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Orlando City vs. FC Cincinnati: Final Score 1-0 as Toothless Lions are Swept in Season Series

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Orlando City lost on the road for just the second time in 2022 at TQL Stadium — a place that has been more than kind to visitors since it opened. FC Cincinnati (7-7-2, 23 points) got a second-half goal from Brenner to lift the hosts to just their third home win this season, 1-0 over the toothless Lions (7-6-4, 25 points). FC Cincinnati improbably swept the season series after never tasting victory previously against Orlando.

A win would have lifted the Lions to the top of the conference but instead, the Lions reached the halfway point of the season in a precarious position due to having played more games than the teams around them in the standings. That includes Cincinnati, which pulled within two points of Orlando with a game in hand.

“I thought it was a game full of inconvenience for us,” Orlando City Head Coach Oscar Pareja said after the game. “We were trying to overcome from warmups with the needs of changing players and things needed to adapt according to our game plan. But with that situation I thought we had a decent first half when we tried to control the ball with not much ambition moving forward, but in certain ways we controlled the ball. That’s something that we like.”

Pareja’s lineup included goalkeeper Pedro Gallese behind a back line of Thomas Williams, Rodrigo Schlegel, Kyle Smith, and Ruan. Cesar Araujo and Junior Urso were deployed in the central midfield behind an attacking midfield line of Jake Mulraney, Andres Perea, and Facundo Torres, with Ercan Kara up top. Although not on the availability report, Mauricio Pereyra was not in the game day lineup.

An Orlando City spokesman said Mauricio Pereyra is being held out of the lineup for precautionary reasons. Additionally, Joao Moutinho experienced pain during warmups and was held out of the match.

However, center back Antonio Carlos did make the bench for the first time since sustaining his thigh injury in early April.

The hosts got the first good chance of the match on a corner in a sixth minute. Haris Medunjanin sent a pass to the top of the area for Brenner, who was open on the set play but fired his shot wide of the right post.

Nick Hagglund had a great chance on a set piece played short in the 14th minute. Geoff Cameron was played to the end line by Ray Gaddis and sent it to Hagglund right in front of goal for a glorious opportunity, but Gallese made a huge save to keep the game scoreless.

Orlando City struggled to break down Cincinnati’s back line, with slow movement, sloppy touches, and a lack of runs allowing the hosts to stay compact and organized. As a result, the Lions never looked a threat to score except during a play in the 31st minute, in which Mulraney was offside in the buildup. That sequence ended with Kara firing a hard shot that Roman Celentano saved. It was a good stop but Kara’s shot was too close to the keeper, giving him a chance. Also…you know…offside on Mulraney.

In the 33rd minute, the Lions did well to clear a set piece and looked to have a great counter opportunity, but Perea spoiled it with an extremely heavy touch in the open field, allowing John Nelson to come over and make a sliding tackle to break things up.

After that brief attacking phase, Cincinnati got two golden opportunities to open the scoring but Gallese thwarted both. Alvaro Barreal was left all alone at the top of the area when he took a pass from Brandon Vazquez. He had plenty of time to line up his shot but Gallese made a big stop to keep it scoreless.

On the ensuing corner kick, Hagglund was all alone at the back post for a free header, shaking free of Williams, but Gallese made his best save of the half from point-blank range, and the Lions cleared the rebound.

Orlando finally got a shot attempt on goal a few seconds into injury time, when Mulraney got his head on a cross near the top of the area. His shot was on target but had little power on it and gave Celentano no trouble. It was the last action of the half.

The Lions held more possession (56.4%-43.6%), but generated next to nothing in the attack despite having much more of the ball. The Lions were also more accurate in the passing game (83.8%-81.4%), while Cincinnati had more shot attempts (5-3), shots on target (3-1), and corners (3-0).

Carlos made his return to start the second half, coming on for Williams. Benji Michel also replaced Mulraney.

Not much changed in the run of play in the second period. Torres did get an opening to go for goal from distance in the 51st but he scuffed the shot and it didn’t trouble goal.

Two minutes later, Gallese again came up huge. Vazquez cut across Schlegel and got a powerful header on target at the near post. Gallese stopped it and then stuck out a foot to deny a rebound opportunity, allowing his defense to clean things up.

Luciano Acosta came on as a sub for the hosts and his movement and passing opened things up for Cincinnati. He bounced a shot in on goal from long range with one of his first touches, that didn’t trouble Gallese, but he was a handful.

The Lions finally got a through ball to Kara in the 60th minute, but like Torres earlier, he scuffed the shot attempt. It ended up on goal but very slowly and easily for Celentano. That was it for Kara, as he was replaced shortly thereafter by Alexandre Pato.

Acosta shook free at the left corner of the box in the 64th minute and fizzed a curling shot just over the bar. But moments later the hosts found a breakthrough. Urso turned the ball over in his half and Cincinnati made the Lions pay for it. Acosta took a shot that deflected toward the near post and Gallese got over to stop it but he couldn’t handle the rebound. Acosta got to it first and sent it in front to Brenner, who got away from Schlegel. Brenner only had to redirect it in from point-blank range to make it 1-0.

“I think I did a good job with those eight saves, but obviously a shame that I wasn’t able to help the team on that one that got through,” Gallese said through a club interpreter. “A little bit of frustration there.”

Pato took a shot from outside the area that buzzed well over the bar in the 66th minute and then the match turned into a spell of Orlando passing it around without generating anything and then falling back to break up Cincinnati counters.

Orlando had a late opportunity to find an equalizer off a set piece. Although the service was poor from Pato and should have ignited a counter, the Lions quickly won the ball back in the attacking third and Pato was slipped in on the right. Unfortunately, the Brazilian had a poor touch that took him wide and his chance at a shot evaporated. He did well to cross it to Carlos at the back post but the defender’s header skipped wide.

The Lions kept coming but Pato’s uncharacteristically poor service on a couple of late set pieces and a wide-open chance to cross during open play from the right prevented any chance to rescue a late point. The latter opportunity was so poor that it ended up in the stands behind the end line rather than coming close to any teammates in the box.

Orlando finished with more possession (54.1%-45.9%) and passing accuracy (83.1%-80.7%) than the hosts, but FC Cincinnati fired more shots (14-7), and more shots on goal (9-2). Each team finished with three corner opportunities.

The Lions wasted Gallese’s stellar night, as the Peruvian international made eight saves, and most of them were difficult ones.

“In the second half I thought our roles changed,” Pareja said. “Cincinnati started having more of the ball. And then after the goal we found the reaction needed to be earlier from us and it was not much up front.”

Pareja took responsibility for the team’s poor movement and lack of ideas in the attacking third, but it seemed obvious that without Pereyra on the field, the Lions on the pitch lacked confidence in either themselves, their teammates, or both.

“As much as Mauro is an important piece of our team and he has that crafty game that opens doors for us in the last 20, 25 yards, we assume the responsibility,” Pareja said. “We have enough players that can create and then once again it could be as well the way I line (the team) up, the way that I present the plan, and I take that responsibility today. I did not feel I could help them to make sure we have that strength up front and where it could be position or just put people in places where they can have more possibilities. We were not creative today in those last 20 yards. Indeed.”

Neither the ball nor the players moved quickly enough to create any gaps in the Cincy defense and no one seemed particularly interested in even trying to beat an opponent 1-v-1. Sometimes decent shots were passed up in an effort to find a perfect one, and more than one opportunity to cross evaporated due to holding onto the ball too long on the wings.

For all his potential as a player somewhere in the Orlando midfield, Perea just isn’t a viable replacement for Pereyra and there doesn’t appear to be one on this current roster, although there is more than one way to create opportunities that don’t rely on a Designated Player’s ability to see passing lanes that are barely visible.


The Lions will next take the field Wednesday, June 29, when they host Nashville SC in the U.S. Open Cup quarterfinals. The next Orlando City league game will take place July 4 at home against D.C. United.

Lion Links

Lion Links: 5/28/24

Yutaro Tsukada earns recognition, Americans in midweek action, European coaching updates, and more.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City B

Happy Tuesday, everyone! I hope you all had a restful holiday weekend, and if you didn’t, then I hope you’re well on the way to recovery. We’ve got an exciting schedule this week, with two Orlando City games before an Orlando City B game on Sunday. It’s also OCB forward Yeiler Valencia’s birthday today, so let’s wish him well and jump into today’s links!

Yutaro Tsukada Earns MLS NEXT Pro Honors

OCB winger Yutaro Tsukada was named MLS NEXT Pro Player of Matchweek 11 for his performance in the team’s 5-0 home win against Huntsville City FC. The 22-year-old provided the assist on OCB’s first goal after using some nice skill on the ball to shake his defender. Tsukada then scored a goal of his own off of a free kick in the second half. The rookie has been electric for the Young Lions this season, recording four goals and four assists so far. Hopefully he can keep the momentum rolling when OCB faces Inter Miami II this Sunday.

Major League Soccer Stock Watch

Every week gives us a better idea of each MLS team’s capabilities, so let’s check in on how things are looking following the latest matchday. LAFC is on a great trajectory, as it’s won three consecutive league games and five straight in all competitions. Elsewhere in the Western Conference, Real Salt Lake scored three goals in the final 30 minutes of play to stretch its unbeaten streak to 11 games, and Cristian Arango didn’t have to do all of the heavy lifting. At the other end of things, the New England Revolution have lost three straight games, and six of their last seven. Likewise, the shine looks to have worn off from St. Louis City’s expansion season, as the team has also lost three straight games and simply doesn’t look the same as last year.

Americans in Midweek Action

With most of the European club seasons having concluded, there aren’t as many United States Men’s National Team players in action during the working week, but there are still some important games to make note of. Chief among those is Venezia’s game against Cremonese on Thursday. Tanner Tessmann, Gianluca Busio and Venezia will take on Cremonese over two legs, with the winner gaining promotion to Serie A. Left back Jonathan Gomez may take the field tomorrow morning in Real Sociedad’s friendly against Tokyo Verde as well.

In a pair of friendlies on Friday, Mexico plays Bolivia and Uruguay takes on Costa Rica. With the USMNT set to face both Bolivia and Uruguay in group play of this summer’s Copa America, the two matches present a good chance to better gauge the Yanks’ opponents.

European Coaching Updates

Several notable European club teams have coaching vacancies to fill this summer, and there are some updates on a few of those positions. Chelsea has reportedly made an approach for Leicester City’s Enzo Maresca, and has requested permission to talk to the manager who guided the Foxes back to the Premier League in his first year with the club. Meanwhile, despite interest from Manchester United, Kieran McKenna is reportedly set to stay at Ipswich Town, and has had talks about extending his contract. Finally, Aston Villa has extended Unai Emery’s contract, with his new deal keeping him at the club until 2029.

Transfer Rumor Roundup

Transfer season is kicking into gear, and we have several rumors to sift through this morning. Up first, Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur, Manchester United, Bayer Leverkusen and Bayern Munich are reportedly all in hot pursuit of Stade Rennais winger Desire Doue. Casemiro reportedly has a deal lined up with a team in the Saudi Pro League, and may have played his last game for Manchester United. Newly promoted Southampton is reportedly interested in signing Adam Lallana as a free agent. Finally, Paris Saint-Germain is said to have entered the race to sign Bruno Guimaraes, and will face stiff competition from Manchester City and Arsenal.

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That’s all I have for you this morning. Vamos Orlando!

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Orlando City

Orlando City vs. the Columbus Crew: Player Grades and Man of the Match

How did your favorite Lions perform in a 2-0 loss at home against Columbus?

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Rafael Santos Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

The Lions returned home riding a three-game unbeaten streak but a bizarre video review call moments before halftime set the tone for a physical match against the Columbus Crew. Ultimately, Orlando fell to the Crew 2-0. Here’s how I saw each individual Lion’s performance in Orlando’s fourth loss at home on the season.

Starters

GK, Pedro Gallese, 6 — The Peruvian No. 1 saw a relatively quiet first half come to a close in a fury as he was forced into action to face a penalty kick before halftime. Gallese guessed correctly, but Diego Rossi’s placement was just above Gallese’s outstretched trailing hand. The Crew put three of their eight shot attempts on target and Gallese was credited with one save on the night. He completed 94.1% of his 17 passing attempts, including two accurate long balls out of three attempts.

D, Rodrigo Schlegel, 7 (MotM) — Schlegel continued to fill in for injured starter Robin Jansson and has now strung a few solid performances together on the back line. Defensively, he put out multiple fires for Orlando City. He tied Wilder Cartagena for the team lead with five clearances. Schlegel also added three tackles and one blocked shot. He committed one foul while he suffered three throughout the match. He completed 93.1% of his 58 passing attempts, including two key passes. He also completed one of his three long-ball attempts on the night. For his total effort throughout the game he is our Man of the Match.

D, Wilder Cartagena, 6.5 — The Peruvian international continued to function as a center back in the squad’s 3-5-2 lineup. Defensively, he tied for the team lead with five clearances and added three tackles and a blocked shot. He won two aerial duels and was whistled for two fouls on the night. He completed 91.7% of his 48 passes, including two successful long balls out of four attempts. Offensively, Cartagena put one of his two shot attempts on target and completed one successful dribble.

D, David Brekalo, 6 — Brekalo continued to perform well in the back as he has become more comfortable in his role, leading the team with four total tackles and chipping in one clearance. He completed 91.3% of his 46 passes and was successful on both long balls that he sent up the field. He committed one foul in the match. Offensively, he did not contribute any statistics.

WB, Facundo Torres, 5.5 — Torres again slotted in at wingback, which limits the number of looks he gets at goal, but it’s nice to see a Designated Player willing to change positions for the good of the team. The Uruguayan logged one tackle, one clearance, and one interception on defense. He committed one foul and earned a foul as well. He completed 91.5% of his 47 passes, which included two key passes. He completed three of his eight crossing attempts on the night and was successful on one of two long balls. Offensively, he logged one shot, which was off target, and completed one successful dribble.

MF, Nico Lodeiro, 6.5 — Lodeiro played solidly throughout the match and was asked to do a little bit of everything during the game. Defensively, he contributed three tackles and one interception. He led the team with 77 total touches and completed 84.8% of his team-high 59 passing attempts, including one key pass. He successfully completed one of his five crosses and both of his long-ball attempts. Offensively, he put one of his two shot attempts on target. He was whistled for being offside once. Lodeiro saw his night come to an end in the 66th minute when he was replaced by Martin Ojeda.

MF, Cesar Araujo, 6 — Returning from suspension for yellow card accumulation, Araujo functioned as the only true defensive midfielder. Araujo’s effort on the night will ultimately be remembered for the jersey tug and subsequent yellow card recieved for the “foul” on Aidan Morris, which resulted in a penalty kick attempt for the Crew (instead of Orlando City) after a confusing and frustrating video review. Araujo finished the night quietly from a statistical standpoint with one interception as his only defensive stat. He committed four fouls total, including the aforementioned “foul.” He completed 96.3% of his 27 passes, including two successful long balls on two attempts. Offensively, Araujo was credited with one successful dribble. He was subbed out of the match in the 58th minute as Orlando chased the game.

MF, Ivan Angulo, 6.5 — Angulo slotted into the midfield for the second straight game. Defensively, he contributed one tackle. He completed 86.5% of his 52 passes, including a team-high three key passes. He also completed his lone through ball attempt. Offensively, he did not log a shot attempt, but he did complete two dribbles and was fouled once. Angulo was able to use his speed to get into dangerous positions throughout the match but continued to lack precision when it came to the final pass or dribble.

WB, Dagur Dan Thorhallsson, 6 — Thorhallsson joined Torres as the wingback on the opposite side in the 3-5-2 system and seemed to be an afterthought throughout much of the match as the team played down the left side of the field for the majority of the game. Defensively, he contributed three total tackles and one clearance while also winning one aerial on the night and did well to deny the speedy Yaw Yeboah multiple chances to get inside him on give-and-go plays. He completed 83.3% of his 24 total passing attempts. He was unsuccessful on both crossing attempts but completed one of his two long balls. Offensively, as a byproduct of much of the action happening opposite his side of the field, he failed to record an offensive statistic. He was subbed out of the match in the 58th minute.

F, Luis Muriel, 6.5 — Muriel put in a good effort on a night when the scoreboard unfortunately would not reflect it. His effort to get in on goal — and subsequently be taken down from behind — earned what everyone thought at the time to be a penalty attempt for the Lions, although it was taken away by the referee after the review. Defensively, Muriel was credited with one interception. He completed 88% of his 25 passes and was successful on his lone crossing attempt. He won one aerial and offensively put one of his three shot attempts on target while completing three successful dribbles and suffering one foul.

F, Jack Lynn, 5.5 — With the injury to Duncan McGuire, the hero of the Lions’ last match, Lynn made Orlando’s starting lineup. Defensively, Lynn contributed one clearance. He completed 81.8% of his 11 passes. Lynn was unsuccessful on his lone crossing attempt. Offensively, Lynn failed to record a shot attempt but was credited with one successful dribble while being whistled for offside twice. He was subbed off in the 58th minute for Ramiro Enrique.

Substitutes

MF, Felipe, (59′), 5.5 — Brought on for Araujo just before the hour mark, Felipe looked to help control the midfield. Defensively he logged one tackle and one clearance while committing one foul, which landed him a yellow card. He completed 89.5% of his 19 passes, including one key pass and two successful long balls on two attempts. Offensively he did not record a shot attempt.

WB, Rafael Santos, (59′), 6 — Santos came on for Thorhallsson but went over to fill the left wingback role, sending Torres forward and Angulo to right wingback. He recorded one interception on the defensive end. Santos completed 84.2% of his 19 passes, which included one successful long ball on his one attempt. He was fouled once and was whistled for offside once.

F, Ramiro Enrique, (60′), 6 — Making his return from an extended absence due to injury, Enrique came on for the final half hour in the hopes of providing an offensive spark. He got into good areas but struggled to finish on some of Orlando’s best scoring chances of the night. Enrique completed 66.7% of his six passes and was unsuccessful on his lone cross. In a little over 30 minutes of game time, Enrique managed to tie Muriel for the most shot attempts, with three, and put two of them on target, albeit right at the goalkeeper. Despite the poor overall outcome of the match, it was good to see Enrique return to the pitch.

MF, Martin Ojeda, (67′), 5.5 — Designated Player Ojeda came off the bench to replace Lodeiro as Orlando faced a two-goal deficit. Defensively, Ojeda logged one interception. He completed all eight of his pass attempts, with two key passes, and three of his five crosses. Ojeda attempted one shot, which was off target.


How did you see the individual performances in this game? Make your voice heard down in the comments, and be sure to vote in our Man of the Match poll. Vamos Orlando!

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Lion Links

Lion Links: 5/27/24

Orlando City loses to the Crew, Pride and OCB win, Southampton seals return to Premier League, and more.

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Image courtesy of Orlando Pride / Jeremy Reper

Happy Memorial Day, Mane Landers! I hope you all had a good holiday weekend. I worked at Under Armour all weekend while wrapping up my high school sports coverage for the spring season. It was a mixed weekend for our teams. Orlando City lost, but both the Pride and OCB won their matches. We’ve got plenty to cover today, so let’s get to the links. 

Lions Lose at Home to Columbus Crew

Orlando City lost 2-0 to the Columbus Crew on Saturday at Inter&Co Stadium and saw its three-match unbeaten streak end. The match’s first goal was controversial as the referee, Jair Marrufo, initially awarded the Lions a penalty late in the first half but went to the monitor and reviewed a play at the other end of the pitch. He instead awarded Columbus a penalty kick. Diego Rossi scored from the spot to put the Crew ahead 1-0 before halftime. Columbus extended its winning streak to three matches. Orlando has struggled at home, going just 1-3-4 so far this season. The Lions have not scored a goal at home since April 27. Despite the loss, the Lions still remain in 10th in the Eastern Conference with 16 points. Next up for Orlando is a pair of road matches this week, starting Wednesday at the Chicago Fire, followed by a Saturday night matchup against the New York Red Bulls. 

Pride Win at Home Over Portland Thorns

The Orlando Pride won their record-setting eighth straight match with a 2-1 victory at Inter&Co Stadium against the Portland Thorns Friday. Barbra Banda scored two goals in the first half to give the Pride a 2-0 lead going into halftime. Portland pulled one back, but the Pride held on for the victory and claimed three points. Orlando remains undefeated in league play after 11 matches, and the Pride stay atop the NWSL table with 27 points. The Pride are off this week but will return to action on the road next Friday, June 7, against the San Diego Wave.

OCB Win at Home against Huntsville City FC

On Sunday, Orlando City B bounced back with a season-high five goals in a 5-0 win over Hunstville City FC at Osceola County Stadium. Jhon Solis, Yutaro Tsukada, and Shak Mohammed put OCB ahead 3-0, while Yeiler Valencia scored his first two OCB goals to seal the win for the Young Lions. OCB is now in sixth in the Eastern Conference with 16 points. Meanwhile, Huntsville City FC remains winless through 10 matches and stays at the bottom of the Eastern Conference. OCB’s next match will be on the road Sunday at Inter Miami CF II. 

Southampton Clinches Promotion to Premier League

Southampton booked its return to the Premier League with a 1-0 over Leeds United in the EFL Championship playoff final at Wembley Sunday. Adam Armstrong scored the lone goal in this match as the Saints returned to the top flight after being relegated the previous season. Southampton joins Leicester City and Ipswich Town, securing promotion to the Premier League. Despite finishing third in the table, Leeds’ playoff woes continue as this is the sixth time it missed out on securing promotion and finished its season with only one win out of its last six matches. 

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

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