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Intelligence Report: Orlando City vs. Austin FC

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The end of the week is upon us once again and that means that it’s almost time for another Orlando City game. This week sees the Lions on the road yet again as they head west to Texas to take on Austin FC for the very first time.

That means that I took some time to speak to Ricardo Delgado, one of the contributors over at Capital City Soccer. He was kind enough to give us a bunch of great insight into Austin ahead of the first ever meeting between the two teams.

Austin has been one of the surprise stories of the season so far, and barring an apocalyptic collapse, the team will easily eclipse last year’s points total. What’s been the biggest reason for the good start to 2022?

Ricardo Delgado: Head Coach Josh Wolff seems to have succeeded in implementing his values and vision into the club, and the results have finally shown. Through the struggles of the first season, it was apparent Wolff stressed a possession-based, consistent style of the sport, but lacked the players or the tactical discipline to deliver consistent results. Austin’s dazzling 2022 likely won’t shock those who closely followed the team before; even if the players couldn’t put the pieces together over the span of a season, the foundation built by the front office and Wolff before the first ball was ever kicked meant Austin was more of a fixer-upper than a demolition job.

Undeniably, Sebastián Driussi will be reason number one for most Austin FC fans and pundits for the turnaround. Even as seven goals on the season are joint-second in MLS, a less tangible, yet just as important, reason for the Verde’s success is the increased chemistry between Driussi and his teammates.

Diego Fagúndez and his league-leading seven assists benefit the most from a comfortable Driussi. Maxi Urruti, who arrived from in-state rivals Houston Dynamo can whip out the odd banger and complements Driussi’s flash with a wealth of experience bagging goals in the league. Driussi’s impact even splashes to midfielders Alex Ring and Dani Pereira, who benefit from not being the main chance creators in the side. Pereira deserves a separate nod for his rapid growth from his tepid start at the club as its first SuperDraft pick, despite a horrid showing against Real Salt Lake causing him to miss the LAFC game.

Ruben Gabrielsen is also a huge reason for the success, providing the defensive stability Austin often lacked. His huge frame gives the team a big threat from corners and his deceptive speed combined with a willingness to go to ground already saved one or two goals this season.

In short, an A+ off-season plus some much-needed experience as a unit catapulted Austin FC to the top of the West — for now, at least.

Jhojan Valencia, Maxi Urruti, and Ethan Finlay are some of the new signings that came in during the off-season. How have they adjusted so far?

RD: Valencia has seen less pitch time than Finlay and Urruti, mostly due to the aforementioned form of Pereira. His 64-minute performance against LAFC saw him pick up a yellow card, so Pereira will likely take the field against Orlando. As a rotation option for a midfield that picks up yellows on a decently regular basis, Valencia fills his role.

Urruti, apart from center back Ruben Gabrielsen, is likely the best piece of business Austin did in the off-season. Urruti’s already provided several spectacular goals just a few games in, clearing the low bar our strikers set last season. If Urruti manages to keep up a reasonable pace of goals — or even just enough to make Driussi not do all of the heavy lifting — the transfer will be seen as an overwhelming success.

Finlay, unfortunately, has done little to distinguish himself. His questionable crosses and puzzling decision-making in possession led to him making way for Josh Wolff’s very own 17-year-old son, Owen Wolff (affectionately nicknamed Teen Wolff). Owen’s impressive performances off the bench earned him the starting spot against LAFC and likely another chance against Orlando, even if it is on short rest.

Where do you think the ceiling is for Austin this year? How far can this team go?

RD: After the LAFC game, it’s apparent Austin can win against any side in MLS should they play prime Wolffball and avoid the silly mistakes in possession which cost them dearly in so many games last season. As far as any ambitions of silverware, Verde fans can probably set it as a lofty goal should Austin avoids any injuries to critical players like Driussi, Fagundez, Brad Stuver (even if Andrew Tarbell proved serviceable) or Gabrielsen. Should the regular season take the regular toll it takes on every team, playoffs and a decent run in them should be the goal. Given the volatile nation of a single-elimination tournament and based on their current form, every Austin FC fan should like their chances.

Are there any injuries or suspensions that will keep players unavailable for selection? What is your projected starting lineup and score prediction?

RD: Dani Pereira will get his chance to redeem himself after serving his one-game suspension earned in the RSL game. Brad Stuver returned from an injury suffered against Houston to make some crucial saves against LAFC. Center back Jhohan Romaña is still out with a hamstring injury and will face stiff competition whenever he does return, and Freddy Kleeman is still recovering from a procedure to repair and ACL rupture.

Austin FC will probably stay consistent in their lineup but could be subject to some rotation because of the short rest between games. Fullback and the wing opposite Fagundez are the positions with the most rotation, so expect any variation to stem from there.

Predicted XI: Brad Stuver; Zan Kolmanic, Ruben Gabrielsen, Julio Cascante, Nick Lima; Owen Wolff, Alex Ring, Daniel Pereira; Maxi Urruti, Diego Fagundez, Sebastian Driussi.

Even if Austin will be on tired legs, they should be able to come away with the victory — especially if they score first and remain disciplined. Should they let Orlando strike first or take their foot off the gas after scoring, a draw wouldn’t surprise the more pragmatic Verde fans.

I expect a tight 1-0 Austin win and will make the somewhat safe prediction of a Driussi goal or assist.


Big thank you to Ricardo for the great info on Austin. Vamos Orlando!

Orlando City

Orlando City at Inter Miami: Three Keys to Victory

What does Orlando City need to do to defeat Inter Miami in Fort Lauderdale this Saturday?

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Dan MacDonald, The Mane Land

This Saturday Orlando City travels to Fort Lauderdale to take on in-state rival Inter Miami. Despite having to pay for a part of Lionel Messi’s salary, the Lions will not get to have him play any time for Orlando City, which is kind of messed up, isn’t it? Regardless, the Lions will look to maintain their undefeated start to the year with a win down South.

What does Orlando City need to do to bring home all three points from Chase Stadium?

Get a Midfielder on Messi

It isn’t easy to stop Messi, but that is what defensive midfielders Cesar Araujo and Wilder Cartagena must do in this match. They are arguably the best defensive midfield pairing in MLS and will need to prove it against one of the best to ever play the game. When Orlando City played Messi and Miami in the U.S. Open Cup last year, they were able to frustrate him and he should have been sent off just before halftime for a second yellow-worthy foul he committed to stop Araujo from getting to a loose ball first to start the counter. He is very entitled and doesn’t like being challenged by the likes of those two. Doing so smartly will be the key because of our next key below.

Don’t Give the Refs Anything

MLS and the referees will never admit that they made calls that benefit Miami and Messi in particular, but that’s because they want us to not believe our lying eyes. It’s unfair and wrong, but also a fact of life. As such, the Lions need to make sure that they don’t do anything even remotely close to the type of foul that will allow the refs to swing things the Herons’ way. Of course, that might not stop them from doing so, but playing clean and smart is the best chance to limit the impact the officiating has on the match. Balancing that will being aggressive enough to stop them will be tricky to say the least.

Score, Score, Score

You can be sure we will see a first-choice lineup from Oscar Pareja this Saturday. That means that the Lions need to press for goals early and often. Score enough goals and the referees can’t hurt you. Whether it’s Duncan McGuire, Facundo Torres, Luis Muriel, Ivan Angulo, Nico Lodeiro, or even Kyle Smith, the team needs to put the ball in the back of the net. Getting the early lead — especially if it’s two goals — will mean a lot to the flow of the game. Once again, I don’t particularly care where those goals come from, just that they happen.


That is what I will be looking for this Saturday. Please let me know your thoughts in the comments below. Vamos Orlando!

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Lion Links

Lion Links: 2/29/24

Lions reportedly won’t play in U.S. Open Cup, Cavalry FC reflects on its defeat, gauging the USWNT’s panic meter, and more.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Happy Leap Day, Mane Landers! It’s the rarest day of the year, as we all lean into our procrastination a bit and collectively tell March that we’ll get to it tomorrow. It’s been a pretty busy week for me, but knowing the MLS season is in full swing has helped fuel me a bit. Let’s dive into today’s links!

Orlando City Reportedly Won’t Play in 2024 U.S. Open Cup

The latest reports involving Major League Soccer’s participation in this year’s U.S. Open Cup indicate that Orlando City, along with a majority of MLS teams, won’t be playing their first teams in the tournament. According to ESPN‘s Jeff Carlisle, the Houston Dynamo and the seven best teams from last season that aren’t taking part in the Concacaf Champions Cup will have their first teams take part. The format will reportedly be announced soon and we’ll see if Orlando City B and other MLS NEXT Pro teams will be in the tournament.

It will be pretty disappointing if Orlando’s first team doesn’t end up playing. Even though the Lions suffered an early exit last year, they won in 2022 and Head Coach Oscar Pareja has a penchant for excelling in the U.S. Open Cup.

Cavalry FC Reflects on Loss to Orlando City

Although Cavalry FC lost in both legs against Orlando City in its first Concacaf Champions Cup campaign, the Canadian club can hold its head high. Cavalry Head Coach Tommy Wheeldon Jr. spoke on the team’s tactics in the second leg in Orlando to overcome the hefty aggregate deficit.

“Strategically, we wanted to frustrate them in the first half with an extra defender, and often at times we were in a back five,” Wheeldon said. “And second half, we wanted to unleash with more attackers and have a go, because it was 0-0. We thought … one, we wanted to make history with our first goal, and two, we wanted to get a result here.”

That first goal did come with Myer Bevan making some history for his team to take back to Canada. All in all, Cavalry did pretty well as the underdog and it’s unfortunate it didn’t get a true home game in Calgary. Cavalry’s defense is the real deal and I doubt this is the last time it makes an appearance in the Champions Cup.

Assessing the Fallout From the USWNT’s Defeat

The United States Women’s National Team suffered a shocking defeat to Mexico earlier this week that’s brought on varying levels of panic. The clock is ticking before the Olympics and the USWNT struggled to bounce back after trailing in the first half and had difficulties on both sides of the ball. While the issues at center back will likely be solved once Naomi Girma and Tierna Davidson play, the midfield has plenty of question marks and a weird balance of youth and experience. It’s an awkward stage for the USWNT, as Emma Hayes doesn’t arrive until May and won’t have much time to get the team ready for Paris. Of course, the USWNT could still win this tournament and the return of Mallory Swanson may heal most wounds this summer, leaving this loss as just a minor blemish when the year is up. Only time will tell and the USWNT has plenty of opportunity to right the ship.

FA Cup Quarterfinals Are Set

It was a pretty wild day in the FA Cup, with some of England’s top teams fighting their way into the quarterfinals. Chelsea needed a late winner from Conor Gallagher to beat Leeds United 3-2 at Stamford Bridge. Manchester United’s match against Nottingham Forest also had a dramatic finish, as United’s Casemiro scored the game’s only goal in the 89th minute. Wolverhampton ousted Brighton thanks to an early goal, and Liverpool got the job done against Southampton.

In the quarterfinals, Newcastle will travel to take on Manchester City, Wolverhampton will host the second division’s Conventry City, Chelsea will take on Leicester City, and Manchester United will face off against Liverpool. All four matches will take place on March 16.

Free Kicks

  • After getting married, Orlando Pride defender Emily Madril will have a new name on the back of her jersey this season.
  • Former Pride midfielder Becky Edwards is an assistant coach at the University of Tennessee and shared details about her time as both a player and coach with the U.S. U-20 team.
  • Enjoy this captured moment of Orlando midfielder Wilder Cartagena being awesome.
  • LAFC forward Mateusz Bogusz’s strike against the Seattle Sounders won the first MLS Goal of the Matchday of the season, claiming 35.4% of the vote.

That’s all I have for you today. I hope you all have a pretty great Leap Day and that the rest of the week goes smoothly.

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Lion Links

Lion Links: 2/28/24

Orlando City moves on in Champions Cup, Orlando Pride unveil new kits, USMNT to play Brazil in Orlando, and more.

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Dan MacDonald, The Mane Land

Hello, Mane Landers. I hope you all enjoyed watching Orlando City’s win Tuesday night in the Concacaf Champions Cup. I’ve been staying busy at Under Armour, while wrapping up covering high school basketball playoff action with the state championship this weekend. There is plenty to cover today, so let’s get to the links.

Orlando City Defeats Cavalry FC in Concacaf Champions Cup

The Lions took care of business on Tuesday, defeating Cavalry FC 3-1 at Inter&Co Stadium to advance 6-1 on aggregate and reach the round of 16 in the Concacaf Champions Cup. Forward Luis Muriel got his first start as a Lion, and there was plenty of rotation from the lineup Head Coach Oscar Pareja used against CF Montreal this past weekend. It was Orlando’s first home win in the continental tournament and the Lions will face Tigres in the next round in a rematch of their series in last year’s Concacaf Champions League. The first match will be in Orlando on Tuesday, with the second leg taking place in Mexico on March 12.

Orlando Pride Unveil New Phoenix and Citrus Kits

The Orlando Pride unveiled two new kits on Tuesday as part of the NWSL’s league-wide kit reset ahead of the upcoming season. The first kit is called the Phoenix kit, which features the Pride’s two recognizable colors, purple and blue. The Phoenix kit also features a two-toned purple gradient that goes from the top right to bottom left on the jersey.

The secondary Citrus Kit is an all new color scheme that pays tribute to Florida’s citrus industry. The Citrus Kit features a new orange and iced-out green color scheme with oranges and leaves, while the letters and numbers have the same green coloring. The socks have “Pride” handwritten on the back, while a stylized “OP” is on the lower end of the jersey.

Both kits will be unveiled during the kit party at the Orlando Regional History Center later today. Fans can purchase replicas of the two new jerseys at ShopOrlandoPride.com, in the Den at Inter&Co Stadium, and on NWSLShop.com.

Philadelphia Union Advance Past Deportivo Saprissa

The Philadelphia Union survived a wild match against Deportivo Saprissa at Subaru Park, securing a 3-3 draw to advance to the next round on aggregate. There were four goals in the first 30 minutes of the match, and Mariano Torres gave Saprissa a needed third goal in the second half to send the game to extra time. Despite playing a man down after defender Jack Elliot was sent off, the Union’s Mikael Uhre scored in extra time and the defense held on to advance. There is more Concacaf Champions League action tonight, as FC Cincinnati takes on Cavalier SC, already up 2-0 on aggregate, while Nashville SC faces Moca FC with a 3-0 aggregate lead. The New England Revolution will host Independiente tomorrow.

USMNT to Play Brazil at Camping World Stadium

The United States Men’s National Team will play Brazil in the second edition of the Continental Clasico on June 12 at Camping World Stadium. Both teams will use this match to test themselves in preparation for the Copa America this summer. This will be the first meeting between these two sides since 2018, when the USMNT lost 2-0 to Brazil in a friendly at MetLife Stadium. In the first edition of the Continental Clasico last April, the USMNT played Mexico in a thrilling 1-1 draw. The USMNT has only beaten Brazil once in 19 matches, but its record in Orlando has been stellar, with a 7-2-0 record in recent years. The 2024 Copa America will kick off on June 20.

Free Kicks

  • The latest MLS power rankings have been released after opening week. Orlando City dropped three places to eighth after a scoreless draw against CF Montreal this past weekend.
  • The Orlando Pride’s Rafaelle started and scored a goal in Brazil’s win against Panama in the Concacaf W Gold Cup. Pride forward Adriana came off the bench for Brazil as well.
  • USMNT captain Tyler Adams is back at training with AFC Bournemouth. Adams has been sidelined since last September with a hamstring injury.

That will do it for me today, Mane Landers. Enjoy your Wednesday and I’ll see you next time.

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