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Orlando City vs. Atlanta United: Final Score 1-1 as Lions Throw Away Second Road Lead This Week

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For the second time this week, Orlando City struck first but then produced no offense at all, conceded late, and settled for a 1-1 draw. This time it was against rival Atlanta United at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. The Lions (8-7-6, 30 points) got an early goal from Mauricio Pereyra, but then struggled to find any possession beyond midfield for the rest of the game, and generated next to nothing in the attack. Atlanta (6-8-6, 24 points) generated plenty but once again Pedro Gallese helped his team at least earn one point after Juan Jose Purata equalized.

“A great point for us. Very proud of the work the players did in the field,” Orlando City Head Coach Oscar Pareja said after the match. “Obviously, there is a lot of things that we would like to get better at, but at this stage of the season, this amount of games, the point is very, very valid for us against a rival that — especially in the second half — threw all that they had, and we couldn’t keep the ball and keep it away from those attacking sides.”

Pareja’s lineup included Gallese in goal behind a back line of Kyle Smith, Robin Jansson, Rodrigo Schlegel, and Ruan. Cesar Araujo and Junior Urso manned the central midfield behind an attacking line of Jake Mulraney, Pereyra, and Facundo Torres, with Ercan Kara up top. Joao Moutinho and Adam Grinwis returned to the team sheet on the Orlando bench.

The Lions started quickly and won several early set pieces. They made one pay off 10 minutes in due to a pair of Atlanta mistakes. Torres was losing the ball at the top of the box when George Campbell kicked him with a meaty challenge to draw the whistle. While goalkeeper Rocco Rios Novo was setting up his wall on his left, he was still in that position well after the whistle blew and Pereyra smashed a perfect free kick into the inside netting on the opposite side of the goal to make it 1-0.

“I was waiting to shoot over the wall and then I listened to the whistle and the keeper stayed on the other post,” Pereyra said. “And I just kicked the ball. Always in soccer you should be more concentrated and be smarter, and I took advantage of that.”

It was Pereyra’s first goal since May of 2021.

After the goal, the rest of the first half was all Atlanta — to the point where I’m not even sure Kara touched the ball again before halftime with the exception of one or two aerial attempts that skipped off his head and to the defense when Orlando sent the ball long.

The hosts had a number of dangerous chances, starting in the 17th minute when a perfect ball from Luiz Araujo found Marcelino Moreno over the top. Rather than shooting first time, Moreno took a touch, which allowed Ruan to knock it free. Jansson did just enough to thwart the second ball in.

Much of the remainder of the opening period was spent in Orlando’s half. Atlanta won a series of set pieces and the Lions looked to counter but were never able to do so. In the 23rd minute, Aiden McFadden got a couple of crosses in. Torres cleared the first one down the pitch and the second was too close to Gallese.

Purata smashed a shot wide from distance in the 27th minute, just moments after Amar Sejdic sent a free kick from the right straight at Gallese.

Torres let Atlanta off the hook for an errant pass in its own third in the 33rd minute by collecting the loose ball and then promptly dribbling into a thicket of three defenders, where he was dispossessed.

Ronaldo Cisneros did well to direct a free kick cross on target while falling away from goal in the 38th minute, however, Gallese was able to tip the shot over the bar and Schlegel cleared the ensuing corner.

There was a scary moment late when Moreno beat Smith at the end line and dribbled into the area. While standing behind the end line the two players tangled and Moreno visibly flopped. There was a loud penalty shout from the crowd — less so from the Atlanta players — and Victor Rivas held up play for the video assistant referee to have a look, but there was nothing given.

Jansson cleared a late free kick service and that was it for the first half in which the Lions did nothing but defend after their 10th-minute goal.

Atlanta finished the half with more possession (58.1%-41.9%), shots (3-2), corners (2-1), and passing accuracy (86.7%-82.1%). Each team managed one shot on target.

The second half was, if anything, even more lopsided in favor of the hosts than the final 30 minutes of the first. The Lions struggled to string together two passes and could scarcely get out of their own half.

“The strategy since the beginning was to reduce the spaces between the lines of (Atlanta), where they have very crafty players who can use those spaces,” Pareja said. “And on the other side, we wanted as well to have control of the ball and create some sequences that provide us some chances. I think we did it in the first half. In the second half, we knew the reaction of Atlanta was coming. We were not very clear in keeping the sequences longer, and then it was heavy to maintain our team in a different place on the field. We couldn’t keep the ball.”  

Mulraney conceded a free kick in the 49th minute and Ruan followed that up by conceding the first of several corners he gave Atlanta shortly after that. Despite the set pieces, it was Sejdic who got the first real look at goal in the second half, but he fired wide of the left post in the 54th minute.

Tesho Akindele and Benji Michel were sent on for Kara and Mulraney to add fresh legs but not much changed on the field. Atlanta, getting all of the attack and rarely being threatened, threw even more offense on the pitch after that, introducing Josef Martinez and Thiago Almada.

Orlando won a corner on a rare foray up the field in the 64th minute but it was Atlanta that nearly scored off of it. The clearance turned into a transition opportunity and multiple Lions failed to break it up until Araujo finally tracked down the ball and made a good play to prevent a scoring chance.

Pareja sent on Carlos and Perea for Smith and Torres to try to find some more width on the defensive end and create some natural outlets since the team couldn’t get out of its own third. That didn’t work as well as he’d hoped as poor passes and anywhere-will-do clearing nearly always found an Atlanta player instead and in fact the move ended up costing the Lions moments later.

On a long-range set piece, Perea was lined up by Purata and was late stepping up, keeping him onside. Carlos was the next closest defender but expected Perea to have Purata covered. As a result, the Atlanta defender got in alone behind the defense and headed home the service from Almada to make it 1-1 in the 71st minute.

Former Lion Dom Dwyer spelled Cisneros three minutes later and his introduction gave the Atlanta offense an additional boost.

After Orlando defended a few more set pieces — and Jansson did well to smother a cross attempt in the six after a turnover by Carlos — Martinez fired just wide in transition in the 80th minute after a poor touch by Pereyra turned the ball over near midfield. Two minutes later, Gallese made a huge save to thwart a 2-v-1 opportunity and although the rebound fell to Martinez, the bounce was too much for him to handle. Then, Gallese made an even bigger stop moments later. Dwyer received the ball at the top of the area and was able to turn and smash a hard shot toward the upper left corner. Gallese somehow got over and got a hand to it to keep the game tied in the 82nd minute.

“We are trying to get better in the offensive side and (figuring out) how can we keep the ball longer and how can we create actions since we’re still battling with that side of the game,” Pareja said. “We have been depending a lot on our defenders to maintain us in the games and Pedro is part of them. It’s not what we want when Pedro has to work that much. He is part of our team. He’s doing a good job. Hopefully in the next (games) we don’t make him work that hard.”

The save took its toll on El Pulpo, who had to receive treatment from the training staff after landing on his right shoulder following the acrobatic save.

Martinez nearly single-handedly provided a late winner for the host a few times down the stretch. In the 89th minute, he fired a blast just over the bar. In the 92nd minute, Martinez hit the post on a transition opportunity.

The Lions nearly stole all the points in the 94th minute. Second-half sub Alexandre Pato ended up with the ball just outside the top of the area. He fired a hard, low shot to the right that crashed off the post, coming within inches of finding a winner.

Moreno hit a shot wide in the 95th minute and the Lions had to survive a 97th-minute corner to bring home a point.

Atlanta dominated on the stat sheet as much as it did on the field after the 10th minute, finishing with much more possession (61.9%-38.1%), shots (18-3), shots on target (4-1), corners (10-2), and passing accuracy (88%-80.6%).

This is a game Orlando could have lost by four or five goals if the Five Stripes had been a little more accurate with shots or if Gallese hadn’t come up huge a few times. The Lions were fortunate to get anything from a performance like this, but they’ll take it because it was on the road in a rivalry game. The performance, however, underlined the problems this year’s team has — primarily the imbalance between the offensive and defensive ends of the pitch.

“It’s something that we need to keep improving and growing up together,” Pereyra said about Orlando’s league-worst minus-10 goal differential in the final 30 minutes this season. “We know that defending is not just a thing from defenders and the goals are not just a thing for the forwards. It’s a collective thing and we are a group and we try to pull together.”


The Lions are right back in action Wednesday night in a midseason friendly against Arsenal. The next Orlando City regular-season match will take place Saturday when the Lions host the Philadelphia Union at Exploria Stadium.

Lion Links

Lion Links: 4/16/24

Nico Lodeiro earns recognition, Marta up for Goal of the Week, MLS stock watch, and more.

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Dan MacDonald, The Mane Land

Happy Tuesday, everyone! I hope you had a good weekend and got your taxes filed correctly and on time. It was a good weekend for Orlando soccer, as the Orlando Pride, Orlando City B, and Orlando City went undefeated and picked up seven of the nine points on offer. As always, we have a lot to talk through today. Before we get into today’s links, let’s all wish Luis Muriel a happy birthday!

Nico Lodeiro Makes Team of the Matchday Bench

Midfielder Nico Lodeiro has earned recognition for his part in Orlando City’s 3-2 win over D.C. United, making the bench of the latest edition MLS Team of the Matchday. The Uruguayan entered the fray in the 72nd minute and helped OCSC come back and take all three points. He took the corner kick that David Brekalo equalized from, (even though he was not initially credited with the assist) and provided an outstanding through ball for Duncan McGuire’s game-winner. Sean Rollins graded him a 6.5/10 and named him Man of the Match in his player grades as well. Here’s hoping he keeps up the good work!

Marta’s Goal Nominated

Marta’s game-winning strike during Friday’s contest against Utah Royals FC has been nominated for NWSL Goal of the Week. On the road and in the game as a substitute, it didn’t take long for the Brazilian to make her mark on the match. She was barely on the field for five minutes when she met a ball that was rolling across the box with a first-time strike that she powered in off the back post. It proved to be the game’s only goal and was enough to give the Pride their first win of the season. Make sure you vote for her to win this week’s honor!

MLS Stock Watch

The fortunes of Major League Soccer teams are in constant flux, and it’s always nice to keep track of how your enemies are doing. Former Lion Sacha Kljestan weighed in on which clubs’ stock went up and which went down after the weekend’s games. We start on a good note, as a resilient performance from Orlando City saw the good guys pick up their second win of the season. The LA Galaxy hammered the Vancouver Whitecaps by a score of 3-1, and proved that their place atop the Western Conference standings is no fluke. On the other side of the coin, Toronto FC has given up 10 goals in its last three matches, and Jon Herdman needs to find a way to keep things from getting worse until the Reds’ group of injured players can return to the field.

Americans in Midweek Action

There are two big matches featuring American players this week, so get them marked down on your calendar and don’t miss any of the action. Thursday sees Christian Pulisic, Yunus Musah, and AC Milan travel to the Italian capital to try to overturn a 1-0 first leg deficit to Roma in the Europa League quarterfinals. Musah started Sunday’s match against Sassuolo and Pulisic subbed on in the second half as Milan clawed its way back to a 3-3 draw. Friday then has Juventus and Weston McKennie traveling to Cagliari for a Serie A tilt. Juve is currently third in the league and needs to keep picking up results to secure a UEFA Champions League place for next season.

UEFA Champions League Preview

Speaking of the Champions League, the quarterfinals wrap up today and tomorrow and there are a number of storylines to keep an eye on. Luis Enrique is strong in his belief that Paris Saint-Germain can overcome a 3-2 loss in the first leg to advance past Barcelona. Xavi has promised that Barca will look to attack rather than sitting and protecting its lead. Elsewhere, Bayern Munich will be without the suspended Alphonso Davies and likely Kingsley Coman due to injury, and their replacements will be hard pressed to contain Ben White and Bukayo Saka. Finally, Edin Terzic’s substitutions gave Borussia Dortmund a spark in the team’s 2-1 loss to Atletico Madrid in the first leg, which means the coach may have a selection headache on his hands as he tries to lead his side to a comeback.

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That’ll do it for me this morning. Vamos Orlando!

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Orlando City

Orlando City vs. D.C. United: Player Grades and Man of the Match

How did your favorite Lions perform in Orlando City’s 3-2 win over D.C. United?

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Orlando City came back from two deficits against D.C. United to claim a huge 3-2 win this weekend — the team’s second victory of the season. It looked like it would be a long night for the Lions in the first 20 minutes, but they turned it around. Down a goal late, David Brekalo and Duncan McGuire converted to earn Orlando City three points.

Here’s how I saw the individual performances by the Lions.

Starters

GK, Pedro Gallese, 6 — Gallese took his usual position in goal and had a strong night. He allowed himself to get pushed out of the play on the opening goal by Christian Benteke, though it arguably should’ve been a foul on D.C. He ended the game with four saves from six on-target shots, including two huge saves in second-half stoppage time. In addition to his shot stopping, Gallese completed 51.9% of his 27 passes, including seven of his 20 long balls. He was also credited with three clearances on the night.

D, Kyle Smith, 5.5 — Smith got the start at left back in this game over Rafael Santos, recording 53 touches. He had three tackles, three clearances, and a blocked shot. Going forward, he only completed 76.5% of his 34 passes, but connected with his lone cross and five of his nine long balls. He also won two aerial balls and was booked just before coming off for handling a ball that he should’ve cleared, giving D.C. a free kick in a dangerous position. The defender was replaced by Santos in the 73rd minute.

D, Robin Jansson, 6 — Jansson was a strong point for Orlando City once again in this game. He recorded one tackle, two interceptions, a blocked shot, and three clearances. Going forward, the center back completed 80.4% of his 46 passes, including four of his seven long balls. Arguably his biggest play of the game was drawing a foul late at the top of the box when D.C. was pushing for an equalizer.

D, David Brekalo, 6 — Brekalo had 60 touches and completed 76.6% of his 47 passes, including three of his 13 long balls. Defensively, he recorded one tackle, one interception, and two clearances. He made his first significant offensive impact as a Lion by getting his head to a Nico Lodeiro corner kick in the 82nd minute to even the game at 2-2.

D, Dagur Dan Thorhallsson, 6 — Thorhallsson only had 58 touches in the game, but the right back made the most of them. He completed 76.7% of his 30 passes and three of his six long balls, but failed to connect on his lone cross. Defensively, he recorded two tackles and three clearances. However, his biggest impact came in the 28th minute, when he got his head onto Ivan Angulo’s cross to even the game at 1-1.

MF, Cesar Araujo, 5 — Araujo’s 70 touches were the most on the team for this game. He only completed 78.2% of his 55 passes, but connected on two of his four long balls. Defensively, he won two tackles and blocked one shot while committing a team-high four fouls. He was also late getting over to cover Gabriel Pirani on the second goal for D.C. Overall, it wasn’t one of Araujo’s best games.

MF, Wilder Cartagena, 5.5 — Cartagena started in the defensive midfield alongside Araujo. He recorded 41 touches and completed 81.3% of his 32 passes, including a key pass, his one cross, and one of his three long balls. Defensively, he recorded two clearances. As is common with the midfielder, he was booked in the first half for standing over Jared Stroud after a foul by Angulo. He was taken off during a triple substitution in the 72nd minute, replaced by Lodeiro.

MF, Ivan Angulo, 6 — Angulo was the least involved of the midfielders, only recording 35 touches. However, he completed 76.2% of his 21 passes, including a wonderful cross to Thorhallsson on the Lions’ first goal of the night. His lone shot was off target, but he helped defensively with a tackle and team-high three interceptions.

MF, Facundo Torres, 5.5 — Torres recorded 50 touches in this game and completed 90.9% of his 33 passes with no key passes. He was accurate on only one of his three crosses, which was an issue. His lone shot was off target but not by much, as he sent his effort just wide of the right post from outside the area. He came off in stoppage time after the Lions took the lead for center back Rodrigo Schlegel.

MF, Martin Ojeda, 5.5 — Ojeda started in the attacking midfield for this game, recording 46 touches. He completed 71.4% of his 21 passes, including two key passes, one accurate cross on his four attempts, and two of his four long balls. He also had four unstable touches and an off-target shot. Defensively, the attacking midfielder had a team-high four tackles, helping his team retain possession before being replaced by Duncan McGuire in the 72nd minute.

F, Luis Muriel, 5 — Muriel got the start alone up top, but had a difficult night. He got involved in the game with 36 touches and completed 64.7% of his 17 passes, including two key passes. He took two shots, with one on target, and completed two dribbles, but had five unstable touches. He could’ve had a much better performance, but attempted to dribble through the opposition in the box rather than finding a teammate, losing possession. The forward’s night ended in the 87th minute when he was replaced by Felipe.

Substitutes

D, Rafael Santos (73’), 5.5 — Santos came on in the 73rd minute for Smith at left back. He had 14 touches and completed seven of his 10 touches (70%), but failed to connect on his one long ball and three crosses. He also didn’t record any defensive stats in his 17 minutes of action.

MF, Nico Lodeiro (72’), 6.5 (MotM) — Lodeiro came on in the 72nd minute for Cartagena, looking to make a difference. The midfielder touched the ball 18 times and completed 75% of his 12 passes, including two key passes, two of his three crosses, and one of his three long balls. Both of his shots were on target and his through ball for McGuire in second-half stoppage time gave him the assist on the game-winning goal. Although the stats sheet credited Torres with the assist on Brekalo’s goal, it was the veteran who took the set piece, which should result in a two-assist night once the league has had a chance to review the tape (see below…even Evan Weston calls him ‘Torres’ on his call). Lodeiro was a game-changer when he came on so, despite his lack of minutes, he earns my Man of the Match.

F, Duncan McGuire (72’), 6 — McGuire came on with Lodeiro as the Lions were chasing the game. He had 14 touches and completed 44.4% of his nine passes. However, the striker was brought on to score and did so in stoppage time, timing his run perfectly and finishing well on the breakaway. He also recorded a tackle and clearance but gets a high grade from me for doing exactly what he was brought on to do in scoring the winning goal.

MF, Felipe (87’), N/A — Felipe came on for Muriel as the Lions looked to see out a point, but he only touched the ball three times. He completed both of his passes, but didn’t record any other stats in his minimal time on the field.

D, Rodrigo Schlegel (90+2’), N/A — Schlegel came on right after the game-winning goal for Torres as the Lions looked to see out the win. He had two touches and an incomplete pass, but no other statistics.


That’s how I saw the individual performances in Orlando City’s win over D.C. United. Let us know how you saw the game and vote for your Man of the Match below.

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Lion Links

Lion Links: 4/15/24

Lions beat D.C. United, Pride pick up road win over Utah Royals, Barbra Banda arrives in Orlando, and more.

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Image courtesy of Orlando Pride / Jeremy Reper

Hello, Mane Landers. I hope all is well with you down in Florida. Orlando City and the Pride both won over the weekend, and there has been plenty of action in European soccer. Over the past week, I’ve been busy covering high school sports like lacrosse and softball. There is plenty to cover today, so let’s get to the links.

Lions Top D.C. United

Orlando City overturned a late 2-1 deficit to win 3-2 against D.C. United at Audi Field over the weekend. David Brekalo scored the equalizer in the second half to tie the match at 2-2. Duncan McGuire came off the bench in the second half and scored in stoppage time, as the Lions beat D.C. United for the first time since Oct. 2, 2021. The Lions were 0-3-1 against D.C. United over the last two seasons prior to Saturday’s win. Orlando has now picked up points in each of the last three matches. Orlando City will be on the road again this weekend when it takes on CF Montreal on Saturday.

Orlando Pride Defeat Utah Royals; Help Arrives

The Orlando Pride got their first win of the 2024 NWSL last Friday with a 1-0 against the Utah Royals. Marta came off the bench in the second half and scored the lone goal to seal the win for Orlando. The Pride drew each of their first three matches to start the season against Racing Louisville, Angel City FC, and the Chicago Red Stars. Friday’s result means the Pride have six points through four league matches and are fifth in the NWSL table.

Despite needing four matches to pick up their first win of the year, the Pride are ahead of last year’s pace at the same point in the season, and remain undefeated (1-0-3) despite still waiting to play with this off-season’s marquee signing, Zambian international striker Barbra Banda. The new Pride forward arrived on Sunday to a warm welcome at Orlando International Airport.

It will be interesting to see how quickly Seb Hines can get Banda acclimated to the club and the league. Orlando could use Banda’s offensive firepower, as the club has struggled to score goals in the early part of the season. The Pride will be back in action against the San Diego Wave this Friday.

Bayer Leverkusen wins Bundesliga; Manchester City Leads EPL Title Race

Bayer Leverkusen cruised to a 5-0 win against Werder Bremen on Sunday to win its first ever Bundesliga title with five league matches left to spare. Xabi Alonso’s side won the league title by a 16-point margin, ending Bayern Munich’s 11-year run as title holders. Leverkusen is also unbeaten through 43 matches across all competitions. Meanwhile, in England, we have a new Premier League title race leader as Manchester City crushed Luton Town 5-1 on Saturday. On Sunday, Arsenal lost 2-0 to Aston Villa and Liverpool lost 1-0 to Crystal Palace. There are six match days remaining and this race could go down to the wire. Manchester City is at the top of the table with 73 points, while Arsenal and Liverpool remain two points behind in second and third, respectively, with 71 points.

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  • Houston Dash winger Maria Sanchez has reportedly requested a trade four months after signing a record-breaking deal in NWSL history in the off-season to remain with the club.
  • Manchester United edged Chelsea 2-1 to beat the Blues for the first time ever. Making the win even bigger was that it took place in the Women’s FA Cup semifinal. United will play Tottenham in the final at Wembley on May 12.
  • The EFL Championship is three weeks away from its finale, with a few clubs featureing Americans still in the mix for promotion. Josh Sargent’s Norwich City side holds the final playoff spot, while Haji Wright’s Conventry and Duane Holmes’ Preston North End in the hunt for a shot at promotion.
  • The AS Roma versus Udinese match was suspended after defender Evan Ndicka collapsed away from play and had to be stretchered off. The game was tied at 1-1 with about 20 minutes remaining when Ndicka went down. The club shared this update on social media.

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

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