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Orlando City vs. Austin FC: Final Score 2-2 as Lions Robbed in Texas

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You can’t really make up what happened to Orlando City in the second half while up 2-0 at Austin FC. But you don’t have to make it up because we’ve all seen this movie before.

The Lions (6-4-3, 21 points) went down two men in the second half, allowing Austin FC (7-3-3, 24 points) to rally back for a 2-2 draw at Q2 Stadium in Austin, TX, in the first-ever meeting between the two teams. Referee Joe Dickerson made sure he was the star of the show by sending off Rodrigo Schlegel for a second yellow card for handball within seconds — with the second one in the box and highly suspect. He sent off Cesar Araujo minutes later for a warranted dangerous play as the Orlando midfielder foolishly kicked out after being stepped on by Alex Ring.

Finally, Dickerson awarded a corner kick that certainly appeared to be a goal kick deep in stoppage time, from which the hosts tied the game. In fact, it was the player — Moussa Djitte — who appeared to touch the ball last before it went out who then scored the tying goal.

All of that aside, it was Orlando City’s own fault for not putting the game away by halftime with the unbelievable chances the Lions wasted.

“Well, first just allow me to recognize the effort of the players today, trying to overcome all those things that happened, especially at the end and in the second half, with many unfair things happened,” Orlando City Head Coach Oscar Pareja said after the match. “But I guess we’ve got to take it. We played a very good game until all those things came in the second half.”

Pareja’s starting lineup offered no surprises. Pedro Gallese took his spot in goal behind a back line of Joao Moutinho, Robin Jansson, Rodrigo Schlegel, and Ruan. Cesar Araujo played in the central midfield with Andres Perea — starting his third consecutive game in all competitions. Junior Urso functioned as a winger on an attacking midfield line with Mauricio Pereyra and Facundo Torres, with Ercan Kara up top.

The Lions jumped on top in the second minute. Austin goalkeeper Brad Stuver tried playing out of the back but sent his pass right to Urso. The Bear sent the ball to Kara in front and the Austrian redirected it just inside the right post to make it 1-0. It was Kara’s third goal of the MLS season — fourth in all competitions — and the fourth-fastest goal from the start of a match in club history.

“We wanted to press them right from the first minute and we did it very good,” Kara said. “And the goalkeeper (made) a mistake and Urso (saw) me very good, and played me the ball, and the rest was an easy finish.”

The first two opportunities for Austin came off of turnovers by Araujo in the midfield. The first didn’t result in a clear-cut chance but in the ninth minute, the miscue led to a shot by Maxi Urruti that smashed off the left post. The rebound was cleared behind for an Austin corner with Diego Fagundez lurking.

Following a good spell by Austin, the Lions doubled the lead. Moutinho sent the ball down the left for Torres. The Young Designated Player got to the end line and crossed back into the area for Kara. The ball was deflected by defender Kipp Keller and fell to Pereyra, who fired immediately. Stuver made a good save to deny the captain but the ball fell to Ruan lurking near the back post and the right back slotted home to make it 2-0 in the 22nd minute.

The Lions were wasteful for the rest of the first half. That started in the 26th minute after Kara stole the ball in the attacking third. He fed Urso on his right and the Bear fired a shot right at Stuver, who made the comfortable save.

The hosts came into the match after that missed opportunity, holding much more possession for the rest of the half. Center back Julio Cascante fired a long-range shot that deflected well over the net. On the ensuing corner kick, a cross found Cascante at the back post. The defender headed the ball down and it bounced over the bar. The play may have been offside but the flag stayed down, so no review was necessary.

Right back Nick Lima cut inside the wing a few minutes later and fired a tight-angle shot that Gallese did well to save in the 35th minute. Three minutes later, Moutinho turned the ball over in his own half and Urruti fired just wide. Gallese was shaken up on the play but continued after receiving treatment from the training staff.

Orlando had some chances to put the game in a chokehold down the stretch. Kara let a shot fly from outside the area in the 43rd minute but Stuver got over and made the save. In stoppage time, the Lions had three more excellent scoring chances and should have scored. The first came on a transition opportunity with Torres and Ruan going 2-v-1. Torres was located centrally but chose to send a pass to Ruan on his left. Ruan not only failed to hold his run and stay onside, but he also missed the wide open net. Moments later, Torres had a chance to redeem himself at the top of the area but turned down a shot again to lay off for Kara who was closed down from behind and never got a shot away.

In the dying seconds, Moutinho crossed after a throw-in in the attacking third that found Urso. The Bear headed on frame and Stuver made a big save. The rebound fell for Urso who then missed everything from just a couple feet from the goal line.

The Lions went to the locker room up 2-0 but Austin was still in the game because of the missed chances.

“I thought today was a game that we could easily score two or three goals more until all this mess happened,” Pareja said.

Austin had a big advantage in first-half possession (66.2%-33.8%), corners (4-1), and passing accuracy (90.4%-75%). But the hosts fired only one more shot (8-7) in the opening period and Orlando got more of its chances on target (6-2).

The Lions again had a chance to put the game away in the 53rd minute. Kara laid off for Perea at the top of the area but the midfielder fired his shot wide of Stuver’s goal. Four minutes later, the Lions created another chance. Pereyra floated in a ball for Kara, who headed down for Urso. The Bear fired his shot immediately but left it too close to the middle. Still, Stuver had to make an outstanding reaction save in the 57th minute to keep the score at 2-0.

Moments later, the entire complexion of the game changed.

Schlegel was booked for a handball just outside the area in the 58th minute. The defender’s arm was out from his body and he was trying to change direction, leaning to block the shot. Although Schlegel was pulling his arm toward his body, and almost got it there, the ball hit it and the Lions couldn’t complain too much about the free kick. However, on the free kick, the delivery by Sebastian Driussi hit Schlegel, who was part of the wall. This time, his arm didn’t appear to be in an unnatural position and he probably knew nothing at all about it. In fact, the shot may have been going wide.

Nevertheless, Dickerson showed Schlegel a second yellow and pointed to the spot. He also booked Orlando’s captain, Pereyra — who suffered four play-breaking fouls in the match, including one in transition, without drawing a yellow card — for dissent. The conversation with Video Assistant Referee Rosendo Mendoza didn’t take very long and Dickerson never went to the monitor himself to take a look.

Driussi took the spot kick right down the middle. Gallese dove to his left but dangled a leg and got a piece of the shot. However, the ball deflected into the roof of the net to pull Austin back to within 2-1 in the 63rd minute.

Up a man and now down only one goal, Austin pressed like crazy for the equalizer, winning a couple of quick corners. On the second of those, Araujo blocked a cross by Ring, who looked to have clipped the young Uruguayan, who lashed out with his boot in retaliation. There wasn’t much contact in it but Ring went down and rolled around. A conversation ensued between Dickerson and Mendoza and this time Dickerson decided to look at the play on the monitor himself. He determined it was a dangerous play by Araujo and sent off the midfielder, putting Orlando City down to nine men with still 21 minutes remaining in normal time.

And, as I said earlier, we’ve seen this movie before. Despite changing players, coaches, and even owners, this keeps happening.

Pareja sent on Tesho Akindele, Kyle Smith, and Jake Mulraney to provide some energy as the shorthanded Lions attempted to see out the match. He withdrew Kara, Pereyra, and Torres.

Mulraney nearly made his presence felt immediately, pressuring the ball high and poking it toward goal, but the shot rolled wide in the 73rd minute.

Two minutes later, Austin Head Coach Josh Wolff sent Djitte for Daniel Pereira, as he no longer had need of a holding midfielder, chasing the game while up two men.

Orlando caught a break when Driussi sent a free header over the bar in the 77th minute, but the Lions’ stayed compact with their nine men and invited crosses rather than giving Austin space to get inside.

Austin tried to get a third Lion sent off when Fagundez tried to hurry Gallese, picking the ball up and walking toward Orlando’s goalkeeper. Jansson stepped between the two players and Fagundez lowered his shoulder and initiated contact. Jansson certainly didn’t get out of his way and lowered his own shoulder at the last second. Fagundez crumpled to the ground to sell a call and did manage to get Dickerson to book Jansson in the 82nd minute.

A minute later, the ball ended up on Fagundez’s foot behind the defense. He beat Gallese with a far-post shot but the ball caromed off of the woodwork and Orlando recovered.

Gallese bought his team some rest with a lengthy delay as the trainers came out to look at him for the second time in the match. But Austin went right back on the attack after that.

A cross in found Djitte unmarked, after the forward had gotten in front of Smith, but his header went over the bar in the 89th minute. A minute after that, Ring had a go from the top of the box and Gallese made a sensational one-armed save to preserve the lead — for the moment anyway.

The fourth official signaled seven minutes of injury time, and Pareja tried to waste some of that with a couple of substitutions, sending Sebas Mendez and Michael Halliday on in separate switches for Urso and Ruan.

Dickerson made his final critical mistake in the fifth minute of stoppage time. A ball into the area was headed off of Djitte’s shoulder and out for an apparent goal kick — but not apparent to Dickerson, who signaled for a corner.

Orlando players were incensed and argued vehemently to no avail. Austin played the corner short and sent a back-post cross in that Djitte got a touch on and knocked into the net to level the game at 2-2 in the 95th minute.

“It’s frustrating, very frustrating, the management of that. Those plays,” Pareja said of the officiating. “When it hurt us the most is when they scored a goal, it was it was a corner that was called that…no way. It was our ball and they called a corner and that’s what frustrates us the most. It’s unbelievable the corner that they gave up. It’s unbelievable. Unbelievable. Unbelievable. Unacceptable for me.”

Orlando looked to have something going moments later. Akindele went straight up and headed an aerial ball, then appeared to have a chance to get in alone on goal when the defender fell. Dickerson, however, saw some kind of infraction on Akindele and gave Austin the ball back.

The 97th minute came and went, then the 98th, and the 99th, before Dickerson finally blew the full-time whistle. Orlando City was probably fortunate to get any kind of result, given the circumstances, but the Lions could have, and should have, come home with three points.

Austin finished with way more possession (71.4%-28.6%), shots (22-12), corners (10-2), and passing accuracy (90.4%-73.1%). Orlando had more shots on target (7-5).

“It was a tough game, but I think we played very well,” Kara said. “And we did good in the first half and also in the beginning of the second half, but the red cards put us from our way, and it was hard decisions from the referee, but yet we still keep fighting. It’s a point away and we’re looking forward.”


The Lions will have a quick turnaround with a Wednesday night home U.S. Open Cup match-up against Inter Miami CF. Schlegel and Araujo will miss Saturday’s match against FC Dallas.

Lion Links

Lion Links: 3/4/24

Lions lose big, Tigres is up next, the USWNT wins, USMNT news, and more.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Merry Monday morning, Mane Landers. No, I’m not feeling very merry either, but it’s a tradition at this point. The good news is that we don’t have to wait long for Orlando City to get a chance to make us forget about Saturday. In an effort to help with that, let’s get to the links, but first, let’s wish Orlando Pride rookie Ally Lemos a happy birthday.

Massacre in Miami

If you’re like me, you turned off Saturday’s Orlando City match at some point. It was easily the worst showing by an Oscar Pareja-coached Orlando City team. Typically, these Lions are mentality monsters and do not give up. I’m not saying that any of the coaches or players will say they did, but the results speak for themselves. I think it best to just put it behind us and move on to the Tigres match, but if you want to revisit it — or if you were fortunate enough not to watch but still want the details — you can read our match recap.

Up Next: Tigres

The early part of the season doesn’t get any easier for Orlando City as the Lions are set to face Liga MX giant Tigres UANL in a Round-of-16 match in Concacaf Champions Cup. Our own Nic Josey touched on the upcoming match. Unlike the previous matches against Cavalry FC, the Lions will play the first leg at home. The match is tomorrow night at 9 p.m. at Inter&Co Stadium. Tigres is coming off a 2-1 loss to Toluca in Liga MX competition. Hopefully, the Lions can shake off the Miami result and take it to Tigres.

USMNT News

It couldn’t happen before the Orlando City match, but Inter Miami is reportedly trading DeAndre Yedlin to FC Cincinnati. Good timing, guys.

In happier news, Malik Tillman scored a very nice goal for PSV against Feyenoord in the 2-2 draw. Tillman made a nifty move through the defender and then slotted it inside the left post.

Tillman isn’t alone in scoring for the Eredivisie club, as both Ricardo Pepi and Sergino Dest have also scored goals this season. In all, the three have 24 goal contributions so far. That ties Mexico for the most by players from another country.

Brentford will be looking to replace departing striker Ivan Toney, and Norwich City striker Josh Sargent is a contender to make the move. Sargent has 11 goals for Norwich so far this season. Christian Pulisic received online death threats after he goaded two Lazio players into receiving red cards in AC Milan’s 1-0 win over the Serie A opponent.

USWNT Rebounds, Blanks Colombia 3-0

The USWNT bounced back from a 2-0 loss to Mexico in the group stage to defeat Colombia 3-0 in a quarterfinal match in the Concacaf W Gold Cup. The U.S. started early with a converted penalty kick by Lindsey Horan. Former Orlando Pride player Alex Morgan drew the foul in the box for the USWNT. Jenna Nighswonger and Jaedyn Shaw added two more goals in the first half. There were no second-half goals, nor were any needed. The U.S. will face Canada in the semifinals on Wednesday.

Free Kicks

  • Xabi Alonso’s Bayern Leverkusen moved 10 points clear atop the Bundesliga after their 2-0 win over Cologne. It’s a little bit funny that Harry Kane made the move to Bayern Munich and the club might not win a trophy because of Leverkusen’s amazing season.
  • NWSL Commissioner Jessica Berman spoke about the growth of women’s soccer in the U.S. amid the joint bid with Mexico for the 2027 Women’s World Cup.
  • In a result that everyone hated other than Manchester City fans, Manchester United wasn’t able to help out the rest of the world, falling 3-1 to City on Sunday.
  • Catarina Macario scored a goal in her first match back from injury in Chelsea’s 4-0 win over Leicester City.
  • The match between Real Madrid and Valencia ended in a 2-2 draw. It also ended on a controversial call when the referee blew the whistle just as Jude Bellingham was scoring what would have been the winning goal.

That will do it for today. Check back for our coverage of the upcoming Tigres and Minnesota United matches later this week. Vamos Orlando!

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Orlando City

Orlando City vs. Inter Miami: Five Takeaways

What did we learn from a thoroughly unenjoyable outing in South Florida?

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Well. Orlando City’s second league game of the season was a thoroughly unenjoyable one, as the Lions got played clean out of South Florida by Inter Miami. As much as I hate to do it, we need to talk about this one, so what follows are my five thoughts from a horrific showing in SoFlo.

Early Mistakes Seal Orlando’s Fate

The Lions barely had a chance to get their feet underneath them before Pedro Gallese was picking the ball out of his net. Cesar Araujo received the ball in Orlando’s defensive third and immediately tried to play a blind pass backwards, but it went straight to a Miami player. Once the ball made its way from Lionel Messi to Julian Gressel to Luis Suarez, the latter made no mistake and scored to put OCSC into an early hole from which it would never recover.

Tough Night for Two Lions

Speaking of mistakes, that wasn’t the only one that Araujo made during this game. Miami’s second goal came as a result of Rodridgo Schlegel getting pulled out of position and Araujo failing to track the run of Suarez, who found it all too easy to fire past Gallese and double the deficit for Orlando. Schlegel was also culpable for the third goal, as he was too slow to step up with the rest of the back line, and prevented the tally from being called back for offside as a result. Almost no player in purple had a good game, but it was a particularly rough night for two guys who are normally so good for OCSC.

Offensively Anemic

The Lions didn’t look bad going forward for a lot of this one. They managed to get the ball into some good areas, but just had trouble getting the final ball right that would lead to a chance. The introduction of Luis Muriel and Nico Lodeiro after halftime helped provide a spark early in the second half, but Orlando ultimately couldn’t find a way through and the score only got more and more lopsided as a result. When OCSC finally did fashion a clear-cut chance for Ramiro Enrique, the forward didn’t place his shot far enough in the corner and Drake Callender made a good save as a result.

Lack of Effort Worsens Scoreline

Somewhere around the 53rd minute, things really started to devolve for the Lions. Multiple turnovers in the team’s own half led to chance after chance for the home team, and Miami eventually made Orlando pay. The fifth goal will make for extremely unpleasant viewing, as Dagur Dan Thorhallsson decided to not close down Suarez on the wing, giving him way too much time to put the ball on a plate for Messi to head home, while the rest of the team took their time jogging back as Miami broke forward in transition. Orlando kept coming forward doggedly, but the lack of effort on display at times at the back was shocking and uncharacteristic to see.

Wake-Up Call

I have no idea what happened in this match. As soon as the first goal went in, almost the entire team looked slow, out-of-sorts, and on its heels when Miami had the ball. That sort of thing is unacceptable in any game, but especially in this particular fixture. Yes, the match against Tigres is looming large on Tuesday, but the lineup Oscar Pareja put out was not one that suggested the Lions were punting on this game to throw everything they had at Tigres. Instead, an almost first-choice XI turned in perhaps the worst performance we’ve ever seen from an Orlando team coached by Oscar Pareja. It’s possible that we’ll look back on this game as the moment that this team came together and kicked onto bigger things, but in order for that to happen the Lions need to take a good, hard, brutally honest look in the mirror.


I’m sorry to say that’s the worst Orlando City performance I’ve seen in a very long time. Thankfully, the season is a long one and the Lions have plenty of time to right the ship and get back to playing in the manner we’re used to seeing. I think we’ll learn a lot about what we should expect from this team on Tuesday against Tigres. OCSC has a chance to respond the right way and make a statement, and you can bet I’ll be looking for one. Until then, vamos Orlando.

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Opinion

Strong Early Season Competition an Opportunity for Growth

Schedule congestion and tough opponents present opportunities for growth.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

It is hard to imagine a more intense start to the season than the Lions have faced competing in both the regular season and the Concacaf Champions Cup at the same time, yet that is exactly the task that the boys in purple find themselves dealing with only days into the season. With both away and home matches already in the books, let’s examine how strong early season competition can be a key factor in the growth of the squad as the season progresses.

For comparison we can look back to one year ago, as thanks to winning the U.S. Open Cup, the Lions found themselves in the Concacaf Champions League for the first time in club history. During their short foray in the 2023 version of the competition, they were matched up against Mexican powerhouse Tigres UANL in a two-leg competition. Orlando did something that many MLS sides can not boast by coming out of the first leg in Mexico without conceding a goal and only failed to advance because of the competition’s away goals rule.

At the time, and even looking back through rose-colored glasses, those two performances demonstrated the quality that Orlando City was ultimately capable of, and it was a form which Orlando showcased in the later stretches of the 2023 season.

This year, once again Orlando is faced with stiff competition throughout its early season matches, which present a grand opportunity to build team chemistry and fortitude that will only truly manifest itself as the season progresses. While Cavalry FC may have not presented much a challenge on the pitch, the logistics of starting a season off thousands of miles away in the Pacific Northwest were challenges that the Lions had to face before a 48-hour turnaround to open the regular season against a CF Montreal side which some are projecting to be a surprise force in the Eastern Conference. Sandwich in the close-out leg against Cavalry in the CCC at home some 72 hours later, and you once again have a recipe for tired legs but early season growth through adversity.

Up next was Saturday’s forgettable trip to square off against archrival Inter Miami. A year ago, Orlando City was one of the only MLS sides to truly frustrate one of the world’s best and unfortunately for players, coaches and fans alike, the first meeting between the rival sides in 2024 ended with a landslide victory for Messi and friends. Still, despite the frustrating loss, there are lessons to be learned and mistakes to correct which can only help the squad grow as the season progresses.

As if all of the schedule congestion was not enough, Orlando learned that its prize for dispatching Cavalry in the CCC was a rematch against Tigres, once again in a two-match, survive-and-advance format. The first game will be played two and a half days after having been beaten down by Miami and the second will come a week later, with yet another MLS regular-season match crammed in between.

All in all, once Orlando City is done facing off against Tigres, the team will have traveled roughly 9,700 miles for matches in the first 21 days of the season and played a match roughly every 60 hours. These matches and the quality of the opponents present Orlando and its players with numerous chances for individual and squad growth, and the experience, especially for still a somewhat young team, is something OCSC can draw upon once the late season and playoff push portion of the calendar arrive. I truly believe this early in the season the importance of the results of the matches come secondary to the opportunities for growth when faced with so many challenges so quickly.


Let us know in the comments below if you think that the early season match ups against quality opponents will ultimately hurt or benefit Orlando City and, as always, vamos Orlando!

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