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Orlando City

Orlando City vs. Inter Miami CF: Final Score 4-1 as Lions in Free Fall with Another Loss



Orlando City sank beneath the weight of bad bounces and defensive transition mistakes in an inconceivable 4-1 beatdown loss to Inter Miami CF at DRV PNK Stadium. The loss dropped the Lions below the playoff line with one match day remaining.

Starting in the game’s very first minute, awful mistakes cost the team and luck played a little bit of a role as well, as the Lions (13-14-6, 45 points) fell back below .500, fell below .500 on the road (5-6-6), and lost their fourth game in the last five since winning the U.S. Open Cup. Meanwhile, Miami (14-13-6, 48 points) climbed above .500 and clinched a postseason berth for the first time.

Leonardo Campana, Gonzalo Higuain (twice), and Ariel Lassiter did the damage on the scoreboard, but the Lions were honestly their own worst enemies in the first Tropic Thunder match that was decided by more than one goal. Ercan Kara pulled a goal back in the second half but by then the game was effectively over.

“I know what these kinds of games mean for our fans and I’m very disappointed not to perform the way we should,” Orlando City Head Coach Oscar Pareja said after the match. “In that part, I take responsibility.”

“I want to say sorry to our fans, because they come from Orlando to Miami to to push us and today was not so good for us,” Junior Urso said.

Pareja rotated his lineup somewhat, playing Pedro Gallese in goal behind a back line of Joao Moutinho, Rodrigo Schlegel, Antonio Carlos, and Kyle Smith. Cesar Araujo played his customary stopper role next to a deep-lying Mauricio Pereyra, with an attacking midfield line of Benji Michel, Junior Urso, and Facundo Torres, with Tesho Akindele up top.

It took less than a minute for that lineup to break down. Smith somehow knocked a pass attempt off an opponent and the ball squirted in behind the Orlando center backs. Neither Carlos nor Schlegel went to get the ball so Campana ran onto it and chipped Gallese, who was off his line but not nearly far enough out to get to the ball before the Miami forward. Just over 30 seconds into the match, Orlando City trailed. (Warning: sound off is better, so you can avoid Ray Hudson’s overblown, maniacal commentary.)

The Lions didn’t respond well to going behind, despite getting a ton of possession. Orlando looked unsettled, consistently did nothing with set piece opportunities, and broke down in transition when there were chances to get numbers forward. Wayward passes from Torres, Akindele, and Urso and a couple of poor touches from Michel prevented some quality chances from materializing. The Lions did set up some half chances but did nothing with them.

“It’s normal when you start the game in the first minute just conceding the goal and then obviously, the other team with energy and with this momentum that they have, they take advantage of that situation,” Pareja said. “And then from there, our energy was doubtful and we were not precise in the movements, and then we started losing confidence.”

Akindele tried to flick a pass from Smith on target but he didn’t quite pull it off, slowing the ball too much and sending it off target. Smith sent a blistering pass through the six in the 18th minute, but there was no way Akindele could get to it in time and Michel didn’t anticipate the pass quickly enough to get to the back post for the tap-in.

Higuain nearly got in behind in the 21st minute but Carlos did just enough to force him wide and Gallese chased him into the corner and knocked it out of play. Two minutes later, Campana got in for a first-time shot but just missed wide.

Moutinho smashed a shot well wide from the top of the area when a long throw fell to him. A failure to put shots on target was a problem Sunday at New York City FC and it definitely continued into tonight.

The hosts doubled the lead in the 38th minute on a weird transition as Akindele tried to force a pass into traffic. Miami came the other way and Schlegel got caught pressing high, giving the Herons a 2-on-1 break. Ariel Lassiter crossed in early to Higuain and his first touch was a shot past Gallese to make it 2-0.

Akindele ‘s headed flick went just over the bar in the 43rd minute off a corner kick cross, which was the closest the Lions came in the opening half. In the final minute of the half, a good cross found Urso but he swung and missed at it and kicked DeAndre Yedlin instead.

Orlando City held more possession in the half (61.9%-38.1%), had more shots (7-4) and corners (2-1), and passed more accurately (87.3%-78.3%) but Miami got more shots on target (2-0) and both of those went in. It was the second consecutive first half in which Orlando failed to get a single shot on frame and the Lions had only one on target in its last three halves.

The Lions brought on offensive-minded reinforcements to start the second half as Pareja withdrew Akindele, Michel, and Smith, sending Kara, Ivan Angulo, and Ruan onto the pitch. The changes made Orlando seem more dangerous immediately. Angulo got in the box, made a good move to bypass two defenders and took a shot. The Lions screamed for a handball but Victor Rivas did not give it and a check by the video assistant referee maintained the call on the field. The only replay shown on the broadcast was inconclusive.

But Rivas wasn’t opposed to giving Miami a penalty moments later when the Lions were bit again by a bad bounce. A ball in for Lassiter skipped up off the Miami forward’s foot and hit Ruan’s arm at close range. The fullback’s arm wasn’t extended unnaturally, nor was the play intentional, but the call was upheld again and Higuain scored on the ensuing penalty to make it 3-0 in the 53rd minute.

Three minutes later, Lassiter added to Orlando’s misery with a shot just inside the right post, making it 4-0. Don’t ask me why Carlos was trailing on the play, my stream froze a few seconds earlier and started back up right where this video begins.

Things got worse for Orlando City moments after the fourth goal when Carlos was booked, meaning he’ll miss Sunday’s regular-season finale against Columbus with a suspension for yellow card accumulation.

“It’s a little bit soon to answer it but we always have to think about what’s next,” Pareja said when asked if he had formulated a plan for the back line on Sunday yet with Carlos suspended and Robin Jansson injured. “(The booking) was probably the thing that frustrated me the most. It’s the lack of common sense from the referee. It’s unbelievable. Their responsibility is to protect the game and they need to have the context of the players. And it was a very, very, very unnecessary yellow card, and that’s what disappoints me. Not a good call for me, and it affects us not having Antonio, but we have to find a different answer and see how we can set out that back four. Somebody needs to do the job.”

Kara spoiled Miami’s shutout bid in the 71st minute, taking a pass from Torres at the top of the box, then turning and firing a well-placed shot just inside the left post. It was the big Austrian’s 11th goal of the season.

Ruan had a chance to set up Kara for another moments later. With Kara running free to his left, Ruan tried to chip a pass across to him over Miami goalkeeper Drake Callender. Unfortunately, he didn’t quite get the pass high enough and Callender caught it to prevent the easy header at the back post.

Orlando squandered a late series of corner kicks and Ruan got deep into the box but sent a pass behind both of his teammates crashing the net and that was basically the end.

As a product of chasing the game for all but a few seconds of the match, Orlando finished with more possession (60%-40%), shots (16-6), corners (8-1), and passing accuracy (89.1%-83.4%), but Miami got more shots on target (4-1). Every shot on target in the match ended up in the net. The Lions now have one shot on target in each of the last two matches, which is just two on 29 attempts.

“I don’t know how to explain it,” Urso said of the lack of precision. “We had good passing, we had good combinations, but like Oscar told us we have to get more confidence in front of the target and to shoot well. I think we have to be more calm in front of the goal, but no excuses for us.”

“We’re going to leave it there, we’re going to make our corrections,” Pareja said. “We’ve got to move on. This is a quick turnaround. We have a possibility at home that nobody gave us. We fought for that one during the season and this opportunity belongs to us. We’ll see. If we don’t beat Columbus then maybe we didn’t deserve to be in the playoffs, but certainly we have a great opportunity at home to get our qualification.”

The Lions have a knockout game in the final match of the regular season on Sunday, when the Columbus Crew visit Exploria Stadium. A draw won’t be good enough unless Cincinnati somehow loses at D.C. United.

Lion Links

Lion Links: 11/30/23

Orlando City faces big questions, Matt Miazga suspended, Emma Hayes meets USWNT for first time, and more.



Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

November is finally coming to a close. It’s been a bit of a rollercoaster of a month for me, with highs, lows, and many things in between. All in all, I’m pretty glad it’s nearly over, although I expect December to be similarly hectic. At least this weather is allowing me to break out some winter clothes and turn on the fireplace in this new apartment. I’m not sure why a fireplace was installed in a Floridian apartment, but I’m not complaining. Let’s dive into today’s links!

Big Decisions Await Orlando City

With Orlando City’s season over, attention now turns to a critical off-season for the club. Head Coach Oscar Pareja is out of contract after leading the Lions to the playoffs for the past four years. The club will also need to decide if it will exercise the 2024 options on the contracts of both Executive Vice President of Soccer Operations and General Manager Luiz Muzzi and Technical Director and Assistant General Manager Ricardo Moreira. All three have orchestrated Orlando’s transformation that’s included winning its first trophy, having its best season this year, and qualifying for both the Concacaf Champions League and Champions Cup. Potentially transferring Facundo Torres to Europe, filling the empty Designated Player slot, and deciding which players to bring back for 2024 are also on the agenda. However, figuring out who will lead the Lions into this exciting next chapter is paramount. Personally, I think the club should do everything in its power to keep the people who brought Orlando to this point.

Matt Miazga Suspended for Three Games

FC Cincinnati will be without MLS Defender of the Year Matt Miazga for Saturday’s Eastern Conference final, as he was suspended by MLS for three games due to his misconduct after the match with the New York Red Bulls on Nov. 4. Miazga was also fined an undisclosed amount and will undergo a behavioral assessment as part of the league’s Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health Program. Following that aforementioned playoff match, reports surfaced that Miazga gained unauthorized access to an area reserved for the referees and acted aggressively. Any suspended games not served during Cincy’s playoff run will carry over into the 2024 season, although Miazga can petition for a reduction based on compliance with recommended treatment plans.

Emma Hayes Meets With USWNT Players and Staff

Emma Hayes, who was hired as the next United States Women’s National Team Head Coach earlier this month, made the trip to Florida to meet the team for the first time. Although she won’t be coaching the team for its upcoming pair of friendlies against China, she collaborated with interim head coach Twila Kilgore on the latest training camp roster and will continue to work with her until taking over in May. There won’t be much time between Hayes’ official start date and the 2024 Summer Olympics, making these moments of face time between player and future coach all the more important. USWNT captain Lindsey Horan spoke on the team’s goals after meeting Hayes for the first time.

“There’s so much talent in this team, and I don’t think the world has seen enough of it yet just because we need to go out and show it,” Horan said. “We need to be able to mesh together and show everything that we have, and what we’re all about, and how we can really collaborate and play together — be more of a team and be a powerhouse again.

“It’s going to be exciting for us to have her and see what she can do with this team and how she can help us moving forward.”

Ricardo Pepi Sends PSV Into Champions League Knockout Stage

PSV Eindhoven clinched its spot in the next round of the UEFA Champions League in dramatic fashion, with American forward Ricardo Pepi scoring the winner in a 3-2 comeback win over Sevilla in Spain. Trailing 2-0 in the second half, American left back Sergino Dest provided the assist on PSV’s first goal and Pepi found the winner in stoppage time, with fellow American Malik Tillman also coming off the bench. From his little flick to send a teammate forward to his run and clinical header, it was a great goal by the 20-year-old.

Elsewhere in the Champions League, Arsenal beat Lens 6-0 to advance, Real Madrid won 4-2 against Napoli to win its group, and Real Sociedad played to a scoreless draw with RB Salzburg. Manchester United remains in last place of its group after a 3-3 draw with Galatasaray, with goalkeeper Andre Onana unable to stop Hakim Ziyech from scoring off of two free kicks. All’s not lost for United though, as it can still qualify for the round of 16 by beating Bayern Munich at home so long as the other match ends in the group ends in a draw. It all makes for what should be an exciting final matchday in the group stage.

Free Kicks

  • The Kansas City Current announced that American midfielder Sam Mewis will not be returning to the club for the 2024 season. The 31-year-old has not played since 2021 as she continues to recover from a knee injury.
  • The Utah Royals have signed free agent forward Imani Dorsey on a contract through the 2025 season. Dorsey has most recently played for NJ/NY Gotham FC, although she didn’t participate in this past season due to mental health reasons.
  • Manchester United is reportedly ready to move on from Mason Mount just six months after he joined the team from Chelsea.
  • Tomasz Kwiatkowski, the video assistant referee involved in a controversial handball that eventually led to Paris Saint-Germain’s equalizer in stoppage time against Newcastle, was removed from his next scheduled duty by UEFA.
  • Amidst a four-game winless streak, French club Nantes has fired Pierre Aristouy as its manager, immediately replacing him with Jocelyn Gourvennec.
  • We’ll end our links with this interesting article that dives into how Romelu Lukaku unexpectedly arrived at AS Roma and how he’s thriving at the Italian club.

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

2023 Orlando City Season in Review: Alex Freeman

We start our Orlando City player reviews with a look at a Homegrown fullback who made his MLS debut this season.



Image courtesy of Orlando City B

Orlando City signed fullback Alex Freeman to a Homegrown Player contract on February 15, 2022. He became the Lions’ 12th Homegrown signing and his deal runs through the 2025 season with a club option for 2026, but the youngster did not see action in Major League Soccer last season. With the departure of Ruan, there was an opportunity for Freeman to win a job with the first team in camp but he wasn’t quite ready to make the jump, instead playing an important role with Orlando City B throughout the 2023 MLS NEXT Pro season.

Let’s take a look back at Freeman’s 2023 campaign.

Statistical Breakdown

Freeman made his MLS debut on April 29 in a 2-0 home win over the LA Galaxy. It was not just his debut with the first team, but it was also his only appearance with the senior squad in 2023, although he did make the substitutes’ bench a few times after that. Officially, he logged only one minute, entering in the 93rd minute. He was only on the pitch a matter of seconds, so it’s unsurprising that he registered nothing on the stats sheet.

The son of former NFL receiver Antonio Freeman, Alex starred with OCB in 2023. In MLS NEXT Pro play, Freeman appeared in 24 of OCB’s 28 matches, starting 22, and logging 1,855 minutes. He finished tied for third on the squad in goals (4), adding three assists and passing at a 79.1% success rate. Freeman attempted 25 shots, putting 11 on target, and contributed 10 key passes. He committed 22 fouls, drew 27 on the opposition, and was booked four times. He also started OCB’s playoff match at Columbus, playing 89 minutes in the Young Lions’ 2-1 road loss. Freeman didn’t contribute a goal or assist or attempt a shot in the match, but he passed at an 88% rate, created one scoring chance, and committed one foul.

Best Game

With only one MLS appearance to his credit, the default best game for Freeman came on April 29 in Orlando City’s 2-0 home win over the LA Galaxy. Freeman didn’t even officially touch the ball in the game, but it’s not every day a teenager gets to play in an MLS match, and I’m sure it was a special moment for him. It was certainly a milestone in his professional soccer career.

2023 Final Grade

As Freeman fell well short of the minimum 450 minutes played mark to receive a rating on our 1-10 scale, The Mane Land has no choice but to mark his grade as incomplete for the 2023 season. There are areas of Freeman’s game that need a bit of refining, but at the same time, it’s easy to see why he landed a Homegrown contract, why Orlando City would find him an intriguing prospect, and why he’s been getting called up by the United States for U-20 international duty. His attacking presence was huge for OCB in 2023 and he was one of the key players that led the Young Lions to the postseason.

2024 Outlook

I would expect Freeman to get more seasoning at OCB in 2024, although he’ll be given opportunities in preseason camp to show whether he’s closed the gap on the likes of Michael Halliday and Kyle Smith (assuming both return). If the club moves on from both Halliday and Smith, it’s not hard to picture Freeman starting the season providing depth at right back for the first team. Having just turned 19 in August, Freeman has a lot of potential and he should start to unlock that within the next year or so.

This is the first of our 2023 Orlando City Season in Review articles. Every player who played minutes this past season and who finished the year on the club roster will be reviewed (exceptions may be made for players let go when the club officially announces its roster moves). Players who logged fewer than 450 minutes (combined regular season plus playoffs, Concacaf Champions League, U.S. Open Cup, and Leagues Cup) will receive a composite score between 1 and 10 as determined by a panel of The Mane Land writers, while those who did not reach that threshold will receive an incomplete grade.

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Lion Links

Lion Links: 11/29/23

Orlando Pride players called up by Brazil, MLS announces 2023 Best XI, latest MLS roster moves, and more.



Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Hello, Mane Landers I hope all is well down in Florida. I’ve been very busy working throughout the holiday weekend at Under Armour. This week I’ll be working at Wrigley Field for Winterland while getting ready to cover high school wrestling tomorrow night. There is plenty to cover today, so let’s get to the links.

Pride Players Called Up By Brazil for Friendlies

Orlando Pride defender Rafaelle and forwards Marta and Adriana have been called up to the Brazil Women’s National Team for its upcoming friendlies.

Brazil will play two matches against Japan on Nov. 30 and Dec. 3 in Sao Paulo before playing Nicaragua on Dec. 6 at Estadio Fonte Luminosa in Araraquara.

MLS Announces the 2023 Best XI

Major League Soccer announced its 2023 Best XI, recognizing the league’s top players at each position. There were no Orlando City players selected for the team and eight players received the honor for the first time. Those players are St. Louis City’s Roman Burki and Tim Parker, FC Cincinnati defender Matt Miazga, Atlanta United duo Thiago Almada and Giorgos Giakoumakis, Houston Dynamo midfielder Hector Herrera, LAFC’s Denis Bouanga, and Columbus Crew forward Cucho Hernandez. Nashville SC’s Hany Mukhtar made the Best XI for the third consecutive time, while teammate Walker Zimmerman was named to it for the fifth time. MLS MVP Luciano Acosta of FC Cincinnati rounds out the list.

Latest MLS Off-season Roster Moves

The Colorado Rapids announced their latest roster changes as they prepare for the the 2024 season under new Head Coach Chris Armas. The club exercised its options for defender Andrew Gutman, midfielder Ralph Priso, and forward Calvin Harris. The Rapids declined contract offers to seven players, with the most notable names being defender Steven Beitashour and goalkeeper William Yarbrough, although the Rapids are in discussions about re-signing Yarbrough. Elsewhere, the New England Revolution exercised the permanent transfer option on forward Tomas Chancalay, signing him to a Designated Player contract through 2026, with a club option for the 2027 season.

UEFA Champions League Roundup

Champions League action returned in Europe, as we get close to wrapping up the group stage in a couple of weeks. Manchester City overcame a two-goal deficit to beat RB Leipzig 3-2 and win Group G. Newcastle United had a chance to qualify for the round of 16 but gave up a late penalty to Paris Saint-Germain, which Kylian Mbappe converted to end the match in a 1-1 draw. Borussia Dortmund beat AC Milan 3-1 to book its spot in the knockout stage. PSG, Newcastle, and AC Milan are all still alive in Group F heading into the final matchday in December. Shakhtar Donetsk won 1-0 against Royal Antwerp and also still has a shot to advance on the final matchday. Lazio, Atletico Madrid, Barcelona, and Young Boys all won their respective matches as well. Today’s matches include Manchester United on the road against Galatasaray, Real Madrid taking on Napoli, and Sevilla facing off with PSV Eindhoven.

Free Kicks

  • Concacaf has announced that BMO Stadium, Dignity Health Sports Park, Shell Energy Stadium, and Snapdragon Stadium will be the four venues that will host matches for the 2024 Concacaf W Gold Cup.
  • Barcelona midfielder Gavi will be sidelined for up to 10 months after undergoing knee surgery after suffering a torn ACL in his right knee.
  • The International Football Association Board approved a trial for sin bins, meaning players punished for dissent or specific tactical offense would be temporarily removed from the match for a set amount of minutes.
  • You have got to see this goal from Cwrt Rawlin FC in the Welsh seventh division.

That will do it for me today, Mane Landers. Enjoy your Wednesday and I’ll see you next time.

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