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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 Enjoyed the Best Summer Stretch in Team History

Orlando City climbed the table in the club’s best summer since joining MLS.



Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

June, July, August (plus, most of September), and the dog days of summer are officially in the rearview mirror and Orlando City is set to put a cherry on top of what was the best summer stretch in team history when they face Inter Miami tomorrow night at Exploria Stadium. As the season starts to wind down, I felt it was only necessary to take some time to examine the what we all just witnessed…the best summer in team history.

A quick Google search says that the season of summer in the U.S. traditionally starts June 21 on the summer solstice, which we will use as the starting point. I looked historically at the team’s performance from that point in time through the end of summer each season, a.k.a. today, Sept. 23. As a new expansion team in Major League Soccer, Orlando City dealt with the summer heat fairly well and earned 15 and 17 points in 2015 and 2016, respectively. The next two seasons, on the other hand, were much darker times to be a city fan, as Orlando City racked up seven and 10 losses in 2017 and 2018, respectively, during those two seasons. It does not take Sherlock Holmes-level detection skills to know that those summer stretches did not lead to postseason playoff berths. In 2019, the team amassed a decent 18 points during the summer, but only tallied 37 on the season overall.

It should not come as a surprise to any OCSC fan that the team’s best years of success have all come while Oscar Pareja has been at the helm. Prior to this season, the best summer stretch that the team had enjoyed was back in 2021 — also under Pareja’s reign — when the boys put up 23 points, setting a summer team record with six wins. Despite their great summer success, the 2021 Lions were unfortunately not able to keep their strong summer momentum going as they dropped four straight matches after Labor Day that year. Enter 2022, or as I like to call it “the summer of the trophy.” Technically speaking, in the MLS regular season, it was the team’s second best summer, with 20 points to their name. Orlando also happened to lift the U.S. Open Cup during that span last year, so there is an argument to be made that without the additional fixtures, the Lions may have been able to commit more resources to the regular season and would have wound up with more points. I will take the hardware!

This summer it has seemed as though Papi has pulled all the right strings at the right times. Orlando currently not only sits in second place in the Eastern Conference, but second overall in the Supporters’ Shield race and has only dropped two matches from June 21 to Sept. 23 while sporting a +6 goal differential. The Lions amassed 24 points during the summer this year.

Orlando City finding the back of the net more often than conceding makes for quite fun matches to enjoy. The two losses OCSC has picked up throughout the summer this season both have come on the road (at Real Salt Lake and at NYCFC), despite Orlando City earning an MLS-best 25 points away from Central Florida this year.

Orlando City did a great job getting through the hottest part of the calendar while locking up results left and right. Orlando has already secured a spot in the playoffs for the fourth consecutive year in no small part due to the amazing summer the team just enjoyed. As fall comes barreling at us and the MLS playoff home-field advantage race begins to heat up, the performance of the squad this summer should not be taken for granted as championships might not be won in June, July, or August, but poor performances can certainly ensure that they are lost.

Did you have a favorite moment or match from this summer? My favorite moment was what I am calling the Hail Ojeda Mary goal in Charlotte, and my favorite match was the electrifying 4-3 come-from-behind victory against the Columbus Crew. Let us know in the comments below your favorites, and as always, vamos Orlando.

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Lion Links

Lion Links: 9/23/22

Lions and Herons meet again, Carly Nelson is writing a book, NWSL free agency opens, and more.



Image courtesy of Orlando Pride / Mark Thor

Happy Founder’s Day, Mane Landers! It was on this day in 2014 that our fearless leader and Managing Editor Michael Citro started our first ever WordPress website. It’s safe to say that I’m sure The Mane Land has impacted your life as much as it has mine over the years, whether that be through daily reading or weekly podcasts. Cheers to Michael and all those who have come before me.

In my own personal news, I have been grinding away on the new EA FC 24 (the franchise formerly known as EA’s FIFA.) So far, the gameplay and updates have been great in my initial 15+ hours of play, and my online Ultimate Team is starting to really take its shape. I’m sure in a couple weeks that I’ll transition to a traditional Career Mode and take the Lions all the way to an MLS Cup and beyond.

Before we dive into today’s links, let’s all wish a very happy birthday to everyone’s favorite defensive midfielder, Wilder Cartagena!

Third Bout for Orlando City and Inter Miami

Orlando City and Inter Miami have already met twice this campaign. Sunday’s match will look to break the deadlock between the two rivals as both clubs have a victory to their name in this year’s series. In May, the Lions grabbed a 3-1 victory over the Fort Lauderdale-based club. The two sides met for a second time in the knockout round of Leagues Cup 2023 with Inter Miami taking the 3-1 result at DRV PNK Stadium. No matter the result this time around, Orlando City has already clinched a playoff spot, however, the Herons need every point they can get to attempt to do the same.

Carly Nelson, Goalkeeper and Author

It isn’t unheard of to learn that an athlete might have tried another sport before finding soccer, Orlando Pride goalkeeper Carly Nelson came from a background of gymnastics, tennis, basketball, and baseball before her father started a club soccer team with her in mind. While Nelson might have idolized USWNT legend Hope Solo as a child, she started her playing days as a forward, winger, and midfielder. Outside of protecting the Pride’s net, Nelson is spending time writing a book about her life growing up in Utah and the issues her family faced to hopefully help others that might find themselves in similar situations.

NWSL Opens 2024 Free Agency

The National Women’s Soccer League has officially opened the league’s unrestricted and restricted free agency periods. In accordance with the NWSL Players’ Association’s collective bargaining agreement, eligible free agents can begin negotiations for their 2024 Standard Player Agreements. Players eligible for unrestricted free agency include all who have at least five years of service within the NWSL and contracts expiring in 2023, while players eligible for restricted free agency include those who have at least three years of service. For the Orlando Pride, defender Kylie Strom is set to be an unrestricted free agent and midfielder Jordyn Listro is under restricted terms. Any club that currently holds the rights of a restricted free agent has a seven-day period to match an incoming offer from another club or else the player may sign with the new club under the terms of the offer.

USMNT’s Tyler Adams Nearing Return

Tyler Adams will not make his Bournemouth debut this weekend, but he could return as early as next week. Bournemouth’s manager, Andoni Iraola, provided a positive update on the U.S. Men’s National Team captain as he finishes up rehabbing a long-term hamstring injury.

“He has started this week at least to train partially with the group, so probably we can have a chance of having him next week or two weeks, something like this. Tyler is really close because once you start training partially with the group, it’s a matter of sensations, and if you are physically good enough. He has a very good physical base. So I think it will take not a long time to see Tyler with the team.”

Adams has not played since March after having a hamstring surgery. Even with a known injury, the 24-year-old still completed a move from Leeds United to Bournemouth following Leeds’ relegation to keep him in the top flight.

MLS Weekend Preview

Aside from the Florida derby, there are plenty of matches to be excited about around the league this weekend. Personally, I’m looking forward to catching a bit of the D.C. United and New York Red Bulls match. Manager Wayne Rooney’s club is right on the bubble in a tight Eastern Conference race while the Red Bulls can do themselves a huge service and come back into the playoff picture with a win. Out in the Western Conference, there is a real buzz around a Portland Timbers squad after a manager sacking. It could be a huge win for the Timbers and likely push them above the play-in round should they find a result against the Colorado Rapids.

Free Kicks

That’s all I have for you today, Mane Landers. I hope you all have a fantastic Saturday. Be safe on Sunday at the match. Stay hydrated and look out for those around you. Vamos Orlando!

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Orlando City

Orlando City vs. Inter Miami: Three Keys to Victory

Here are three things the Lions need to do in order to set themselves up for a win over Inter Miami.



Dan MacDonald, The Mane Land

Wednesday’s match didn’t go the way anyone hoped it would, but now it’s time to turn our attention to a Sunday matchup with Inter Miami back in the comfortable confines of Exploria Stadium. What follows are three things that I believe will go a long way toward helping the Lions emerge victorious from the Tropic Thunder derby and keeping Florida purple.

Close Down Sergio Busquets

As many headlines as Lionel Messi has rightfully been getting since joining Major League Soccer, I think Busquets is just as important to Miami’s success. He remains an excellent midfielder and his ability to transition the team from defense into attack and link the two lines together is crucial. He has two assists and eight key passes in six MLS appearances and is passing with 92% accuracy —if you give him time, he will make you pay. Even if Cesar Araujo and Wilder Cartagena mark him tightly, he’ll still manage to find space at times and affect the game because he’s that good of a player. But the Lions cannot afford to repeatedly give him time and space to get on the ball, pick up his head, and play a pass or he’ll cut OCSC to ribbons. Getting tight to him and making his life difficult won’t stop him every time, but it’ll make life a hell of a lot easier. As soon as Orlando loses the ball in Miami’s half, someone needs to find no. 5 and close him down.

Play With an Edge, but Don’t Go Over It

This is likely going to be an extremely, fast, physical and heated game. These two teams don’t have any love lost for each other, and if last game is any indication, then Orlando is going to try to use its physicality to disrupt Miami from playing its brand of soccer. That’s not a bad strategy, and it’s one that was largely working during the aforementioned Leagues Cup match until the penalty kick call in the second half. If the Lions are going to try to repeat the tactic, then they need to play with physicality and intensity while toeing the line of what’s acceptable to do during a soccer game. Going down a man isn’t going to do OCSC any favors, so the boys in purple are going to have to flirt with the edge of the cliff without falling headfirst over it.

Stay Organized Defensively

We’ve seen some shaky defending during Orlando’s last two matches. Runners in behind were a particular problem during the match against the Columbus Crew, while Wednesday’s loss to NYCFC saw Talles Magno largely unmarked between two Orlando defenders to score the header that sealed the Lions’ fate. OCSC will likely still be without Antonio Carlos, but the Lions are capable of much better defending than they’ve done during the last week and they need to show it. Even if Lionel Messi doesn’t play, Miami has a whole host of guys who can hurt you in Josef Martinez, Leonardo Campana, Benjamin Cremaschi, Robert Taylor and Facundo Farias. The Lions need to be much more keyed in on defense than they have been the last two games, otherwise one or more of those guys is going to make them pay. Orlando has the firepower to put the ball in the back of the net, but it won’t matter if the team is giving up multiple preventable goals at the other end of the field.

If the Lions execute those three things then they’ve got as good a chance as any of getting a result on Sunday. Vamos Orlando!

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