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Orlando City vs. D.C. United: Final Score 2-1 as Lions Choke Away All Three Points in Stoppage Time

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Orlando City played an outstanding first half and solid road match overall but threw away all three points by allowing the tying and winning goals in a 2-1 loss to D.C. United at Audi Field. The Lions (8-9-6, 30 points) threw away a one-goal lead in the second half for the third consecutive road match but made it worse by allowing a second to host D.C. (6-12-3, 21 points) in its first match under new manager Wayne Rooney.

Junior Urso’s wondergoal put the Lions ahead in the first half but two huge missed chances on empty nets cost the team what would have been a commanding lead. Still, it was hard to imagine Orlando getting nothing from the game until Chris Durkin and Taxi Fountas scored in the 91st and 95th minutes, respectively.

With tonight’s loss, the Lions were swept in the season series by the worst team in the Eastern Conference.

“We have tremendous pain on tonight’s result after a great first half and part of the second one too,” Orlando City Head Coach Oscar Pareja said after the match. “We just ended up giving up a result that was very important for us. I think I did not coach them well, especially in the second half. I take that responsibility. I feel like I could have done a much, much better job of helping them.”

Pareja’s lineup reflected a “they can rest when they’re dead” attitude toward squad rotation, as the gaffer made no changes to the lineup that played Wednesday night in the U.S. Open Cup semifinals. Pedro Gallese started in goal behind a back line of Joao Moutinho, Robin Jansson, Antonio Carlos, and Ruan. Cesar Araujo and Junior Urso took up their customary spots in central midfield behind an attacking line of Alexandre Pato, Mauricio Pereyra, and Facundo Torres, with Benji Michel in the striker role.

Despite a lack of rest, the Lions started the game on the front foot, harassing the hosts in their own end, causing turnovers, and getting numbers quickly into the attack. The waves of attack started in the fourth minute, with a fantastic pass from Pato sending Ruan down the right side. The right back’s crossing pass for Michel was just a tad too far out in front, however.

Three minutes later, Urso caused a turnover in the attacking third but Pereyra overcooked the entry pass. In the eighth minute, Michel sent a weak header on target that didn’t worry the goalkeeper. Nevertheless, the Lions grabbed the lead moments later.

Pato chipped a pass over the defense to Urso on the right side to create an attack in the ninth minute. Urso finished that attack with a chip of his own, sending an absurd ball over Rafael Romo and into the inside netting from the right side near the top of the box.

“Always in my career when I have that chance, I never tried to put it over the keeper,” Urso said of his unusual goal. “I always tried to bring the ball and tried to score on a hard shot. But today I had good confidence to do that. If I had the opportunity, I would change my goal for the three points.”

The rest of the first half seemed like a series of plays designed to test the will of all Orlando City fans, as the Lions continued to get into good scoring positions but refused to put a second shot in the net.

That started in the 19th minute when Torres took the ball down the left and fed into the box to Pato, who fired over the bar. Moutinho headed a recycled corner kick ball across the box to Michel in front in the 24th minute but he took too many touches and had his attempt blocked in front.

Urso sent a header wide in the 26th minute off a good cross from Ruan before the really egregious errors started. The first was a perfect ball over the top from Pereyra that sent Michel and Pato in behind the defense on the right. Michel pulled Romo way out of goal and fed to Pato, who turned and missed the gaping wide, goalkeeper-free net in front of him in the 28th minute.

In the 37th minute, Urso went for a brace with a good, low shot toward the right corner, but Romo made a good last-ditch diving save. A minute later, Michel had a worse miss than Pato’s empty-net whiff. Torres cut a beautiful ball back across the top of the six and Romo was caught at his post, but the Orlando attacker missed the net. The game could have been well over at that point but the Lions just weren’t ruthless enough.

Urso fired another shot at Romo in the 42nd minute but it was straight at the goalkeeper, giving him no trouble. It was the last decent look at goal for either side in the first half and the Lions took a 1-0 lead into the break that should have been three times that.

Orlando’s dominance in the game may not have shown on the scoreboard, but it did on the stat sheet, with the Lions leading in possession (51.8%-48.2%), shots (10-1), shots on target (4-1), corners (2-1), and passing accuracy (90.9%-87.3%).

The second half began a bit more evenly played after D.C. sent on Martin Rodriguez to add width to the midfield, substituting off Sofiane Djeffal. United found its footing in the match after Pereyra subbed off in the 55th minute for Andres Perea and started to create opportunities and get more possession in the attacking third.

“He came out with a pain in his knee,” Pareja said of Pereyra’s substitution. “He let us know in the middle of the game. We decided to continue in the second half with him and after 10 minutes or so the pain was increasing and he couldn’t continue. We lost control in there with the ball. I thought we had a lot of connections from (Pereyra) dropping those 10-15 yards and creating from there.”

The first warning sign for Orlando came in the 61st minute when a cross from Jackson Hopkins found Fountas in front for a golden opportunity. Gallese made himself big and came up with a huge save to protect the lead. The hosts sent the rebound wide.

Pato made a good run through the D.C. defense in the 64th minute but his shot was deflected out for a corner by Brendan Hines-Ike.

Pato had another look — this time in space at the left corner of the box — in the 69th minute but he missed the target again.

Orlando got sloppy in the late stages (almost like a team that played a midweek cup semifinal). A poor exchange in midfield gave the ball away in Orlando’s defensive third in the 71st minute but Hopkins sent his shot wide. Moments later, Ravel Morrison had his shot at the top of the area blocked.

The rest of normal time consisted mostly of Orlando doing well to hold the ball and eat up minutes and it seemed as though the Lions would come home with all three points but disaster struck in the 91st minute with a simple ball over the top to Ola Kamara on D.C.’s left side. Kamara cut back a diagonal pass to Durkin who sent it past Gallese to pull the hosts level.

Ruan was shaken up on the play and the time spent tending to him cost the Lions the point they still had, because it turned four minutes of stoppage into more than six. Kimarni Smith sent a ball into the area and this time Fountas didn’t leave his shot where Gallese could reach it.

The D.C. Designated Player’s winner in the 95th minute seemed a harsh result for Orlando but that’s what can happen when a team wastes sitters like the ones the Lions missed.

United turned most of Orlando’s statistical advantages around in the second half, finishing with more possession (56.3%-43.7%), passing accuracy (90.3%-89.7%), and corners (4-3). Orlando still had more shots (15-8), but each team finished with four on target.

“They added more numbers up front and started creating some sequences that for us were difficult to sustain, especially on the left side with the winger that they brought up,” Pareja said. “But then that’s circumstances in that moment we needed to have control the way we did it in the first half and we couldn’t do it.”

“I think the last 10 minutes were terrible,” Urso said. “The first half, we were really good on the field. In the second half we were really deep and then they had more control of the game. I think we have to keep more attention.

“Oscar puts us on the field to do what he says. He tells us to keep the ball and try to find space to score the goals, but sometimes we don’t try that. Sometimes we just stay and wait on the (other) team coming, so this is not the idea of Oscar. So, I think we have to follow what he says. And sometimes we don’t follow, we just defend there and wait for the other team coming, so I think we made a mistake.”

Apart from the U.S. Open Cup, it was a July to forget, and a critical month to get through. The Lions hardly navigated it in optimal fashion and continue to be fragile when the game most calls for nerve — moments in front of net and defending late against teams throwing numbers forward.

It’s something that needs to be fixed quickly or Orlando City will be on the outside of the playoff chase at season’s end.


The Lions will get a bona fide normal work week, returning to action next Saturday night when the New England Revolution visit Exploria Stadium.

Opinion

Wide Players Made the Difference in Victory Over Cavalry FC

Orlando’s fullbacks and wingers had great games against Cavalry, and it helped propel the Lions to victory.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Orlando City began its 2024 season with a resounding and confident 3-0 win over Cavalry FC on the road up in Canada. The Lions grabbed control of the game with an early goal and never let up, and now go into next week’s home leg in excellent position to advance to the next round. Everyone who played out wide for OCSC can and should take a well-earned bow for their performances, as it was their excellent games that pushed the Lions to a big advantage after the first leg.

The first goal looked easy enough, but it was a product of good vision and better execution. After collecting the ball near midfield, Wilder Cartagena turned into space and played a quick ball out to Ivan Angulo on the left wing. Martin Ojeda began his run in a fairly central position, but recognized that there was space behind fullback Shamit Shome, and immediately went to it. He was rewarded when Angulo took one touch to collect the ball, another to settle it, and used his third to play Ojeda into the space behind Shome, with defensive midfielder Jesse Daley coming back to cover. However, the pass from Angulo was perfectly weighted and Ojeda was able to use his first touch to play a cross into the box, preventing Daley from getting in the way of his delivery. Ojeda laid the ball on a plate, and Duncan McGuire made no mistake from close range.

The second goal also came as a result of play out wide, although it was more a goal of individual brilliance than team skill. Dagur Dan Thorhallsson drove at the heart of the retreating Cavalry defense, and pulled three players to him before releasing the ball at precisely the correct time to Facundo Torres on the right wing. Once there, the man defending Torres, William Akio, made the cardinal sin of allowing Facu to cut in on his left foot, and Orlando’s new no. 10 made the opposition pay with a shot to the near post that skipped off the turf and beat Marco Carducci, who admittedly maybe should have done better with it than he did.

The dagger came as a result of more excellent play down the left-hand side. Nicolas Lodeiro, Angulo, and Ramiro Enrique used some slick one-touch passing that resulted in Enrique sending Angulo in behind on the left. Enrique’s ball to free his fellow Colombian was perfectly weighted, and Angulo was able to use his first touch to play a perfect lofted cross to the back post, where Torres dispatched it with a beautiful diving header for his second of the match.

Numbers don’t lie, and they back up the assertion that the wide players had good games. Thorhallsson promptly picked up where he left off at right back, finishing with 81% passing accuracy, one key pass, one assist, one clearance, and one interception. If he keeps this up, then Mikey Halliday is going to have a fight on his hands when it comes to the starting job. Kyle Smith quietly had a good game on the opposite side of the defense, completing one dribble, winning a tackle, and recording four clearances, although his 72% passing accuracy could have been better.

Ivan Angulo was an absolute terror, and looked even more dangerous on the slick turf than he normally does on grass fields. He gave the Cavalry defense fits, and completed four dribbles, recording two key passes, a cross, two long balls, an interception, a tackle, and an assist while completing 84% of his passes. As in seasons past, the big question for him this year surrounds his decision-making in the final third and his finishing. If both of those attributes continue to improve, then he’ll be an almighty handful for opposing defenses.

Torres was, well, Torres. He’s been the straw that stirs Orlando City’s drink for two years now, and Wednesday night was no different. Facu took three shots and scored with the two he put on target, completed 86% of his passes, logging one key pass. He also completed a dribble and chipped in with a clearance and an interception on defense. Time will tell if he’s managed to add the use of his right foot to his game yet, but he was a pleasure to watch, as usual.

I also want to take a moment to shout-out Ojeda. While he was deployed through the middle in the no. 10 role, rather than out wide, where we’re used to seeing him, he was excellent. The Argentine repeatedly drifted into the half-spaces between center back and fullback and had a field day pulling the strings, as he finished with a whopping five key passes. If he can translate that sort of performance to MLS, then a lot of pressure will be taken off the aging legs of Nico Lodeiro.


In short, the Lions made their living on Wednesday by stretching the field, getting the ball to their dangerous players out wide, and then making and executing the correct decisions once it was there. There were a lot of things to like offensively about the performance, and it provided plenty to build on when OCSC opens MLS play against CF Montreal tomorrow. Vamos Orlando!

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Lion Links

Lion Links: 2/23/24

Orlando Pride’s Megan Montefusco placed on season-ending injury list, Orlando City’s chances to win it all, USWNT plays Argentina tonight, and more.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Happy Friday! It’s the final Friday before we spend pretty much every weekend screaming our hearts out for Orlando’s soccer teams. Although I won’t be in Orlando for tomorrow’s game, I’ll be cheering along from Tampa and am looking forward to a strong start to the season from the Lions. Before we get into today’s links, let’s all wish a happy birthday to our favorite octopus, Pedro Gallese!

Megan Montefusco Placed On Season-Ending Injury List

The Orlando Pride suffered a blow to their defense as center back Megan Montefusco was placed on the season-ending injury list after undergoing surgery on her right foot. Montefusco joined the Pride through a trade before the 2022 season and did well coming off the bench last season to keep Orlando’s defense strong as the year wore on. The Pride have options to fill the void, as Carrie Lawrence is back in the fray after missing last season due to injury and Tori Hansen will be back once her time on loan in Australia is up. Orlando could also go out and bring in a veteran to replace Montefusco or sign Cori Dyke, who was drafted by the Pride in the second round. Regardless, losing Montefusco is rough, considering Rafaella will likely be with Brazil for the Olympics this summer.

Orlando City’s Championship Credentials

Joseph Lowery of MLSsoccer.com detailed the strengths and weaknesses of each MLS team in terms of having what it takes to win it all this year. Orlando City followed up a pretty stellar off-season with a nearly perfect preseason. Head Coach Oscar Pareja, winger Ivan Angulo, and midfielder Wilder Cartagena are all sticking around, while Robin Jansson, Facundo Torres, and the front office brain trust of Luiz Muzzi and Ricardo Moreira were locked down as well. Additions of David Brekalo, Luis Muriel, and Nico Lodeiro also ensured this team has few holes. There’s concern that there are too many mouths to feed though, and that no single player can take the reins of the offense. I disagree on that being much of an issue though, as the attack is fluid enough to beat different teams in different ways. The Lions may go without All-Star representation as a result, but they should rack up plenty of points spreading the wealth on offense.

USWNT Takes on Argentina Tonight

The United States Women’s National Team will face Argentina tonight at 10:15 p.m. in its second game of the inaugural Concacaf W Gold Cup. The U.S. did well in its 5-0 win over the Dominican Republic, but there were opportunities to score even more. Since there will be reseeding for the knockout stages, scoring plenty of goals will benefit the USWNT. Midge Purce was excellent in the opener and the USWNT will need to be sharper at putting away good service from the wings. Argentina held Mexico to a scoreless draw in its opener and will likely be hungry to score its first goal of the tournament.

Keeping Up With the Europa League

The first round of the Europa League’s knockout stage came to a close after a drama-filled day of soccer. Only one game went to penalty kicks, as AS Roma beat Feyenoord after a 1-1 draw thanks to two saves from Mile Svilar in the shootout. There was a thriller in Azerbaijan as well. A red card reduced Qarabag FK to 10 men and Braga took full advantage, scoring twice to send the game into extra time. They then traded goals until 19-year-old winger Nariman Akhundzade gave Qarabag the winner in stoppage time. In Germany, SC Freiburg came back from a two-goal deficit to beat Lens in extra time as well.

Elsewhere, a red card doomed Galatasaray as Sparta Prague rallied late to win, and AC Milan survived a hat trick from Rennes midfielder Benjamin Bourigeaud to advance on aggregate. Sporting CP, Marseille, and Benfica all booked their spot in the round of 16 as well, with the draw set for today.

Free Kicks

  • New food vendors will be available for fans at Orlando City and Orlando Pride home games this year, with Flippers Pizzeria Company now a permanent addition. New options for the rotating carts include Pardon My Cheesesteak and Omusubee Japanese Rice Balls.
  • Congratulations to Pride defender Emily Madril on getting married!

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 vs. CF Montreal: Three Keys to Victory

What does Orlando City need to do to secure all three points in the home opener against CF Montreal?

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Orlando City will host CF Montreal in the club’s first match of the 2024 MLS regular season this Saturday night. The Lions are coming off the Concacaf Champions Cup match against Cavalry FC Wednesday night. Orlando City will want to get things started the right way as expectations and aspirations are higher than ever for the club.

What does Orlando City need to do to secure a victory in the home opener against their Canadian opponents?

Roster Management

Orlando City has four matches in 11 days — the previously mentioned Wednesday match against Cavalry in Canada, the match against Montreal on Saturday, the return match against Cavalry in Orlando next Tuesday, and then a trip to Ft. Lauderdale to take on Inter Miami. That is quite a start to competitive play in 2024.

Because of the schedule congestion, Oscar Pareja will need to rotate players. That means we’re not likely to have the preferred starting 11 as much as any of us will like. Kyle Smith, Michael Halliday, Jeorgio Kocevski, and others will likely see playing time. How well Pareja manages when to use which players, and for how long, will determine not just the result of this match against Montreal, but for each of the other matches as well.

Defensive Communication

Rodrigo Schlegel is serving a suspension in this first league match and will not be available. That means Orlando City’s newest center back, David Brekalo, will probably get the start alongside Robin “The Beefy Swede” Jansson. Having a good center back pairing is absolutely essential to the success of any defense. We know that because once Jansson and former Lion Antonio Carlos worked together for a while, they became an absolute fortress on the back line.

Now, Jansson will need to build the same chemistry with Brekalo if the Lions want to maintain their position as one of the best defenses in the league. With Schlegel unavailable, there is no question that Jansson and Brekalo will have the opportunity to start building that relationship. Hopefully, it will be good enough to keep Montreal — especially Josef Martinez — out of the goal.

Keep Torres Scoring

Facundo Torres had a great preseason. Orlando City’s new owner of the No. 10 shirt needs to keep doing the same. He’ll need to score goals, provide assists, and create problems for Montreal’s defense. Traditionally, Montreal has put out a three-man back line. While that means it’ll be a five-man back line when Orlando City has the ball, during changes of possession there should be space for Torres to get free and get scoring opportunities.

If Montreal smartly tried to contain Torres, then it will have to deal with Duncan McGuire, Nico Lodeiro, and Ivan Angulo. Orlando City’s offense has the potential to score quite a few more goals this season, and it all starts Saturday night against Montreal. Get two on the board and I think it will mean three points in the standings.


That is what I will be looking for Saturday night. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below. Vamos Orlando!

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