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Orlando City vs. Columbus Crew: Five Takeaways

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Orlando City came back from a 1-0 halftime deficit to beat the Columbus Crew 2-1 in the regular-season finale at Exploria Stadium. With Cincinnati jumping out to a big early lead at D.C. United, the Lions needed all three points to keep their season alive and now look forward to the MLS Cup playoffs on Sunday in Montreal. What can we take away from the Lions’ win in their final game of the regular season?

Columbus Was the Early Aggressor

Orlando City needed a win in this game to make the playoffs while Columbus only needed a draw. You’d expect the Lions to come out attacking and the Crew to sit behind the ball, but it was the opposite in the first half. The Crew were on the attack while the Lions seemed happy to defend. Orlando City didn’t pressure the Crew back line and, when it did, some of the team stayed back, creating gaps in the midfield. After 45 minutes, it was tough to see the Lions winning. The Crew controlled the pace of the first half and it paid off in the 38th minute when Derrick Etienne Jr. gave the visitors the lead. At halftime, it seemed highly unlikely that the Lions would be able to mount a comeback.

A Tale of Two Halves

The Lions needed to change their mindset in the second half and they did. The team pressed higher and was more creative in the final third. Orlando put Columbus on their heels, resulting in Junior Urso’s goal in the 56th minute. After the goal, the Lions continued to create opportunities and eventually found the winner. In short, the second-half Lions looked like a team needing to win.

Part of that could’ve been that the Crew were playing more behind the ball, which was bound to happen with a 1-0 lead and Columbus merely needing a draw to qualify. But the Lions also looked like a different team in the second 45 minutes. Had they come out that way at the start of the game, they probably wouldn’t have needed a comeback or any late heroics.

Pedro Gallese, Orlando City’s Savior

As has happened on many occasions, Gallese was once again asked to make some huge saves. The Peruvian goalkeeper was excellent in the second half, making some big stops that kept his team in the game. In the 35th minute, Gallese tipped a shot from Cucho Hernandez off the post and collected the rebound. He also made some huge saves in the second half, including an 86th-minute save on Lucas Zelarayan and an injury-time stop on Zelarayan to keep the 2-1 lead. Without the team’s number one, the result likely would’ve been different and the season would’ve ended.

Benji Michel’s Impact

Ercan Kara is a player that needs service to succeed. He doesn’t possess much speed and doesn’t press the opposing defense. Michel isn’t as good at finishing as Kara, but he provided the energy, speed, and pressure needed. Michel’s shot in the 81st minute hit the hand of Milos Degenek, giving the Lions a penalty that resulted in the game-winning goal. He’s not the team’s best forward, but Michel makes a difference off the bench and did so again in this one.

Facundo Torres Has Nerves of Steel

Orlando City has had some trouble finding the right penalty taker in the last couple of years. The team didn’t find out that Daryl Dike was the best option until shortly before he left. This year, Designated Players Kara and Torres have both emerged as viable options, as did Alexandre Pato prior to his knee injury. Torres showed his value from the spot again in this game, providing the winning margin. Crew goalkeeper Eloy Room guessed the right way on Torres’ late penalty, and even left his line early, but it was well struck into the corner, resulting in the Lions’ game-winning goal.


This is what I took away from Orlando City’s 2-1 win over the Crew. It looked like this game would be six losses in seven games to end Orlando’s season, if not for the comeback. It was an ugly way to get into the playoffs, but the team has made the postseason for the third consecutive year after failing to in its first five seasons in MLS. Let us know what stood out to you in this match in the comments below.

Orlando City

My First Orlando City Road Match: New York Red Bulls

A trip to Red Bull Arena to see the Lions play created memories that will last a lifetime.

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Nic Josey, The Mane Land

This past weekend I was fortunate enough to take in my first-ever Orlando City away match when the Lions traveled north to Harrison, NJ to take on the New York Red Bulls. The experience was one that I will not soon forget and I wanted to take some time to share a firsthand account of our travels and game day experience.

Early Friday morning prior to the match, I loaded the car up with my wife, 10-month-old son, and enough luggage to support a small army and made the trek from our home in Central Florida to the Orlando International Airport. I had been planning to take in an away game this year ever since the schedule came out, and as destinations go…Red Bull Arena certainly checked off a few must-haves from our family’s travel list. Direct flights (because travel with a little one is just plain easier when you don’t have to connect), a city we have not visited as a family before (what better way to make memories in a new city than to have them tied to an Orlando City victory?), extracurriculars (give us all the good food, drinks, and hot spots to visit). The latter is actually how I talked my wife into the trip. Who could say no to an Orlando City game and Broadway shows to boot?

After a shockingly low-stress travel day, we arrived in Time Square to meet up with my parents, who had journeyed from Michigan to spend the weekend with us (to provide some much appreciated babysitting) and have some fun in the city. After a day exploring downtown New York City, it was time to head to the stadium. If you ever have the chance to go, and I think every fan should if they are capable, just know that if you are staying in Manhattan, it can be quite a Herculean effort to physically make it to the stadium! After a 45-minute Uber ride, my father and I arrived on the doorstep of Red Bull Arena. The stadium was clean, easy to access, and had an outdoor tailgate area within the gates, where a live band provided pregame entertainment.

Being a once-in-a season type of experience, I splurged on two field-level seats for my father and I and could not have been happier with the choice. I don’t think it would have been physically possible to have been closer or more immersed in the action, with the exception of streaking onto the pitch, and no matter our differences, the Red Bull faithful definitely did not deserve that type of show. Looking up at the fans seated around the stadium, small pockets of purple could easily be made out against the sea of red and blue seats and we were even lucky enough to meet an engaged couple who work and live not to far from us back in Orlando and came up to the game to celebrate a special birthday weekend.

The game environment was spectacular and my excitement was only bolstered by our team’s effort on the pitch. A clean sheet victory on the road, and a three-goal effort was enough to justify the whole trip, but the night of memories did not stop after the final whistle. Instead, as my father and I were walking from our seats on the sideline towards the exit tunnel, a joyful Facundo Torres came sprinting over to our corner of the field to celebrate with the Orlando City supporters. As someone who has covered his struggles to start the year, it was clear as day to me to see a sense of relief wash over him in the spirit of celebration, and, with fans cheering him on, he even took a moment to shake my old man’s hand and pat him on the shoulder.

I have been a season ticket member in the City Beautiful for the past three years, and while I love heading to the games week in and week out, there was something different about taking in an away match. Whether we as fans are celebrating the highest highs or dreading the lowest of lows at home, when we leave the stadium, the stress of the real world is waiting just around the corner. The beauty I found of attending an away match was that by turning the experience into a weekend getaway, the joys of the victory were able to linger around for just a bit longer while we were still fully immersed in vacation mode.


Did you make the trip up to Jersey this weekend? Have you gone to any away matches this year or plan to before the end of the season? If so, let us know your favorite destinations and plans in the comments below.

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Lion Links

Lion Links: 6/7/23

Orlando City moves up in MLS power rankings, Orlando Pride take on Gotham FC tonight, USMNT announces official Concacaf Nations League roster, and more.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Hello, Mane Landers. How is everyone doing so far this week? I’ve been doing well and keeping myself busy lately. I’ll be working the Dead & Company concert this weekend at Wrigley Field. There is plenty to get to today, so let’s get to the links.

Orlando City Moves Up in MLS Power Rankings

Orlando City moved up five spots to 10th in the latest MLS power rankings. The Lions defeated the New York Red Bulls 3-0 on the road this past Saturday. Ivan Angulo put together a stellar performance and Facundo Torres scored twice in the match to help the Lions extend their unbeaten run to five matches. Around the league, the Columbus Crew also moved up five spots, climbing to sixth after a 4-2 win against Charlotte FC. Cincinnati edged out LAFC for the top spot in the power rankings following its 1-0 shutout win against the Chicago Fire.

Orlando Pride Take on NJ/NY Gotham FC Tonight

The Orlando Pride will play NJ/NY Gotham FC tonight in their third group stage match of the 2023 NWSL Challenge Cup. The match kicks off at 7:30 p.m. at Red Bull Arena and you can watch it on CBS Sports Network or stream it on Paramount+. The Pride are at the bottom of their group following a draw and a loss so far in the competition. Ally Watt scored in those first two matches for the Pride, with Summer Yates providing the assists on both of those goals. Gotham is unbeaten in the Challenge Cup and leads the group with four points. The Pride are unbeaten in their last six matches on the road in all competitions against Gotham, including a scoreless draw last month in league play.

USMNT Announces 23-Man Roster for Concacaf Nations League

The U.S. Soccer Federation officially announced the 23-man roster for the U.S. Men’s National Team before the 2023 Concacaf Nations League.

Goalkeeper Josh Cohen, who plays for Maccabi Haifa in Israel, was the lone player dropped from the preliminary roster announced last week. The USMNT will play rival Mexico on June 15 in the Concacaf Nations League semifinals at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas. If the U.S. prevails in that match, it will face the winner of the match between Canada and Panama. The final is set to take place in Las Vegas on June 18.

U.S. Open Cup Quarterfinals Begin

The quarterfinals of the 2023 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup kicked off last night with two matches. FC Cincinnati defeated the Pittsburgh Riverhounds out of the USL Championship, 3-1, with Brandon Vazquez, Alvaro Barreal, and Santiago Arias all scoring in the second half. The Houston Dynamo also booked their spot in the semifinals after winning 4-1 over the Fire. Nigerian winger Ibrahim Aliyu had a brace for Houston in the road win. Today, we have two more matches to determine who else will move on to the semifinals. Birmingham Legion FC of the USL Championship will take on Inter Miami, while Real Salt Lake will face the LA Galaxy.

Free Kicks

  • In case you missed it, check out the sights and sounds of Orlando’s road victory at Red Bull Arena this past weekend.

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

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Lion Links

Lion Links: 6/6/23

Lions earn weekly honors, OCSC headed in the right direction, Kylie Strom lands on NWSL Best XI of May, and more.

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Image courtesy of Orlando Pride

Happy Tuesday, everyone. I got absolutely clattered during my Sunday league game over the weekend, and I’ve been hobbling around ever since. Fortunately, my fingers still work just fine, because there are plenty of things to talk through this morning. Let’s get after it.

Lions Earn Weekly Honors

Orlando was well represented on the MLS Team of the Matchday following a 3-0 victory over the New York Red Bulls Saturday night. Facundo Torres and Ivan Angulo were both named to the starting lineup, while Oscar Pareja was given the nod as head coach. Torres scored two goals and Angulo recorded a goal and an assist in the victory. Dave Rohe gave Torres a 7.5 and Angulo an 8, along with the Man of the Match award, in our player grades. It was nice to see other people take notice of the performances they put in. Keep up the good work, fellas!

OCSC Heading in the Right Direction

Orlando City got the complete performance that it’s been looking for in recent weeks, and Oscar Pareja is very pleased with what he saw from his team. He went out of his way to highlight the fact that the Lions stayed vigilant and didn’t relax and give up a goal as the game went on, something that’s been a problem at times this year. While Pareja said that things aren’t perfect yet, he and Torres were both of the opinion that the team is playing better lately, and Torres said that Saturday was OCSC’s best performance of the season.

Kylie Strom Earns Monthly Plaudits

Orlando Pride defender Kylie Strom has been named to the NWSL Best XI for the month of May. Strom started in each of the Pride’s four matches during May and went the full 90 minutes in all but one of them. She helped anchor a back line that only gave up two goals during those four games, but the highlight of her month came during the team’s home game against the Washington Spirit. Strom scored the winning goal in the second half as the Pride handed the Spirit their first loss of the season. Here’s hoping she continues the good form!

Fines and Bans Proposed for Vinicius’ Abusers

The four men accused of hanging an effigy of Vinicius Jr. from a bridge are set to have hefty punishments levied against them. Spain’s anti-violence commission has proposed fines of  €60,001 and two-year stadium bans as a result of their actions. Additionally, the three men accused of racially abusing the Brazilian winger during a match against Valencia may be given fines and a one-year stadium ban as well. All seven were arrested and, although they’ve been released, could still face criminal charges, although that would be unprecedented. The Real Madrid player has suffered repeated instances of racial abuse since arriving in Spain. Hopefully the punishments will do something to deter the ugly incidents from occurring.

Free Kicks

  • Orlando City has picked up more points on the road than any other team in the Eastern Conference.

That’s all for me today. Y’all stay safe out there.

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