fired a shot on target but it didn’t have much venom in it and it was right at Bono. Orlando played corners short through most of the match and seemed more likely to concede a goal at times than score one from such set pieces, so the game-winning goal seemed a bit ironic in the end.

A minute after Jansson’s shot, Deandre Kerr sent a shot on frame from distance and Gallese did well to knock it away.

Orlando nearly made a free kick pay off in the 59th minute after Ruan was fouled out on the right wing by Perruzza. Pereyra sent in a good cross on the set piece that found the foot of Perea. The first-time shot was sent just wide of the left post.

The end-to-end action continued with Ruan getting into the box in the 60th minute. The right back fired a shot toward goal but Carlos Salcedo made a sliding challenge to block it behind for a corner. Moutinho flicked a shot on goal moments later but it was blocked. The left back then fired right at Bono from distance in the 64th as Orlando continued to look for the go-ahead goal.

In the 67th minute, the Reds came close to opening the scoring against the run of play. Kerr sent a curling shot in that went just inches wide of the left post. Jansson may have gotten a sliding touch on it but a goal kick was given. Petrasso fired off target moments later as Toronto spent a spell of time simply out-hustling Orlando. That spell included yellow cards for both Moutinho and Schlegel, with the latter being forced into taking a tactical foul.

Moutinho then handed Toronto a good opportunity on a set piece. The Lions did well to clear that and counter but a poor touch by Ruan trying to cut back against a defender wrecked the transition chance.

In the 78th minute, Urso fired a volley shot just over the bar from 25 yards out after a good layoff by substitute Alexandre Pato.

Toronto nearly created something out of nothing in the 81st minute when the Lions couldn’t find the handle on a loose ball in the box. It ended up on Akinola’s foot and he sent a shot that bounced off Schlegel and went wide.

The next few minutes were frustrating ones for Orlando. Second-half sub Jake Mulraney was knocked down from behind in the box but no call was made. In the aftermath of that, Pato took a boot to the leg and again there was no set piece awarded. Moments later, Urso sent a too-heavy pass forward trying to send Ruan in behind.

Toronto got a free kick just outside the left corner of the box in the 88th when Jansson appeared to make a successful sliding challenge to break up a counter opportunity. The Beefy Swede appeared to get the ball and knock it out for a throw before contact with Paul Rothrock, but a foul was called and Jansson was booked on top of it. The Lions cleared but Urso lost control of the ball during the ensuing counter attack.

The match appeared destined to end in a 0-0 draw at that point. However, substitute Smith cracked the door open and then busted it down in stoppage time. Smith sent a good cross into the area in the 91st that was cut out for a corner kick. On the ensuing set piece, Pato sent a hard, low cross toward the near post. Smith made the run and flicked a header toward goal and the ball found inside netting to put the Lions ahead 1-0 in the 92nd minute.

“I was unmarked in the box on the corner, so I knew I wanted to make a near-post run,” Smith said. “Because Pato plays a good ball into the box. It dips. So, that’s what I did. And luckily the ball found me and I just tried to put it on frame. I’m more of a defender, so I don’t get to score often. So, it’s really fun to score goals and I feel really good right now to help the team win on the offensive side for a change.” 

Orlando did well to see out the last couple of minutes of injury time, with Ruan making a nice play to win a corner. Pato nearly scored a late insurance golazo from midfield. He sent a floating shot on target with Bono well off his line, but the Toronto keeper scrambled back to his net just in time to catch it and avoid an embarrassing late goal against in the 95th minute. That was the last action of the match.

Orlando dominated the stat sheet despite scoring just the one goal. The Lions led in possession (52.3%-47.7%), shots (17-8), shots on goal (6-2), corners (9-3), and passing accuracy (84.1%-80.9%).

It wasn’t a perfect performance due to the finishing and some misplaced passes and heavy touches, but the Lions found a way to get all three points and keep a sixth clean sheet on the season.

We accept ourselves in this moment as a team in a growing process in our attacking phase,” Pareja said. “New players, different characteristics. We would like to wait not too much for gluing us together, but the players are united and they’re working hard just to find those connections and that fineness in the final third. We need to grow up, but just knowing how to win this kind of game in a different way just makes us a very serious and important team.”


The Lions will continue their road trip next Sunday night at Austin in the first meeting between the two sides.

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.

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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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Lion Links

Lion Links: 2/19/24

Orlando City wins preseason finale, post-match concert artists named, U.S. Open Cup in jeopardy, and more.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Merry Monday morning, Mane Landers. We’re about to get to see Orlando City play matches in both the MLS regular season and the Concacaf Champions Cup. Cavalry FC is up first on Wednesday and CF Montreal on Saturday. That’s a whole lot of Canada to start things off, eh? Before we get to the links, please join us in wishing a happy birthday to Orlando Pride star Marta, who turns 38 today.

Orlando City Defeats the Rapids in Preseason Finale

The Lions won their final preseason match against the Colorado Rapids 3-2 at Inter&Co Stadium on Saturday. Kyle Smith got the scoring going mere seconds into the match and Facundo Torres doubled the lead on a penalty kick before the end of the first half. The Rapids tied it up in the second half, but Orlando City rookie Jeorgio Kocevski scored a late winner in stoppage time to keep the Lions unbeaten in the preseason. Orlando ended the preseason schedule with a record of 4-0-1.

Orlando Postgame Concert Announced

As I get older, I see each decade get its time in the nostalgic spotlight. Evidently, it is the 1990s’ turn. Orlando City announced a concert that will follow the Austin FC match at Inter&Co Stadium on March 23. You didn’t ask for it — and neither did anyone else — but Vanilla Ice, Rob Base, and Montell Jordan are headlining an “I Love the 90s” post-match concert. I’m not entirely certain if everyone will be required to stop, collaborate, and listen, but it’s certainly a possibility.

PRO Referee Strike Looms

Normally, if I told you that Orlando City didn’t have to worry about the Professional Referees Organization (PRO), I’m willing to bet you’d be pretty happy. Now it’s a real possibility that the Lions’ first match will likely have stand-in referees. The Professional Soccer Referees Association rejected a new collective bargaining agreement with PRO, meaning that there will be a lockout. PRO has identified “qualified replacements” ready to make sure that matches will be able to be played.

Open Cup in Jeopardy

The start of the 2024 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup is only a month away, although that isn’t a certainty. U.S. Soccer and MLS are still not seeing eye to eye regarding how many of the senior squads will participate. On the other side of the equation, the USL is pushing back against the demands from MLS.

Ultimately, this is a power struggle between the upper levels of organized soccer in this country. If a compromise solution can’t be found, it could mean that the Open Cup won’t take place this year. If that happens, it won’t help any of the involved parties and it will be devastating to the supporters of all the clubs at every level.

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  • Thanks to Zakaria Taifi’s mother, Alyssa Taifi, we know that Orlando City B defeated Philadelphia Union II by a score of 4-0 in a preseason scrimmage, and that there was some chippiness in the match.
  • Inter Miami is under pressure to get roster compliant. As such, Federico Redondo will not be joining the Herons due to Miami’s inability to bring him in because of MLS regulations regarding payment methodology.
  • Inter Miami midfielder Victor Ulloa announced he is retiring, which will also help Miami’s roster cap problems.

That will do it for today. Check back for our coverage of Orlando City’s two matches this week. Vamos Orlando!

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