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Orlando City vs. Philadelphia Union: Final Score 5-1 as Lions’ Win Streak is Snapped

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While many expected Orlando City to suffer a U.S. Open Cup hangover on short rest against the conference-leading Philadelphia Union at Subaru Park, the Lions came out in the mood for a battle. Unfortunately, some questionable officiating and a lucky deflection got the Union (18-4-9, 63 points) started and Orlando (12-11-6, 42 points) couldn’t climb back in it, suffering a lopsided 5-1 defeat on the road. That snapped City’s four-game MLS winning streak and five-game streak in all competitions.

It was the second straight time the Lions have gone to Subaru Park and had a legitimate complaint for an opponent to be sent off but nothing happened. Last year, Kacper Przybylko elbowed Rodrigo Schlegel in the face and then proceeded to score twice after not being sent off. This time, an early headbutt by Jose Martinez on Wilder Cartagena wasn’t seen by the referee and the video assistant referee didn’t bother to do anything about it either.

That could have changed the game, but instead the Union got goals from five different players — Oliver Mbaizo, Mikael Uhre, Daniel Gazdag, Alejandro Bedoya, and Jack Elliott — to more than offset Andres Perea’s goal.

“Well, first congratulations to Philadelphia and the way they were sharp in the box and the opportunities that they had, they just put it in the back of the net and that requires a lot of work,” Orlando City Head Coach Oscar Pareja said after the match. “I know that it was going to be difficult in that end and in regards to the game, I thought it was very level. We tried to modify some positioning and some things worked, some things didn’t work.”

Pareja rotated his squad but perhaps a little less than expected. Mason Stajduhar got the start in goal behind a back line of Joao Moutinho, Schlegel, Antonio Carlos, and Ruan. Cartagena started in place of Cesar Araujo with Perea in central midfield behind an attacking line of Jake Mulraney, Mauricio Pereyra, and Niko Gioacchini, with Benji Michel up top.

The Lions played a decent first half, all things considered. Pereyra had a look in the 10th minute after Andre Blake punched a Mulraney cross out of the box. Orlando’s captain fired but the shot was blocked.

Martinez smashed a cannon shot over the bar in the 14th minute. Julian Carranza scored a minute later in transition but the flag came up and a VAR check confirmed the call.

Moments later, Cartagena and Martinez got tangled up and in the aftermath, the Philadelphia midfielder got up and appeared to headbutt Cartagena in the head. Referee Armando Villarreal didn’t see it because it happened behind the play but the broadcast picked it up. However, VAR Jose Carlos Rivero did not deem it worth a look for Villarreal and he continued.

“It was a very important play for sure,” Pareja said, without commenting further.

Moments later, Martinez took Perea down from behind in transition and wasn’t booked in a second curious non-call in quick succession.

Michel fired a shot at the end of that play and Blake got a piece of it to knock it out for a corner in the 20th minute. The Lions could not get the ensuing corner cross beyond the first defender.

Orlando had a golden opportunity in the 31st minute when Ruan shook free down the right side of the box. He needed only to get his pass through one defender to set up a sitter but couldn’t do it.

The Union found the breakthrough in the 39th minute on a lucky bounce that came after an Orlando giveaway. Perea had Mulraney wide open to his left in space but ignored him and tried to play a ball to Pereyra in traffic on the right instead. He got the pass wrong and Philadelphia came the other way. Mbaizo fired either a cross or a low-percentage shot that deflected off Moutinho and went high in the air, looped over Stajduhar and somehow found its way inside the far corner to make it 1-0.

“That first goal came on a very unfortunate play,” Pareja said. “It’s the game. We’ll take it, but it was a very unlucky play and then that kind of reduced (the team’s) energy.”

“Always in those situations when you score a goal or you make a good play, you firm up your confidence a little bit, and unfortunately, it just went the other way for us,” Perea said. 

That goal energized the Union and they started becoming more dangerous immediately. Uhre fired just wide in the 41st minute after clearing himself through the defense. But two minutes later he got his goal and doubled the lead. Cartagena tried to play Ruan in on the attack but the fullback was never making the run. The Union broke 3-on-2 and Uhre beat Carlos for pace and slipped his shot past Stajduhar to make it 2-0 in the 43rd minute.

“With this team, you have to be concentrated and organized all the time. You cannot allow them to go through that middle channel easily,” Pareja said. “That second goal came on a counter attack when we were trying to look for the game.”

The half came moments later and the Lions, who played well overall, were in a two-goal hole. Orlando City had more possession (52.6%-47.4%) and passing accuracy (80.8%-79%), but the hosts had more shots (7-3) and shots on goal (2-1). Each team had one corner opportunity.

Pareja sent Facundo Torres and Ivan Angulo on for Gioacchini and Mulraney to start the second half but the Lions couldn’t get back into it. In fact, things got worse and a Villarreal decision again was involved. Stajduhar spilled a cross in from his left and he and Uhre went for the ball. Uhre touched it first and sent it over the end line while at full stretch and there was some light contact. Villarreal gave a penalty and even though Rivero had him take a second look at it, he stuck with his initial call. Gazdag scored from the spot and the game was effectively over in the 55th minute.

Orlando’s legs left them after that and the Lions created very little. Stajduhar made a save on a long-range try in the 60th minute and then stoned Uhre 1-v-1 in the 62nd after the striker again beat the back line for pace on a ball over the top.

But the Union struck again in the 63rd minute when Schlegel failed to track Bedoya’s run and a perfect cross split the center backs for the former USMNT midfielder to head home, making it 4-0.

In the 67th minute, Stajduhar punched away a shot from distance off a set piece and then had to come up big to deny both Uhre and Gazdag in quick succession. Leon Flach tried his luck from outside the area in the 71st but Stajduhar made another save.

Perea gave the Lions a consolation goal in the 75th minute. Moutinho sent a long throw into the box that deflected to Perea’s feet. The midfielder smashed his shot inside the left post to make it 4-1.

Two minutes later, Moutinho sent in a great cross for second-half sub Junior Urso but he got under his header and popped it well over the goal.

Philadelphia tacked on a late goal off a corner kick when nobody on Orlando tracked Elliott and he easily headed in Kai Wagner’s cross for the final margin of victory.

The Lions held more possession in the game (51.8%-48.2%) and passed more accurately (80.5%-79.5%) but the Union led in all of the other major categories, including shots (19-9), shots on target (12-2), and corners (2-1).

“In that second half we did not have energy to cope with the game, and that was the difficult part of the game,” Pareja said. “ That first goal just made us lose a little bit of confidence and they raised. But at that point, we were better than them. And then after that, it was a normal game. There’s a way to play that they have, very direct, and they affect us. Any inch that you give them in the back they’re alert on them. And we couldn’t cope with that. There were no excuses. I thought on that part of the field they were much better than us.”

“We’re all trying to push. Every team is trying to qualify for the playoffs,” Perea said. “And we’ve got to make sure that we’re continuing to fight, because those situations depend on us. The situations that are coming ahead depend on us and the results that we make of them. So, we have to make sure that we’re keeping the energy high in the group, we have to find our way back to what we did these last five games, where we were able to take stronger results.”


The Lions come home for two matches next week, starting Wednesday against Atlanta United.

Lion Links

Lion Links: 3/4/24

Lions lose big, Tigres is up next, the USWNT wins, USMNT news, and more.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Merry Monday morning, Mane Landers. No, I’m not feeling very merry either, but it’s a tradition at this point. The good news is that we don’t have to wait long for Orlando City to get a chance to make us forget about Saturday. In an effort to help with that, let’s get to the links.

Massacre in Miami

If you’re like me, you turned off Saturday’s Orlando City match at some point. It was easily the worst showing by an Oscar Pareja-coached Orlando City team. Typically, these Lions are mentality monsters and do not give up. I’m not saying that any of the coaches or players will say they did, but the results speak for themselves. I think it best to just put it behind us and move on to the Tigres match, but if you want to revisit it — or if you were fortunate enough not to watch but still want the details — you can read our match recap.

Up Next: Tigres

The early part of the season doesn’t get any easier for Orlando City as the Lions are set to face Liga MX giant Tigres UANL in a Round-of-16 match in Concacaf Champions Cup. Our own Nic Josey touched on the upcoming match. Unlike the previous matches against Cavalry FC, the Lions will play the first leg at home. The match is tomorrow night at 9 p.m. at Inter&Co Stadium. Tigres is coming off a 2-1 loss to Toluca in Liga MX competition. Hopefully, the Lions can shake off the Miami result and take it to Tigres.

USMNT News

It couldn’t happen before the Orlando City match, but Inter Miami is reportedly trading DeAndre Yedlin to FC Cincinnati. Good timing, guys.

In happier news, Malik Tillman scored a very nice goal for PSV against Feyenoord in the 2-2 draw. Tillman made a nifty move through the defender and then slotted it inside the left post.

Tillman isn’t alone in scoring for the Eredivisie club, as both Ricardo Pepi and Sergino Dest have also scored goals this season. In all, the three have 24 goal contributions so far. That ties Mexico for the most by players from another country.

Brentford will be looking to replace departing striker Ivan Toney, and Norwich City striker Josh Sargent is a contender to make the move. Sargent has 11 goals for Norwich so far this season. Christian Pulisic received online death threats after he goaded two Lazio players into receiving red cards in AC Milan’s 1-0 win over the Serie A opponent.

USWNT Rebounds, Blanks Colombia 3-0

The USWNT bounced back from a 2-0 loss to Mexico in the group stage to defeat Colombia 3-0 in a quarterfinal match in the Concacaf W Gold Cup. The U.S. started early with a converted penalty kick by Lindsey Horan. Former Orlando Pride player Alex Morgan drew the foul in the box for the USWNT. Jenna Nighswonger and Jaedyn Shaw added two more goals in the first half. There were no second-half goals, nor were any needed. The U.S. will face Canada in the semifinals on Wednesday.

Free Kicks

  • Xabi Alonso’s Bayern Leverkusen moved 10 points clear atop the Bundesliga after their 2-0 win over Cologne. It’s a little bit funny that Harry Kane made the move to Bayern Munich and the club might not win a trophy because of Leverkusen’s amazing season.
  • NWSL Commissioner Jessica Berman spoke about the growth of women’s soccer in the U.S. amid the joint bid with Mexico for the 2027 Women’s World Cup.
  • In a result that everyone hated other than Manchester City fans, Manchester United wasn’t able to help out the rest of the world, falling 3-1 to City on Sunday.
  • Catarina Macario scored a goal in her first match back from injury in Chelsea’s 4-0 win over Leicester City.
  • The match between Real Madrid and Valencia ended in a 2-2 draw. It also ended on a controversial call when the referee blew the whistle just as Jude Bellingham was scoring what would have been the winning goal.

That will do it for today. Check back for our coverage of the upcoming Tigres and Minnesota United matches later this week. Vamos Orlando!

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Orlando City

Orlando City vs. Inter Miami: Five Takeaways

What did we learn from a thoroughly unenjoyable outing in South Florida?

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Well. Orlando City’s second league game of the season was a thoroughly unenjoyable one, as the Lions got played clean out of South Florida by Inter Miami. As much as I hate to do it, we need to talk about this one, so what follows are my five thoughts from a horrific showing in SoFlo.

Early Mistakes Seal Orlando’s Fate

The Lions barely had a chance to get their feet underneath them before Pedro Gallese was picking the ball out of his net. Cesar Araujo received the ball in Orlando’s defensive third and immediately tried to play a blind pass backwards, but it went straight to a Miami player. Once the ball made its way from Lionel Messi to Julian Gressel to Luis Suarez, the latter made no mistake and scored to put OCSC into an early hole from which it would never recover.

Tough Night for Two Lions

Speaking of mistakes, that wasn’t the only one that Araujo made during this game. Miami’s second goal came as a result of Rodridgo Schlegel getting pulled out of position and Araujo failing to track the run of Suarez, who found it all too easy to fire past Gallese and double the deficit for Orlando. Schlegel was also culpable for the third goal, as he was too slow to step up with the rest of the back line, and prevented the tally from being called back for offside as a result. Almost no player in purple had a good game, but it was a particularly rough night for two guys who are normally so good for OCSC.

Offensively Anemic

The Lions didn’t look bad going forward for a lot of this one. They managed to get the ball into some good areas, but just had trouble getting the final ball right that would lead to a chance. The introduction of Luis Muriel and Nico Lodeiro after halftime helped provide a spark early in the second half, but Orlando ultimately couldn’t find a way through and the score only got more and more lopsided as a result. When OCSC finally did fashion a clear-cut chance for Ramiro Enrique, the forward didn’t place his shot far enough in the corner and Drake Callender made a good save as a result.

Lack of Effort Worsens Scoreline

Somewhere around the 53rd minute, things really started to devolve for the Lions. Multiple turnovers in the team’s own half led to chance after chance for the home team, and Miami eventually made Orlando pay. The fifth goal will make for extremely unpleasant viewing, as Dagur Dan Thorhallsson decided to not close down Suarez on the wing, giving him way too much time to put the ball on a plate for Messi to head home, while the rest of the team took their time jogging back as Miami broke forward in transition. Orlando kept coming forward doggedly, but the lack of effort on display at times at the back was shocking and uncharacteristic to see.

Wake-Up Call

I have no idea what happened in this match. As soon as the first goal went in, almost the entire team looked slow, out-of-sorts, and on its heels when Miami had the ball. That sort of thing is unacceptable in any game, but especially in this particular fixture. Yes, the match against Tigres is looming large on Tuesday, but the lineup Oscar Pareja put out was not one that suggested the Lions were punting on this game to throw everything they had at Tigres. Instead, an almost first-choice XI turned in perhaps the worst performance we’ve ever seen from an Orlando team coached by Oscar Pareja. It’s possible that we’ll look back on this game as the moment that this team came together and kicked onto bigger things, but in order for that to happen the Lions need to take a good, hard, brutally honest look in the mirror.


I’m sorry to say that’s the worst Orlando City performance I’ve seen in a very long time. Thankfully, the season is a long one and the Lions have plenty of time to right the ship and get back to playing in the manner we’re used to seeing. I think we’ll learn a lot about what we should expect from this team on Tuesday against Tigres. OCSC has a chance to respond the right way and make a statement, and you can bet I’ll be looking for one. Until then, vamos Orlando.

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Opinion

Strong Early Season Competition an Opportunity for Growth

Schedule congestion and tough opponents present opportunities for growth.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

It is hard to imagine a more intense start to the season than the Lions have faced competing in both the regular season and the Concacaf Champions Cup at the same time, yet that is exactly the task that the boys in purple find themselves dealing with only days into the season. With both away and home matches already in the books, let’s examine how strong early season competition can be a key factor in the growth of the squad as the season progresses.

For comparison we can look back to one year ago, as thanks to winning the U.S. Open Cup, the Lions found themselves in the Concacaf Champions League for the first time in club history. During their short foray in the 2023 version of the competition, they were matched up against Mexican powerhouse Tigres UANL in a two-leg competition. Orlando did something that many MLS sides can not boast by coming out of the first leg in Mexico without conceding a goal and only failed to advance because of the competition’s away goals rule.

At the time, and even looking back through rose-colored glasses, those two performances demonstrated the quality that Orlando City was ultimately capable of, and it was a form which Orlando showcased in the later stretches of the 2023 season.

This year, once again Orlando is faced with stiff competition throughout its early season matches, which present a grand opportunity to build team chemistry and fortitude that will only truly manifest itself as the season progresses. While Cavalry FC may have not presented much a challenge on the pitch, the logistics of starting a season off thousands of miles away in the Pacific Northwest were challenges that the Lions had to face before a 48-hour turnaround to open the regular season against a CF Montreal side which some are projecting to be a surprise force in the Eastern Conference. Sandwich in the close-out leg against Cavalry in the CCC at home some 72 hours later, and you once again have a recipe for tired legs but early season growth through adversity.

Up next was Saturday’s forgettable trip to square off against archrival Inter Miami. A year ago, Orlando City was one of the only MLS sides to truly frustrate one of the world’s best and unfortunately for players, coaches and fans alike, the first meeting between the rival sides in 2024 ended with a landslide victory for Messi and friends. Still, despite the frustrating loss, there are lessons to be learned and mistakes to correct which can only help the squad grow as the season progresses.

As if all of the schedule congestion was not enough, Orlando learned that its prize for dispatching Cavalry in the CCC was a rematch against Tigres, once again in a two-match, survive-and-advance format. The first game will be played two and a half days after having been beaten down by Miami and the second will come a week later, with yet another MLS regular-season match crammed in between.

All in all, once Orlando City is done facing off against Tigres, the team will have traveled roughly 9,700 miles for matches in the first 21 days of the season and played a match roughly every 60 hours. These matches and the quality of the opponents present Orlando and its players with numerous chances for individual and squad growth, and the experience, especially for still a somewhat young team, is something OCSC can draw upon once the late season and playoff push portion of the calendar arrive. I truly believe this early in the season the importance of the results of the matches come secondary to the opportunities for growth when faced with so many challenges so quickly.


Let us know in the comments below if you think that the early season match ups against quality opponents will ultimately hurt or benefit Orlando City and, as always, vamos Orlando!

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