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Orlando City vs. Atlanta United: Final Score 1-0 as Lions Blow Chance to Solidify Playoff Positioning

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Despite firing 20 shots toward the net and controlling most of the match, Orlando City put only three attempts on frame and lost 1-0 to rival Atlanta United at Exploria Stadium. Thiago Almada scored the game’s only goal.

With the loss, the Lions (12-12-6, 42 points) fell back below .500 at home (7-8-0) and to exactly .500 overall, and Orlando handed the Five Stripes (10-12-9, 39 points) just their second road win of the season despite doubling the visitors’ shots and having the better of the possession and passing throughout the match.

City’s sharpness was the difference and it was costly, as the Lions could have mathematically ensured that three more teams — Toronto, Chicago, and Atlanta — would finish below them with a win. D.C. United is already assured of finishing below Orlando in the standings.

“Difficult defeat obviously at this moment of the season when we need to add those points, especially (against) a direct rival, we come out with this result,” Orlando City Head Coach Oscar Pareja said after the game. “But, I’ve got to say that the boys put all the effort there. Their energy, their character was there. Simply, we didn’t do what we have to do in the last third and if you’re not sharp in those moments, it’s difficult. The other team may have one or two chances and that’s what they’re waiting for. Hopefully we can return to that sharpness on that piece of the field because we were not sharp today.”

Pareja’s lineup included Pedro Gallese in goal behind a back line of Joao Moutinho, Rodrigo Schlegel, Antonio Carlos, and Kyle Smith. With Cesar Araujo suffering from a non-COVID-related illness, Wilder Cartagena got the start in central midfield with Junior Urso, behind an attacking line of Ivan Angulo, Mauricio Pereyra, and Facundo Torres, with Ercan Kara up top.

The game was delayed nearly an hour due to inclement weather and the passing was a bit sloppy at times for both teams throughout the rainy first half. Orlando had more of a hold of the game in the early going. Torres fired a shot that Andrew Gutman blocked in the seventh minute and Angulo fizzed a shot from the right just inches wide of the left post a minute later.

Former Lion Dom Dwyer got a free header in the 12th minute when a cross deflected off of Moutinho and cleared the defense but the striker hit his shot wide.

Urso sent a header at Raul Gudino in the 21st minute for an easy save from a nice cross by Kara.

The Lions came close again five minutes later when Pereyra fed Torres a pass down the left side of the box. Torres sent the ball across for Kara but a sliding Alan Franco got a piece of it and Gudino was alert, making a sprawling effort and keeping it from reaching its intended target. Angulo tried to finesse the loose ball through the traffic but couldn’t get it through.

Orlando gave up a counter chance in the 37th minute that was nearly costly. Luiz Araujo rounded Gallese and sent a shot toward goal but Smith cleared it off the line.

Atlanta was growing in confidence late in the half and Thiago Almada’s shot was easy for Gallese in the 40th.

The best chance of the half for either side fell for Gutman in the first minute of first-half stoppage time. The fullback continued his run after passing off and got in behind the defense to find a return pass waiting for him. Gallese made himself big and sacrificed a sensitive part of his body to make the vital save.

Orlando had a free kick in a dangerous position late in stoppage time but Pereyra sent his entry ball over everyone’s head and that ended the half.

The Lions finished the opening half with more possession (56.5%-43.5%), shots (6-5), and passing accuracy (87.8%-82.9%), while Atlanta got more shots on target (3-1) and won more corners (3-0).

Orlando’s lack of precision was a major problem in the second half as the team simply could not find the net with any shot from anywhere. The first of the team’s chances came on a header in the 51st minute by Kara from a cross by Smith, but his effort was just wide to the left.

Six minutes later Carlos had a free header on a set piece from long range but his was wide to the right.

Pererya fired just off target twice in two minutes, hitting a shot about a yard wide to the right in the 65th minute and firing just over the bar in the 67th.

Atlanta nearly scored in the 72nd minute off a corner when Santiago Sosa got a free header but Gallese made a great diving save to keep it scoreless, but only for the moment.

The Lions got caught being too complacent on the ensuing play with Atlanta playing right down through the middle. Orlando seemed to have sufficient numbers back, but Almada made a good individual effort through some complacent defending. He simply skipped past second-half sub Benji Michel and split him and spectator Andres Perea with a pass to Gutman, then ran passed both without being tracked by either. The Atlanta fullback laid it back off for Almada who put a move on Carlos in space and then sent Gallese the wrong way before slotting home.

“(Almada) came in dribbling. I thought we should have stopped that play there,” Pareja said. “He came up through us and made us feel vulnerable and made us feel weak. We didn’t defend well that particular player and it hurts us.”

Orlando had a chance to pull that goal back quickly when Perea found himself in lots of space outside the area in the 74th minute but he sent his shot off the Heineken sign at the bottom of the upper deck. Two minutes later, substitute Jake Mulraney sent in a cross for fellow sub Tesho Akindele, who flicked it on target but Gudino made a diving stop to push it out for a corner. The ensuing set piece was knocked out to Mulraney outside the box but his shot was over the bar.

Two minutes later, Mulraney had Michel and Schlegel crashing the net but the winger sent his cross straight to the goalkeeper. Just seconds after that, it was Michel’s turn to miss the target.

Akindele got his head to a ball over the top in the 89th minute, but with his back to goal he could only flick it toward goal and hope, but that shot too went wide. The Lions finally got their third and final shot on goal on the final play of the game when a corner kick cross was headed straight at Gudino by Perea.

Orlando finished with more possession (55.6%-44.4%), shots (20-10), and passing accuracy (84.1%-79.9%) but Atlanta got more shots on target (5-3) and each team finished with four corners.

“It was a tough result,” Smith said. “I thought we controlled the game for most of the game. I don’t think they had many chances until the goal. And then at the end of the game we were trying to put balls in the box and they were doing well crowding the box and clearing the ball.”


The Lions have another quick turnaround with Toronto FC visiting Exploria Stadium on Saturday night.

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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