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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.

Orlando City

Orlando City at New York City FC: Five Takeaways

What did we learn from Orlando City’s 2-0 loss to NYCFC?



Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Orlando City traveled to a baseball field to take on New York City FC. This time it was Citi Field and not Yankee Stadium. While it is a slightly bigger field, it’s still not the way that soccer should be played. Nevertheless, the Lions had the opportunity to secure a playoff berth with a win or a draw against the Pigeons. A 2-0 loss to NYCFC made that a lot tougher.

What follows are the five takeaways from a mostly forgettable match in which Orlando City clinched a playoff berth despite the loss.

Gallese Keeps it Close

It started early with a huge save from Pedro Gallese on former Lion Andres Perea’s shot from inside the box. El Pulpo even made the save on Santiago Rodriguez’s penalty kick, but the follow up by Mounsef Bakrar was well away from him and thus there was not any way for him to make the save. Gallese ended up with five saves on the night and was a big reason that it wasn’t worse than it was.

Enrique is no Defender

Ramiro Enrique tracked back in defense, following Rodriguez after a midfield turnover. Unfortunately, Enrique is not a defender and he got his feet tangled with Rodriguez. Although it was initially called a goal kick and no foul was given, referee Ismail Elfath took another look at the play on the replay monitor. The penalty was probably rightly called and Rodriguez took the shot. As mentioned above, Gallese made the save but it still ended up in the back of the net due to a failure to react before Bakrar.

Second Half Adjustments

Oscar Pareja made some halftime adjustments, moving Ivan Angulo from the left side to the right, and pushing Facundo Torres more central. At the 58th minute mark he brought on Martin Ojeda, Duncan McGuire and Luca Petrasso. Given how Enrique and Rafael Santos were playing, this was a good decision. However, given these were offensive minded changes, Orlando City gave up a second goal. We’re so used to Pareja’s adjustments creating results that when they don’t, it’s a bit of a surprise.

Hangover Match

Orlando City played an emotional and draining match on Saturday. Enrique was a hero in that match, but was unable to sustain his performance in his time on the pitch against NYCFC. Of course, he wasn’t the only player who didn’t play as well as last match. The entire team looked out of sorts all night. The Lions have been good on the attack recently, but were unable to generate much in the way of decent chances. Of the 11 shots taken by Orlando City, only two were on target. I don’t usually say that Pareja should rotate the lineup heavily, but perhaps he should have on this night. I doubt it could have been worse.

Sloppiness is Contagious

Every team has sloppy matches. Some more than others, but it shouldn’t be surprising. What matters is when the sloppy match happens, how bad does it hurt? Fortunately, Orlando City made the playoffs thanks to Atlanta United earning a draw against D.C. United. The irony of Atlanta helping Orlando make the playoffs is something to enjoy.

Now, the sloppiness I mentioned. Rodrigo Schlegel was not his usual self. As mentioned above, Santos was not good, nor was Mauricio Pereyra. So many of Orlando City’s players were just a bit off, and the loss is the result. I’m not going to dwell on it though because it was merely match number two of three in a nine-day period. The Lions are in the playoffs and Inter Miami is up next.

That is what I saw in Orlando City’s loss to NYCFC last night. The good news is that Orlando City is now playing for home field advantage in the playoffs. Let me know your thoughts below.

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Lion Links

Lion Links: 9/21/23

Orlando City clinches playoff berth despite loss, Eastern Conference standings remain close, USWNT plays South Africa tonight, and more.



Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

How’s it going, Mane Landers? Last night’s result wasn’t the best outcome by any means, but losing on the road on short rest after a huge win isn’t the worst thing in the world. We’ll just have to shake that loss off and look forward to more soccer while we have it. Before we dive into today’s links, let’s all wish a happy birthday to Orlando City B midfielder Imanol Almaguer!

Orlando City Clinch Playoff Spot Despite Loss

The Lions weren’t able to put together a comeback in their 2-0 loss on the road to New York City FC. Playing at a narrow Citi Field, Orlando was not able to get much of anything going on offense and was shut out for the first time since July 8. The loss snapped Orlando’s six-game unbeaten streak in MLS play as well. Although the Lions are headed back to Florida emptyhanded, they did qualify for the playoffs due to other results in the league. Orlando will look to right the ship when it hosts Inter Miami this Sunday at 7:30 p.m.

Eastern Conference Remains Tight After Midweek Matches

Orlando wasn’t the only Eastern Conference team to clinch its spot in the playoffs after the latest midweek matches, with the Columbus Crew and Philadelphia Union both qualifying. Cucho Hernandez had a hat trick within the first 23 minutes of the Crew’s 3-0 win at home against the Chicago Fire. A penalty kick in stoppage time by Daniel Gazdag salvaged a point for the Union in a 2-2 draw with Charlotte FC. FC Cincinnati also needed a late equalizer from the penalty spot in its 1-1 draw with CF Montreal. As for how Orlando’s rivals fared, Atlanta United drew 1-1 with D.C. United and Miami beat Toronto FC, 4-0. Lionel Messi and Jordi Alba both exited in the first half and Miami Head Coach Tata Martino stated that neither will play against Orlando this weekend. Of course, that could just be misdirection. We’ll know for certain come Sunday.

USWNT Plays South Africa Tonight

The United States Women’s National Team will play its first match since the World Cup tonight when it faces South Africa tonight at 7:30 p.m. at TQL Stadium. Following Vlatko Andonovski’s departure last month, Twila Kilgore will coach the team for these friendlies. It will also be Julie Ertz’s final game after 10 years of playing for the USWNT. The 31-year-old announced her retirement last month and spoke more about her decision ahead of tonight’s match. After tonight, the USWNT will play South Africa again on Sunday at Soldier Field.

Champions League Group Stage Rolls On

More clubs got their first taste of this year’s Champions League action as the group stage kicked off this week. Arsenal’s campaign got off on the right foot, with a 4-0 win over PSV Eindhoven that put the English club at the top of its group after a 1-1 draw between Sevilla and Lens. Manchester United had a rougher time, falling 4-3 on the road to Bayern Munich. Goalkeeper Andre Onana struggled and blamed himself for the loss. Real Madrid needed a goal from Jude Bellingham in stoppage time to win 1-0 over Union Berlin at home, while Lautaro Martinez scored a late equalizer in Inter Milan’s 1-1 draw with Real Sociedad. Elsewhere, Napoli beat Braga 2-1, RB Leipzig won 2-0 against a Benfica side that was reduced to 10 men early on, and Galatasaray and Copenhagen split the points in a 2-2 result.

Free Kicks

That’s all I have for you today. Be like a goldfish and enjoy your Thursday!

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Orlando City

Orlando City vs. New York City FC: Final Score 2-0 as Lions’ Unbeaten Run Ends with a Thud

The Lions struggled yet again on a baseball field in an awful-looking road loss to NYCFC but clinched a playoff spot anyway.



Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

New York City is known as the city that never sleeps. It was the Lions who chose to sleep tonight, as the lads in purple turned in a performance as ugly as the pitch at Citi Field in a 2-0 loss to a New York City FC team that hasn’t been able to buy a goal recently. Mounsef Bakrar and Talles Magno scored on either side of halftime to lead the hosts to the win.

Orlando City saw its six-match unbeaten run snapped and fell to 7-8-7 in the all-time series, missing an opportunity to gain points on FC Cincinnati and allowing Columbus to close within two points. However, D.C. United’s draw against Atlanta United clinched the Lions a spot in the MLS Cup playoffs for the fourth straight season.

“We would have loved to celebrate (making the playoffs) with a victory today and a better result and a better performance but we couldn’t. We have no excuses,” Orlando City Head Coach Oscar Pareja said after the match. “We’re responsible for the things we do good and the things that we don’t do good. We played against a good team. I think they had the best chances. We had a few. We were not sharp in that end but we were not sharp in our defensive side either.”

Pareja’s starting lineup was nearly the same as in Saturday’s win over Columbus. Pedro Gallese was in goal behind a back line of Rafael Santos, Robin Jansson, Rodrigo Schlegel, and Dagur Dan Thorhallsson. Wilder Cartagena returned to the lineup, replacing Felipe alongside Cesar Araujo in central midfield. Facundo Torres was also back in the starting lineup, replacing Martin Ojeda on the attacking midfield line with Ivan Angulo and Mauricio Pereyra, while Ramiro Enrique got his second straight start up top.

Despite the strong lineup, the Lions could hardly have had a worse performance or result with a heavily rotated side and now the starters will be tasked with playing their third match in eight days when Inter Miami visits this weekend. On a small pitch, where movement has to be quicker and more precise, the Lions were neither.

The first few minutes of the game consisted of the teams fouling each other in the midfield. The hosts then got the game’s first big chance off of one of those fouls. New York City FC played a long-distance set piece short and worked it to the middle of the field before sending a chipped ball over the top. Orlando’s deefending was awful and two NYCFC players got in behind. Former Lion Andres Perea took a pass from Richie Ledezma and fired a shot from point-blank range. However, Gallese made a huge stop on his former teammate in the fourth minute.

Moments later, Perea whiffed on his initial shot attempt near the top of the area, then sent a half-volley, follow-up shot well over the bar as Orlando City struggled to get into the attacking half, as has often been the case on these baseball fields up north.

Orlando did get forward for the first time in the seventh minute, winning a corner, but Torres left his cross too close to Freese, who knocked it away.

The Lions managed their best attack of the half in the 22nd minute, as the ball was sent from right to left, where it ended up with Torres. The Uruguayan found his countryman Pereyra near the top of the area, but the captain’s first-time shot deflected off a defender and out for a corner. The ensuing set piece found Santos at the near post but his redirected shot hit the outside netting.

NYCFC’s second excellent opportunity came two minutes later. Andres Jasson was well covered near the right sideline but somehow got in an accurate cross and Schlegel lost track of Bakrar, but the home team’s forward headed it over the bar.

The breakthrough went the hosts’ way after an Orlando turnover in the middle of the pitch. Enrique followed Santiago Rodriguez down the left sideline and when the opposing attacker cut into the box, Schlegel came over to close the play down. Before the defender got there, Rodriguez’s foot made contact with Enrique’s. The referee initially gave a goal kick but then took a brief look himself before awarding a penalty.

Gallese made a terrific diving save to stop the Rodriguez penalty, but Bakrar was first to the ball and headed it into the far corner to make it 1-0 in the 37th minute. Orlando players appealed for an encroachment call but the goal stood.

“I got the ball, played it into (Enrique’s) feet and was going to go for a one-two,” Thorhallsson said about the play that led to the penalty. He played it behind me and then he was tracking back and I was right behind him. I didn’t see the penalty but it looked like a penalty. And then Pedro saves the penalty, and I would say me and Rodri made the mistake of not blocking the guy to get the ball. So, just a fiasco and something we need to look into — me and everybody. Me especially.”

Neither team got a clear-cut look for the rest of the half but Torres earned a free kick in a dangerous spot in stoppage time. Pereyra went for goal but fired over the bar on the last chance of the opening period.

Orlando City finished with more first-half possession (56.4%-43.6%) but most of that was kicking it around the back line, looking for a way to break out on the narrow field. The Lions also somehow managed more shot attempts (6-5), although it didn’t seem like it, as most of them were of the non-dangerous variety, won more corners (2-1), and had the edge in passing accuracy (84%-81.3%). However, again, that’s largely due to passing it around the back line and back to Gallese. NYCFC fired more shots on target (3-1).

The Lions nearly equalized two minutes after the restart. A good cross from Santos found its way through traffic to Torres, but the ball was a bit behind him and he couldn’t direct it on frame as it fizzed wide.

Gallese then made a good save in the 51st minute when a shot from outside the box by Bakrar was deflected by Jansson’s foot. Perea got a free header on the ensuing corner but hit his shot right at his former teammate in goal.

Pareja sent fresh attackers on in the 59th minute, introducing Ojeda, Duncan McGuire, and Luca Petrasso for Cartagena, Enrique, and Santos. Seconds later, a ball fell kindly for Pereyra outside the box but he squibbed his shot badly off target.

Orlando appealed for a handball in the 62nd minute off a long throw by Araujo but there was no whistle. The Lions then had a prolonged spell of poor defense. It started with a free look for Magno in the box but he slipped while cutting inside for a better shot. He got his goal three minutes later as he found himself between an inattentive Schlegel and Thorhallsson, with neither player actually marking him.

The Lions learned nothing from the previous open looks by NYCFC and left Perea unmarked on a corner in the 77th minute. The former Lion sent his shot right at Gallese, however. Two minutes after that, Birk Risa was the man free for a header but sent it over the bar with Araujo not paying him closely enough.

Orlando got on the front foot down the stretch but couldn’t create anything dangerous from its possession. Ojeda won a couple of corners. Schlegel sent one of those headed just wide of the right post. Petrasso had a shot blocked late and the game’s last chance was a soft pop-up header by McGuire that went down as just the team’s second shot on target of the night.

There were no late-match heroics on this night.

Orlando City held the final edge in possession (59.5%-40.5%) and passed more accurately (83.6%-78%), but NYCFC finished with more (16-11), way more shots on frame (7-2), and corners (6-5). The only two shots on frame by the Lions couldn’t have been easier for Freese to handle.

“I don’t think we had a spark today, but I think we were a little predictable,” Pareja said. “I thought we had more problems today with dealing with the spaces and trying to put ourselves into the map of the field. We have to be able to do it, but we couldn’t do it. New York neutralized those things. They condensed with many numbers in behind. We tried to do the same but we were not effective.”

“It’s a little bit hard to be happy,” Thorhallsson said about clinching a playoff spot. “We can say sweet and sour emotion but of course it’s a little more sour because we lost the game.”

The Lions have another short turnaround, returning home for a Sunday night Tropic Thunder showdown against Inter Miami at 7:30 p.m.

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