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Intelligence Report: Orlando City vs. FC Dallas

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Orlando City did well to rebound midweek against Inter Miami CF, and now the Lions look to keep the good vibes going at home when FC Dallas comes to town.

A visit from Dallas means that I spoke to Drew Epperley, managing editor of SBNation’s Big D Soccer, and he blessed us with some excellent info on Dallas ahead of this weekend’s game. You can find my answers to his questions over at their place.

Jesus Ferreira has been on a white-hot run of scoring form to start the season. What’s been working so well for him?

Drew Epperley: I think there are a couple of factors for Jesus that are working for him at the moment. For starters, the system Nico Estevez runs actually fits his play very well even though he isn’t a traditional striker by some folk standards. Jesus has an ability in and around the penalty box to create something out of nothing, and his finishing ability has really improved this season as well. Secondly, he’s no longer having to be the guy that facilitates the attack as we saw in the last couple of seasons under Luchi Gonzalez. He has guys like Paxton Pomykal, Paul Arriola, Alan Velasco, and even his fullbacks like Nanu, Ema Twumasi, and Marco Farfan helping set up his chances in front of the net. Lastly, I think it is his personality that is truly driving all of this improvement. He wants to be a legend like his dad was at this club and he is working even harder now that he has a Designated Player contract to his name too. 

Alan Velasco and Paul Arriola were the two big incoming transfers for Dallas. How have they performed so far?

DE: Both have been great to be honest and we’re just now scratching the surface of what they’ll truly be for this team. I mentioned that their service to Ferreira has been big, but they’re both also finding ways to contribute on their own too. Velasco has been every bit of the hype that he came into Dallas with from Argentina. He can score on set pieces, he can create on his own and he looks like an absolute terror for defenses every time he touches the ball. Arriola is showing that he can contribute to goals and contribute goals of his own. Right now, he is on a four-game goal-scoring streak. While both were expensive purchases for FC Dallas, both have been worth it so far in 2022. 

Dallas has stumbled in the last couple weeks, with three losses in the last four games. Do you think the congested schedule of those four matches coming within 13 days has played a big part in that, or is there something else going on?

DE: Depth is still going to be a major part of any team this season and I’d wager to say that as good as Dallas’ first-choice lineup has been this season, their second group isn’t as strong just yet. Some guys, like Franco Jara or Jader Obrian, are really better role players off the bench in my book, while the defense was getting hit by the injury bug a bit over these last couple of weeks. Since the club has no more U.S. Open Cup games left on its schedule, the congestion won’t be all that bad from here on out this season, which should help. 

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

DE: Right now, the team is pretty healthy despite a couple of players having to enter the health and safety protocols these last couple of weeks. Everyone should be out of that going into this weekend’s game and the four players called into international duty will leave after this game, which should give Esteves his first-choice lineup again for the first time since the beginning of the month. 

Estevez has been using a 4-3-3 formation this season that should look like this:

Maarten Paes; Ema Twumasi, Matt Hedges, Jose Martinez, Marco Farfan; Facundo Quignon, Paxton Pomykal, Brandon Servania; Paul Arriola, Jesus Ferreira, Alan Velasco.

I think a good result for FC Dallas in this one is getting back to its strengths on defense and finding another result away from home. A 1-1 draw seems doable here. 


Big thanks to Drew for the information on Dallas. Vamos Orlando!

Orlando City

Orlando City vs. D.C. United: Preview, How to Watch, TV Info, Live Stream, Lineups, Match Thread, and More

The Lions look for their first road result of the season when they visit Audi Field.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC

Welcome to your match thread for a Saturday night matchup between Orlando City and D.C. United at Audi Field (7:30 p.m., MLS Season Pass on Apple TV+). This is the first of the two scheduled MLS matches this season between the Lions (1-3-2, 5 points) and the Black and Red (2-1-4, 10 points). D.C. United will make the return trip to Orlando on Saturday, July 6.

Here’s what you need to know ahead of the match.

History

The Lions are 6-9-2 against D.C. in the all-time league series since the club joined MLS, and 6-9-3 in all competitions. Orlando is just 2-5-1 in MLS road matches against D.C. and 2-5-2 away to United in all competitions. The Black and Red have managed four consecutive results in the series (3-0-1), while Oscar Pareja is 5-6-2 in his managerial career against D.C.

The last meeting between the teams came in Orlando on April 22, 2023, with D.C. scoring twice in the second half to snap a 1-1 deadlock and win, 3-1. Taxiarchis Fountas, Donovan Pines, and Christian Benteke scored for D.C. to more than offset Duncan McGuire’s strike.

These teams squared off in D.C. just a few weeks before that in D.C., splitting the points in a 1-1 draw at Audi Field on March 11. McGuire scored his first MLS goal but Chis Durkin leveled things late in a match that was sandwiched between Orlando City’s two legs of Concacaf Champions League play against Tigres UANL.

D.C. swept the season series in 2022, despite being a terrible team that “won” the league’s Wooden Spoon by no small margin. The meeting in D.C. that year took place July 31 and saw Orlando City dominate the first half but miss multiple glorious chances to put the game away early. The Lions were wasteful and took only a 1-0 lead into stoppage time, thanks to Junior Urso’s first-half goal, only to fall 2-1 on stoppage-time strikes by Durkin and Fountas.

The teams also met on Independence Day at Exploria Stadium, with D.C. putting together a performance out of nowhere in a 5-3 road win. Fountas netted his first MLS hat trick and Kimarni Smith and Nigel Robertha added their first goals of the season. Facundo Torres, Ercan Kara, and Alexandre Pato scored for Orlando, threatening to bring the Lions back, but Orlando could never get on level terms.

The teams met twice in 2021, including Oct. 2 at Exploria Stadium. Daryl Dike scored deep in stoppage to lift the Lions to a 2-1 home victory. Robin Jansson scored a first-half goal off a corner kick scramble to offset an early Julian Gressel strike. The first match of 2021 took place on May 16 in D.C., with the Lions winning 1-0 on an early Mauricio Pereyra goal. That win snapped United’s 3-0-1 streak in the series in league play and 3-0-2 in all competitions dating back to City’s previously most recent win over D.C. back in 2017.

The teams did not meet in what was an odd 2020 season.

D.C. United swept the season series in 2019, winning 1-0 at Audi Field back on June 26, 2019. Wayne Rooney’s wondergoal from his own half of the pitch caught Brian Rowe napping and served as the only scoring in that match. The Lions fell 2-1 at home on March 31, 2019, with set pieces ruining the night for Orlando. You might recall the controversy that surrounded the winning goal, with then-coach James O’Connor visibly upset after the match. Steve Birnbaum scored the first on a set piece and Rooney scored the second on a free kick that he took from wherever the hell he wanted rather than where the foul occurred. Frederic Brillant bulldozed Rowe on the play as the ball sailed into the net.

D.C. was 1-0-2 in three total meetings (two in league play) in 2018. Orlando swept the two league meetings in 2017, the teams split two lopsided games in 2016 — with each team winning at home — and the Black and Red went 2-1-0 in the first three meetings back in 2015.

Match Overview

Orlando City is coming off an unsatisfying 1-1 draw against the New York Red Bulls at home two weeks ago. The overall performance was good, but the Lions continue to waste scoring chances and make mistakes in their own end. Kyle Smith conceded a penalty, allowing Lewis Morgan to score from the spot. The Lions got an own goal late to at least claim a point when the combination of Ivan Angulo’s wicked cross and Jack Lynn’s run forced Noah Eile to deflect the ball past his own goalkeeper. Orlando has at least managed two straight results (1-0-1).

However, the Lions have been dreadful away from home to start the season. Orlando City is 0-2-0 after two road matches, getting outscored 7-0 in visits to Inter Miami and Atlanta United.

D.C. is off to a solid start to the season under Head Coach Troy Lesesne. The Black and Red are 1-0-2 in their last three matches, including a 1-1 draw at defending champion Columbus a week ago. D.C.’s only loss came at home, however, as the club is 2-1-0 at Audi Field in 2024. That loss came against Inter Miami on March 16.

The Lions will need to be aware of where Christian Benteke is at all times. The former Crystal Palace, Liverpool, and Aston Villa man leads D.C. in goals (5), shots (23), and shots on target (11). D.C. looks for him often and from everywhere, and he’ll be a handful on set pieces. Polish international Mateusz Klich is another D.C. player that Orlando City will need to keep an eye on. Klich has a goal and a pair of assists on the year.

“I’ve seen a [D.C. United] team that’s very organized,” Orlando City Head Coach Oscar Pareja said. “[Lesesne] has modeled the defense. I recognize in prior matches with him and his systems. But the nature of his players, D.C.’s players are dynamic, organized, and very bold defensively. I’ve seen the games they’ve played this season and I notice they are a team that is organized, and we have to be organized.”

The only player on Orlando City’s availability report heading into the weekend is Ramiro Enrique (ankle), who remains out. D.C. lists Steven Birnbaum (knee), Russell Canouse (unspecified non-injury reason), Theodore Ku-Dipietro (hip), and Tyler Miller (shoulder) as out for the match, while Garrison Tubbs (thigh) is listed as questionable.

Mandatory Match Content


Projected Lineups

Orlando City (4-2-3-1)

Goalkeeper: Pedro Gallese.

Defenders: Rafael Santos, Robin Jansson, David Brekalo, Dagur Dan Thorhallsson.

Defensive Midfielders: Cesar Araujo, Wilder Cartagena.

Attacking Midfielders: Ivan Angulo, Facundo Torres, Martin Ojeda.

Forward: Duncan McGuire.

D.C. United (4-2-3-1)

Goalkeeper: Alex Bono.

Defenders: Connor Antley, Lucas Bartlett, Christopher McVey, Aaron Herrera.

Defensive Midfielders: Jackson Hopkins, Mateusz Klich.

Attacking Midfielders: Cristian Dajome, Gabriel Pirani, Jared Stroud.

Forward: Christian Benteke.

Referees

REF: Guido Gonzales Jr.
AR1: Adam Garner.
AR2: Justin Howard.
4TH: Joshua Encarnacion.
VAR: David Barrie.
AVAR: Joshua Patlak.


How to Watch

Match Time: 7:30 p.m.

Venue: Audi Field — Washington, D.C.

TV/Streaming: MLS Season Pass on Apple TV+.

Radio: FM 96.9 The Game (English), Mega 97.1 FM (Spanish).

Twitter: For rapid reaction and live updates, follow along at @TheManeLand, as well as Orlando City’s official Twitter feed (@OrlandoCitySC).


Enjoy the match. Go City!

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Flashback Friday: April 13, 2018 — Orlando City vs. Philadelphia Union

Hop in the time machine as we reminisce about a classic Orlando City game from six years ago.

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Carlos Romero, The Mane Land

During the two-week break we’ve had since Orlando City’s last competitive match, I’ve had some time to go back and revisit some of the matches that the team has played in the past. What better thing to do when considering the heavy emphasis that the club has placed on its 10th season as a member of Major League Soccer?

So, before the Lions take on D.C. United tomorrow, let’s hop in the time machine and reminisce about a game that OCSC played six years ago — almost to the day.

The date was Saturday, April 13, 2018, and the Lions found themselves on the road in Philadelphia. The Jason Kreis-coached team had won two games on the bounce and entered the contest with a record of 2-2-1 (7 points), while the Union sat at 1-1-2 (5 points). The Orlando team sheet on the day looked wildly different from what we’re used to seeing these days, as no one on that gameday roster is still with the club. Kreis deployed his team in a 4-2-3-1, which will be plenty familiar to Orlando fans by now, but that was where the similarities ended.

Philadelphia’s XI had a few familiar faces however, with Andre Blake in goal, Jack Elliot at center back, Matt Real at left back, and Alejandro Bedoya in midfield.

The Union began the game strong, with Keegan Rosenberry getting off a shot from long distance, and David Accam beating RJ Allen down the right and delivering a dangerous cross that fortunately didn’t have any teammates attacking it. Despite the slow start, Orlando almost opened the scoring just inside 10 minutes when Amro Tarek had a shot cleared off the line after being picked out by Yoshi Yotun from a corner.

Philadelphia continued to be dangerous, and Orlando’s task got more difficult when Allen went down with a hamstring issue in the 21st minute. The Lions were already missing Jonathan Spector through concussion and Scott Sutter with the dreaded lower body injury, so Cristian Higuita entered the fray while Will Johnson moved to right back.

The Lions’ resilience paid dividends a few minutes before halftime. Dom Dwyer timed a perfect run to stay level with Real, and Sacha Kljestan delivered him the ball by way of an outstanding lifted pass. Dwyer showed outstanding invention to settle the pass using his back, and then turned to curl the ball beyond Blake for the game’s first goal and the 99th of his career.

The goal seemed to unlock something in the good guys, as the first-half-fun didn’t end there. The second goal of the night had a bit of fortune to it, as Chris Mueller collected the ball in midfield and drove toward the box. A heavy touch meant he lost the ball, but Philadelphia couldn’t clear its lines and the ball came right back to him off the foot of Elliot. From there, it was a simple matter of taking a touch to settle himself and then firing low and hard past Blake and into the far corner.

The Lions took that 2-0 lead into halftime, but after the restart they once again found the Union streaming forward toward their goal. Bendik made his second big save of the night in the 53rd minute from a Fafa Picault shot, and it wasn’t the last time he was called on, as he denied Bedoya in the 62nd minute.

Justin Meram provided some moments of danger as the half wore on, and probably should have had an assist as the clock struck 90 minutes, but Dwyer fired his shot off target. Bendik had to make one big final save in the 94th minute to stop Borek Dockal’s effort, and when the whistle blew for full time the Lions’ had escaped with a 2-0 win.

The home side finished with 55% of the ball to Orlando’s 45%, and outshot OCSC by a whopping 20-8, but a lack of clinical finishing proved to be the Union’s undoing (sound familiar?).

That win meant the good guys had won three on the bounce, and a strong start to the season continued as that streak ultimately stretched all the way to six victories in a row. Sadly, the good vibes didn’t last. The last league win of that six-game streak came on May 6 in a 3-1 home victory over Real Salt Lake, and then the bottom fell out. The Lions lost nine straight league games, Kreis lost his job after the sixth of those losses, and Orlando only won two more league games for the remainder of the season.


Ultimately, the 2018 season proved to be the most difficult that the club has endured since joining MLS. OCSC’s total of 28 points is the lowest that the team has ever finished with in a season, and only a truly woeful San Jose side prevented the Lions from claiming the Wooden Spoon. Still, the win over Philadelphia — and the win streak that it was part of — were bright spots early in the year, and it’s always fun to look back on those. With a little luck, the Lions will get a similar result on the road against D.C. United tomorrow. Vamos Orlando!

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Lion Links: 4/12/24

Orlando Pride play in Utah tonight, Orlando City B earns a point, Europa League quarterfinals begin, and more.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City B

Happy Friday! I hope this week has gone smoothly for you as we gear up for even more Orlando soccer tonight and tomorrow. It should be a nice next few days, even if I’m working for most of it. I don’t have many plans outside of work beyond bonding with my cat and trying a new stuffed bread recipe. Let’s dive into today’s links from around the soccer world!

Orlando Pride Play the Utah Royals Tonight

The Orlando Pride are on the road tonight for a showdown with the Utah Royals at 9:30 p.m., and you can catch the game on NWSL+ or through Bally Sports if you’re local. Although the Royals are an expansion team this year, the Pride last squared off against the previous Royals back in 2019, with Orlando losing all three games to Utah that season. This season, the Pride are riding a three-game unbeaten streak. However, they are also still on the hunt for their first win after three consecutive draws. While the offense awaits the arrival of Zambian striker Barbra Banda, the Pride have managed to score off of a set piece in each of their three games so far. While a draw on the road wouldn’t be awful by any means, hopefully the Pride can get a solid tally in the win column tonight.

Orlando City B Draws Philadelphia Union II

OCB went on the road to take on Philadelphia Union II and earned a single point after a 1-1 draw and penalty shootout. The two teams traded goals in the first half, but the Young Lions were on the back foot for most of the second half. While Orlando’s offense sputtered, the defense survived chance after chance from Philadelphia to send the game to a shootout. Orlando lost the lengthy shootout, 7-6, claiming just one point, but at least the Young Lions didn’t leave Pennsylvania empty handed. Hopefully OCB can return to its winning ways when it faces off with Crown Legacy FC on April 19.

New York City FC Stadium Plans Finally Approved

Plans to build a soccer-specific stadium in Queens for new grounds for New York City FC were approved by New York City officials. It will be a $780 million stadium expected to open in 2027 and serves as the centerpiece of a redevelopment project in the neighborhood. The 25,000-seat stadium will be right next to Citi Field, which has been one of the many home venues for NYCFC over the years since joining as an expansion side alongside Orlando City in 2015. It’s a bit wild that this stadium is set to open 10 years after Orlando christened its own soccer-specific stadium back in 2017. At least the Lions won’t have to play road games at baseball stadiums for much longer.

Europa League Quarterfinals Kick Off

The Europa League quarterfinals are underway, with the remaining eight teams squaring off in the first legs of their matchups. In England, Atalanta leaned on a brace from Gianluca Scamacca and stellar defense to win 3-0 against Liverpool. Bayer Leverkusen’s unbeaten streak stretched to 42 games after it beat West Ham United 2-0, thanks to a pair of late goals. The first match between Italian clubs AC Milan and Roma went to the visitors, as Roma scored early on and held on for a 1-0 win at San Siro. The only quarterfinal that wasn’t a shutout took place in Portugal, with Benfica beating Marseille, 2-1. The second legs will all take place at the same time next week, which should make for an exciting Thursday afternoon of soccer.

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That’s all I have for you today. I hope you all have a fantastic Friday and rest of your weekend!

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