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Orlando City vs. Columbus Crew: Final Score 2-1 as Lions Qualify for MLS Cup Playoffs with Win



Facundo Torres’ second-half penalty kick goal snapped a 1-1 draw and lifted Orlando City to a 2-1 home win over the Columbus Crew at Exploria Stadium on Decision Day. With the victory, the Lions (14-14-6, 48 points) qualified for the MLS Cup playoffs while knocking the Columbus Crew (10-8-16, 46 points) out of postseason contention.

Junior Urso pulled the Lions back into the game after Derrick Etienne’s first-half goal had put the Crew on top to start the comeback and Orlando finished above .500 at home (9-8-0) after a difficult season at Exploria Stadium.

“Very happy and very proud of the club, of the community who had put Orlando City on the map of MLS as a protagonist, and a community, a club, who wants to fight for things,” Orlando City Head Coach Oscar Pareja said after the match. “We feel great, and obviously with a big responsiblity to continue, but it’s a great day for us. We overcome, that’s the culture of us — probably too much, but we’re enjoying it. It’s a very difficult game today with all the circumstances around it but the boys found a way to qualify and it’s a big thing for us.”

Pareja’s starting lineup included Pedro Gallese in goal behind a makeshift back line of Joao Moutinho, Rodrigo Schlegel, Kyle Smith, and Ruan. Cesar Araujo started in central midfield with Mauricio Pereyra playing his deep-lying playmaker role behind an attacking midfield line of Ivan Angulo, Junior Urso, and Facundo Torres, with Ercan Kara up top.

The Lions plodded through the opening 45 minutes, playing cautiously but offering very little bite in the attack. There were far too many attempts to play the most difficult pass available in transition and Columbus did well to limit space.

Despite that, Orlando had the first look at goal with Schlegel popping a weak header well over the bar seven minutes in. Ruan was chopped down by Pedro Santos in transition two minutes later and the Crew fullback was booked for it but the Lions did nothing with the set piece.

Urso tried a shot from distance in the 11th minute but it was deflected and fell easily in for Eloy Room to collect.

After that, the Crew started to settle into the game and keep possession. The Lions did pretty well to limit clear-cut opportunities but only Columbus seemed likely to score for the rest of the half.

Cucho Hernandez headed just barely over the bar in the 14th minute after Ruan gave Etienne too much space on the flank to get a cross in. It was a lazy first half throughout by the Brazilian and his casual jog back on the switch of play allowed Etienne to easily collect it and get into position to send in a dangerous ball.

In the 22nd, Ruan was called for his second (incidental) handball in as many games, giving the Crew a set piece on the left. The visitors played it short and nothing came of it.

Gallese made a huge save in the 35th minute on Hernandez, who shot from the top of the area and picked out a spot just inside the left post. Gallese got there just in time to knock it off the post and keep it out.

Columbus broke through in the 38th minute and it was Ruan in the middle of things again. Lucas Zelarayan gathered a crowd of defenders in the top of the box and Ruan was negligent in letting Etienne get inside to run onto a backheel pass, slotting it inside the far post to make it 1-0. Ruan could perhaps have stretched out to try to block the shot but instead Etienne’s look at goal was unimpeded.

Etienne hurt himself on the play and had to be replaced by former Lion Kevin Molino.

Predictably, Orlando came out of its defensive shell after the goal and looked to push forward but presented no danger in the closing moments of the first half. Kara should have won a free kick just outside the box in stoppage time but instead referee Alex Chilowicz called the Austrian for the foul. I watched the replay three times on my monitor and didn’t see him do anything that warranted a whistle.

Columbus held a slight edge in possession (50.9%-49.1%) and passed slightly more accurately (88.6%-88.3%), but the visitors had more shots (7-3), shot on target (3-1), and corners (3-0).

“We felt the first half that we had low energy,” Pareja said. “Not that we didn’t want it, but they were playing us, especially in the middle, just putting a lot of numbers there that we couldn’t resolve. Junior and Mauricio were running way too much. And then the times that we possessed the ball we were turning it (over) very quick as well. But the key in the second half when we spoke was just to be patient. Trust in us. Trust in your teammates. I saw them with energy there. It was not on the field but the energy was within us.”

“When the first half was over we were in the locker room and Oscar tried to push us,” Urso said. “That moment we were out of the playoffs so we tried to do our best to turn the game to put us inside again.”

The Lions were much better after the break, especially Urso. Pareja moved the team out of a double pivot and played Urso, Araujo, and Pereyra as a three-man midfield and it allowed the Lions to get more involved. Orlando was also able to win the ball further up the pitch as a result.

Pereyra nearly sent Kara in behind in the 51st minute but he hit the pass too hard. But the captain found his assist a few minutes later. Pereyra sent a pass to Urso at the top of the area and the Brazilian made a fantastic turn to beat his defender, then slotted his shot inside the post to tie the game at 1-1 in the 56th minute.

“In the moment of the goal, when Mauricio gave me the ball, I saw the defender was coming at my back,” Urso said. “So I just thought about the turn and tried not to put power on the shot, just to put it on the side and it was amazing. I try many times in training — I don’t know if you guys are there to see — there Mason (Stajduhar) stops my goals but this keeper, he don’t know me, so it was good. I’m happy.”

Two minutes later, the Lions should have had a free kick in a decent area outside the box when there was a handball but Chilowicz didn’t see it and the Crew broke the other way. The Lions were eventually able to snuff out the transition opportunity but Araujo was booked for a professional foul on the play.

Gallese did well to parry a Hernandez shot out of play in the 62nd minute and the Lions survived the set piece and a free kick conceded just outside the box by Schlegel.

Torres had been quiet in the match until the 80th minute, when he took a pass near the left corner of the box and fired a shot that forced a good save from Room to deny. On the ensuing corner kick, Torres sent an outswinger across the box and Schlegel headed back across to the front of the goal. Second-half sub Benji Michel chested the ball down and took his shot on the volley and it hit the outstretched arms of Crew defender Milos Degenek.

Although Chilowicz did not make a call initially, he ended up taking a look at the video monitor. The penalty was clear and obvious and Degenek was booked.

Torres immediately stepped up and he slammed his shot high to the right, over Room, who guessed correctly and appeared to be off his line early anyway. The Lions led 2-1 in the 84th minute. It was Torres’ ninth goal of the MLS season.

“When the penalty happened it was pretty much decided that I was going to take it,” Torres said through a club interpeter. “So the first thing I thought was, ‘Where am I going to put this ball?’ And then I just made sure I was focusing and concentrating on getting ready to take it and thankfully everything worked out.”

There was still a lot to do for Orlando to close out the match, and Zelarayan forced a good save from the Gallese in the 86th. Pareja subbed liberally down the stretch to get fresh legs on the pitch and Columbus wasn’t able to get into position for a clear-cut chance. The Crew’s best chance to equalize came in the 96th minute when Gallese made a good save to keep out another shot from Zelarayan.

The Lions saw out the remaining time and found themselves in the postseason for the third straight year — all three seasons since Pareja took over. They also managed to avoid missing the postseason after winning a trophy like the Seattle Sounders did.

Columbus finished with more possession (54.4%-45.6%), shots (13-8), shots on target (6-4), corners (7-3), and passing accuracy (89.6%-86.8%). But it was Orlando’s goalkeeping and shot placement that made the difference. Gallese finished with five saves.

“We spoke (at halftime) about being very strong in the first 15 minutes and just throw what we have in the second half, and the response was going to bring us more energy. And I thought that was what happened,” Pareja said. “So, I’m very proud of these guys. They showed us one more time the character that they have. And then the end of the game was a typical Orlando City game. We would like to suffer less but this is where we are today.”

Orlando City will play CF Montreal in the first round of the 2022 MLS Cup playoffs. The Lions split the season series with Montreal, with each team winning at home.

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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