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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 at New York Red Bulls: Three Keys to Victory

What does Orlando City need to do to earn all three points on the road at Red Bull Arena this Saturday night?



Dan MacDonald, The Mane Land

Orlando City is back on the road this Saturday with a match against the New York Red Bulls at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, NJ. The Lions have four results in the last four matches, but only one win. That needs to change if this team is going to be a serious contender once the playoffs come around. 

Orlando City defeated the Red Bulls 1-0 to begin the 2023 MLS regular season at Exploria Stadium. Now the Lions have a chance to sweep the Eastern Conference rival in the regular season with another victory. What does Orlando City need to do to get all three points on the road this weekend?

Take Advantage of Tired Legs

The Red Bulls are coming off a midweek away match against Inter Miami, and a flight back to New Jersey. That means that new Red Bulls skipper Tony Lesesne won’t have as much time to game plan as Oscar Pareja will with a full week between matches. It also means that there may be some tired legs on the Red Bulls’ side of the pitch.

If Orlando City can get through the first half with either the lead, or at least even on the scoreboard, it will be tougher for New York in the second half, especially once the hour mark hits. Use possession and passing to make the Red Bulls run as much as possible and then hit them with the fresh legs of Duncan McGuire to finish them off.

Score First, Score Second

We saw what happens when Orlando City doesn’t find a way to get a second goal in the last match against Atlanta United. They don’t call them the Cardiac Cats for nothing. The Lions must get the early lead to make New York chase the match, but they also need to get a second goal before the Red Bulls can get their first.

If Orlando City can go up by two goals, it will be demoralizing for a team that is playing twice in four days, and will have the tired legs mentioned above. It will also give the Lions the mental confidence to potentially get a third goal, as the club did against Inter Miami. Finishing the chances and putting the match to bed early is a big key to victory.

Keep a Clean Sheet

The Red Bulls haven’t scored a ton of goals this season, nor do they have any player lighting things up on the offensive side of the ball. Orlando City hasn’t earned a clean sheet since the April 29 match against the LA Galaxy. The Red Bulls are the type of opponent that could help the Lions solve that dilemma.

Doing so will mean Pedro Gallese must continue being one of the best keepers in MLS. Many of the goals conceded this season are not on him — not all, but certainly many. Michael Halliday will still be with the USMNT U-20 squad this weekend and we might see Oscar Pareja employ three at the back in his absence. If so, it will be contingent upon whoever is lined up on the right to deal with John Tolkin when he presses up the pitch, which he will. 

If  the three center backs do their job, and if Cesar Araujo plays like he usually does, then the attack will likely come from the flanks. It is contingent upon the wingbacks to make sure they don’t neglect the defense, especially later in the match.

That is what I will be looking for this Saturday night as the Lions look for a fifth straight result. Please let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

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Lion Links

Lion Links: 6/1/23

MLS All-Star voting is underway, midweek MLS results, Sevilla wins Europa League, and more.



Dan MacDonald, The Mane Land

Welcome to June, Mane Landers! I hope May treated you well as we get ready for another month filled to the brim with soccer. The Florida summer is heating up, so make sure to stay hydrated out there as we break out the beach umbrellas and dust off the grills. But for now, let’s jump into today’s links!

MLS All-Star Voting Begins

Voting is underway for the 26 players who will be selected for the MLS All-Star Team this summer. Of those 26 players, 12 will be chosen from a combined vote from fans, media, and current players. Orlando City defensive midfielder Cesar Araujo was noted as a candidate who could make this year’s team. Personally, I think goalkeeper Pedro Gallese, center back Robin Jansson, and forward Ercan Kara have a real shot at playing in the All-Star Game if they keep up their form. This year’s MLS All-Star Game will take place against Arsenal in the nation’s capital, with D.C. United Head Coach Wayne Rooney at the helm.

MLS Midweek Action Brings Plenty of Goals

The Lions weren’t in action for this midweek round of games, but there was still plenty of soccer to enjoy from the other MLS teams. Atlanta United and the New England Revolution battled to a 3-3 draw at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Carles Gil and Bobby Wood gave the Revs a 2-0 lead heading into halftime. Atlanta then scored three times in the second half, only for Gil to find an equalizer in stoppage time. It wasn’t the only high-scoring game of the evening either, as the Columbus Crew won 3-2 over the Colorado Rapids thanks to a goal and two assists from midfielder Lucas Zelarayan. Elsewhere in the Eastern Conference, FC Cincinnati beat New York City FC 3-1 and D.C. United and CF Montreal played to a 2-2 draw. Orlando City’s next opponents, the New York Red Bulls, won 1-0 at Inter Miami.

Sevilla Wins Seventh Europa League Title

It took a penalty shootout to decide the winner of this year’s Europa League final, with Sevilla beating AS Roma in Budapest. It was the Spanish club’s seventh time lifting the Europa League trophy. This win salvaged a rough La Liga season for Sevilla and it will play in the Champions League next year. Paulo Dybala gave Roma the lead in the first half, but an own goal levelled things in the 55th minute. Chris Smalling nearly gave Roma the win in extra time, but his header hit the crossbar. It was Jose Mourinho’s first defeat in six European finals and Roma will aim to qualify for the Europa League again when it takes on Spezia in its final Serie A game of the season on Sunday.

More Teams Claim Spots in U-20 World Cup Quarterfinals

Host Argentina was bounced from the U-20 World Cup after a 2-0 loss to Nigeria in the U-20 World Cup. After a scoreless first half, Nigeria struck twice and will face either Ecuador or South Korea in the next round. The other South American nations in action fared a bit better than Argentina, with Brazil cruising past Tunisia, 4-1, in a match that included three goals in stoppage time, and Colombia beating Slovakia, 5-1. In a clash between European sides, Italy won 2-1 over England after Cesare Casadei scored from the spot in the 87th minute. In the quarterfinals, the U.S. will face the winner of today’s match between Gambia and Uruguay.

Free Kicks

  • St. Louis City midfielder Eduard Löwen won MLS Goal of the Matchday for his free kick goal against the Vancouver Whitecaps.

That’s all I have for today. I hope you all have a wonderful start to June!

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Lion Links

Lion Links: 5/31/23

Nani will return to Exploria Stadium for celebrity match, Amanda Allen scores again for Canada, U-20 USMNT defeats New Zealand, and more.



Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Hello, Mane Landers. I hope all is well with you down in Florida. There’s not much new with me up here in Chicago. Now that high school sports have finished up for the school year, I’ll be busy this summer working at Wrigley Field. There is plenty to get to today, so let’s get to the links.

Nani Will Return to Exploria Stadium for Celebrity Match

Former Lion captain Nani will return to Exploria Stadium on June 23 to participate in the celebrity soccer match called The Beautiful Game. The 36-year-old expressed his thoughts on his return to Orlando and taking part in this match next month.

“For me it is an honor to be back in Orlando and be with the fans one more time,” said Nani. “I can’t wait to see my friends from the club, The Wall and all Orlando City supporters again. I’m thankful for this opportunity to play one more time with Roberto Carlos, Ronaldinho, and so many legends.”

Nani played three seasons for the Lions, recording 28 goals and 23 assists in 77 appearances for the club. The match will feature icons such as Ronaldinho, Roberto Carlos, Carlos Valderrama, Javier Mascherano, and Rivaldo as well. The match will also have halftime entertainment, and more additions to the rosters set to be announced at a later date.

Amanda Allen Scores Again in Concacaf Women’s U-20 Championship

Orlando Pride forward Amanda Allen made the starting lineup again for Canada in the 2023 Concacaf Women’s U-20 Championship in the Dominican Republic. In Canada’s final group stage match against the U.S., Allen converted a penalty kick for Canada’s first goal in what finished as a 5-2 loss for her side.

It was Allen’s second goal of the tournament, but she was injured in this match as well. Canada finishes second in the group, with the U.S. on top. On Friday, the U.S. will play Costa Rica and Canada will face Mexico in the semifinals.

U-20 USMNT Advances to World Cup Quarterfinals

Orlando City defender Michael Halliday came on as a substitute in the 71st minute for the U.S. U-20 Men’s National Team in its U-20 World Cup match against New Zealand. The U.S. shut out New Zealand 4-0 to advance to the quarterfinals in Argentina. That victory gives the U.S. its fourth-consecutive shutout in the tournament. Austin FC midfielder Owen Wolff, San Jose Earthquakes forward Cade Cowell, FC Dallas defender Justin Che, and Hajduk Split midfielder Rokas Pukstas all scored for the Americans. In the quarterfinals on Sunday, the U.S. will face the winner of tomorrow’s match between Gambia and Uruguay.

Interim Head Coach Anthony Hudson Leaves USMNT

The U.S. Soccer Federation announced that Anthony Hudson is leaving his role as the USMNT’s interim head coach to pursue a new opportunity. Hudson is reportedly set to take a head coaching role with a club in the Middle East. He was the head coach of the U.S. U-20 team in 2020 and had been an assistant under Gregg Berhalter for the USMN before being named interim head coach in January. Hudson will be replaced by B.J. Callaghan, who will be the interim head coach for the USMNT for the Concacaf Nations League and Gold Cup competitions this summer. Callaghan has been an assistant coach with the USMNT over the last four years and was previously an assistant coach with the Philadelphia Union.

USMNT Will Host Ghana and Germany for October Friendlies

The USMNT will play two international friendlies in October against Germany and Ghana. The U.S. will take on four-time World Cup Champion Germany on Oct. 14 in East Hartford, CT. The last time the USMNT played Germany was in 2015, with the Yanks winning 2-1. On Oct. 17, the USMNT will face Ghana in Nashville. The Black Stars will look to get their first win on American soil against the Stars and Stripes. Ghana eliminated the Americans in the World Cup in 2006 and 2010, but the U.S. defeated Ghana in the group stage at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. The last time these two sides met was in 2017, when the USMNT edged Ghana, 2-1.

Free Kicks

  • The LA Galaxy parted ways with President Chris Klein. Head Coach and Sporting Director Greg Vanney will remain with the club. The Galaxy have missed the playoffs in four of the last six seasons.
  • Former Netherlands forward Quincy Promes will be prosecuted for his involvement in drug trafficking. Promes is accused of allegedly smuggling 1,360 kilos of cocaine in 2020.
  • Juventus is reportedly emerging as the leader in the race to acquire Christian Pulisic on a transfer from Chelsea. Pulisic has one-year remaining on his contract with the English Premier League side.
  •’s James Nalton shared his insights on five potential USMNT players to watch during the U-20 World Cup .
  • An arrest warrant has reportedly been issued in Brazil for LA Galaxy midfielder Douglas Costa for unpaid child support.
  • Is it just me or did The Athletic forget to mention our beloved Lions’ U.S. Open Cup run last year?

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

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