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Orlando City

Orlando City vs. Nashville SC, U.S. Open Cup: Final Score 1-1 as Lions Advance on Penalties Again



Orlando City never does anything the easy way. The Lions needed a stoppage-time goal from Rodrigo Schlegel and a save in sudden death penalties to advance to the U.S. Open Cup semifinals after a 1-1 draw against Nashville SC at Exploria Stadium. Schlegel again donned his folk hero mantle with a 94th-minute equalizer after the Lions spent much of the second half trying to overcome Hany Mukhtar’s opening goal in the 52nd minute.

Orlando scored six times in the shootout, with only Andres Perea seeing his spot kick saved, while Alex Muyl skied the first Nashville attempt over the bar and Pedro Gallese made a diving stop on Eric Miller to end the match.

“We didn’t play well in the first half, at least 35 minutes where Nashville was much better than us,” Orlando City Head Coach Oscar Pareja said after the match. “But, after after the goal, I thought we reacted and I want to recognize that reaction from the players. I think they had the personality to be patient and go through it. And then at the end, I thought we were a fair winner.”

Pareja’s starting XI included Pedro Gallese in goal in place of the injured Mason Stajduhar, who had handled all goalkeeping duties in this year’s U.S. Open Cup to date. Joao Moutinho did not make the lineup, so Kyle Smith lined up at left back next to partners Robin Jansson, Rodrigo Schlegel, and Ruan. Cesar Araujo and Junior Urso handled the central midfield behind an attacking line of Tesho Akindele, Mauricio Pereyra, and Facundo Torres, with Ercan Kara up top.

Nashville dominated the first half from the jump, as the Lions played about like they did on Friday in Cincinnati. They were sloppy with the ball, made hopeful passes into areas where there were no teammates, and failed to create any threat to Elliot Panicco’s net. The visitors created dangerous opportunities off of needless and careless giveaways throughout the opening half.

The first of those came in the 16th minute when Pereyra turned down opportunities to pass out of pressure but instead held onto the ball until he was surrounded and dispossessed. The ball ended up with Mukhtar, who forced Gallese into a good save.

Orlando dealt with the ensuing corner and had a chance to break, but Ruan slowed as he approached the penalty area, allowing Nashville to get back into position and then made a poor pass trying to switch play to the right.

Nashville won a couple more corners and nearly scored when Walker Zimmerman got a free header. Smith was there to block the shot before it could find its way inside the right post in the 20th minute.

The Lions continued to give it away and Nashville accepted those gifts, fashioning dangerous chances. Sapong shook free in the 26th minute and fired on goal but Gallese was able to keep it out.

Moments later, Mukhtar got in close on the left side and El Pulpo did well to smother the point-blank shot.

Orlando nearly created something in the 33rd minute with the first half chance. Pereyra got into the right side of the box and cut a pass back across the six-yard box for Akindele, but his attempt to bundle it home was met with a sliding challenge by two defenders and nothing came of it.

Two minutes later, Gallese again made a big stop on Sapong to keep the game scoreless.

Randall Leal then slipped in behind the back line in transition on the right but fired his shot off target in the 37th minute.

Each team wasted a couple late set pieces and that was it for the first half.

Nashville led in possession (52.3%-47.7%), shots (6-1), shots on target (4-0), corners (4-1), and passing accuracy (77.8%-77.4%).

Orlando blew a golden opportunity to take the lead four minutes after the restart. Torres cut a ball back across from the right near the end line. The ball found Urso but the midfielder sent his shot over the bar, wasting the opportunity.

Moments later, Kara went for a bicycle kick near the top of the box but didn’t get all of it. The ball skipped over to the right and Pereyra was first to it, but it bounced just as he arrived and he couldn’t make good contact, sending it just wide.

Those misses were costly, as Nashville broke the scoreless deadlock in the 53rd minute. A harmless looking cross in from Alex Muyl found Mukhtar with Schlegel trying to wall him off. Since the defender didn’t play the ball, Mukhtar simply stuck his foot out and knocked it past Gallese to make it 1-0.

The Lions seemed to wake up at that point and had a good spell of play. Akindele got down the left in the 58th minute and found Kara in front. Panicco did well to come off his line and sprawl sideways to smother the forward’s shot.

Seconds later, Ruan made a slick move to free himelf down the right channel. He looked to have some options but spotted Panicco off his line and tried to chip the goalkeeper. Unfortunately, the ball sailed on him a bit and flew over the crossbar.

Torres freed himself for a shot from outside the area in the 70th minute but he scuffed the shot and it skipped harmlessly wide.

Nashville put more defensive-minded players on the field to try to see the game out and it seemed to be working. Orlando sent in passes from deep and the defense simply waited and overlapped with each other to knock them away.

Second-half sub Alexandre Pato had a great chance in the 90th minute from outside the area when he smashed a shot toward the right post. The ball started on target but swerved outside and went just wide.

As time wound down, Pereyra was fouled near the right corner of the box, giving the Lions a free kick. The captain sent in a cross that Panicco missed and Benji Michel nodded down. Schlegel was first to the ball and knocked it in to make it 1-1 in the 94th minute.

“I just saw the ball coming in,” Schlegel said of the play. “I saw Antonio and I saw a good header created a rebound for us, and I was able to get on the rebound, and thankfully I was able to score it.”

The goal sent the ball into extra time. After 90 minutes, Orlando held more possession (55.1%-44.9%), shots (13-9), and passing accuracy (81.4%-75.5%). Nashville had more shots on target (6-4) and corners (6-3).

The first 15 minutes of extra time didn’t provide much excitement, despite Sean Davis getting sent off with a second yellow card in the 91st minute for pulling Torres back to break up a transition play. Nashville packed their area tightly and repelled crosses and passes for much of the first period of extra time.

The closest Orlando came was a header from Perea just inches over the bar on a set piece in the 98th minute. Kara fired wide in the 100th minute and that was it for the scoring chances.

Orlando had more possession at the break (56.8%-43.2%), more shots (16-9), and more passing accuracy (82.8%-75.2%). Nashville had more shots on target (6-4) and more corners (6-4).

Jansson nearly put the Lions ahead in the 105th minute, smashing a shot just wide of the right post from the left corner of the box. Torres pulled a shot just wide of the right post in the 112th minute. Orlando couldn’t do much with a few set pieces with the height of the Nashville defenders in the box and the match went to spot kicks.

After 120 minutes, Orlando had more shots (23-9), corners (7-6), passing accuracy (83.8%-72.9%), and possession (59.8%-40.2%). Nashville still had more shots on target (6-5).

“No player wants a game to go to penalties. But we’re calm now and we can analyze the game,” Pato said. “We have to be more calm when we’re up a player.”

Kara stepped up to be Orlando’s first shooter as he did in the Round of 16 against Inter Miami, and he buried his spot kick to set the tone. Muyl stepped up first for Nashville but sent his shot high over the crossbar to give the Lions the advantage.

Jansson and Ake Loba traded goals in the second round, before Perea tried a stutter-step approach and fired too close to Panicco, who made the save. Jack Maher leveled the shootout at 2-2 after three rounds. Kyle Smith and Walker Zimmerman traded goals in the fourth round and Alexandre Pato and Ethan Zubak did likewise in Round 5, sending the shootout to sudden death. Antonio Carlos pushed Orlando back in front, only to see Dave Romney roof his shot to knot things up at 5-5.

Torres stepped up and fired home to give the Lions the advantage and put pressure back on the visitors. Eric Miller went sixth for Nashville and sent his shot to Gallese’s right. The attempt was poor and El Pulpo guessed correctly, making the save to send the Lions through to the semifinals.

“Very happy, obviously, with the (shootout) victory and going to the semifinal with this group of players against a very good rival, with the possibility to keep advancing,” Pareja said. “I think it’s a very good step for us.”

“I think it’s a situation where you have to be intelligent as a team,” Schlegel said. “You have to play each of these games in a way that you don’t commit an error that could hurt the team. I think this team, specifically in these Cup games, has shown that we’ve been intelligent, we’ve played that type of game, and continue to fight with these difficult moments.

“But more than that, it’s that this team doesn’t fear extra time. It doesn’t fear going to penalties, because we have confidence in each and every one of our teammates.”

Orlando City returns to league action Monday, July 4 when D.C. United visits Exploria Stadium. The Lions will host the New York Red Bulls in the U.S. Open Cup semifinals on July 27.

Orlando City

Orlando City vs. Inter Miami: Five Takeaways

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



Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

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

Early Mistakes Seal Orlando’s Fate

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

Tough Night for Two Lions

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

Offensively Anemic

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

Lack of Effort Worsens Scoreline

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

Wake-Up Call

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

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

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Strong Early Season Competition an Opportunity for Growth

Schedule congestion and tough opponents present opportunities for growth.



Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Orlando City

Orlando City vs. Inter Miami: Final Score 5-0 as Meek Lions Trounced in Comprehensive Road Defeat

Lions get crushed from the jump in South Florida.



Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Orlando City conceded two ridiculously easy goals in the first 11 minutes and another easy one before the end of the half en route to an embarrassing 5-0 loss to Inter Miami (2-0-1, 7 points) at Chase Stadium in Fort Lauderdale. The Lions (0-1-1, 1 point) gave Luis Suarez his first two MLS goals and an assist in the opening half (and another assist later). Lionel Messi also scored a brace and Robert Taylor added a goal.

Orlando generated some scoring chances, but struggled to hit the target when the game was still within reach. With the loss, Orlando City fell to 5-4-3 in league play against their Tropic Thunder rivals from the south. It was the first time the Lions have been shut out in Fort Lauderdale, and this season marks the first time in club history that Orlando City has failed to score a goal through the first two matches in regular-season play.

“Obviously a disappointing day for us, recognizing from minute one to the end of the game that didn’t look like us in many areas,” Orlando City Head Coach Oscar Pareja said after the game. “A team like them, you cannot permit them to have that many spaces, and lose that many duels, and give them that possibility to be sitting in our box in those counterattacks. Really disappointed, but we’re pushing as a group. You know I have big respect for this group, their professionalism in what they do, and if there is any possibility, we’ll search to find answers but this group’s professionalism will never be denied. We’re not going to leave this experience just to happen without taking the benefits of this, the reasons, and learn from it.”

Pareja’s starters included Pedro Gallese in goal behind a back line of Rafael Santos, Robin Jansson, Rodrigo Schlegel, and Dagur Dan Thorhallsson. Cesar Araujo and Wilder Cartagena took their usual spots in the central midfield behind an attacking line of Ivan Angulo, Martin Ojeda, and Facundo Torres with Duncan McGuire up top.

It didn’t take long for the hosts to get on top and it was Orlando City helping the Herons score the first goal. Araujo made a terrible mistake with a blind back pass, turning the ball over. It ended up out wide on Julian Gressel’s foot and the winger found Suarez, who fired first time into the corner where Gallese couldn’t get to it, making it 1-0 in the fourth minute.

“From there, I feel we couldn’t really turn the game in our favor,” Jansson said.

Orlando had two great opportunities to answer quickly. The first came when Thorhallsson fed McGuire in front in the seventh minute. The striker couldn’t get his feet set properly and when the ball arrived he sent it well off target from just eight yards out. A minute later, it was Araujo with a blast from just outside the box but his shot sailed just wide of the upper left corner.

The Lions, predictably, paid for those misses. Miami got a fortunate bounce off of Cartagena’s tackle attempt. As a result, Suarez was sent in on a fairly routine through ball but Araujo had stopped tracking him and Schlegel got pulled out of position with an overly aggressive move, giving the former Barcelona man room to slip through the line. He beat Gallese to make it 2-0 in the 11th minute.

Orlando City finally settled into the match a bit after that, although the damage had been done already. The Lions won a couple of corners and Schlegel sent a header wide on one of them. On the other, the ball was knocked to Torres near the top of the box. The Uruguayan tried a volley shot but couldn’t keep it down and it sailed well over the goal in the 21st minute.

Ojeda tried to pick out McGuire in the 23rd minute but Drake Callender came off his line and may have gotten a slight touch to the excellent cross. At the very least, he put McGuire off with his presence and aggressiveness.

Miami unlocked the defense for an easy third goal in the 29th minute. Schlegel was slow to step up to spring an offside trap and the through ball found Suarez behind the back line. Gallese came off his line to try to disrupt the play, but Suarez squared it to Taylor for an empty-net goal.

Messi came close to making it 4-0 with a free kick in the 34th minute. He sent his shot off the outside of the left post and Gallese may have had it covered anyway, moving quickly to his right.

The score almost got more embarrassing late in the half. Suarez again got in behind and scored but this time the flag came up and the offside call was upheld on review. It was extremely close, but the score remained 3-0.

That was the last close call of the first half and the Lions limped to the break down three goals.

The Lions held the advantage in possession (55.7%-44.3%) and corners (2-0). But Miami passed more accurately (90.6%-85.1%), fired more shots (5-4), and put more on target (3-0).

“Not good enough,” Jansson said of the performance. “It’s a derby and we’re coming out there with no energy, I feel. We don’t take control of the game like we normally try to do. Tonight was a rough one. It was not good enough on any part of the field, including myself, and I feel sorry for the fans who traveled here, and they deserve better.”

Pareja withdrew McGuire and Cartagena at the half, replacing them with Luis Muriel and Nico Lodeiro.

Ojeda appeared to pull a goal back just after the restart, playing his way through and slotting past Callender. However, Angulo was just offside in the buildup, negating the goal.

Messi came within inches of a fourth Miami goal in the 54th minute, sending a shot just outside the right post from the top of the area. The play was started by a turnover by Santos. A minute later, Santos didn’t pick up Gressel and Angulo stopped tracking him. That wasn’t optimal and Gressel ended up smashing a shot off the crossbar.

Things got worse for Orlando in a hurry after those chances. The Lions simply had no answers, giving up a pair of goals to Messi, as Miami continued to easily play into space behind the back line.

Schlegel again got pulled out of shape on a Miami transition attack. That allowed Jordi Alba to get in behind and shoot. Jansson cleared the ball off the line but could only knock it off the woodwork. Messi got the last touch of the ping-ponging ball and it trickled in to make it 4-0 in the 57th minute.

Four minutes later, Suarez blazed down the left and sent a good cross for Messi’s headed finish.

The Lions should have pulled a goal back in the 76th minute when Ramiro Enrique got in behind the defense. The Argentine left his shot too close to the center, where Callender still had to make a good save to prevent the goal.

Although Orlando City held more possession (52.8%-47.2%) and won more corners (5-1), Miami had the advantage in shots (11-8), shots on target (6-2), and passing accuracy (89.2%-85.6%). The Herons were much more lethal in front of goal, and Orlando was much sloppier in both final thirds. With the quality Miami has, that’s a poor combination and, as shown on this night, a game can get away quickly.

“We have to look at the game and see where we didn’t get our stuff done,” Jansson said. “We do it all the time, when we win and when we lose. We have to go through what we’re doing good and what we’re doing bad, because otherwise we will never become better. This was a bad take, and we’ve got to get the review, and get the analysis, and see where we had the most errors, and then we just have to take it from there.”

“We are responsible for a performance like this one, where nothing came right, and we will surely see what are the reasons and how can we improve it,” Pareja said. “We will continue with our heads up, and again, for me, I back this group up 100 percent. It’s a group that’s very professional. Didn’t play well today and nothing came right. We will take that responsibility, especially the coach. It’s not an easy result to absorb, but also we have the responsibility to bounce back immediately, and proximity (of the next game) helps give us the opportunity just to reshape again. But surely this will be in our memory for a little longer than normal.

“It’s just that they were better than us, and we didn’t do a good job today. We didn’t show up today the way we are…the start of the league doesn’t dictate the end of it.”

Orlando City has another quick turnaround before hosting Tigres in Concacaf Champions Cup action Tuesday night at home. The next league game is next Saturday when Minnesota United visits Inter&Co Stadium.

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