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TML Staff Roundtable: 2023 Orlando City Preseason Thoughts

The staff weighs in on the season to come in advance of Oscar Pareja’s fourth season in charge of the Lions.

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As we head into the 2023 MLS season this weekend, it’s time to once again get a feel for the hopes and expectations for the campaign that awaits. Orlando City enters the season with more questions on the back end than the front this season after last year’s team entered the season with the exact opposite outlook.

I reached out to The Mane Land staff to find out what everyone is thinking ahead of the Lions’ eighth season in Major League Soccer. Big thanks to the entire staff for submitting their thoughts.


1. What part of Orlando City gives you the most confidence entering the new season?

Nic Josey: Bringing back Pedro Gallese is what gives me the most confidence entering the start of the season for Orlando City. Having El Pulpo in net means that Orlando will always have a chance to wind up with a result at the end of the day.

Ben Miller: Easy one here, it has to be the attack. While the Lions only got one goal on Saturday against the Revolution, the first half was full of free flowing soccer that resulted in a number of chances, and if not for some stellar saves from Djorjde Petrovic, Orlando surely would have had more than one. This team is not short of attacking firepower, and it should make for some entertaining games.

David Rohe: For the first time in a long time, the attack. With the addition of Martin Ojeda, Gaston Gonzalez being healthy, and Ercan Kara and Facundo Torres having a season under their belts, I think the Lions should increase their goal total significantly in 2023.

Sean Rollins: I think the Orlando City attack will improve with the addition of Ojeda. Additionally, Jack Lynn and Duncan McGuire have both looked good during the preseason, so I expect more goals this year.

Ryan Smith: I’m confident in the direction ownership and Luiz Muzzi have taken the club. I believe in the player investments and acquisitions made this past off-season.

Marcus Mitchell: Goalkeeping. I have plenty of confidence in Pedro Gallese and the Peruvian shouldn’t miss too much time for international duty.

Joshua Taylor: I would have to say the Lions did a great job adding depth to their roster during the off-season, especially at midfield. Hopefully, Gonzalez can stay healthy this time, and we get to see what he can do in purple.

My Take: I’m with Nic and Marcus. I expect Gallese will do what he always does, while I’m concerned with new faces at both fullback positions and physical breakdowns that the center backs have had both last year and in preseason (in Antonio Carlos’ case) without adding any veteran depth behind them. Up front and in the midfield, the club has done well on paper, but until those new guys start performing in games that matter, it’s a question mark, especially at forward, where everyone behind Kara is young. Gallese is the known quantity.


2. What is your biggest concern with Orlando City entering 2023?

Joshua: The area I would be most concerned about is the back line. Robin Jansson and Carlos both had their fair share of injuries to deal with last season. If that trend continues this year, the Lions will have to rely on some young defenders with little experience.

Nic: My biggest concern is center back depth and the lack of addressing it during the off-season. When healthy, Jansson and Carlos make a top duo in MLS but last year showed how vulnerable the back line can be if either or both miss an extended period of time.

Ben: Depth in defense. Carlos and Jansson remain the rocks, and Rodrigo Schlegel is as good a backup as any in the league. Things fall off sharply after him at center back though, and we don’t really know what to expect out of either Luca Petrasso or Rafael Santos at left back. After years of stability in the back line, there are definitely some questions in 2023.

David: I’m most worried about the back line. Yes, Carlos and Jansson are as good a pairing as any in the league, and Schlegel is one of the best backups in the league. But after that, experience falls off a bit. The same can be said for right back. It looks as if Michael Halliday will be the starter, and I’m all for the youngster getting the opportunity. Behind him is Oscar Pareja’s Swiss Army knife, Kyle Smith. The depth simply isn’t where I want it to feel comfortable. 

Sean: The outside backs are my biggest concern about this team because the starters will be new and probably young. They’ll also be asked to take an attacking role, which can leave the center backs vulnerable to a counterattack.

Ryan: My biggest concern is lack of CB depth. Schlegel has proven to be more than capable of stepping up should Jansson or Carlos go down. However, if both go down, I’m not confident in whoever might be Orlando’s No. 4 choice on the depth chart at this point.

Marcus: I’m not overly confident of any of the new fullbacks and the depth at center back is worrying. Orlando can’t afford injuries and frequent suspensions to its center backs during a busy 2023.

My Take: While it would be easy for me to continue to beat the drum about the inexperience behind Kara at striker, the defense is the obvious answer, as evidenced by my colleagues’ responses above. Unproven fullbacks and the continued refusal to add one more veteran center back have the potential to expose the team defensively, but I’m going to extend that out to the central midfield. Araujo is outstanding. However, with Mauricio Pereyra playing deeper last year, the team shipped more goals. The Lions kept only three clean sheets in the back half of the 2022 MLS regular season after notching six in the first half. There were other factors that were partly to blame (injuries on the back line, for example), but Mauri’s aging legs can be an issue in transition defense, especially in the second halves of games and during the grind of the late summer and early fall months.


3. Which new player are you most excited about seeing this year?

Marcus: I’m pretty excited to see what Shak Mohammed can do. He’s young, versatile, and surrounded by creative teammates who can bring out the best in his play.

Joshua: I’m excited to see what Ojeda can do for the Lions this season. Bringing that versatility to the Lions’ offense and playing alongside Torres could be a good one-two-punch combination that can give defenders a headache. If Ojeda can carry that form he had during his time with Godoy Cruz in Argentina, he can fit in well in the attack with Torres and Kara.

Nic: Ojeda is the player I am most excited to see debut this season, hands down!

Ben: Another easy one, it’s Ojeda. Not only was he the big Designated Player signing, but he looked like it on Saturday. Popping up all over the attacking half, and only denied a goal by a superb Petrovic stop, he looks like the real deal and should provide immense attacking firepower. If he lives up to what he showed against the Revs then he’s going to be very difficult to stop.

David: This will probably be the answer for many of my colleagues but it is Ojeda. I think he has the ability to not just score goals and assist goals, but also to be a leader on the field. The potential chaos he and Torres can create with their creativity is something that I think will be a pleasure to watch this season.

Sean: There’s only one answer to this question and it’s Ojeda. The newest DP was exciting to watch against the New England Revolution last Saturday night and his partnership with Torres should be fun.

Ryan: Ojeda! After initial looks against New England in the preseason, he seems to have more pace than I anticipated. He definitely isn’t afraid to rifle off a shot or two when he has a couple yards of space from his defender. I like the thought of seeing more players not afraid to test the keeper from outside of the box instead of trying to wait until they are just a few yards away for a tap-in.

My Take: Ojeda is pretty much unanimous here, and being a Designated Player, that’s to be expected, but with all due respect to Sean’s assertion that there is only one answer, I’m going with Dagur Dan Thorhallsson. He made an impact on the scoresheet in the preseason and brings something a little different to the team. I don’t know how he fits into the lineup or Oscar Pareja’s rotation, but when he’s on the field, I want to see him taking set pieces — something he did well while with his former team in Iceland. Hopefully he’ll have the confidence to take those instead of deferring to Pereyra or Torres. It would be a huge advantage if Orlando City could make opponents fear conceding fouls around the box.


4. Which 2022 newcomer will make the biggest leap in 2023?

Ryan: Ivan Angulo — Just wait until you see him with 10+ goal contributions this season.

Marcus: Excluding Gonzalez, for obvious reasons, I think it has to be Kara. He had a strong first year and could score 15 or more goals this season in an upgraded offense.

Joshua: I think Torres can have another solid year after scoring 13 goals last season across all competitions. Torres has proven to be a dynamic goal scorer, and I can see him becoming the top goal scorer for the club by the end of the season. 

Nic: I think Cesar Araujo is going to make the biggest leap in 2023. I expect him to be named to the MLS All-Star Game in his second year in the league and that we will see him contribute more on the offensive end of the field as well.

Ben: Araujo. He still eats up so much ground and does an immense amount of work in the middle of the field. With a full off-season and a year of MLS experience under his belt, I think he’ll be recognized as one of the very best defensive midfielders in the league by the end of the season. Frankly, I don’t think Orlando will be able to hold onto him for another season if he develops the way I think he will.

David: Kara will make the biggest leap. I know that sounds strange for a guy who scored 11 goals in 2022, but I’m expecting quite a bit more from him this season. One of the biggest issues he had was a lack of service, and I think that will improve thanks to Torres, Ojeda, Gonzalez, and others. I’m looking for the big guy to get closer to 17 or 18 goals this season.

Sean: Many of the returning players on this team had excellent seasons in 2022, so I expect to see the biggest jump by Mikey Halliday. The Homegrown defender hasn’t played much so far, but I expect he’ll get a lot more playing time this season and show what he can do.

My Take: Provided he stays healthy, I think Kara will add to his goal-scoring total in 2023 and serve up a big glass of shut-the-hell-up to some of the national guys who looked at his stats but didn’t take the time to analyze them or to, you know, actually watch the team play. I don’t know if he gets to 17 or 18 — that would be quite welcome — but 15 is a realistic number and I expect his assists to go up too. I think the scoring will be spread out better than it was last year, which is even more important to Orlando’s success than Kara’s goal total rising. If it happens, I think his metrics will be similar to last year but with the totals being higher, he’ll get more respect for the same rate of production, because that’s how these things usually go.


5. What position in the Eastern Conference will the Lions occupy at season’s end?

Sean: I think this team will be better than last year. Replacing Junior Urso with Ojeda is an upgrade offensively and most of the starters are returning. I don’t think they can compete with Philadelphia yet, but I think they can finish in third this year.

Ryan: Second in the East.

Marcus: Fourth. I think this team is going to have a slow start but finish strong as one of the hottest teams in the Eastern Conference.

Joshua: I think the Lions will improve on their seventh-place finish in the Eastern Conference last year and finish in second place in the East this year. 

Nic: I think the Lions will finish the season in the fourth spot, one point clear of fifth place.

Ben: Fourth. Goal scoring shouldn’t be an issue, but I do have some real worries about the defense, especially with the number of games the Lions are going to play this year. There are sufficient bodies to rotate things in the midfield and attack, but unless some young guys step up in a big way on the back line, I think OCSC is going to ship some goals from around August onward, and it’ll mean a fourth-place finish, which would still be respectable.

David: I’m going to be bullish and put Orlando City at third in the East. I think the playoffs are a given, but I’m hoping that once the team truly gels with the newcomers it will be something special. 

My Take: I think this is a team that may take some time to get its chemistry going and could hit some rough patches during fixture congestion because there aren’t enough viable bodies at the back. I think it’s likely the team will end the regular season in fourth or fifth place in the conference but could be peaking just as the postseason arrives.


6. Hit me with your bold prediction for Orlando City’s 2023 season. Make ‘em extra spicy!

David: The Lions win the MLS Cup, and Oscar Pareja wins Coach of the Year. The club accomplishes this because Orlando City goes from scoring 44 goals with a -9 goal differential in 2022 to scoring 65 goals with a +20 goal differential in 2023. 

Sean: My bold prediction is that McGuire will replace Kara as starting striker and lead the team in scoring. Kara is a DP, but will only score with service. I think McGuire is a better fit for the offense because he’ll drop back into the midfield and help create chances.

Ryan: McGuire, Torres, Ojeda, Angulo, and Kara each will have six or more goals in all competitions. Orlando will break its 2016 record of 55 goals scored in MLS regular-season play.

Marcus: The Lions repeat as U.S. Open Cup champions. Head Coach Oscar Pareja is one of the best in the business when it comes to balancing the regular season and tournaments.

Joshua: Winning the U.S. Open Cup last year was nice, but I expect these Lions to be hungry to add another cup to that trophy case. My bold prediction is the Lions will win MLS Cup this year. 

Nic: Orlando City will earn a repeat spot in the U.S. Open Cup final but will lose on the road in penalty kicks during a nail-biting final.

Ben: Angulo scores 10 goals. He got the start on Saturday, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see that be the case for a little bit, while Gonzalez continues to work back from tearing his ACL. Angulo has great control, is devilishly tricky with the ball at his feet, and has speed to boot. While I think he’ll be tasked with a lot of defensive duties to help cover for the roaming Ojeda and Torres, he absolutely has goals in him, and I think he’ll hit double digits after not finding the net at all in his first half-season with the club.

My Take: Some of the above takes are pretty darn spicy. Warn a guy to get his oven mitts, guys! I’m going to go even further and get really nuts. I’m going to make my bold prediction as such: The Lions finally break the Wayne Rooney curse and sweep D.C. United in 2023. If not now, when? Oh, and Orlando somehow gets past Tigres in the Concacaf Champions League before bowing out later to another Mexican side.


If you made it to the end of this roundtable discussion, wow. Good job! We can be a verbose bunch sometimes, but we tried to keep them more concise this year.

Let us know in the comments where you agree and disagree, and give us your own bold predictions.

Orlando City

Orlando City vs. Chicago Fire: Five Takeaways

What did we learn from Orlando City’s 4-2 victory over the Chicago Fire?

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

That game was the most fun I’ve had watching this team all year. Orlando City jumped all over the Chicago Fire in the first half and took its chances well on the way to a 4-2 victory at home. It wasn’t a perfect performance, but it’s the best one we’ve seen all year, and it was exactly what the Lions needed. What follows are my five takeaways from the win.

Hot Start Pays Dividends

Orlando got things off to a hot start and had a claim for a penalty with barely a minute played. It ultimately wasn’t given, but Facundo Torres opened the scoring in the fourth minute anyway, and the Lions had a precious early lead. When a penalty kick was actually awarded to the Lions in the 19th minute, Luis Muriel coolly slotted it to Chris Brady’s left. Ivan Angulo’s finish from close range gave OCSC three goals in the first 30 minutes, and that big cushion eventually paid off when the Lions’ legs began to tire in the second half against the fresher visitors.

Facundo Finds His Footing

This was a much-needed performance by Facundo Torres, and continued his good form. He now has three goals and an assist in the team’s last two matches, and every time he touched the ball he looked capable of creating something. An encouraging aspect of his performance was that the two goals he scored were far from clear-cut chances and were more about him using his individual brilliance to find a way to create something from nothing. That sort of thing isn’t always sustainable in the long run, but the team has always looked better when Torres is oozing with confidence, and great players elevate their teams when they’re playing well. Hopefully, we’re seeing the start of the run that Facu normally goes on right around this time.

Mason Stands Tall

Even with the barrage of early goals and Facu firing away from distance, the game could have still ended in disaster if not for Mason Stajduhar. The Lions’ early lead meant that they didn’t try to possess the ball and press the attack as much as they normally would have, and Chicago found its way through the defense on several occasions. The Fire finished with 19 shots and put 12 on target, but Mason made 10 stops, tying a club record, and saved Orlando’s bacon in the process. He stonewalled the Chicago attackers on multiple occasions in both halves, and if not for Torres’ offensive fireworks, he would have been an easy pick for Man of the Match.

Some Rest for the Wicked

With Orlando holding a 3-1 lead in the 59th minute and Oscar Pareja having deployed almost the exact same team that he did midweek, Papi took the opportunity to get a few guys some rest. Muriel and his 33-year-old legs were the first to exit, and once Torres made the lead 4-1 in the 60th minute, 35-year-old Nico Lodeiro was only a few minutes behind him. Kyle Smith then relieved Rafael Santos in the 78th minute, and that was the last change Pareja made, having used all three allotted substitution windows. It would have been nice to get Torres and McGuire off the field with a trip to New York City FC on Friday, but Pareja would have needed to have made those switches in one of the three windows. He perhaps could have introduced Ojeda at halftime to save a window, but it worked out.

A Step in the Right Direction

It wasn’t a perfect performance, but it contained easily the best first half of soccer that Orlando has played all season. Chances were created, chances were finished, and when shots were given up at the other end, Mason was on hand to snuff out the danger. The defense leaking two second-half goals wasn’t ideal, but one goal came from an unlucky penalty kick given for a Rodrigo Schlegel handball, and the other from a miscue by a no-doubt-exhausted Jansson and an unfortunate bounce off of Santos behind him. There were other good opportunities for the visitors during the final 30 minutes when the OCSC defense was visibly out on its collective feet.

Orlando only took eight shots, but put six on target and scored from four of those, doing its damage early and efficiently, meaning that the team didn’t need to open itself up and continue aggressively hunting chances. Whether Orlando can continue to build off this remains to be seen, and the Fire aren’t exactly the best barometer for success, but the Lions have started to lay a good foundation in the last two matches.


Those are my big impressions from a fun match that had a little bit of everything. Next up is a desperately tricky test on the road against a good NYCFC team, and that performance should give us a lot more information about whether the Lions are trending in the right direction or not. What were your thoughts from this game? Be sure to make your voice heard down in the comments. Vamos Orlando!

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Orlando City vs. Chicago Fire: Final Score 4-2 as Facundo Torres Leads Lions to Home Win

The Lions woke up offensively and goalkeeper Mason Stajduhar made up for a leaky defense in a much-needed home win.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Orlando City’s offense exploded for a season-high four goals and Mason Stajduhar made several critical saves as the Lions defeated the Chicago Fire 4-2 in front of an announced crowd of 22,038 at Inter&Co Stadium. Facundo Torres’ brace paced Orlando (5-8-6, 21 points), which also got goals from Luis Muriel and Ivan Angulo to offset scores by Maren Haile-Selassie and Hugo Cuypers for Chicago (4-9-6, 18 points). It was just the second home win for the Lions this season (2-5-3), and a much-needed one.

While a leaky defense was a concern, forcing Stajduhar to make 10 saves — several of the spectacular variety — the Lions will take the home win after struggling at Inter&Co Stadium all season. The 10 saves equals Joe Bendik’s single-game club record set against Sporting Kansas City on May 15, 2016.

“We feel very happy with the result, winning at home in front of our fans,” Orlando City Head Coach Oscar Pareja said after the match. “Despite the difficult moments, they came and supported us and I wanted to spread our message to them. That energy that they brought to us in a game that needed an extra push from us…a difficult week playing on turf three days ago. We knew that today was going to be a big challenge on (us physically) with the humidity and all those things. But we had a lot of positive things. We scored four goals. We started seeing individuals improve their performances. The collective obviously looks much better.”

Pareja started nearly the identical lineup that started Wednesday’s match in Charlotte, with the exception of Cesar Araujo stepping back into the XI in place of Felipe. Stajduhar started in goal behind a back line of Rafael Santos, Robin Jansson, Rodrigo Schlegel, and Dagur Dan Thorhallsson. The midfield consisted of Torres, Araujo, Nico Lodeiro, and Angulo, with Muriel and Duncan McGuire leading the attack up top.

Orlando started quickly in this game and had a shout for an early penalty when Torres was knocked down from behind in the box in just the second minute. Referee Natalie Simon saw nothing wrong with the play and the video assistant referee determined no obvious error had been made without her going to the monitor herself.

It didn’t matter as much two minutes later when Torres opened the scoring. Taking a pass from Thorhallsson, the Uruguayan cut inside and smashed the ball into the far corner to make it 1-0. It was his second goal in the fourth minute against Chicago this season and his fifth strike against the Fire in the last four meetings.

“I think the first (goal) was a play that’s just very typical of me,” Torres said. “When I receive it outside like that on the wing, I like to bring it inside to try to give myself a better chance to finish and to find the goal. So, when I took it inside, I was one-on-one with the defender, and thankfully I was able to cut it just one more time and give myself an even better opportunity, which was just really typical of me and the way I like to play.”

Chicago nearly tied the match in the 11th minute. Stajduhar made a huge stop to deny Cuypers after a turnover by McGuire gifted the ball back to the visitors. After the save, Haile-Selassie put the rebound over the net.

Angulo blazed through the Chicago defense in the 19th minute and was pulled back by Allan Arigoni in the box. This time, Simon immediately pointed to the spot. Muriel took the penalty and sent a shot right with Chris Brady diving the other way in the 20th minute.

The Fire came within inches of pulling the goal right back in the 24th minute. Brian Gutierrez, who was given too much space multiple times in the first half, cut inside from the left and smashed a shot that crashed off the right post and stayed out. Two minutes later, he was left alone about 25 yards out from goal and sent a shot at Stajduhar from distance.

Orlando tripled the lead in the 29th minute. Thorhallsson whipped in a good cross for McGuire that was redirected on goal but saved by Brady. Angulo swooped in and picked up the loose change, putting the ball into the empty net to make it 3-0.

“The play was a situation where Dagur was bringing it in from the right and he was trying to cross it over to get it to Duncan in the center,” Angulo said. “When the deflection happened, it just kind of bounced to me and all I had to do was push it into the goal.”

Haile-Selassie was left alone in the box in the 40th minute and fired a shot that Jansson got a piece of, slowing it enough for Stajduhar to make the save. Two minutes later, the Homegrown goalkeeper made a much more difficult stop when the ball pinged around the box and was headed on frame by Cuypers from point-blank range.

McGuire got in alone on goal late in the half but his shot was saved and he was offside anyway. Arnaud Souquet then was left in too much space and sent a shot just wide of the target deep in stoppage time on the final look for either team.

With some long spells of possession late in the half, the Fire took a halftime edge (55%-45%) into the break in that category, as well as in shots (8-3), shots on target (4-3), and passing accuracy (93%-88.3%). Each team earned one corner.

Stajduhar was once again called upon to stop Gutierrez in the 47th minute and once again the keeper made the save.

A minute later, McGuire was nearly sent in behind by Santos but Brady was quickly off his line and got there just ahead of the Orlando striker.

The shutout was spoiled moments later. Schlegel and Jansson got switched up and each was on the other’s side. Schlegel went to ground to block a cross that hit the arm he was putting down to arrest his fall. Simon ruled that his arm was not yet supporting his body and therefore it was a penalty, and the call on the field was upheld. Haile-Selassie sent Stajduhar the wrong way and put the Fire on the board in the 53rd minute.

McGuire won a free kick near the left corner of the box after the restart and Muriel went for goal on the set piece. Brady got over to make the save in the 55th minute. That was one of the final actions for the Colombian, who was subbed off a few minutes later for Martin Ojeda.

Torres scored a fourth Orlando goal in the 60th minute, cutting across the top of the area and smashing a shot from distance that beat Brady. The four goals represents a season high for the Lions.

“The second one, when I receive it on the outside like that, I do like to hit it when I’ve got the opportunity,” Torres said. “Sometimes it goes in, sometimes it doesn’t.”

His second of the night was a milestone goal for Torres, who scored his 28th league goal in two-and-a-half seasons to tie Nani for second on Orlando’s all-time, goal-scoring list in MLS matches.

Orlando’s defense was visibly tired in the final half hour. Just after the second Torres goal, a series of defensive turnovers kept Chicago on the attack for about a minute but it broke down on an offside.

The Lions gifted Chicago a second goal in the 69th minute. A routine cross into the box should have been dealt with by Jansson. The Swede swung and missed at the ball, which hit the back of Santos’ leg and bounced toward goal, where only Cuypers was waiting. He swept it past Stajduhar to make it 4-2.

From that point, it was a matter of Orlando managing the game, and the Lions did so, but not without a few more nervy moments in the defensive end.

Substitute Kyle Smith turned the ball over in his defensive third in the 79th minute, leading to another Gutierrez effort from long range. This one had a lot of movement on it and Stajduhar punched it away. A minute later, Gaston Gimenez sent a shot through traffic. Stajduhar didn’t see it until it was almost on top of him and he had to make a sprawling save to knock away what might ordinarily be a routine stop.

Former Lion Chris Mueller sent a long-range effort right at Stajduhar in the 83rd minute as the Chicago pressure continued. One of the goalkeeper’s best saves came in the 86th minute. An aerial ball cleared the defense and found Georgios Koutsias, who tried to head it over Stajduhar, but he was able to get a hand up quickly to reject the shot with an athletic save.

“I think tonight we saw the best of Mason, and I know he has more than that,” Pareja said. “He has been very patient in waiting for his opportunity. And in this moment when we needed that position to step up, he did and provided us a lot of security. We were drained at the end and Chicago was taking shots, but Mason provided us a lot of security and we felt safe. So, congratulations to Mason. We’re very proud of him and his performance. He deserves it because he works tremendously hard.”

Orlando nearly added an insurance strike in the 88th minute. Brady came out of his box to beat Angulo to a ball over the top, but he could not touch it and could only knock it to OJeda, who volleyed it inches over the crossbar from distance.

The game entered nine minutes of stoppage time and Chicago kept coming. Carlos Teran had a free header right in front on a corner kick but sent a powerful shot at Stajduhar’s feet and the keeper was able to trap it. He made a long throw to set up the counterattack, which ended up with Angulo down the left channel. The winger tried to pick out the far post but missed the target in transition in the 95th minute.

Stajduhar did well to punch away a couple of threatening crosses in the final minutes of injury time and the final whistle ended the proceedings without another goal.

Chicago finished with the advantage in possession (59.7%-40.3%), shots (18-8), shots on target (12-6), corners (3-1), and passing accuracy (90.3%-82.2%), but it was Orlando that was more clinical in front of goal and Stajduhar was a difference maker.

“It was a difficult game,” Pareja said. “Chicago pushed a lot and they had a lot of sequences, and we had to defend lower than we wanted, but it’s a good result, especially in front of our fans. And hopefully we can continue adding points because we need to find our way to turn these things around.”

“It’s a great feeling tonight to get the victory,” Angulo said. “That was the form that we had been looking for, and it was nice tonight to finally see it come to fruition on the field and together as a team.”

Torres has come on this week, not only scoring three goals and adding an assist across the two most recent matches, but also putting all six of his shot attempts on frame. If the old adage that your best players have to play well for the team to find success, Torres is doing that now after a difficult first half of the season.

“(The game) gives us and gives myself a lot of confidence, especially for when you’re going through a period where you’re working so hard and things just don’t seem to come off,” Torres said. “It can get really frustrating. It can be really difficult to get through, especially a couple of weeks ago, getting left off the Copa America roster. It hurts, but the only thing you can do is pick your head up and go back to it and just work even harder. So, that way you can find those successes that are yet to come.”


The Lions go back on the road Friday when they’ll play at New York City FC.

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Orlando City vs. Chicago Fire: Preview, How to Watch, TV Info, Live Stream, Lineups, Match Thread, and More

The Lions continue their search for a win at home as the Fire make their annual visit to Orlando.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Welcome to your match thread and preview for a Saturday night matchup between Orlando City (4-8-6, 18 points) and the Chicago Fire (4-8-6, 18 points) at Inter&Co Stadium (7:30 p.m., MLS Season Pass on Apple TV+). This is the second and final scheduled meeting between the Eastern Conference rivals in 2024 and the only matchup in Orlando.

Here’s what you need to know about the match.

History

The Lions are 7-5-7 in 19 MLS meetings with the Fire and 7-6-7 in all competitions. Orlando City is 4-2-3 against the Fire at home.

These two teams just met a few weeks ago on May 29 at Soldier Field, playing to a 1-1 draw. Facundo Torres opened the scoring early with a scrappy goal in traffic, and the Lions should have had a penalty late in the first half when Ivan Angulo was clipped while in alone on a goal after rounding the goalkeeper, but the video assistant referee did not overturn the no-call and referee Malik Badawi did not look at the play himself. The Fire tied the match in the final 20 minutes on a Hugo Cuypers goal.

The Lions swept the two-game season series in 2023 by identical 3-1 scorelines. On Aug. 21, Orlando City got goals from Wilder Cartagena, Ivan Angulo, and Torres (from the penalty spot) to overcome a 1-0 deficit supplied by Mauricio Pineda, winning 3-1 on the road.

When the teams met in Orlando, the Lions rode a Torres brace to a 3-1 win on July 1. Xherdan Shaqiri pulled a goal back from the penalty spot after a Kyle Smith foul in the box against Brian Gutierrez, but Ramiro Enrique added an insurance goal.

Orlando City claimed a 1-0 victory at Exploria Stadium on April 9, 2022 on Ercan Kara’s first MLS goal. The two sides met at Soldier Field just over a month prior to that match and played, officially, to a 0-0 draw on March 5. The game is another Orlando City match that will live in infamy due to the Professional Referee Organization’s statement after the game that Junior Urso’s goal should not have been overturned upon video review by Ismir Pekmic due to Kara not having clearly and obviously handled the ball in the buildup in any of the available replay angles. Alas…

The teams met in Orlando on Aug. 21, 2021, with a second-half Benji Michel strike lifting the Lions to a 1-0 victory. Tesho Akindele set up the play by forcing a turnover. In that year’s meeting at Soldier Field, the Fire got the better of the Lions to the tune of 3-1 on July 7. Andres Perea scored his first career MLS goal to open the scoring, but a defensive lapse in first-half stoppage allowed Boris Sekulic to equalize just before the break. Chicago rode that momentum, adding goals by Robert Beric and Chinonso Offor.

The Lions were 0-4-4 in the eight meetings before smashing the Fire 4-1 in Orlando on Sept. 19, 2020. Orlando City withstood two Chicago penalties and saw two Fire goals overturned by video review in that rain-soaked match. (Weird things usually happen when Chicago visits Orlando.) The Lions got goals from Chris Mueller, Nani, Urso, and Michel, while Chicago had only a Beric penalty to show for an otherwise good offensive performance.

The last meeting of 2019 was the last time the Fire won on the road in the series. It was a debacle for the Lions, who lost defender Robin Jansson to a back/neck injury early and shipped a handful of goals in a 5-2 home loss in the regular-season finale. Orlando got goals from Akindele and Michel but largely played like a team that couldn’t wait to end its season. Chicago got an own goal from Orlando’s Smith and strikes from CJ Sapong, Aleksandar Katai, and Przemyslaw Frankowski (twice) in the rout.

Orlando City was seconds away from a road win on March 9, 2019 before Sapong’s free header in the 95th minute leveled things in a 1-1 draw in Chicago. Dom Dwyer scored Orlando’s goal.

In 2018, the Fire swept the season series. Orlando fell 2-1 at home on May 26, 2018, with Alan Gordon’s wondergoal breaking a 1-1 deadlock. The return leg in Chicago that September was an abysmal performance by Orlando in a 4-0 Fire victory.

Chicago went 1-0-1 in 2017, with the teams playing to a 0-0 draw on June 4, 2017, with the Lions reduced to nine men. The previous 2017 meeting was the Fire’s 4-0 beatdown of Orlando on June 24 of that year. David Accam figured in all four goals, with a hat trick and an assist on Nemanja Nikolić’s goal.

The teams split the points in 2016, drawing both meetings. Cyle Larin and Accam traded goals in a 1-1 draw in Orlando on March 11. The Fire again came from behind to draw, 2-2 in the return leg that August.

The teams met once in Orlando in 2015, with the Lions and Fire battling to a 1-1 draw. You may recall that five-hour, weather-delayed affair with Eric Gehrig’s own-goal canceling out an Accam strike. The other three meetings came in Chicago, with City winning 3-2 and 1-0 in MLS matches and falling 3-1 in U.S. Open Cup quarterfinal action.

Overview

The Lions are coming off a 2-2 road draw at Charlotte FC Wednesday night. The hosts scored early off an Orlando defensive gaffe but went down a man late in the first half. Orlando took initial advantage when Duncan McGuire tied the match in the second half, however, another defensive mishap led to Charlotte regaining the lead late. Torres tied the game again but the Lions could not find a winner. It was Orlando’s fifth consecutive game without a win (0-3-2) but the team’s first point since the last game against Chicago. Orlando is an abysmal 1-5-3 at home this season, so the club is starving for three points at Inter&Co Stadium.

Conversely, Chicago is 2-0-0 since hosting Orlando City last month. The Fire are coming off a 4-1 dismantling of Toronto FC last Saturday and will be on a full week’s rest. That win was Chicago’s first on the road this year (1-3-4), so the two teams with identical overall records have been headed in opposite directions than when they last met. Cuypers has gotten hot and leads the Fire with six goals on the season, while Gutierrez has four. Fabian Herbers and Maren Haile-Selassie pace the team with four assists each. USMNT midfielder Kellyn Acosta has two goals and two assists.

“We played them not too long ago. Chicago is a team that has been evolving too. We understand that evolution since we have information [and analysis] in our game against them in Chicago, but I think we played them well there and I think we had another good game,” Orlando City Head Coach Oscar Pareja said ahead of the match. “We’ll try to improve some things and see if we can get better at those things that we’re talking about, being more precise and taking advantage of that volume that we had in front of the goal, but also just being cautious and smart defending them.”

The Lions list Mikey Halliday (knee), and Tahir Reid-Brown (thigh) as out on the availability report, along with international players Pedro Gallese, Wilder Cartagena, and David Brekalo. Ramiro Enrique (personal matter) and Felipe (foot) are listed as questionable. Chicago will be without Chase Gasper (leg), Andrew Gutman (leg), Tobias Salquist (leg), and Xherdan Shaqiri (international duty), while Federico Navarro (leg) is listed as questionable.

Match Content


Official Lineups

Orlando City (4-4-2)

Goalkeeper: Mason Stajduhar.

Defenders: Rafael Santos, Robin Jansson, Rodrigo Schlegel, Dagur Dan Thorhallsson.

Midfielders: Facundo Torres, Cesar Araujo, Nico Lodeiro, Ivan Angulo.

Forwards: Luis Muriel, Duncan McGuire.

Bench: Javier Otero, Kyle Smith, Alex Freeman, Thomas Williams, Jeorgio Kocevski, Felipe, Wilfredo Rivera, Martin Ojeda, Jack Lynn.

Chicago Fire (3-4-3)

Goalkeeper: Chris Brady.

Defenders: Mauricio Pineda, Carlos Teran, Arnaud Souquet.

Wingbacks/Midfielders: Jonathan Dean, Kellyn Acosta, Fabian Herbers, Allan Arigoni.

Forwards: Brian Gutierrez, Hugo Cuypers, Maren Haile-Selassie.

Bench: Spencer Richey, Rafael Czichos, Wyatt Omsberg, Gaston Gimenez, Javier Casas, Chris Mueller, Tom Barlow, Georgios Koutsias.

Referees

REF: Natalie Simon.
AR1: Corey Rockwell.
AR2: Kevin Klinger.
4TH: Chris Penso.
VAR: Sorin Stoica.
AVAR: Mike Kampmeinert.


How to Watch

Match Time: 7:30 p.m.

Venue: Inter&Co Stadium — Orlando.

TV/Streaming: MLS Season Pass on Apple TV+.

Radio: FM 96.9 The Game (English), Mega 97.1 FM (Spanish).

Twitter: For rapid reaction and live updates, follow along at @TheManeLand, as well as Orlando City’s official Twitter feed (@OrlandoCitySC).


Enjoy the game. Go City!

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