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Orlando City

Orlando City vs. Seattle Sounders: Final Score 3-2 as Lions Come from Two Down to Win



Orlando City overcame a 2-0 deficit to beat the Seattle Sounders 3-2 at Exploria Stadium. The Lions (12-10-6, 42 points) created plenty of chances but fell behind by two before the shots started going in. It was Orlando’s first-ever win against Seattle (10-15-3, 33 points) and the team’s fourth victory in a row — with the last three game-winning goals coming in the 89th minute or later.

Facundo Torres, Ercan Kara, and Kyle Smith provided the goals in the comeback after Albert Rusnak and Raul Ruidiaz had staked the Sounders to a 2-0 lead.

“I’m very proud of this group of players,” Orlando City Head Coach Oscar Pareja said after the match. “We understand that the best teams in the world are not the ones who don’t have difficult moments, but are the ones who overcome. This gives us today a lot of optimism of what we are and how things are coming (together).”

Pareja’s lineup was heavily rotated apart from goalkeeper Pedro Gallese and the back line of Joao Moutinho, Rodrigo Schlegel, Antonio Carlos, and Ruan. Mauricio Pereyra returned from yellow card suspension and played deep alongside Cesar Araujo in central midfield. From there it was almost all new faces. Joining Junior Urso in the attacking line was Ivan Angulo and Niko Gioacchini, who both made their first Orlando City starts. Tesho Akindele started, rather than coming off the bench as a super sub.

The game started almost two hours late due to lightning in the area. When play got underway, the first half was a bit back-and-forth, with Seattle having more possession in the opening 20 minutes and Orlando coming into the game after the visitors scored.

The Lions got a look in the first half when Gioacchini headed wide off a good cross by Moutinho 10 minutes in.

The visitors had their first decent chance in the 22nd minute when Ruidiaz got down the right but fired wide. But moments later, the Sounders scored.

Carlos was called for a foul about 25 yards out from the goal line and the Lions were incensed with the call, with three players surrounding referee Alex Chilowicz. Orlando was perhaps fortunate not to pick up a yellow card for dissent. Rusnak sent the free kick into the upper left corner where Gallese couldn’t reach it, putting Seattle up 1-0 in the 26th minute.

The Lions seemed to wake up after the goal and fashioned a chance in the 27th minute off a nifty set piece from distance. The ball was sent from left to right across the field and a diagonal ball came to Schlegel to the left of goal. Whether the defender meant to head on target or back across the box is unknown, but he ended up sending his effort at goalkeeper Stefan Frei.

The Lions had a golden opportunity to tie the match moments later. Gioacchini cut back to free himself for a shot and was taken down in the box by Jimmy Medranda. Chilowicz immediately signaled for a penalty kick. Pereyra took the spot kick after a lengthy discussion — for some reason — but sent his kick way too close to the middle and Frei made the save. Moutinho got to the ball and his follow-up shot was deflected out for a corner by a sliding save by Jackson Ragen.

In the 36th minute, Frei made a huge save to preserve Seattle’s lead. Pereyra sent a ball from the left to Gioacchini on the right. The forward headed across the box to Angulo to head toward goal but Frei got his hand on it.

Orlando couldn’t do much with a late corner kick and trailed 1-0 entering halftime.

Seattle held a slight edge in possession (52.1%-47.9%) and was more accurate in the passing game (85.1%-84%). Orlando had far more shot attempts (9-3), more shots on target (3-1), and corners (4-2).

Pareja sent Torres onto the pitch to start the second half in order to get a left-footed player on that side, withdrawing Gioacchini — a move he said he didn’t want to make because of the USMNT forward’s play, but felt he had to.

The visitors doubled their lead in the 52nd minute when they broke in transition and Ruan ended up isolated on Ruidiaz. Although the Brazilian tracked Ruidiaz across the front of goal, he was unable to prevent the Designated Player from scoring to make it 2-0.

Orlando’s reaction was immediate. Torres took a pass from Moutinho in the middle and found himself in space. The Uruguayan smashed a shot into the corner to pull the Ruidiaz goal right back and get the Lions back in it.

“I think he’s understanding much better the league and not just his role in the team, but I have seen too what this league is demanding,” Pareja said of Torres’ recent run of form. “I think he’s great and a fantastic moment for us that he stepped up and carried our team.”

The Lions continued attacking and looked dangerous. Angulo fired a shot but hit it right at Frei in the 62nd minute and seconds later Akindele got onto a Ruan cross but Yeimar blocked his header from point-blank range.

Second-half sub Kara tried an audacious shot from a tight angle in the 66th minute and got it on target, forcing Frei to be alert to make the save. A minute later, the Lions got their second penalty of the game when the ball hit Morris’ arm in the box. Kara took the spot kick and fired home his ninth goal of the year to tie the match at 2-2 in the 68th minute.

Orlando had two golden chances to take the lead in the 70th minute. Kara and Michel each got headers in front but Frei made a good save to deny the Austrian and the Homegrown couldn’t get much power on his and it fell into the goalkeeper’s arms.

Kara got his head to Torres’ corner kick cross in the 77th minute but his shot was just wide of the left post as the Lions continued to seek the game winner.

But the Sounders started to control the match over the final minutes, taking the ball away, keeping possession, and looking for a winner of their own. Lodeiro shook free from long range in the 82nd minute and forced a great diving save from Gallese.

Two minutes later, second-half substitute Andres Perea turned the ball over and the counter ended up with Morris, who fired wide. Lodeiro then baited Chilowicz into a soft foul call to set up a dangerous free kick but nothing came of it when Ragen popped his header over the bar and onto the roof of the net in the 86th minute.

Momentum flipped again as the end of the game approached. Smith sent a good cross to Perea at the back post but the midfielder headed his shot right at Frei in the 89th minute. Two minutes later, the Lions put the ball in the net but it initially didn’t seem to count.

Smith took a pass from Torres on the right and got into the box. He smashed a left-footed shot across the front of goal that deflected in but the flag came up as Kara was caught offside. Chilowicz went to the monitor and saw that the ball had hit Ragen and deflected past Frei and judged that Kara did not interfere with play, so the goal stood in the 91st minute and Smith had the game winner.

“ I was originally trying to get cross off,” Smith said. “But then I thought it was crowded in the box. So I chopped it back and then, at that point, I just wanted to put it on target as hard as I could. And then I hit it off the defender, I believe in the stomach and, you know, fortunately it went in.”

Smith said he originally thought he was being called for offside on the play.

After seeing out the last couple of minutes of stoppage time, the Lions had their initial win over the Sounders.

Seattle finished with more possession (54.1%-45.9%) and passing accuracy (84.2%-83.9%). The Lions had more shots (17-8), shots on target (8-3), and corners (7-3).

“We all know how good of a team we are,” Smith said of the current run of late game-winning goals. “And we all know that even if the goals don’t come in the first 60, 70 minutes, that they they still can come and very quickly. And we scored tonight three goals I think in like the last 30 minutes, maybe. So yeah, I think it’s just having confidence in ourselves to score goals.”

“One thing I like about the boys is they have their feet on the ground. They know where they are,” Pareja said of his team’s run of success with the upcoming cup final looming. “The league is still hard and we know we have a big challenge in front of us with our schedule and need to get points to qualify into the playoffs. We’re trying to live in the present today with Seattle. We didn’t want to touch the topic of playing in the final the last week or so. And after the game, I saw their faces and they said, ‘OK Oscar, we’re ready for the cup.’ Those things make you think that the team is getting mature. That’s important unity. But one day at a time. We’ll rest tomorrow. We’ll do anything that we have in our heart and in our bodies to give this trophy to Orlando in the next step — and without forgetting the commitment that we have in the league.”

The Lions will take a break from league play now as the Inter Miami game originally scheduled for this weekend was pushed into October. Orlando City’s next match will be the U.S. Open Cup final against Sacramento Republic FC next Wednesday at Exploria Stadium.

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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