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Orlando City

Orlando City vs. Colorado Rapids: Final Score 1-1 as Lions Survive After Losing the Lead



Orlando City blew a great opportunity to double the lead in the second half after an early Facundo Torres goal had the Lions up. But City couldn’t convert and Gyasi Zardes equalized for the Colorado Rapids at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, CO. The Lions (8-7-5, 29 points) earned yet another road point in 2022 but it felt like it could have been more, although at the same time they may have been lucky not to lose to Colorado (5-8-6, 21 points) in the end.

Pedro Gallese had a heroic second half to at least salvage a 1-1 draw for Orlando.

The Lions are 1-1-2 in four trips to Colorado and 4-1-2 in the overall all-time series in MLS play, but against a struggling bottom feeder in the Western Conference, even a point in that thin mile-high air feels like not enough during this vital stretch of the season. On the other hand, Orlando City is now 3-2-5 on the road this year, taking points in eight of 10 away matches.

“A good point in a difficult place,” Orlando City Head Coach Oscar Pareja said after the match. “I thought it was a game with two different versions. First half, I thought we played very well, went ahead of the score, and had a couple more chances. Then Colorado started reacting and in the second half they overloaded us with more players up front where we couldn’t sustain the possession as we did in the first half.”

Pareja’s lineup featured Gallese in goal behind a back line of Kyle Smith, Robin Jansson, Antonio Carlos, and Ruan. It was the first start for Carlos since April 2 against LAFC. Cesar Araujo was joined in central midfield by Junior Urso, but there was a big shakeup in the attack, with Torres starting alongside Alexandre Pato and Benji Michel and Tesho Akindele in the striker’s role.

Orlando held possession off the opening kickoff and worked it up the field, with Pato finding Urso at the top of the area. The midfielder fired a shot that deflected off a defender and that touch slowed up the shot so William Yarbrough could get down and make the save.

Moments later, Pato delivered a long, bending free kick but nobody from the Lions could get onto it. In the fifth minute, it was Jansson unlocking the defense with a long ball to Michel, who danced into the corner of the box and smashed a wicked shot on frame that Yarbrough parried away.

The Lions kept generating chances early. In the seventh minute, a good buildup of play put the ball on Torres’ foot on the left side. He crossed in for Akindele’s run but the pass was behind the striker. Seconds later, Pato tried a shot from long range but it was no trouble for Yarbrough to catch.

The first Rapids shot came in the 11th minute, when Jonathan Lewis found space in front of Ruan and curled a shot toward the near post, where Gallese caught it.

Orlando broke the scoreless deadlock in the 22nd minute. Smith took a long throw-in from the left side that skipped off a defender’s head and fell in the box, where Pato got a foot on it and settled it for Torres, who smashed it home just under the crossbar with his left foot to make it 1-0.

It was Torres’ fourth goal in MLS play and fifth in all competitions this season. The Uruguayan Young Designated Player now has double-digit goal contributions on the season, with six assists to go with his four MLS goals.

“Happy to have that luck to score tonight,” Torres said through a club interpreter. “Scoring goals for me is obviously very important. It was a set piece that we had worked on and prepared with (Assistant Coach) Josema (Bazan). We knew that we were going to be able to use that long (throw) and thankfully I was there, and it fell to me, and I was able to score.”

The goal woke the Rapids up and they were able to start generating chances, playing long balls down both wings and feasting on Orlando’s fullbacks. Colorado started getting on the ball more and drawing set pieces. Urso’s foul on Lewis handed the Rapids a free kick in a decent spot and the delivery was on target but Gallese was there to catch it. Moments later, Sam Nicholson got past Smith to the end line and chipped a cross over to Lewis at the left post. The forward hit the post with his shot, although a sprawling Gallese may have had it covered in the 29th minute.

Colorado quickly won a corner and then Lewis chipped a shot — or a cross — over the net. The next chance for the hosts came on another corner in the 39th minute when Zardes got his head to a cross, but the striker got under the ball and it sailed high over the bar.

Orlando survived a late corner and took its slim 1-0 lead into the locker room at the half.

Colorado ended up with slim advantages in most of the statistical categories in the opening half. The Rapids had more possession (51.6%-48.4%), shots (8-7), corners (4-3), and passing accuracy (86.4%-83.4%). Orlando City got more shots on target (4-1).

After the break, the Rapids picked up where they finished the first half and created a great scoring chance in the 49th minute. Nicholson was given too much space by Smith and sent in a perfect ball that bounced between the Orlando center backs and fell for Zardes to head on target. Gallese got over to make a vital save.

Orlando’s passing started to look a bit labored in the thin Colorado air and it allowed the Rapids to keep possession. Carlos did well to block a Lewis shot in the 58th minute as the Rapids kept coming. Colorado went for it at that point as Robin Fraser sent on Diego Rubio and Michael Barrios.

Just after the substitution, Orlando should have doubled the lead. A long ball forward was flicked on by Akindele for Michel. The winger got in down the left and was in perfect position to either shoot or pass back to Akindele to his right. Michel either made an awful shot or a terrible pass, because from that range, he should have had no trouble picking out his teammate or getting his shot on frame. The ball was sent well wide of the far post instead.

Barrios started causing problems after that and an already effective pair of wingers for the Rapids got even more dangerous. Smith simply couldn’t stay with Barrios and it allowed the Colorado winger to put inch-perfect balls across to his teammates. The first of those found Zardes’ head in the 61st minute. Gallese came off his line to pressure the striker and forced an off-target shot.

The Lions had an opportunity two minutes later when Torres got the ball at the top of the box from Michel, who had started the play with a nifty takeaway on defense. But just as Torres went to send the ball toward goal, he was pressured from behind and wasn’t able to get off a shot.

In the 64th minute, Rubio found space from distance and sent a wicked shot on goal that skipped off the turf in front of Gallese. The goalkeeper was able to swallow it up anyway. But a minute later, the Rapids equalized. Barrios again beat Smith to the end line and sent in a perfect cross that Zardes only had to get a touch on to send into the inside netting. the game was tied in the 65th minute.

Max fired a shot that took a deflection in the 67th but Gallese was able to correct his movement and make the stop. A minute later, Gallese made yet another absurd save from close range on a Rubio header.

“Pedro’s obviously a very important part of our team. He’s always there for us,” Torres said. “And we’re able to kind of have faith and confidence in him that he’s going to step up in those moments where the game is maybe a little bit more fluid and getting a little bit crazy. We know that we’ve got him behind us and he’s able to step up in those big moments and just play great, as you saw in that second half.”

While Pareja often goes to a five-man back line to see out wins or results, in this match he had no choice. With the Colorado wingers raining in dangerous crosses, the team needed more stability in the back, so Rodrigo Schlegel came on and it helped limit the number of point-blank opportunities.

“The chances that they had was with those two wingers, wide open, very deep,” Pareja said. “We wanted to have control without losing our initiative to play. We wanted more control. It was a point in the second half when it was extremely, extremely difficult to mark, and Kyle had some difficulties there. Ruan had some difficulties, and then that’s why we came with five. We brought in Rodrigo, we extended the line, and we started to match Barrios and Rubio, and then we were just trying to control them more. And I think we did. We lost a man in the middle, but I think we had control. At least we were better there.”

Orlando was able to deal with the next couple of Barrios crosses with Jansson and an alert Gallese breaking them up. Then Rubio sent in another shot from distance in the 81st minute that Gallese caught.

The Lions got a couple of late set pieces, looking to break the deadlock. Michel drew a free kick just outside the area after a takeaway by substitute Michael Halliday. Pereyra touched the free kick and Jansson blasted it, but his shot hit the wall in the 83rd minute. Three minutes later, Schlegel sliced through the Rapids and won a free kick on the left side in the attacking third. The ball into the mixer fell to Carlos and he had a corner to shoot at but a defender got in the way and blocked it in the 87th minute.

Halliday wasted a couple of decent-looking attacks late by sailing his crosses well past everyone wearing the same colored uniform as him, even though he had plenty of space and time to send in his passes. Orlando seemed the likelier team to find a winner for the final minutes of normal time and early in stoppage time, but just couldn’t get the ball to a Lion in a threatening position.

A dangerous cross through the six in the 93rd minute by Lewis had Orlando fans and players holding their collective breath, but it skipped harmlessly out of play wide of the back post for a goal kick. A few minutes later, the game was over.

The Rapids held just a slight possession advantage at the end (50.6%-49.4%), but Colorado ended up with a dominant advantage in shots (19-12), and turned around the shots on goal stat (7-4) in their favor, putting six on frame in the second half while the Lions failed to hit the target. Colorado also passed more accurately (84.2%-80.6%) and earned more corners (5-4).

The Lions have a short turnaround with more travel to come, as they head to Georgia to take on Atlanta United on Sunday afternoon.

Lion Links

Lion Links: 11/30/23

Orlando City faces big questions, Matt Miazga suspended, Emma Hayes meets USWNT for first time, and more.



Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

November is finally coming to a close. It’s been a bit of a rollercoaster of a month for me, with highs, lows, and many things in between. All in all, I’m pretty glad it’s nearly over, although I expect December to be similarly hectic. At least this weather is allowing me to break out some winter clothes and turn on the fireplace in this new apartment. I’m not sure why a fireplace was installed in a Floridian apartment, but I’m not complaining. Let’s dive into today’s links!

Big Decisions Await Orlando City

With Orlando City’s season over, attention now turns to a critical off-season for the club. Head Coach Oscar Pareja is out of contract after leading the Lions to the playoffs for the past four years. The club will also need to decide if it will exercise the 2024 options on the contracts of both Executive Vice President of Soccer Operations and General Manager Luiz Muzzi and Technical Director and Assistant General Manager Ricardo Moreira. All three have orchestrated Orlando’s transformation that’s included winning its first trophy, having its best season this year, and qualifying for both the Concacaf Champions League and Champions Cup. Potentially transferring Facundo Torres to Europe, filling the empty Designated Player slot, and deciding which players to bring back for 2024 are also on the agenda. However, figuring out who will lead the Lions into this exciting next chapter is paramount. Personally, I think the club should do everything in its power to keep the people who brought Orlando to this point.

Matt Miazga Suspended for Three Games

FC Cincinnati will be without MLS Defender of the Year Matt Miazga for Saturday’s Eastern Conference final, as he was suspended by MLS for three games due to his misconduct after the match with the New York Red Bulls on Nov. 4. Miazga was also fined an undisclosed amount and will undergo a behavioral assessment as part of the league’s Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health Program. Following that aforementioned playoff match, reports surfaced that Miazga gained unauthorized access to an area reserved for the referees and acted aggressively. Any suspended games not served during Cincy’s playoff run will carry over into the 2024 season, although Miazga can petition for a reduction based on compliance with recommended treatment plans.

Emma Hayes Meets With USWNT Players and Staff

Emma Hayes, who was hired as the next United States Women’s National Team Head Coach earlier this month, made the trip to Florida to meet the team for the first time. Although she won’t be coaching the team for its upcoming pair of friendlies against China, she collaborated with interim head coach Twila Kilgore on the latest training camp roster and will continue to work with her until taking over in May. There won’t be much time between Hayes’ official start date and the 2024 Summer Olympics, making these moments of face time between player and future coach all the more important. USWNT captain Lindsey Horan spoke on the team’s goals after meeting Hayes for the first time.

“There’s so much talent in this team, and I don’t think the world has seen enough of it yet just because we need to go out and show it,” Horan said. “We need to be able to mesh together and show everything that we have, and what we’re all about, and how we can really collaborate and play together — be more of a team and be a powerhouse again.

“It’s going to be exciting for us to have her and see what she can do with this team and how she can help us moving forward.”

Ricardo Pepi Sends PSV Into Champions League Knockout Stage

PSV Eindhoven clinched its spot in the next round of the UEFA Champions League in dramatic fashion, with American forward Ricardo Pepi scoring the winner in a 3-2 comeback win over Sevilla in Spain. Trailing 2-0 in the second half, American left back Sergino Dest provided the assist on PSV’s first goal and Pepi found the winner in stoppage time, with fellow American Malik Tillman also coming off the bench. From his little flick to send a teammate forward to his run and clinical header, it was a great goal by the 20-year-old.

Elsewhere in the Champions League, Arsenal beat Lens 6-0 to advance, Real Madrid won 4-2 against Napoli to win its group, and Real Sociedad played to a scoreless draw with RB Salzburg. Manchester United remains in last place of its group after a 3-3 draw with Galatasaray, with goalkeeper Andre Onana unable to stop Hakim Ziyech from scoring off of two free kicks. All’s not lost for United though, as it can still qualify for the round of 16 by beating Bayern Munich at home so long as the other match ends in the group ends in a draw. It all makes for what should be an exciting final matchday in the group stage.

Free Kicks

  • The Kansas City Current announced that American midfielder Sam Mewis will not be returning to the club for the 2024 season. The 31-year-old has not played since 2021 as she continues to recover from a knee injury.
  • The Utah Royals have signed free agent forward Imani Dorsey on a contract through the 2025 season. Dorsey has most recently played for NJ/NY Gotham FC, although she didn’t participate in this past season due to mental health reasons.
  • Manchester United is reportedly ready to move on from Mason Mount just six months after he joined the team from Chelsea.
  • Tomasz Kwiatkowski, the video assistant referee involved in a controversial handball that eventually led to Paris Saint-Germain’s equalizer in stoppage time against Newcastle, was removed from his next scheduled duty by UEFA.
  • Amidst a four-game winless streak, French club Nantes has fired Pierre Aristouy as its manager, immediately replacing him with Jocelyn Gourvennec.
  • We’ll end our links with this interesting article that dives into how Romelu Lukaku unexpectedly arrived at AS Roma and how he’s thriving at the Italian club.

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

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Orlando City

2023 Orlando City Season in Review: Alex Freeman

We start our Orlando City player reviews with a look at a Homegrown fullback who made his MLS debut this season.



Image courtesy of Orlando City B

Orlando City signed fullback Alex Freeman to a Homegrown Player contract on February 15, 2022. He became the Lions’ 12th Homegrown signing and his deal runs through the 2025 season with a club option for 2026, but the youngster did not see action in Major League Soccer last season. With the departure of Ruan, there was an opportunity for Freeman to win a job with the first team in camp but he wasn’t quite ready to make the jump, instead playing an important role with Orlando City B throughout the 2023 MLS NEXT Pro season.

Let’s take a look back at Freeman’s 2023 campaign.

Statistical Breakdown

Freeman made his MLS debut on April 29 in a 2-0 home win over the LA Galaxy. It was not just his debut with the first team, but it was also his only appearance with the senior squad in 2023, although he did make the substitutes’ bench a few times after that. Officially, he logged only one minute, entering in the 93rd minute. He was only on the pitch a matter of seconds, so it’s unsurprising that he registered nothing on the stats sheet.

The son of former NFL receiver Antonio Freeman, Alex starred with OCB in 2023. In MLS NEXT Pro play, Freeman appeared in 24 of OCB’s 28 matches, starting 22, and logging 1,855 minutes. He finished tied for third on the squad in goals (4), adding three assists and passing at a 79.1% success rate. Freeman attempted 25 shots, putting 11 on target, and contributed 10 key passes. He committed 22 fouls, drew 27 on the opposition, and was booked four times. He also started OCB’s playoff match at Columbus, playing 89 minutes in the Young Lions’ 2-1 road loss. Freeman didn’t contribute a goal or assist or attempt a shot in the match, but he passed at an 88% rate, created one scoring chance, and committed one foul.

Best Game

With only one MLS appearance to his credit, the default best game for Freeman came on April 29 in Orlando City’s 2-0 home win over the LA Galaxy. Freeman didn’t even officially touch the ball in the game, but it’s not every day a teenager gets to play in an MLS match, and I’m sure it was a special moment for him. It was certainly a milestone in his professional soccer career.

2023 Final Grade

As Freeman fell well short of the minimum 450 minutes played mark to receive a rating on our 1-10 scale, The Mane Land has no choice but to mark his grade as incomplete for the 2023 season. There are areas of Freeman’s game that need a bit of refining, but at the same time, it’s easy to see why he landed a Homegrown contract, why Orlando City would find him an intriguing prospect, and why he’s been getting called up by the United States for U-20 international duty. His attacking presence was huge for OCB in 2023 and he was one of the key players that led the Young Lions to the postseason.

2024 Outlook

I would expect Freeman to get more seasoning at OCB in 2024, although he’ll be given opportunities in preseason camp to show whether he’s closed the gap on the likes of Michael Halliday and Kyle Smith (assuming both return). If the club moves on from both Halliday and Smith, it’s not hard to picture Freeman starting the season providing depth at right back for the first team. Having just turned 19 in August, Freeman has a lot of potential and he should start to unlock that within the next year or so.

This is the first of our 2023 Orlando City Season in Review articles. Every player who played minutes this past season and who finished the year on the club roster will be reviewed (exceptions may be made for players let go when the club officially announces its roster moves). Players who logged fewer than 450 minutes (combined regular season plus playoffs, Concacaf Champions League, U.S. Open Cup, and Leagues Cup) will receive a composite score between 1 and 10 as determined by a panel of The Mane Land writers, while those who did not reach that threshold will receive an incomplete grade.

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Lion Links

Lion Links: 11/29/23

Orlando Pride players called up by Brazil, MLS announces 2023 Best XI, latest MLS roster moves, and more.



Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Hello, Mane Landers I hope all is well down in Florida. I’ve been very busy working throughout the holiday weekend at Under Armour. This week I’ll be working at Wrigley Field for Winterland while getting ready to cover high school wrestling tomorrow night. There is plenty to cover today, so let’s get to the links.

Pride Players Called Up By Brazil for Friendlies

Orlando Pride defender Rafaelle and forwards Marta and Adriana have been called up to the Brazil Women’s National Team for its upcoming friendlies.

Brazil will play two matches against Japan on Nov. 30 and Dec. 3 in Sao Paulo before playing Nicaragua on Dec. 6 at Estadio Fonte Luminosa in Araraquara.

MLS Announces the 2023 Best XI

Major League Soccer announced its 2023 Best XI, recognizing the league’s top players at each position. There were no Orlando City players selected for the team and eight players received the honor for the first time. Those players are St. Louis City’s Roman Burki and Tim Parker, FC Cincinnati defender Matt Miazga, Atlanta United duo Thiago Almada and Giorgos Giakoumakis, Houston Dynamo midfielder Hector Herrera, LAFC’s Denis Bouanga, and Columbus Crew forward Cucho Hernandez. Nashville SC’s Hany Mukhtar made the Best XI for the third consecutive time, while teammate Walker Zimmerman was named to it for the fifth time. MLS MVP Luciano Acosta of FC Cincinnati rounds out the list.

Latest MLS Off-season Roster Moves

The Colorado Rapids announced their latest roster changes as they prepare for the the 2024 season under new Head Coach Chris Armas. The club exercised its options for defender Andrew Gutman, midfielder Ralph Priso, and forward Calvin Harris. The Rapids declined contract offers to seven players, with the most notable names being defender Steven Beitashour and goalkeeper William Yarbrough, although the Rapids are in discussions about re-signing Yarbrough. Elsewhere, the New England Revolution exercised the permanent transfer option on forward Tomas Chancalay, signing him to a Designated Player contract through 2026, with a club option for the 2027 season.

UEFA Champions League Roundup

Champions League action returned in Europe, as we get close to wrapping up the group stage in a couple of weeks. Manchester City overcame a two-goal deficit to beat RB Leipzig 3-2 and win Group G. Newcastle United had a chance to qualify for the round of 16 but gave up a late penalty to Paris Saint-Germain, which Kylian Mbappe converted to end the match in a 1-1 draw. Borussia Dortmund beat AC Milan 3-1 to book its spot in the knockout stage. PSG, Newcastle, and AC Milan are all still alive in Group F heading into the final matchday in December. Shakhtar Donetsk won 1-0 against Royal Antwerp and also still has a shot to advance on the final matchday. Lazio, Atletico Madrid, Barcelona, and Young Boys all won their respective matches as well. Today’s matches include Manchester United on the road against Galatasaray, Real Madrid taking on Napoli, and Sevilla facing off with PSV Eindhoven.

Free Kicks

  • Concacaf has announced that BMO Stadium, Dignity Health Sports Park, Shell Energy Stadium, and Snapdragon Stadium will be the four venues that will host matches for the 2024 Concacaf W Gold Cup.
  • Barcelona midfielder Gavi will be sidelined for up to 10 months after undergoing knee surgery after suffering a torn ACL in his right knee.
  • The International Football Association Board approved a trial for sin bins, meaning players punished for dissent or specific tactical offense would be temporarily removed from the match for a set amount of minutes.
  • You have got to see this goal from Cwrt Rawlin FC in the Welsh seventh division.

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

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