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Orlando City vs. Atlanta United: Five Takeaways

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Orlando City finished its two-match road swing with a trip to Mercedes-Benz Stadium to play Atlanta United on Sunday afternoon. The start was a bright one for Orlando City, culminating in Mauricio Pereyra’s free kick goal in the 10th minute. Things did not continue on that track afterwards, with the Lions fortunate to only concede once in a 1-1 draw.

Here’s what I took away from the match.

One Ain’t Enough

For the second time in a week, the Lions scored the first goal of the match and then didn’t do a lot afterwards. Regardless of what “they” say about a two-goal lead in soccer, I’ll take one of those any day of the week. And three would be even better. Orlando City has struggled to score goals for the majority of the 2022 season and one on the road is rarely going to lead to victory. A second goal against Colorado was much more likely than it was against Atlanta, given how the two matches unfolded. However, that second never came in either game and it amounted to four valuable points dropped, which is the difference between the Lions sitting fifth in the table, where they are now, and nine points behind Philadelphia, and sitting third — just five points out of first with a chance to get three points closer this Saturday when the Union visit Exploria Stadium. More goals please.

Mauri Magic

Pereyra’s goal may have been helped by two colossal Atlanta errors, but it was still a moment of magic. Taylor Twellman can (and did) complain about the “softness” of the call, and it’s true that players who lose the ball rarely get a call in the aftermath of a poor touch, but I don’t see that Victor Rivas had any choice but to call that foul. Facundo Torres — who struggled with his touch and his decision making throughout this match, although whether the former was due to heavy legs or the unfamiliar surface of Atlanta’s fake plastic grass, I don’t know — got booted pretty hard in the leg. Whether a player has the ball or has just fumbled it away isn’t the determining factor on what constitutes a foul. That was a legit call and an unfortunate play for Atlanta.

The bigger issue was with Rocco Rios Novo’s awareness. The Atlanta goalkeeper was apparently still trying to set up his wall when the whistle blew to start play. Pereyra didn’t immediately hit his shot. There were a good couple of seconds that went by with Rios Novo remaining behind his wall when the captain took his kick. And even if the keeper had been aligned properly, Pereyra’s shot was so good, it’s unlikely it would have been saved. That thing hit the inside netting inside the left post. It was an outstanding free kick and maybe Pereyra’s best since joining the team. If the goalkeeper being misaligned spoils it for some, I feel for their inability to experience joy.

Bright Start Quickly Fizzled

The Lions came out of the gate as the protagonists of the match that Oscar Pareja wants them to be. Orlando City controlled play early, won multiple set pieces, and made one of them pay off. But after the goal, the game completely switched. The Five Stripes controlled play for most of the remainder of the game. While the Lions did well to limit Atlanta’s ability to fashion anything threatening through the first half, it was clear that the hosts were far more likely to score than Orlando. The Lions have been largely toothless in transition this season, often peeling back and playing patiently at the first sign of pressure. But even transition opportunities aren’t going to materialize when outlet passes are offline or are predictable enough to allow defenders to cut them off.

Things got worse in the second half when the hosts realized they could easily sacrifice a fullback and a midfielder and add more bite to the attack. That’s when they started making life much more difficult for the Orlando defense and goalkeeper Pedro Gallese, who came up big again. It’s hard to blame short rest for Orlando getting pinned back when Atlanta played the same number of days before. Sure, the Lions had to travel, but the difference shouldn’t have been so pronounced. Atlanta has had issues getting outnumbered in the back in 2022 but Orlando couldn’t mount any kind of counterattack and the hosts grew more comfortable as the game went on. Essentially, Orlando was on its heels for 80 minutes and only handled its defensive duties well for the first 35 of those minutes.

Changes Didn’t Work

Pareja often goes to five in the back to add an extra player to clog passing lanes and deal with crosses as a means of seeing out games. Wednesday at Colorado, he used that to try to help the fullbacks, who the Rapids were abusing — particularly Kyle Smith, who struggled to deal with Sam Nicholson, only to then be stuck with a better replacement in Michael Barrios. Smith was again getting picked on Sunday but the change to bring on Antonio Carlos was an attempt to provide more opportunities to outlet to an actual player — having the option of the three central defenders sending outlet passes to a wingback or a midfielder rather than just the midfielders — and it just didn’t work. The back line was forced to play desperation kickball even with the additional wide options due to the intense Atlanta pressure and inability of the midfielders to string together a pass or two to give them a chance to regroup. The defenders had no sooner booted the ball up the field than they had to focus on who to pick up as the Five Stripes charged at them again. Tesho Akindele’s introduction for Ercan Kara was never going to work because the Lions couldn’t work the ball up the field far enough to find a forward anyway. Andres Perea’s introduction cost the team a goal because he kept his runner onside and also didn’t bother to track him or defend anyone on that set piece.

Sometimes Pareja gets the subs just right, but Sunday was not one of those days where his players were able to turn his ideas into reality. This likely was more to do with execution and circumstance than with the strategy, but either way, it didn’t come off as intended.

El Pulpo for President

For the second straight game, Orlando City’s outfield players can thank Pedro Gallese for the team getting anything from the match. Gallese was coming off a performance in Colorado that got him on the MLS Team of the Week. He was just as vital on Sunday with a couple of enormous saves late in the game to preserve the draw. He couldn’t do anything about the free header goal on the set piece, but he stopped a 2-v-1 down the stretch and absolutely robbed former Lion Dom Dwyer with one of the prettier saves in Orlando City history. His flying, one-handed stop of Dwyer’s drive should be immortalized on a poster, suitable for framing. That was the one that truly showed Gallese’s quality and athleticism.


That’s what stuck out to me from Sunday’s game. What did you see? Let me know in the comments section below.

Orlando City

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

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

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Carlos Romero, The Mane Land

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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Lion Links: 4/12/24

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

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Image courtesy of Orlando City B

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

Orlando Pride Play the Utah Royals Tonight

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

Orlando City B Draws Philadelphia Union II

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

New York City FC Stadium Plans Finally Approved

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

Europa League Quarterfinals Kick Off

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

Free Kicks


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

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Orlando City

Orlando City at D.C. United: Three Keys to Victory

What does Orlando City need to do to earn its first away victory of the season?

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Jeremy Reper

Orlando City is back in action this Saturday night against D.C. United at Audi Field. Despite coming off back-to-back results, the off-week was well timed for the Lions. A little extra rest for the squad, plus giving players time to recuperate from various knocks should mean a nearly full strength Orlando City.

What does Orlando City need to do to earn all three points on the road against its Eastern Conference rivals?

The Dynamic Duo Return

Cesar Araujo returned to the Orlando City lineup against the New York Red Bulls, meaning the Lions should finally have their top choice defensive midfield pairing back together. The timing couldn’t be more perfect given Orlando City will be dealing with D.C. United striker Christian Benteke. He has five goals in five matches, which is half of the 10 goals D.C. United has scored all season.

So far this regular season, every match in which the Lions give up more than one goal has resulted in a loss. Keeping Benteke and the rest of D.C. United off of the score sheet is critical to getting a result. Orlando City can concede one goal and still walk away with points on the road, but only if the Lions manage to accomplish the next key below.

Goals are the Goal

To say Orlando City has been wasteful in front of goal is a bit of an understatement. So far this regular season, the Lions have 93 shots, with 27 on target, but only five goals. Orlando City has created scoring opportunities, but failed to convert them in anything close to an efficient manner. Of the five goals scored, Duncan McGuire has two, Nico Lodeiro has one, and Jack Lynn has one. The other was credited as an own goal on Lynn’s backheel attempt.

The list of players who haven’t scored yet this season is too long to type, but I don’t need goals from the defenders — though I will take them. I just need Facundo Torres, Ivan Angulo, Luis Muriel, and Martin Ojeda to get something going. Ideally, all four of them score in this match, but I’ll take whatever goals we can get.

End the Trend

Orlando City hasn’t fared well against D.C. United recently. Nearly a year ago, the Lions lost at home 3-1 to the visitors. The last trip to Audi Field was a 1-1 draw in which Orlando City gave up a goal in the 80th minute to settle for a single point. In 2022, Orlando City lost both matches to D.C. United. It’s time to get things going in the right direction.

The Lions also need to stop losing on the road. Losses to Inter Miami and Atlanta both came on the road, with Orlando City yet to find any points away from home. Last season, the Lions were veritable road warriors. The team needs to find that form again as it was a major reason the club finished second in the Supporters’ Shield race.


That is what I will be looking for this weekend as Orlando City takes on D.C. United. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below. Vamos Orlando!

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