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Orlando City

Orlando City vs. Inter Miami, U.S. Open Cup: Final Score 1-1 as Lions Advance on Penalties



It was another nerve-wracking U.S. Open Cup penalty shootout after Orlando City and Inter Miami CF drew 1-1 through 120 minutes at Exploria Stadium. The Lions made the most of their spot kicks, winning the shootout 4-2 and needing just four rounds to do it due to a big save by Mason Stajduhar and a miss by USMNT right back DeAndre Yedlin. All of that happened after Jean Mota and Facundo Torres traded goals in the first half of extra time.

The Lions advance to the quarterfinals for the fifth time across the combined USL and MLS eras of the club and will face Nashville SC in the final eight at Exploria Stadium with the date yet to be determined.

“A fantastic performance,” Orlando City Head Coach Oscar Pareja said after the match. “The effort of the players (was) incredible. They just played three days ago, and that courage and that willingness to do things…and I thought we managed the game all the time and had the best of the game. We needed to be finer. We have been fighting with that to be more precise.”

Pareja’s lineup included Stajduhar in goal behind a back line of Kyle Smith, Robin Jansson, Rodrigo Schlegel, and Ruan. Cesar Araujo was joined in the central midfield by Sebas Mendez, behind an attacking line of Junior Urso, Torres, and Alexandre Pato, with Tesho Akindele up top.

The Lions domiated the first 45 minutes but again struggled to finish chances and when they did get everything right, Drake Callender made a couple of big saves to keep them off the scoreboard.

Orlando’s chances started right from the jump when Pato split two defenders and was fouled just to the left side of the penalty area in the first minute. His shot on the ensuing set piece deflected out for a corner. Miami did well to deflect a number of Orlando shots and crosses throughout the opening half. Jansson flicked on the ensuing corner cross from Pato but it was off target.

Ruan had an active first half and his headed cross was knocked behind for a corner in the sixth minute. Moments later, Akindele flicked a pass from Urso wide of goal.

Miami’s first opportunity came 10 minutes in with Gonzalo Higuain getting on the ball but having his shot blocked near the penalty spot.

In the 17th minute, Pato threaded a gorgeous through ball to send Akindele down the left. Tesho held up play and found Araujo on the other side of the area. With a lot of net to shoot at, the midfielder made a mess of either a shot or a cross and the chance evaporated. Four minutes later, the Lions should have scored. Ruan made a fantastic cross to find a late-arriving Smith in the area, but the left back sent his free header over the bar.

Smith sent in a cross to Akindele in the 23rd minute and the forward got his header on target but Callender did well to get over to his near post to make the save.

Miami nearly took the lead against the run of play in the 32nd minute. Miami came forward and all of Orlando’s back line focused on cutting off Higuain. Instead, Indiana Vassiliev was able to sneak in and take a pass to put him in against Stajduhar. The Orlando goalkeeper made a vital save to push it off the post, keeping the game scoreless.

A minute later, Damion Lowe prevented an Orlando goal. Ruan got down the right and sent in a nice cross for Akindele at the far post. Just before the cross arrived, Lowe stuck a leg out and deflected it away.

Miami then got a short spell in the Orlando end. Higuain had another shot blocked and Gregore fired just wide from outside the area in the 36th minute.

Mendez smashed a long-range effort in the 41st minute that forced a good save from Callender. A late chance saw Smith get some space on the left in the box but he sent either a cross or a shot wide of goal and that was it for the opening half. The teams went to the locker room without a goal on the board.

Orlando dominated the stat sheet in the first period, with more possession (67.6%-32.4%), shots (13-5), shots on goal (3-1), corners (7-0), and passing accuracy (87.2%-81.9%). However, the Lions couldn’t put one in the net to take control.

The Lions continued to have the majority of the chances in the second half, while the visitors stayed compact and waited for transition opportunities. Orlando wasted a lot more set pieces in the second half, including a free kick in the first minute after the restart. Just seconds after that, however, Pato fizzed a shot inches over the bar.

On a strange play, Emerson Rodriguez went down outside Orlando’s area to try to get a call on Schlegel but none was made. While Stajduhar was over the ball, Schlegel tried to get Rodriguez to get up and picked up the Miami player, who swung at the Orlando defender. Both players were booked and for some reason Miami was awarded a free kick at that point. Higuain sent the set piece over the bar in the 59th minute.

Both teams made multiple subs in the 60th minute to get fresh bodies on the field but not much changed.

Pato suffered a hard foul but the ref played Orlando’s advantage in the 66th. Unfortunately, Urso botched his header attempt in front, bouncing it out of play.

Four minutes later, Miami got one of those transition opportunities but Robert Taylor fired just wide.

Kara took a free kick in the 72nd after Pato was fouled yet again but the Austrian sent his effort well over the bar on another wasted set piece. Six minutes later, Torres had a go from just outside the area but fizzed his shot just wide of the post. In the 83rd minute, Urso again got his head on a cross — from second-half sub Mauricio Pereyra — but he shot it wide.

Mota got a free look from the top of the box in the 88th minute but fired his shot just over the bar. That was the last good look of normal time and the teams went into extra time still scoreless.

The Lions led in possession (62.3%-37.7%), shots (20-10), shots on goal (3-1), corners (9-2), and passing accuracy (87.4%-82.8%). Nevertheless, the game headed into extra time.

Pereyra had the first good look of the first half of extra time, whistling a shot just over the bar in the 92nd.

Two minutes later, Miami opened the scoring out of nowhere. Mota came up the field and took a pass with substitute midfielder Andres Perea a little late in closing him down. Mota struck his shot hard from the left side toward Stajduhar’s near post and it went in. While there was quite a bit of pace on the shot, it was one the keeper would probably expect to stop. The visitors led 1-0.

“It was not easy to overcome (Sunday’s loss) mentally and that’s why I was wondering how much we were going to mentally last in the game with with that intensity, and that willingness, pushing (forward),” Pareja said. “And even when they scored a goal. It was not an easy moment for our boys to come back.”

The lead lasted three minutes. The Lions made their next foray into the attacking third count, as Pereyra and Torres worked a give-and-go. The ball ended up on Torres’ foot just inside the top of the area. He cut from right to left, cleared a defender and fired a shot just inside the left post to tie the match at 1-1 in the 97th minute.

Much of the rest of the first half of extra time was stop-and-start soccer, with Orlando getting a few set pieces but not doing much with them. Referee Kevin Broadley blew the halftime whistle just as Torres was coming free with the ball at the top of the box.

The Lions got the first good chance of the second half of extra time, when Torres fired a shot from the left toward the back post in the 109th minute. Callender did well to make the save. In the 115th minute, the Lions recycled a cleared corner kick and the second ball in found Jansson, but the Swedish defender’s shot was at the goalkeeper.

The best chance of the extra period’s second half came in stoppage time when substitute Jack Lynn was beaten and Stajduhar came off his line but couldn’t get there. The ball was crossed in to Leonardo Campana in front of goal but the forward’s shot was blocked over the bar by substitute defender Michael Halliday, and the match went to penalties.

“I decided to go. I’m pretty sure I got in touch on it,” Stajduhar said of that final play. “I think it might have hit either my heel or my hip. Then it squeaked in the middle and Mikey made an incredible block and saved the day for us. He didn’t even know he made it after the play.”

Orlando City finished open play with the advantage in possession (64.7%-35.3%), shots (28-12), shots on target (6-3), corners (12-3), and passing accuracy (88.7%-81.9%).

Before the shootout, Adam Grinwis, Stajduhar’s fellow Orlando CIty backup goalkeeper and a previous U.S. Open Cup hero for the Lions had some advice for Mason.

“He always says, ‘Just rock up and be sick,’” Stajduhar said.

Miami won the toss and shot first with Campana taking the first penalty. The forward took a cheeky spot kick, chipping softly down the middle. It beat the diving Stajduhar and hit the crossbar but still deflected in. Ercan Kara answered with a solid penalty inside the right post.

“I asked (Pareja), ‘Can I shoot at first?’ Because I want to show my teammates my self confidence,” Kara said. “I trust myself, and when I score, I’m thinking now everybody has this confidence to score. And I was like, ‘I want to go in front and say trust me, I scored and you will also.”

Bryce Duke shot second for Miami and Stajduhar guessed correctly, going right to save it. Jansson shot second for Orlando and although Callender guessed right and got a piece, it went in anyway.

Yedlin followed for Miami but fired over the bar with barely any run-up. Andres Perea then converted to give Orlando a 3-1 lead after three rounds.

Miami needed to score to stay alive and Ariel Lassiter blasted his spot kick into the net to give the Herons a chance. But Pereyra sent the Lions into the quarterfinals by beating Callender to end the shootout, 4-2 in Orlando’s favor.

Pareja said after the match that he hadn’t planned on playing Torres 90 minutes and he needed to come off just before the penalty shootout due to tightness. We’ll have to wait to see if he’ll be available Saturday against FC Dallas.

“Anytime you get to fight for a trophy, no matter what it is, go as hard as you can for it. And obviously this is do or die in every game,” Stajduhar said. “So, yeah, it means a lot to be able to represent this club and hopefully we can take it another step further versus Nashville in a couple of weeks.”

“We advanced,” Pareja said, summing up the night. “The Cup is important for us. It’s great to see the fans connected. We’ll see how we recover. We know it has been a very taxing night for (the players) but their heart is big and we’re proud of that.”

The Lions have another quick turnaround as they welcome FC Dallas to Exploria Stadium on Saturday night.

Orlando City

Orlando City at Chicago Fire: Five Takeaways

What did we learn from Orlando City’s disappointing draw with the Chicago Fire?



Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Orlando City traveled to the Windy City with a good chance to take home all three points. That wasn’t the case, as the Lions allowed a second-half goal and drew the Chicago Fire 1-1 at Soldier Field. It wouldn’t be an Orlando City match if there wasn’t controversy involving the referee and video review, but we’ll get to that soon enough. What follows are my immediate takeaways from a sloppy and frustrating draw on the road.

Ugly Goals Still Count

It’s been a hot minute since Facundo Torres has scored a goal, but he didn’t have to wait too long in this match to get back on the board. Ivan Angulo and Luis Muriel combined in the attacking midfield to get into the final third with the ball finding Torres in the box. At that point he took too many touches, got closed down, and it became a scrum in front of goal. After the ball pinged in, out, and all around, Torres found himself climbing off the pitch, only to take squib of a shot while falling down that somehow got through the tangle of legs and went into the bottom left corner of the goal. It was ugly, but exactly what Orlando City needed to get things started.

Defensive Holes Evident

I will admit that my prediction was wrong. I thought that the return of Robin Jansson would mean that Oscar Pareja would go back to the 4-2-3-1 formation he usually deployed. Instead, he stayed with the 3-5-2 he’s used the last several matches, with Jansson playing on the left of the three-man back line. Chicago is not a very good attacking team, but the Fire consistently found space in the box, and made Orlando City pay for it in the 70th minute. Good thing there wasn’t a video review decision that impacted the match. Oh wait.

Another Brick in the Wall

Orlando City was once again the victim of poor officiating and inconsistent application of video review in calling penalties. Angulo took a nice pass from Nico Lodeiro, slipped between two Chicago defenders, made his way into the box, made a move around the keeper, and then was fouled…twice. The keeper clipped him, and then the defender fouled him from behind. I thought it was a penalty, the commentators on Apple TV+ thought it was a penalty, and everyone except Fire fans, PRO referees, video assistant referee Edvin Jurisevic, and Don Garber thought it was a penalty. Unfortunately, it’s just another example of the “if it helps Orlando City, it’s not a foul/penalty” that we have seen so many times this season. Not only should it have been a penalty, it should have been a sending off for denial of a goal-scoring opportunity.

Poor Passing

Much of the match, Orlando City looked like a team not on the same page. Too many times players tried to be too clever when making a pass. Too many times the ball was played into spaces allowing a turnover. Too many explicit turnovers. Too many heavy passes, too many light passes — none of it what we expect from this team. Don’t let the 83% team passing percentage fool you. This was a disorganized team when in possession playing against Chicago.

Tired Legs or Tired Minds?

This match was Orlando City’s sixth match of the month. That is a lot of games. I’m not certain that the team looked tired when running, but as I noted above, the passing wasn’t good and that can come from your brain being tired. A tired player will try to do something they shouldn’t, thinking they can, or take too long to do what they should do. How many times did a player take way too much time to even think about taking a shot? Orlando City usually generates plenty of chances on goal. Against Chicago, the Lions only managed eight shots with two on goal. It was all just not crisp enough.

Those are the things I observed in the once-again frustrating draw against the Fire. Let us know in the comments below what stood out to you. As always, vamos Orlando!

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Lion Links

Lion Links: 5/30/24

Orlando City draws on the road, Duncan McGuire called up, Grace Chanda will reportedly sign with the Orlando Pride, and more.



Image courtesy of Orlando Pride

For those of you who watched Orlando City’s game Wednesday night, I hope the universe repays you with good fortune in some way today. The week rolls on though, as we get ready for more Orlando soccer this weekend, along with international friendlies around the world to enjoy. For now though, let’s get to the links!

Orlando City Draws Against the Chicago Fire

The Lions went on the road and had to settle for a 1-1 draw against the Chicago Fire. Neither goal was anything to write home about in a match that was highlighted by sloppy play and yet another controversial refereeing decision the Lions had to deal with. A draw on the road while on short rest generally isn’t the worst result in the world, but it was a poor performance from the Lions. They’ll aim to get back in the winning column this Saturday when they travel to play the New York Red Bulls.

Duncan McGuire Called Up For Training Camp

Orlando City forward Duncan McGuire was one of 25 players called up for the United States Men’s Olympic Soccer Team’s training camp ahead of a friendly with Japan on June 11. McGuire has earned his spot on the team during a solid second season with the Lions that has included five goals. Columbus Crew goalkeeper Patrick Schulte, Koln forward Damion Downs, and LA Galaxy defender Jalen Neal are a few of the other notable players called up. Nashville SC center back Walker Zimmerman is the only player over 23 that was called up for this camp.

Grace Chanda Will Reportedly Join the Pride

An agreement was reportedly reached between the Orlando Pride and Zambian attacker Grace Chanda for her to join the club on a deal through 2025, with an option for 2026 as well. It would be a free transfer, but she would not join the Pride until after the Olympics. Chanda was named to the 2022 Women’s Africa Cup of Nations Best XI and was also on the shortlist for the 2022 Best CAF Women’s Player of the Year Award. The 26-year-old did not play in last year’s World Cup due to an illness, but has come off the bench in Madrid CFF’s past two games. The Pride are having a historic year and Chanda should help them push for a title if she does end up joining her international teammate, Barbra Banda.

Getting to Know Emily Sams

Pride defender Emily Sams is the latest player to field questions as part of the club’s video series for fans to learn more about the players. Sams spoke about the disappointment in how the team’s season ended last year after missing out on the playoffs on a goal differential tiebreaker. She also talked about the team’s aspiration to not only make the playoffs but contend for a title this year. It’s her second season with the Pride and she’s been a key reason why Orlando has done so well so far. Sams discussed what the team’s atmosphere is like, as well as how she likes to spend time outdoors exploring Orlando’s many lakes when not on the field.

Free Kicks

That’s all I have for you today. I hope you all have a wonderful Thursday and rest of your week.

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Orlando City

Orlando City vs. Chicago Fire: Final Score 1-1 as Lions Struggle on the Road

In an ugly road game, the Lions endured another controversy that went against them but ultimately accomplished little against the Fire.



Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

In perhaps the most frustrating match of the season, Orlando City threw away a one-goal lead on the road and drew an abysmal Chicago Fire team 1-1 at Soldier Field. The Lions (4-6-5, 17 points) got an early goal by Facundo Torres but were cut open repeatedly throughout the night and ultimately gave up a soft goal to Hugo Cuypers of the Fire (2-8-6, 12 points) in the second half to split the points.

Orlando City will feel hard done by the officiating crew again after what appeared to be a clear foul on an Ivan Angulo breakaway in the penalty area late in the first half, but the Lions simply didn’t play well enough outside of that to deserve three points.

“A game that we should have won,” Orlando City Head Coach Oscar Pareja said after the match. “I thought we had our opportunities. I thought we had our actions to define the game. We felt that we should have won it.”

Pareja rolled with his 3-5-2 with Pedro Gallese in goal behind a back line of Robin Jansson, Wilder Cartagena, and David Brekalo. Torres and Dagur Dan Thorhallsson played the wingback positions outside a midfield of Nico Lodeiro, Cesar Araujo, and Angulo, with Luis Muriel and Martin Ojeda up top.

Orlando City struggled all night to connect passes, seemingly baffled by the Chicago defense. Passes were often straight at Fire opponents, whether a no-look, one-touch effort or with plenty of time and space and a good view of the field. The striker partnership of Muriel and Ojeda was disjointed, and Ojeda struggled mightily in about every phase of the game on this night.

Still, the Lions took the lead just four minutes in. A good ball into the area by Angulo found Torres in front. The winger didn’t shoot with his first touch and he had a couple of attempts blocked by the defense just above the top of the six. Angulo had a go and his shot was blocked and it shook loose for Torres to take a swipe at. The Uruguayan made contact with the ball and it somehow squirted through the bodies in front and just inside the left post to make it 1-0.

“It was a ball that kind of fell to my right foot, and I was trying to control and finish with my right foot, but it escaped me a little bit,” Torres said. “And then there were about a thousand different situations in which we were trying to get it in, and it didn’t end up falling that way. But then it fell to my left foot in a situation where I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to finish, but thankfully it went in. At the end of the day, it doesn’t help us too much, because we were only able to get the draw, but (I’m) happy to be able to put the ball in the back of the net.”

The hosts were dealt a blow when fullback Andrew Gutman picked up a knock and was replaced in the 12th minute by Arnaud Souquet.

Each team blew a scoring chance over the next few minutes, only to see the flag come up anyway as this match was anything but the beautiful game.

Chicago couldn’t take advantage of Araujo and Cartagena both failing to clear their lines in the 21st minute when Cuypers sent a shot just inches wide of the left post. After Orlando did little more than get a blocked Angulo shot on a pair of consecutive corner kicks, Chicago got forward again and Brian Gutierrez shot from outside the area. Lodeiro got a foot on the attempt and it made for an easy scoop for Gallese.

Angulo blazed by the entire Fire defense in the 31st minute and with two teammates to his left, only he’ll know for sure if his final ball was a terrible shot or a bad pass. It ended up serving as neither.

Orlando’s defense had shaky moments throughout the match. Tom Barlow had a free header at the near post on a corner kick in the 32nd minute but missed the target badly. Five minutes later, Souquet got in on goal but fired his shot over the net.

The defense was cut open in the 42nd minute, allowing Federico Navarro to get into the box, but Gallese was there to make a vital save.

For the second straight game, an inexplicable call denied Orlando City a penalty, and this time there wasn’t even a potential foul on the other end to offer up any way to justify it. In fact, nothing could explain it away. Angulo was played in behind the defense by Lodeiro in stoppage time and was alone on goalkeeper Chris Brady. As he rounded Brady and prepared to slot the ball into an empty net, Angulo was clipped from behind in his trailing leg by Navarro and couldn’t maintain his balance after that contact and one additional bundle from behind. It seemed like a clear and obvious denial of a goal-scoring opportunity.

However, after a lengthy delay, video assistant referee Edvin Jurisevic determined that referee Malik Badawi did not make a clear and obvious error. Badawi did not go look at the play himself.

“We should have scored that one,” Pareja said. “I can’t understand why it’s not a PK. Surely if I go with all that I should say today I will be fined or something, but it’s inexcusable for the referee not to give us that PK. The guy came from behind him and pushed him. It was a clear PK.

“First and foremost, I think it was a penalty, and I said that (on the field), but at the end of the day you have to live with the decisions of the referee. Some referees would think that that was an error and go back and fix it. This referee didn’t think that there was an error, so we just continued to play, and that’s how it goes.”

The Lions instead had a corner and were called for a foul on the play.

Chicago finished the first half with the advantage in possession (51.4%-48.6%), shots (11-6), and passing accuracy (84.7%-84.6%), while the Lions had more shots on target (2-1), and corners (3-2).

The Lions looked a bit more lively in the opening minutes of the second half, but after about 15 minutes, Chicago looked in control of the match. Orlando won some set pieces early in the half but did nothing with them.

Brekalo bailed Angulo out in the 68th minute after the latter turned the ball over in his own half, leading to a transition chance. The Slovenian defender made a good play to take it away from Cuypers and end the threat.

Muriel got down the left a minute later but instead of shooting with his left foot, he tried to cut back to his right and was dispossessed. It was a costly blown chance because the Fire tied the game on its ensuing possession.

Chicago’s equalizer started at midfield and quickly cycled to the left. Brekalo came out to challenge the ball with plenty of help behind him, but both Cartagena and Thorhallsson reacted too slowly and Souquet got in behind. The substitute centered the ball to Cuypers who got across the front of Jansson and hit a weak shot toward goal that was back toward the direction from which Gallese came. The Peruvian wasn’t able to stop his motion cleanly and the ball dribbled under his outstretched arm and into the net.

The Lions were fortunate not to go behind off their own set piece in the 75th minute. Ojeda left the free kick cross too close to Brady, who punched it well out of his box. It fell kindly to a Fire teammate and the break was on. Orlando was completely disorganized, leaving two opponents wide open on the right. Chicago reacted too slowly, but eventually worked the ball to Jonathan Dean at the top of the area but the right back shot just wide.

Two minutes after that miss, Orlando should have taken the lead. Torres got down the left and put in an inch-perfect cross to Muriel at the back post. The Colombian had a free header but drove it straight at Brady for a comfortable save in the 77th minute.

In the late going, Orlando appeared content with one point on the road against one of the league’s worst teams. Chicago nearly made the Lions pay for that, creating several chances down the stretch. Gutierrez sent a curling shot from the left just wide of Gallese’s far post in the 79th minute. Fabian Herbers shanked a shot from a dangerous spot in the 85th minute and Carlos Teran’s free header was wide on the recycled ball.

Orlando’s last look at goal came in the 91st minute, when substitute Ramiro Enrique made a great play to poke the ball past his opponent and into space for him to run onto. Enrique blazed into the attacking third, cut to his right to clear himself a path to goal, and then fizzed a shot just over the bar.

That was the last decent sight of goal for either side and the game ended in a stalemate.

Chicago finished with the advantage in possession (52.2%-47.8%), shots (18-8), and corners (6-4). The Lions passed slightly more accurately (83.6%-83%), and both teams put two shots on target.

“There’s no excuses,” Torres said. “It was the responsibility of ourselves, especially given the way that we started to maintain control the ball and to play within our game, and when we weren’t doing that, that’s when Chicago was able to really grow into the game and believe in themselves. And this team takes nothing but responsibility for the result tonight.”

“Like always, we’re trying to recover, trying to get feedback from the game, and trying to prepare for the next rival,” Pareja said. “For us it’s important that we can keep our mind calm and see the things we need to get better. Obviously today we wanted the three points, but we’ll take this one. It’s what we should do and then prepare for New York.”

Orlando City has another quick turnaround with a match looming Saturday night at the New York Red Bulls.

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