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Orlando City vs. New York City FC: Final Score 2-1 as Lions Blow Second-Half Lead



If Orlando City is going to clinch a spot in the MLS Cup playoffs in 2022, it’s going to have to wait. The Lions (13-13-6, 45 points) coughed up a 1-0 second-half lead and lost 2-1 to New York City FC (15-11-7, 52 points) at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, NJ. It was NYCFC’s first win at the venue in three “home” tries this year.

Alex Callens and Talles Magno erased the lead provided by Facundo Torres’ strike to lift the defending champions. The loss sinks a sharp dagger into Orlando’s chance to play a home postseason game (but doesn’t mathematically eliminate the possibility), clinches a home playoff match for the team with the worst home in MLS, and makes the final two games for the Lions more nervy than they needed to be.

“A very tight game for both teams who understand the situation and the implication of the results,” Orlando City Head Coach Oscar Pareja said after the match. “I thought it was very (hard) fought. We were all working and trying to get the result. I thought we had the initiative on not just opening the scoring but just trying to keep up on the ambition to win the three points. At the point where we get unorganized on a couple plays where they tie the game and score the second one, we have a couple actions to tidy it up. And we couldn’t finish, but I thought the effort from the players was very good.”

Pareja’s lineup was nearly a fully first-choice group, with the exception of center back Robin Jansson (lower leg) still out despite two more weeks of rest and being listed as questionable. Goalkeeper Pedro Gallese played behind a back line of Joao Moutinho, Rodrigo Schlegel, Antonio Carlos, and Ruan. Cesar Araujo returned to the lineup in central midfield with Junior Urso behind an attacking midfield line of Ivan Angulo, Mauricio Pereyra, and Torres, with Ercan Kara up top.

The Lions got on the front foot first in the match with Pereyra getting a shot off in the third minute but he took too long to let the ball to settle first and Callens blocked his effort. Ruan came close to opening the scoring in the seventh minute off a long throw by Moutinho. The ball was cleared to Ruan at the top of the box and the fullback took his shot on the volley but it deflected wide off Callens, who made another block.

Schlegel did all he could to get onto the ensuing corner cross but could not put any power on his shot or place it where he wanted to as it bounced meekly wide.

The first NYCFC chance came in the 10th minute on a quick attack with Magno firing his shot just wide of the left post.

Two minutes later, the hosts thought they’d opened the scoring after a Ruan turnover started the counter. The ball was crossed from the left to Tayvon Gray on the right and his header ended up in the net but the flag went up immediately for Santiago Rodriguez, who either just got a touch on it or was judged to have been interfering by being in the goalkeeper’s vision. Video review confirmed the call on the pitch, but it was a close call.

Urso appeared to have a chance in the 21st minute on a good cross from Ruan but he smashed his shot right at Sean Johnson. The poor finish didn’t matter because Ruan was offside in the buildup.

Magno headed over off a good cross from Kevin O’Toole in the 24th minute on another good chance for New York City.

Torres tried to put Urso in behind in transition in the 29th minute with a good pass but the Brazilian missed the ball on his attempted first touch and by the time he caught back up to it, Johnson had come off his line to grab it.

The best buildup that led to a scoring chance in the half for either side came in first-half stoppage time. Carlos won the ball back with a good tackle in the middle of the pitch and the ball ended up with Torres, who played to Pereyra in the middle and then made a run. The captain sent a great through ball to Kara, who touched it on for Torres to run onto. The Uruguayan took a shot with his weaker right foot but a sliding Maxime Chanot got a piece of it to knock it into the outside netting.

The Lions couldn’t do anything with the ensuing corner kick or a long throw by Moutinho and the half ended scoreless.

New York City FC held the lead in possession (56.6%-43.4%) and passing accuracy (86.8%-80.8%), while Orlando had more shots (5-2) and corners (6-1). Neither side put a shot on target in a cagey first 45 minutes.

The Lions wasted no time jumping on top after the break. Kara got his head to a long throw-in by Araujo and flicked it into traffic in the box. Torres anticipated where the ball would land, got there first, and swept it into the back of the net in the 47th minute. It was Torres’ eighth goal and 17th goal contribution of his first MLS season and Kara’s third assist and 13th goal contribution.

“It’s definitely one of our set plays that we work on,” Torres said of the buildup to the goal. “Pretty much before every game with Josema (Bazan). We worked on it two days before the game. Thankfully, it worked out in our favor to where we were able to get a goal and a little bit of luck.”

NYCFC immediately went into hyperdrive, playing as quickly as possible and even getting frustrated when Orlando didn’t restart the game quickly enough. Gabriel Pereira went for glory from outside the box in the 49th minute and hit his shot pretty well, but it fizzed over the bar.

Urso tried from a similar distance a minute later but it was nowhere near the target. Kara came close to doubling the lead in the 60th minute when he took a pass from Pereyra in traffic, quickly turned his body, and fired a shot. It missed the net but not by much.

Substitute Keaton Parks smashed a shot from distance after a corner kick was cleared in the 61st minute and the ball dipped and bounced just in front of Gallese, who could only fight it off rather than catch it. Callens got to the rebound first but had to fire while turning and chipped his shot over the bar from a tight angle.

In the 64th minute, Gallese made his best save, coming out and blocking a shot by Rodriguez, who got in behind with a well-timed run. Schlegel did well to head the rebound out of harm’s way on a contested ball in the air. But two minutes later, the hosts equalized anyway.

Orlando City cleared the corner kick following Schlegel’s header off the Gallese save but NYCFC maintained possession outside the area. The Pigeons worked the ball across the top of the box and it took multiple bounces to stay in the area. Angulo tried to block it but Parks faked his shot and it got through him, then Carlos went for a clearance and missed it. Ultimately, it squirted to Magno on the left, who crossed in from the left past Gallese’s sliding attempt to block it. It fell in the six to Callens, who was left unmarked due to Carlos being too slow to recover after trying to clear. Callens was all alone in front and tapped it in for his third goal in as many games in all competitions, tying the game at 1-1 in the 66th minute.

The Lions weren’t content with the 1-1 scoreline and continued to press for a win. Urso had a shot blocked at the top of the area in the 70th minute and a beautiful curling cross was just out of substitute Tesho Akindele’s reach moments later on a run that got him in behind.

The game could have changed in the 79th minute. Torres got forward in transition and his shot was blocked by Chanot. Torres shouted for handball but it wasn’t off Chanot’s hand and the play continued. On an ensuing ball into the area, there was another shout for handball as it appeared Parks may have handled it but there was again no call made and when the ball went out for a goal kick at the other end, there didn’t seem to be a stop for a review. The home broadcast feed never reviewed the second play so I couldn’t say if it should have been a penalty but Pareja was adamant about it after the match, calling it a “clear handball” that wasn’t given.

“Obviously disappointed about the call,” Pareja said. “It was the thing that just kept us down right now. Not even a (VAR) check and that’s what frustrated us the most, but I don’t want to keep going on this. You saw it. Everybody saw it. It’s clear.”

A road point would still have helped Orlando City’s cause but that evaporated in the 81st minute. The Lions got caught too far forward in defense and New York City made them pay for it. Moutinho was high on the pitch helping to press but then the ball sprung in behind him to start the break. Schlegel tried to cut the transition chance off before it started but the ball got through him and Magno, who hadn’t scored in ages, carried down the right side of the box and placed a perfect shot inside the far post past Gallese to make it 2-1.

“A bad decision from us,” Pareja said about the play. “I think it’s a product of our ambition to go and win the game in that moment when the game was tied. And on that particular play that we should have delayed it and waited. But it was a very quick and fast play where the ambition of the two defenders that we had, Joao and Rodri, we could have delayed it. But they did an excellent job of just trying to be ahead as well, and push and press. And then this one, we just unfortunately just conceded that space. We could handle it different, obviously.”

Orlando struggled to maintain enough possession to create chances late in normal time and referee Joe Dickerson added only three minutes of stoppage time despite three goals, numerous substitutions by both teams, and a couple of knocks that delayed restarts. Whether Orlando would have done anything with more time is unknown, but that doesn’t mean three minutes was the appropriate time to give. It’s all immaterial at this point anyway.

NYCFC finished with more possession (57%-43%), passing accuracy (84.9%-80.9%), and shots on target (5-1), while both teams attempted 13 shots and Orlando won more corners (7-4).

“We’re hurting after that loss,” Torres said. “We arrived into the game with a lot of hope and goals to win this game and to put ourselves in a good position on the table, and we came away with a loss.” 

City can only get a home playoff match by winning out and having Charlotte take something from its final match at the New York Red Bulls on Decision Day. As the Lions have dropped three of their last four league matches, the focus has to just be on getting in at this point, and if it leads to hosting a game, so be it.

“We have been in this mode of must-win and games that are important in the last two months and a half, so it’s not strange for us to be in this mode of needing to win and get the points to qualify,” Pareja said. “We hope that these two days are enough to recover the group and face the next game on Wednesday in Miami, and we still have another one at home.”

Orlando City will close out the road portion of the regular-season on Wednesday with a quick turnaround against Inter Miami in Fort Lauderdale. That match obviously takes on much more importance after the Lions failed to bring any points home from today’s game.

Orlando City

Orlando City Can Build Valuable Momentum in April

The last two games of April present a good chance for the Lions to keep building momentum ahead of a challenging May.



Dan MacDonald, The Mane Land

Orlando City got back to winning ways last Saturday and started a mini-undefeated streak in the process, as the Lions have now gone three games on the bounce without tasting defeat. OCSC has two more games to play during the month of April, and the scheduling gods have given the men in purple a chance to keep building on the recent run of good form, as a tricky and packed May schedule looms on the horizon. The last two April fixtures won’t be easy by any stretch, but an opportunity has presented itself if the Lions can play well and take advantage of it.

First, let’s turn our attention to Saturday’s game against CF Montreal up in Canada. Montreal currently has a record of 3-3-1 which is good for 10 points and eighth place in the Eastern Conference. These two teams faced each other in the very first game of the season, and it ended as a 0-0 draw, thanks largely in part to some shaky finishing on Orlando’s part and a couple excellent Pedro Gallese saves. Since then, Montreal has defeated a struggling FC Dallas team, an Inter Miami team that has looked equal parts unbeatable and extremely vulnerable at the back, and an FC Cincinnati side that so far has struggled to replace the goals of Brandon Vazquez. In other words, the wins haven’t come over bad teams, (aside from maybe Dallas) but rather teams that have had flawed, uneven starts to the season.

To be fair, many of the same criticisms could be leveled at Orlando City’s record. OCSC’s wins have come against Austin FC and D.C. United — two teams with leaky defenses that have each had uneven starts to the season — and the Lions have suffered losses that have ranged from uninspiring against Atlanta, to abhorrent against Miami. Where the two teams differ is that Orlando started the year battling on two fronts and then had key players missing through a combination of injury and international call-ups afterward. The Lions now have a nearly clean bill of health and looked much more cohesive with Wilder Cartagena and Cesar Araujo partnered in midfield once more — a welcome sight after some of the struggles that were endured when one or both were missing at various times.

The Canadian side also hasn’t kept a clean sheet since that opening game of the season against the Lions, a fact that could bode well for an Orlando side which has scored six goals in its last three games. As long as the defense can tighten up and not make the sorts of mental errors that led to goals against D.C. and the New York Red Bulls, there will be opportunities at the other end of the field for an attacking corps that has done a better job at putting the ball in the net than we saw during the first game of the season. In short, the game is a winnable one, and while getting road results in MLS is never easy, OCSC should feel reasonably confident about its chances to get points on its trip north of the border.

That leaves Toronto FC’s visit to the Purple Palace on Saturday, April 27. The Reds currently sit one spot below CF Montreal, in ninth place, with a record of 3-4-1 and 10 points. TFC’s victories have been over a New England team that has been struggling mightily, a Charlotte FC side that has had a decent but slightly inconsistent start to the year, and an Atlanta United outfit that can have the same said of it as Charlotte. The wins have all been solid ones, and the team looked pretty good in those three games.

On the flip side of things, the last of those wins came on March 23, with Toronto dropping its last three games in a row and conceding 10 goals in the process. They’ve got the second leakiest defense of any of the nine teams in the playoff places, while being tied with Cincinnati for scoring the fewest goals.

Then there’s the issue of player availability. The Reds’ injury list is a long one, with six players currently listed as out and an additional one as questionable. Among those listed out are Lorenzo Insigne, Richie Laryea, Brandon Servania, and Shane O’Neill. In other words, they’re likely to be missing guys that are key contributors for the team when healthy, and part of the recent losing streak can be attributed to dealing with the injury bug that’s bit the team with a vengeance. Playing on the road without a number of important key players is rarely a recipe for success, and Orlando City should have another good chance to pick up three points.

Now, this isn’t to say that taking all six points from these games is a foregone conclusion. MLS is a tricky league to get results in, and we have no way of knowing how the fortunes of Orlando, Montreal, and Toronto will change in the next eight days. But given the leaky defenses of the two Canadian sides, TFC’s injury situation, and Orlando City seemingly starting to find a better patch of form, the Lions have an opportunity to keep picking up points and climbing the Eastern Conference standings. Vamos Orlando!

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Lion Links

Lion Links: 4/19/24

Orlando Pride host the San Diego Wave, Orlando City B faces Crown Legacy FC, Europa League action, and more.



Image courtesy of Orlando Pride

Happy Friday! Make sure to get your night plans in order as both the Orlando Pride and Orlando City B have games tonight. Figure out your drink of choice, charge those devices if you don’t plan on heading to the stadium for the Pride game, and knock out any chores before things get rolling. It should be a fun day, so let’s get it started with some links!

Orlando Pride Host the San Diego Wave Tonight

After earning their first win last week in Utah, the Orlando Pride are back in the City Beautiful for tonight’s game against the San Diego Wave at 8 p.m. The Pride’s four-game unbeaten run is on the line and will be put to the test against a Wave team that has four points from three games. San Diego has only scored two goals this season, but it has also secured a pair of clean sheets so far. The biggest storyline heading into the match is whether or not Barbra Banda will make her Pride debut. Hopefully Orlando can light it up at home and keep former Pride forward Alex Morgan and the rest of the Wave’s offense in check.

Orlando City B Takes On Crown Legacy FC

The Young Lions are also in action tonight at 7:30 p.m., with a match against Crown Legacy FC in North Carolina. Crown Legacy is only a point behind OCB, but is still searching for its first win of this MLS NEXT Pro season. OCB has played every game away from the Orlando area so far and ground out a 1-1 draw against Philadelphia Union II last weekend. Orlando hasn’t won a game since its season opener on March 16, but has been proven capable of getting points on the road. Wilfredo Rivera and Yutaro Tsukada linked up for the equalizer in that match, so hopefully they can keep that momentum rolling into tonight’s game.

Americans to Watch This Weekend

European soccer seasons and tournaments are nearing their ends and there are many Americans in important games this weekend. Haji Wright’s heroics put Coventry City into the FA Cup semifinals, and he will have a chance to impress again on Sunday against Manchester United. Elsewhere in England, Fulham duo Antonee Robinson and Tim Ream could put a dent in Liverpool’s title hopes, while Nottingham Forest’s Matt Turner and Giovanni Reyna will square off against Everton, as both sides aim to avoid relegation. Over in Italy, AC Milan duo Christian Pulisic and Yunus Musah will try to stop Inter Milan from claiming the Serie A title in a rivalry match at San Siro. There’s also a showdown between Americans in the Scottish Cup semifinals, with Celtic’s Cameron Carter-Vickers going up against Aberdeen and Dante Polvara.

Europa League Quarterfinals Come to a Close

The Europa League quarterfinals are done and dusted and only four teams remain in contention for some silverware. West Ham United took the lead against Bayer Leverkusen, but couldn’t overcome the aggregate deficit and the German club advanced. Leverkusen also scored a late equalizer to make it a 1-1 draw and extend its unbeaten streak to 44 games. Marseille scored at home against Benfica to send the game to extra time and then won the eventual penalty shootout. Atalanta did enough in a 1-0 loss to Liverpool to advance on aggregate, with Liverpool’s lone goal coming from an early Mohamed Salah penalty kick. AS Roma is also through to the semifinals after a 2-1 win against AC Milan, despite a red card in the first half. In the semifinals, Marseille will face Atalanta and Leverkusen will take on Roma.

Free Kicks

  • Houston Dynamo Head Coach Ben Olsen has agreed to a new contract that will keep him with the club through 2026. Olsen has quietly dragged the Dynamo out of the Western Conference’s basement and won last year’s U.S. Open Cup as well.
  • New York Red Bulls defender Andres Reyes was suspended an additional match for violent conduct in the team’s match against the Chicago Fire. This means Reyes will miss tomorrow’s match against LAFC and the home game against the Vancouver Whitecaps on April 27.
  • American left back Jorge Villafana is hanging up his cleats. He won the MLS Cup with the Portland Timbers back in 2015 and the Concacaf Gold Cup with the U.S. in 2017.
  • Replays won’t be a part of the FA Cup for the next six years. This will ease some of the schedule congestion for English Premier League teams, but it denies lower-division sides the chance at more revenue.
  • The folks over at Stars and Stripes FC shined a spotlight on forward Jubilo Iwata, who currently leads Japan’s J1 League in scoring after eight games. It’s always cool to learn more about some of the lesser-known players in the U.S. player pool.
  • An NFL game between the Philadelphia Eagles and Green Bay Packers will be played in Brazil at Corinthians Arena. However, there’s an unofficial rule at the stadium that green can’t be worn, as it is the color of Corinthians rival, so we’ll see if that’s adhered to come September.
  • Megan Rapinoe and Sue Bird’s production company will adapt Cleat Cute, a romance novel by Meryl Wilsner about love between teammates on a women’s soccer team. As someone who’s read it and loved it, I’m pretty excited for the show to say the least.

That’s all I have for you today. Stay hydrated and enjoy the games today. Go Orlando!

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Orlando City

Orlando City at CF Montreal: Three Keys to Victory

What does Orlando City need to do on the road against CF Montreal to take home all three points ?



Dan MacDonald, The Mane Land

Orlando City opened the season against CF Montreal, playing to a 0-0 draw at Inter&Co Stadium back in February. Now, the Lions head to the Great White North to play the pesky Canadian club again. There’s no Concacaf Champions Cup competition to worry about this time, so hopefully Orlando City can get a victory.

What does Orlando City need to do to follow up the D.C. United victory with another win?

Just Say No

Outscoring your opponents while giving up two goals is all well and good, but outscoring your opponents while also keeping a clean sheet is much better. Orlando City has given up 13 goals over seven matches. It’s actually worse than that considering that the club has two clean sheets meaning those 13 goals came in just five matches. The Lions need to do better at not conceding goals.

Of course, one of those clean sheets came against Montreal to start the season, and the entire defense is seemingly healthy and ready to go. Our old foe Josef Martinez is always a threat and Matias Coccaro has three goals for Montreal so far this season. Stopping them is crucial. If Orlando City can maintain the same defensive discipline it showed in the previous match against Montreal, it will make earning points on the road much easier.

Designated Player Goals

Orlando City has scored seven goals so far this season. Duncan McGuire leads the team with three goals, thanks to his goal last week. Do you know who hasn’t scored yet? If you said any of Orlando City’s Designated Players, you would be correct. I’m not going to ring any emergency bells just yet, but it’d be a lot cooler if Luis Muriel, Martin Ojeda, or Facundo Torres scored a goal this week.

I think they are all close to breaking out. Torres has scored this year, just not in the MLS regular season. Muriel has been getting closer each match, and is still contributing in other ways. The same can be said of Ojeda. My point is that the goals are coming. Perhaps a trip to another country is exactly what they need to get off the mark.

The Battle on the Wings

Orlando City will be playing against former Lion Ruan. He lines up on the right for Montreal and will be a challenge for either Rafael Santos or Kyle Smith, depending on who gets the start. Of course, if Ivan Angulo is playing in his usual role on the left side of Orlando City’s attack, there could be some interesting races between the two speedy players.

I think that the other side of the field is where the match might be won or lost. Since Orlando City fell out of the Concacaf Champions Cup, the team has been on a more regular schedule. That has allowed Dagur Dan Thorhallsson to regain his form in the right fullback position for the Lions. He scored a goal last week, has an assist on the season, four crosses, and 10 key passes. He is an integral part of Orlando City’s attack and if he can win the battles against Raheem Edwards and Joaquin Sosa on the right side of Montreal’s lineup, he could have another big night.

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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