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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 vs. CF Montreal: Three Keys to Victory

What does Orlando City need to do to earn all three points against CF Montreal this Saturday in Exploria Stadium?



Dan MacDonald, The Mane Land

Orlando City hosts CF Montreal in the second-to-last home match of the 2023 MLS regular season at Exploria Stadium this Saturday night. The Lions have already secured a spot in the playoffs but are now fighting for home field advantage. Montreal is currently sitting in eighth place in the Eastern Conference and is fighting for a playoff spot.

What does Orlando City need to do to secure three important points against the Canadian Club Foots?

Time to Make the Donuts

It had been a minute since Duncan McGuire scored a goal for Orlando City — and by a minute I mean since July 29. McGuire had a few opportunities against Inter Miami and managed to get one to equalize for the Lions and ensure a point at home. I do think he might have scored on another of those chances if he was fully back in form after his injury time, but I’ll take the goal. 

My hope is that getting that goal will remind him that he can score goals when given the opportunity, and he will be better about finishing the chances he gets against Montreal. Sometimes it just takes getting that first goal to open up the muscle memory and to unlock the confidence needed in a striker. It’s time for Duncan to score more goals, and the match against Montreal is the first and best opportunity to do so since Montreal starting center back Joel Waterman will be serving a red card suspension.

Switch up the Lineup

I propose a change to the starting lineup — something Oscar Pareja does not do very often. Due to injuries and other factors such a move wasn’t possible earlier in the season, but I think it could work now. I have a ton of respect for Mauricio Pereyra, but he could probably use a rest to be fresh for the playoffs as the regular season winds down. 

I suggest letting Martin Ojeda get the start in the 10 spot, moving Dagur Dan Thorhallsson up the wing, and having Michael Halliday take over at right back. Ojeda’s play as of late has been much improved, and with Halliday healthy again, why not take advantage of Dagur Dan’s versatility along the wing. I think this move provides energy, a surprise for opposing defenses, and allows Facundo Torres more freedom. 

Same Old Effective Defense

Orlando City’s defense has only allowed 37 goals this season — which is good enough to tie for sixth place in the Eastern Conference. On the flip side, Montreal has only scored 30 goals so far — which is only better than Toronto at 24 goals. Montreal has a goal differential of -15.If the Lions play their normally solid defense in front of the outstanding goalkeeping of Pedro Gallese, Montreal should not get too many opportunities to score. There’s no doubt that we will see Robin Jansson and Rodrigo Schlegel paired together with Rafael Santos on the left and either Dagur Dan — or Michael Halliday as I suggested — on the right. Cesar Araujo and Wilder Cartagena can stop most attacks before they get to the back line. If Orlando City plays defense as well as the club did against Miami, things should be fine.

That is what I will be looking for this Saturday as the Lions take on the boys from North of the border. Vamos Orlando!

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Lion Links

Lion Links: 9/28/23

Ajax is reportedly scouting Facundo Torres, Orlando Pride focus on upcoming matches, Houston Dynamo win U.S. Open Cup, and more.



Dan MacDonald, The Mane Land

How’s it going, Mane Landers? I hope this work week has gone smoothly for you as we get ready to bid farewell to September. It’s been a hectic week for me, but I started and then promptly devoured all of Fourth Wing by Rebecca Yarros. It was a nice read, albeit a bit intense at times. I’m not sure what I’ll read next as most of my reading list is packed up for a move, but if you have any recommendations then let me know in the comments below. Let’s dive into today’s links!

Ajax Reportedly Interested in Facundo Torres

Orlando City forward Facundo Torres has reportedly garnered the interest of Dutch club Ajax according to Fabrizio Romano.

It’s not too surprising that Ajax, which currently sits in 14th in the Eredivisie with just seven goals from five games, has scouts keeping tabs on Torres. The 23-year-old has scored 12 goals this season, powering Orlando to second in the Eastern Conference. It wouldn’t be the first time Torres has received attention from European clubs and likely won’t be the last as he continues to impress with the Lions

Orlando Pride Focus During Playoff Push

The Orlando Pride are back in action on Monday for a crucial road match with Angel City FC. Both teams have 25 points this season, one point from the sixth and final playoff spot currently held by the Washington Spirit. It will be the first of three remaining games for the Pride this season, with matches against fellow playoff hopefuls Racing Louisville and the Houston Dash set for later in October. As a result, there’s not much margin for error if the Pride wish to make the playoffs and Kylie Strom talked about how the team is focused for these games.

MLS NEXT Pro Playoffs Begin This Weekend

The first round of the MLS NEXT Pro playoffs kicks off this weekend with six matches that can all be watched on MLS Season Pass. Unlike last year, Orlando City B will be taking part and is set to face off with Columbus Crew 2 on Sunday at 5:30 p.m. Although the Young Lions have struggled on the road against Columbus, Jack Lynn and Shak Mohammed can make things difficult for the hosts. Hopefully we’ll see OCB make Columbus regret its choice of opponent in the postseason. I like the wrinkle and mind games to the playoffs the new rule gave and am interested to see which of the lower seeds plays with a chip on their shoulder. The playoffs begin on Friday when Sporting Kansas City II hosts Austin FC II in a battle between the third and fourth seeds of the Western Conference.

Houston Dynamo Win U.S. Open Cup

The Houston Dynamo have lifted the U.S. Open Cup trophy after winning 2-1 on the road against Inter Miami. A pair of goals in the first half were enough for Houston to win its second U.S. Open Cup title after also winning in 2018. A goal in stoppage time from Josef Martinez made things interesting, but the Dynamo defense did well to secure the win and deny Miami its second tournament title this year. It was a strong end to a solid tournament campaign from the Dynamo, as they beat four MLS sides before taking down Miami in the final.

Albertin Montoya Hired as Bay FC Head Coach

Ahead of its inaugural NWSL season next year, Bay FC named Albertin Montoya as the club’s first head coach. Montoya, who has lived in California for most of his life, served as the interim coach for the Washington Spirit in 2022 and also coached the U.S. U-17 women’s national team in 2011. Bay FC General Manager Lucy Rushton spoke on how Montoya’s name came up often while the club searched for a head coach, as well as how his skill at developing players will help build the club’s foundation.

Free Kicks

  • Orlando City Head Coach Oscar Pareja called for the supporters to continue filling Exploria Stadium and pushing the Lions forward for the team’s remaining home games this season.
  • St. Louis City midfielder Njabulo Blom won MLS Goal of the Week for his winner against Minnesota United. It was also the 23-year-old’s first professional goal.

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

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Lion Links

Lion Links: 9/27/23

Orlando City falls in power rankings, OCB will take on Columbus Crew 2 in MLS NEXT Pro playoffs, U.S. Open Cup final preview, and more.



Dan MacDonald, The Mane Land

Hello, Mane Landers. I hope all is well with you down in Florida. There’s not much new with me, I’m just staying busy at work lately and hoping to catch some soccer this weekend. There is plenty to cover today, so let’s get to the links.

Orlando City Drops Two Spots in Power Rankings

The latest MLS power rankings have been released and Orlando City fell two spots to fourth. The Lions lost their midweek matchup 2-0 on the road against New York City FC last Wednesday and closed out the weekend with a 1-1 draw against rival Inter Miami at Exploria Stadium. It wasn’t all bad this past week for the Lions, as Duncan McGuire scored his 11th goal of the year across all competitions. Despite losing to NYCFC a week ago, the Lions remain in second place in the Eastern Conference and are two points ahead of the Columbus Crew, Philadelphia Union, Atlanta United, and the New England Revolution.

OCB Will Take On Columbus Crew 2 in MLS NEXT Pro Playoffs

Orlando City B’s opponent for the first round of the MLS NEXT Pro playoffs was announced on Tuesday, as it will go on the road to take on defending champion Columbus Crew 2 on Oct. 1 at Historic Crew Stadium. As part of the new playoff format that lets higher seeds choose their opponents, Columbus chose to host OCB in the quarterfinals. The Young Lions closed out their regular season this past weekend with a 2-1 win against FC Cincinnati and finished fifth in the Eastern Conference. The Columbus Crew 2 finished its regular season with a 3-2 win against Atlanta United 2 to place third. The clubs split the regular season series, with OCB winning 4-1 on Aug. 27 and Columbus winning 4-0 on May 14. The conference semifinals will be on the following weekend, and the MLS NEXT Pro Cup final is set for Oct. 22.

U.S. Open Cup Final Preview

The 2023 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup will conclude tonight with the final at DRV PNK Stadium as Inter Miami takes on the Houston Dynamo. The match will kick off at 8:30 p.m. and you can watch the match on Paramount+ or CBS Sports Network. Inter Miami’s journey included edging out Nashville SC 2-1 in the Round of 16 and needing to go all the way to penalties to knock out FC Cincinnati after a thrilling 3-3 draw in the semifinals. The Houston Dynamo began their run with a pair of 1-0 wins against the Tampa Bay Rowdies and Sporting Kansas City. Since the Round of 16, the Dynamo cruised past Minnesota United, the Chicago Fire, and Real Salt Lake to get to the final. Houston was on a seven-match unbeaten run before losing to Sporting Kansas City this past weekend. The Dynamo will look to add another U.S. Open Cup title after winning it back in 2018. Lionel Messi will reportedly be a game-time decision for tonight’s final after he didn’t play in Miami’s draw with Orlando.

Spain Wins First Home Match Since World Cup Victory

Spain’s women’s national team won its first match since lifting the World Cup trophy last month, cruising to a 5-0 win against Switzerland in a UEFA Nations League matchup. After dealing with the fallout of former Spanish FA president Luis Rubiales and players boycotting call-ups to the national team before a deal was reached last week, the team wore wristbands that read “Se Acabo,” meaning “this is over,” and players from both teams held a banner with the same phrase before the match. Spain celebrated its win in front of a record-breaking crowd of 14,194 fans that came out to support the team at Nuevo Arcangel Stadium.

Free Kicks

  • Carrie Lawrence and the Orlando Pride were hard at work preparing for the match on Monday against Angel City FC.
  • Angel City exercised its club option to extend former Pride forward Sydney Leroux’s contract through the end of the 2024 NWSL season.
  • The Canadian Women’s National Team defeated Jamaica 4-1 on aggregate to book a spot in next summer’s Olympics.
  • The Seattle Sounders have unveiled their new crest for next year.

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

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