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Orlando City

Orlando City vs. Seattle Sounders: Player Grades and Man of the Match

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For the third consecutive game, Orlando City scored in second-half injury time to claim all three points, in a 3-2 win over the Seattle Sounders. However, this time the Lions came back from a two-goal deficit and it wasn’t Tesho Akindele scoring the winner. It’s the Lions’ fourth straight win, keeping them in fifth in the Eastern Conference.

Let’s take a look at the individual performances in this big win.

Starters

GK, Pedro Gallese, 5.5 — Gallese didn’t have a lot to do in this game, only facing three shots on target. He conceded two goals in the game, but came up with a huge one-handed save late in the second half that would’ve given the Sounders the lead. Gallese couldn’t do much about Albert Rusnak’s free kick, which went through the wall and was perfectly placed in the top corner, but he could have done better on Raul Ruidiaz’s near-post effort.

D, Joao Moutinho, 6.5 — Moutinho was the better of the two starting fullbacks in this game. The left back had two tackles and one clearance defensively, but his biggest impact was going forward. He completed 84.2% of his 38 passes, including four key passes, and an assist on Facundo Torres’ goal. Moutinho completed three of his seven crosses and one of his two long balls. Additionally, he took one shot on the rebound of Mauricio Pereyra’s poor penalty but what was a likely goal was blocked at the last second by Seattle’s Jackson Ragen.

D, Rodrigo Schlegel, 5.5 — Schlegel was good for most of the game. He ended the game with one tackle, two interceptions, and one clearance, but Jordan Morris blew by him on the second Seattle goal. Going forward, Schlegel completed 81.4% of his 43 passes, completed one of his two long balls, and took one off-target shot. His grade would be higher but his poor defending on Morris on the second goal was his biggest contribution.

D, Antonio Carlos, 6 — As expected, Carlos was the better of the two center backs for most of the game. The Brazilian had two tackles and three clearances defensively. He completed 88.9% of his 36 shots and five of his seven long balls. He also took one shot, which was on target. However, Carlos had a role in both Seattle goals. He committed the foul that led to the first goal and was at the near post on the second, although Ruan was the man covering Ruidiaz. Carlos also took an unnecessary yellow card arguing a foul call that went against him.

D, Ruan, 5 — Ruan was at fault for one of the Seattle goals but unlike Carlos, didn’t put up a strong display to overcome that mistake. He didn’t have any defensive statistics in this game. He completed 83.3% of his 24 passes and had two key passes, but he only had one cross attempt and it was incomplete. Ruan was at the near post on Seattle’s second goal but was unable to clear it. It’s fair to say that in a transition situation with three defenders back against two attackers, it’s probably not the best idea to leave the other team’s Designated Player striker 1-v-1 with the Brazilian right back. The inability to clear the ball allowed Rusnak to score the game’s opening goal.

MF, Mauricio Pereyra, 6 — Pereyra had a strong game on both sides. Offensively, he completed 94.6% of his 37 passes, including one key pass. He completed two of his four crosses and five of his six long balls. He took two shots and one of those was on target. Defensively, Pereyra had one tackle, one interceptions, and one blocked shot. Pereyra would’ve had a higher score, but he took a very poor penalty in the first half that was at the perfect position and height for Stefan Frei. Had the Lions not scored at the end, it could’ve cost the team two points.

MF, Cesar Araujo, 7 — Araujo has been one of Orlando City’s most consistent players and had another great performance in this game. Defensively, the central midfielder had four tackles and was instrumental when Oscar Pareja brought on Benji Michel for Ruan, going with three defenders. When in possession, he completed 90.2% of his 51 passes, had a key pass, and completed all five of his long balls. He also had one off-target shot but was fantastic in his role.

MF, Niko Gioacchini, 5 — This was Gioacchini’s first start for the senior team and a little rust was showing. Gioacchini’s had an early unlucky touch as he seemed about to break free for a scoring chance but lost the handle on the ball. He completed just 70.6% of his 17 passes, had one key pass, and one off-target shot. His biggest contributions of the game were drawing the penalty that Pereyra sent at the goalkeeper and nearly assisting a goal for Ivan Angulo had Frei not made a terrific save.

MF, Junior Urso, 5.5 — After arguably his best performance of the season, Urso saw a bit of a drop-off in this one. He completed 82.4% of his 34 passes and completed four of his six long balls. He didn’t get any shots off but did play Gioacchini into the box that resulted in the first penalty. Defensively, Urso had one tackle and two interceptions. It wasn’t one of Urso’s more impactful games, but it wasn’t a bad performance either.

MF, Ivan Angulo, 6 — Angulo was in the starting lineup for the first time in this game and had another strong performance. He completed 88.2% of his 17 passes, had one incomplete cross, and completed his only long ball. He took two shots in the game, both of which were on target and chipped in two tackles on defense. While he wasn’t as good as the game against New York City FC Sunday night, he’s been better than Jake Mulraney and Gioacchini and has probably cemented his spot in the starting lineup for the upcoming games.

F, Tesho Akindele, 5.5 — After scoring game-winning goals in the two most recent games, Akindele earned himself a spot in the starting lineup against Seattle. In 63 minutes, the forward completed 53.3% of his 15 passes, completed one long ball, won four aerials, and took two off-target shots, one of which was blocked by a defender from point-blank range in his last action before being subbed off.

Substitutes

MF, Facundo Torres (46’), 7 (MotM) — After starting 14 of the last 15 games, Torres was given a rest for the first half against Seattle. However, Pareja said after the game that he wanted the star midfielder’s left-footed option in the second half, and he came on at halftime for Gioacchini. He made an immediate impact, scoring Orlando City’s first goal in the 53rd minute and assisting the winning goal in injury time. He completed 90% of his 20 passes with two key passes, one of his two crosses, and his one long ball. He had two shots in the game, with one going in.

F, Ercan Kara (64’), 6 — Similar to Torres, Kara came on in the second half and made an immediate impact. The striker replaced Akindele with Orlando City down a goal. In the 68th minute, he stepped up for the team’s second penalty of the night after a handball in the box. Unlike the first, Kara put his attempt into the corner, evening the game at 2-2. In addition to the goal, Kara completed one of his three passes and took two other shots, but both were officially recorded as off target — although one was a header that Frei made an excellent save to keep out, so there’s no telling what the official scorer saw on that play. The actual off-target shot was a header that missed by about a foot or less on a good corner kick cross from Torres. He was brought on to bring the Lions back even and did his job.

MF, Benji Michel (64’), 5.5 — Pareja made an aggressive move by bringing Michel on for Ruan in the 64th minute. He played in the midfield in this game, spending most of his time out wide in a bit of a wingback role to start before moving to the attacking midfield when Kyle Smith came on. He completed eight of his 10 passes, had one incomplete cross, and one incomplete long ball. He took one shot, which was on target, but didn’t make a big impact on the game.

D, Kyle Smith (76’), 7 — Smith came on for Pereyra in the 76th minute as the Lions went back to a traditional back four. It looked as though he wouldn’t have a big impact, but he did late. In the 89th minute, he nearly assisted the winner on a fantastic ball that landed on the head of Andres Perea, but Frei made a great save. A minute into injury time, Smith scored the game-winning goal. It took a deflection off Ragen’s body, but Smith was awarded the goal due to the original effort being judged on target, lifting the Lions to a 3-2 win. In the end, Smith completed all five of his passes, his lone cross, both of his long balls, and scored on his only shot. Can’t do much better than that.

MF, Andres Perea (76’), 6 — Perea came on in the 76th minute with Smith, replacing Angulo. He completed four of his five passes and nearly scored the winner in the 89th minute. Perea attacked the ball, beating the defenders to the ball on Smith’s cross but hit his shot right at Frei.


That’s how I saw the individual performances in this game. Let us know how you saw it and vote on the Man of the Match below.

Polling Closed

PlayerVotes
Facundo Torres55
Cesar Araujo3
Kyle Smith9
Joao Moutinho2
Mauricio Pereyra0
Other (let us know in the comments)0

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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Lion Links

Lion Links: 2/22/24

Orlando City beats Cavalry FC, Lions receive General Allocation Money for Junior Urso’s rights, USWNT gets ready for Argentina, and more.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

How’s it going, Mane Landers? It’s nice to start the morning fresh off of a huge win and I’m hoping that becomes a regular occurrence this year. Hopefully the work week has been kind to you as we ride the high of the Concacaf Champions Cup into Orlando City’s first game of the MLS season this weekend. For now, let’s dive into today’s links from around the soccer world.

Lions Win in Concacaf Champions Cup Opener

Orlando City kicked off its Concacaf Champions Cup campaign with a solid 3-0 win against Cavalry FC in Canada. Some players did better playing on the turf of Starlight Stadium in British Columbia than others, but the Lions ultimately did well on the road to make things less stressful for themselves for the second leg on Tuesday in Orlando at 6 p.m. Orlando’s offense showed little rust and the defense did its part in its first competitive match of 2024. Before the match, Head Coach Oscar Pareja announced that Robin Jansson will serve as the team’s captain this year, so it’s nice to see his tenure start with a clean sheet.

Junior Urso Signs With Charlotte FC

Orlando City received $50,000 in 2025 General Allocation Money from Charlotte FC in exchange for Brazilian midfielder Junior Urso’s right of first refusal. This transaction cleared the way for Urso to sign with Charlotte, joining on a deal through 2024, with an option for 2025. The Bear became a Lion back in 2020 and was an integral part of Orlando’s transformation under Head Coach Oscar Pareja that included winning the 2022 U.S. Open Cup. The 34-year-old impressed as a trialist with Charlotte during the preseason and should give Dean Smith’s side a veteran presence both on and off the field. While it’s never fun seeing a fan favorite playing for another Eastern Conference foe, I wish nothing but the best for Urso and hope he gets a warm reception when Charlotte visits Orlando this season on Sept. 18.

MLS Coaching Changes for 2024

There was a considerable amount of coaching turnover in MLS since last season, adding some intriguing storylines for this year. After a rough time in Miami, Phil Neville has a chance at redemption with a Portland Timbers side that narrowly missed out on the playoffs last year. The Colorado Rapids’ Chris Armas, D.C. United’s Troy Lesesne, and the New England Revolution’s Caleb Porter are other familiar faces in new places who could impress. As for those new to the scene, Dean Smith joined Charlotte from England, while Sandro Schwarz is now at the helm of the New York Red Bulls after years in Germany and Russia. I’m also interested to see how long it takes for John Herdman to turn things around with Toronto FC.

Analyzing Argentina Ahead of USWNT Clash

After a dominant 5-0 win over the Dominican Republic, the United States Women’s National Team will take on Argentina tomorrow in the Concacaf W Gold Cup’s group stage. The U.S. has won the past four meetings between the past two nations, and Argentina is coming off of a scoreless draw with Mexico. The Orlando Pride’s Mariana Larroquette spearheads an Argentine attack that can be a bit inconsistent when it comes to creating chances. That being said, Vanina Preininger can pull strings from the midfield and Argentina has multiple players capable of scoring from distance. Laurina Oliveros will likely start in goal after her clean sheet in the opener, and the defense also includes Kansas City Current center back Sophia Braun.

Free Kicks

  • The Orlando Pride’s Rafaelle and Adriana both started in Brazil’s 1-0 win over Puerto Rico.
  • The LA Galaxy signed Ghanaian winger Joseph Paintsil as their third Designated Player. The 26-year-old joins from Genk in Belgium and signed a contract with the Galaxy through 2027.
  • The Revolution beat Panama’s Independiente 1-0 on the road in the Champions Cup opener for both teams.
  • The new changes to MLS’ competitive rules, such as in-stadium VAR announcements and off-field treatments, have been postponed amid the league’s referee situation.
  • The United Soccer League announced that all 47 of the teams under its umbrella will take part in this year’s U.S. Open Cup.
  • Bayern Munich officially announced that Thomas Tuchel will leave once this season is over. Although Bayern is second in the Bundesliga standings, it’s lost its past three games, including a defeat to Lazio in the Champions League.
  • Porto scored a stunning goal in stoppage time to shock Arsenal in the UEFA Champions League.

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

Orlando City vs. Cavalry FC, Concacaf Champions Cup: Final Score 3-0 as Torres Brace Leads Lions to Road Win

The Lions are in the driver’s seat after a comprehensive victory over Cavalry FC in western Canada.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Duncan McGuire opened the scoring and Facundo Torres added a brace to lead Orlando City SC to a comfortable 3-0 win over Cavalry FC at Starlight Stadium in Langford, British Columbia in the first leg of Concacaf Champions Cup play. Orlando scored their first road goals in the competition and have a huge advantage heading into next week’s return leg.

“It’s very good for the team. The clean sheet is very important for us and scoring three goals is a good score for returning home,” Orlando City Assistant Coach Diego Torres said after the match. “Cavalry is a good team. The Canada league is a good league. All of our team respects all rivals. The team came here serious for the game.”

With Oscar Pareja sidelined due to suspension for a red card after the second leg against Tigres in 2023, Diego Torres’ lineup was made up mostly of presumed starters for the 2024 season, with Pedro Gallese starting in goal behind a back line of Kyle Smith, Robin Jansson, Rodrigo Schlegel, and Dagur Dan Thorhallsson. Cesar Araujo and Wilder Cartagena took their usual spots in the central midfield behind an attacking line of Ivan Angulo, Martin Ojeda, and Facundo Torres with McGuire up top. Presumed starters Rafael Santos, Nico Lodeiro, David Brekalo, and Luis Muriel were not in the lineup, with the latter two new Lions not in the matchday squad.

Center back Daan Klomp was positioned on the line and was able to get in front of Araujo’s header on frame. On the ensuing corner, Schlegel got under his header and sent it well over the bar.

Cavalry’s defense again denied a shot off a corner moments later. This time it was Callum Montgomery knocking it away. The Lions recycled and a shot appeared to go out off the goalkeeper but a goal kick was awarded.

Araujo again got forward in the 13th minute and the defense again blocked it, although this time it was outside the six-yard box rather than on the line. Moments later, McGuire had a go from a tough angle on the left but he mishit his shot and it went out on the other side for a throw-in. Torres then fired from the top of the box in the 19th minute but his effort was always rising and sailed well over the bar.

The Lions found the breakthrough moments later. Cartagena sent the ball wide to Angulo on the left and the Colombian sent Ojeda down the flank. The Argentine sent a great cross into the area and McGuire redirected it past Cavalry goalkeeper Marco Carducci to make it 1-0 in the 21st minute.

Orlando stayed on the front foot and in the 27th minute it was Angulo dancing through the defense and sending a lethal-looking cross through the six. Unfortunately, none of his teammates were making runs on the far side and it skipped harmlessly through.

Cavalry then nearly fashioned something out of nothing when a ball into the area nearly found Sergio Camargo right in front. However, the ball got through to Gallese, who scooped it up.

Thorhallsson, who had a terrific first half, nearly sent in Angulo in the 28th minute on a quick counterattack and then sent a dangerous cross over Carducci in the 32nd that just needed a touch from a teammate but didn’t get one.

No matter though, the Icelandic fullback got his assist in the 38th minute. Tucking inside for much of the night, he sent Torres wide on the right. The Uruguayan cut inside from the right at the top of the box and sent a shot on target. The ball bounced off the artificial turf in front of Carducci, who got a hand on it but couldn’t knock it wide of the post. Torres’ strike made it 2-0.

Cavalry won a late corner but sent the cross right at Gallese at the end of the half and that was it as far as the scoring chances. The Lions took their 2-0 advantage to the locker room.

At the break, the Lions held the advantage in shots (9-2), shots on target (3-0), passing accuracy (97.3%-73.5%), and corners (3-2).

Cavalry started the second half with more energy. Smith did well to win a goal kick to thwart an early attack and Schlegel got a head to a dangerous cross in the 49th to clear Orlando’s lines.

Orlando’s first decent chance of the second period came in the 53rd minute when Araujo stole a ball in the attacking third on the press. He found Ojeda on the left and the Argentine sent a cross in front, however, the defense again cut it out for a corner. The Lions couldn’t do anything with the set piece.

The game got a little chippy after that, with Cavalry’s Charlie Trafford picking up a yellow card for stepping on McGuire’s foot during a challenge. Moments later, a worse-looking challenge by Trafford on Thorhallsson went unpunished with a second yellow, despite being a worse foul.

Torres was then taken down on a rough challenge by Montgomery, who was booked. Ojeda went for goal from distance on the set piece, but Carducci made the save at the hour mark.

Gallese nearly got crossed up in the 61st minute when a fluttering ball fooled him and he had to fight it off to avoid an embarrassing situation. That was the start of a couple of chances for the hosts, sandwiching the Orlando City debut of Lodeiro, who subbed on for Ojeda.

In the 62nd minute, Cavalry created something off a throw-in, sending a ball into the box for Jesse Daley, who sent his weak effort right at Gallese on a wasted opportunity. Moments later, Jansson conceded a free kick and Cavalry nearly paid it off. Klomp got his head to the service but sent it just inches over the crossbar.

Cartagena nearly scored a surprising goal in the 68th minute when he sent a chip towards Carducci’s goal. The Cavalry goalkeeper was backpedaling and had to tip the shot over his crossbar.

Five minutes later, substitute Ramiro Enrique set up Lodeiro in the box but the midfielder sent his shot off the crossbar in the 73rd minute. Angulo followed with a shot that was blocked by the defense for a corner.

Two minutes later, the Lions put the game to bed. A fantastic sequence set up Torres’ brace. Enrique did well to send Angulo in behind the defense on the left. The Colombian sent a perfect cross to the back post and Torres sent a diving header off of Carducci’s hands and in to make it 3-0 in the 75th minute.

Cavalry got back on the front foot for a few minutes after the third goal. Camargo sent a shot right at Gallese in the 79th minute

Orlando should have scored again seconds later. Another excellent buildup play from Enrique and Angulo ended up on Araujo’s foot right in front of goal, but the midfielder couldn’t dig it out of his feet and the defense arrived to knock it away.

A poor giveaway by substitute Rafael Santos on the left sideline gave Cavalry a chance in the 82nd minute. The cross in front was deflected out to the top of the area. Diego Gutierrez smashed a shot toward goal, but Felipe took one for the team and blocked it out for a corner. Klomp was nearly sent in behind on the recycle of the ensuing set piece but the defender was either offside or was judged to have fouled Gallese and Orlando was awarded a free kick. Gallese then scooped up a one-hopper off a shot from a tight angle to his right in the 88th minute.

That was the last half chance for either side and the Lions saw out three minutes of injury time to claim their first Concacaf Champions Cup victory.

The final statistics were more flattering for the hosts than the halftime numbers. Orlando led in possession (55.4%-44.6%), shots (13-9), shots on target (5-4), passing accuracy (85.1%-82%), and corners (6-4).

“Now we prepare for the next leg at home,” Diego Torres said. “I know this game is very important. And the next game now is very important.”

“I wanted the players to be brave, and there’s certainly things that we can learn from it,” Cavalry Head Coach Tommy Wheeldon said. “I don’t think it was a three-nil game. I think between both boxes we matched up with them very, very well. I think they probably defended better in there’s and they finished better in ours, and that’s the difference.”


Orlando City will host Cavalry FC next Tuesday night in the second leg. Prior to that, the Lions have a quick turnaround ahead of Saturday’s MLS opener at home against CF Montreal at 7:30 p.m.

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