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Orlando City

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 vs. Inter Miami: Photo Gallery

An album of images from Orlando City’s hard-fought draw at home against the Herons.



Dan MacDonald, The Mane Land

The Lions brought much more roar on Sunday night to face their southern rivals but had trouble finding the net, allowing the Herons to nick a point even while short staffed. None of Miami’s high-priced talent traveled for the match after facing Toronto midweek, and physicality ensued, firing up the sold-out crowd at Exploria Stadium.

Talking with some of the other photographers on the sideline who had flown in for this match, they rated the Orlando atmosphere top-notch; in their experience, other cities don’t compare to the in-stadium fan enthusiasm.

The Lions were in “the net is lava” mode, with Duncan McGuire and Iván Angulo each missing prime one-on-one chances with Miami goalkeeper Drake Callender in each half, McGuire leaving it straight at Callendar, and Angulo badly missing the net after a missed first touch. So of course Miami struck first, with David Ruíz scoring early in the second half.

This fired the Lions up even more and Martín Ojeda pinballed McGuire in behind the Miami back line, allowing Duncan to do what Duncan does to draw the score level. The Lions generally looked the more dangerous team for most (but not all) of the night. However, it is scorin ggoals that actually counts, leaving both teams unchanged in their respective Eastern Conference standings. Orlando remains second at 14-7-9, while Miami stays in 14th at 9-15-5.

The Lions continue to control their own destiny in terms of getting a top-four finish as they look to lock up home field advantage for a best-of-three matchup in the MLS Cup playoffs.

With home dates left against Montreal and a sputtering-but-dangerous New England remaining, there’s still plenty of time to be part of that world-class gameday atmosphere by going out to support the team as they push for a strong finish.

We hope that you enjoy these images from a hard-fought, come-from-behind draw against Inter Miami at Exploria Stadium.

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Orlando City

Orlando City vs. Inter Miami: Five Takeaways

Here’s what we learned from Orlando City’s 1-1 draw at home against Inter Miami.



Dan MacDonald, The Mane Land

Orlando City returned to Exploria Stadium after a midweek loss to New York City FC and had to settle for a 1-1 draw with Inter Miami. The Lions did well to equalize after conceding first, but will likely feel that they left opportunity knocking as the Eastern Conference remains tight near the top. Here are my five takeaways from the third Tropic Thunder clash this year.

Lack of Execution Plagues the Lions

Orlando’s offense struggled to put the ball in the back of the net in this match. That’s not to say they didn’t create quality chances, as the Lions served up good crosses and dangerous long balls throughout the match. Only three of Orlando’s 16 crosses found their mark in the end. The execution just wasn’t there when it came to finishing attacks, whether it be poor decision-making when the time came to play the final ball or just missing the target completely. Of Orlando’s 13 shots, six were on target and only a couple of those gave Miami goalkeeper Drake Callender much difficulty. Ivan Angulo missing the goal entirely after Dagur Dan Thorhallsson picked out a perfect pass for him stands out. Expecting every promising attack to end with a goal is unfair, but weak finishing cost the Lions from claiming a big win at home.

Corner Kicks Gave the Lions Headaches

While the Lions didn’t have any corner kicks in the match, Inter Miami had seven and created some of its best chances with them. In the 61st minute, a corner kick taken by Robert Taylor found Leonardo Campana all alone in the center of the box. The Ecuadorian forward’s header mercifully went wide, but it was indicative of how Orlando had its hands full on set pieces. Pedro Gallese had to come up with a remarkable save in the first half as well after Campana barreled through Cartagena to head the ball at goal. Even though the Lions didn’t concede from a set piece, I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s something focused on this week just to ensure the team is organized enough to overcome uncalled fouls without needing its star goalkeeper or some luck.

Plenty of Physicality in Rivalry Match

It was easy to tell these two teams didn’t care much for each other, as they both fought hard on and off the ball. There were 27 fouls and seven yellow cards handed out by referee Armando Villarreal. Miami committed 16 of those fouls and received five of the yellow cards as they did whatever it took to slow down Orlando’s progress. Facundo Torres suffered the brunt of it and was fouled four times so that he couldn’t work his magic against Miami’s defense. It was the kind of physical match that can be expected of two rivals and made for an intense match that will likely have players from both sides seeking an ice bath. The Lions did well to stay composed for a majority of a very chippy match.

Duncan McGuire Shakes Off the Rust

Forward Duncan McGuire got back to his scoring ways with a crucial equalizer for his ninth goal of the MLS season. It was an important goal for reasons beyond the scoreline as well, as McGuire had squandered a golden opportunity to score earlier in the match by not being able to get his shot past Callender. He was also kicking himself for not getting on the end of a few other chances as well. His 84 minutes on the field were the most from him in one game this season, and the Lions will need him more often now that Ercan Kara is in Turkey. It was the rookie’s first goal since July and, although not perfect, the kind of performance to build upon moving forward.

Orlando Showcased Its Depth and Versatility

Head Coach Oscar Pareja switched things up at halftime, replacing Cesar Araujo with Martin Ojeda and having Mauricio Pereyra sit a bit deeper in the midfield to potentially create chances on the break a bit quicker using his service. Although Ojeda didn’t get a goal or an assist, his presence was notable on both sides of the ball and he played a key role in Orlando’s goal. Having a player of his caliber able to come off the bench has been a boon for Orlando this season, letting Pareja really kickstart the changes he wants to make to the team. Similar things could be said about Orlando’s other substitutes: Junior Urso, Ramiro Enrique, Gaston Gonzalez, and Michael Halliday. Their energy and skill kept Orlando pushing for more and gave the sense that a winner would have come had the game lasted a bit longer.

That’s what I took away from Orlando’s 1-1 draw with Inter Miami. Let me know what you gathered from the match in the comments below

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Lion Links

Lion Links: 9/25/23

Orlando City draws with Inter Miami, Viviana Villacorta out for the season, OCB wins last game of the regular season, and more.



Dan MacDonald, The Mane Land

Last night’s Orlando City match wasn’t the best, but it wasn’t the worst either. It’s a pretty fitting feeling on a Monday, as we all get back into the swing of the work week after a nice weekend of soccer. There are plenty of ups and downs from a rollercoaster Sunday, so let’s dive right into today’s links!

Orlando City Draws With Inter Miami

In the latest edition of the Tropic Thunder rivalry, Orlando City and Inter Miami split the points at Exploria Stadium in a 1-1 result. Miami struck first, but the Lions did well to find an equalizer, even though they couldn’t find a winner in the end. It wasn’t Orlando’s best game by any means, but it was a decent response to a 2-0 loss on the road to New York City FC. Orlando now has 51 points, tying its club record for the most points in a season, set in 2021. The Lions will have a chance to break that record on Saturday when they host CF Montreal.

Viviana Villacorta Out for the Season

Orlando Pride midfielder Viviana Villacorta will miss the remainder of the NWSL season after suffering an ACL tear in her left knee during training. The 24-year-old was selected with the ninth overall pick in the 2021 NWSL Draft, but was not able to make her debut until 2022 due to sustained an ACL tear in her right knee that kept her out for all of the 2021 season. This year, she has 21 appearances across all competitions for the Pride and notched the first assist of her career in a big road win against the San Diego Wave on April 29. This is a tough blow to the Pride’s midfield with just three games remaining as she has ended her season early due to injury for the third straight year. The Pride are only a point out of a playoff spot and are back in action on Oct. 2 against Angel City FC.

Orlando City B Wins On Decision Day

On the final day of the MLS NEXT Pro regular season, Orlando City B won 2-1 at home over FC Cincinnati 2. The Young Lions had already clinched a spot in the postseason heading into this match, but the win secured their spot as the fifth seed. Jack Lynn briefly held the Golden Boot lead after scoring, but ended up tied at 19 goals with New York City FC II’s Matt Myers and Colorado Rapids 2’s Remi Cabral. The trio ended in a three-way tie for the league’s Golden Boot honors. OCB will hit the road for its first MLS NEXT Pro playoff game, although the opponent is not yet known thanks to the new rule where higher seeds choose which team they want to face.

USWNT Wins in Megan Rapinoe’s Final Match

The United States Women’s National Team beat South Africa in a 2-0 win at Soldier Field. Trinity Rodman and Emily Sonnett scored and the defense did well to secure its second shutout against South Africa after a 3-0 win this past Thursday. This game also marked forward Megan Rapinoe’s final game with the USWNT, with the 38-year-old subbed off for the last time in the 54th minute. These were solid wins from the USWNT following the World Cup and it will aim to keep the momentum rolling next month in a pair of friendlies against Colombia.

Free Kicks

  • Three Orlando City academy sides came up with shutout victories this weekend.
  • Before the USWNT’s friendly with South Africa, U.S. Soccer Sporting Director Matt Crocker stated that plans remain in place for a new head coach to be at the helm in time for the training camp in December
  • American midfielder Yunus Musah did well in his AC Milan debut, playing all 90 minutes in a 1-0 win over Verona.
  • A match in the Netherlands between Ajax and Feyenoord had to be abandoned due to fans throwing fireworks onto the field while Feyenoord led 3-0. According to police, tear gas had to be used to stop unrest outside the stadium after the match, and Ajax later fired Sven Mislintat, its director of soccer.
  • Newcastle became the first English Premier League team to have eight different players score in a match after crushing Sheffield United, 8-0.
  • Atletico Madrid ended Real Madrid’s perfect start to the season by beating its rival 3-1, with Alvaro Morata bagging a brace.

That’s all I have for you today, Mane Landers. I hope you all have an easy Monday and rest of your week!

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