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Orlando City

Orlando City vs. New York Red Bulls: Final Score 1-0 as a Facundo Torres Penalty Lifts Lions to Opening Day Victory

After a subpar first half, the Lions grabbed their second straight home-opening win.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Facundo Torres scored from the penalty spot in the second half providing all the offense on opening night at Exploria Stadium, as Orlando City defeated the New York Red Bulls 1-0. The Lions (1-0-0, 3 points) got some big saves from goalkeeper Pedro Gallese down the stretch and survived a couple of late free kicks in stoppage time to hold on against the Red Bulls (0-1-0, 0 points).

The team raised a U.S. Open Cup championship banner to the rafters over The Wall prior to the match on an electric night in front of a crowd of 24,088 fans. Red Bulls Head Coach Gerhard Struber called the amosphere “brilliant” and despite that it was a tough slog for the hosts but the Lions ultimately prevailed on Torres’ penalty.

Orlando City remains unbeaten on opening day (3-0-6) and has now won two straight openers. The Lions have not conceded a goal on opening day in four seasons under Oscar Pareja.

“A very intense game against a rival that doesn’t give up in any minute,” Orlando City Head Coach Oscar Pareja said of the match. “And certainly New York, with their pressing and the way they structure their defensive zones in the middle and up front, is very difficult to break. For us, it was a big challenge to find the spaces that we normally do. I think the best part of the game for us was that we kept intensity all the time and in our heart was great today.”

Pareja’s starting lineup included Gallese in net behind a back line of Luca Petrasso, Robin Jansson, Rodrigo Schlegel, and Michael Halliday. Cesar Araujo and Mauricio Pereyra played in the central midfield behind an attacking line of Ivan Angulo, Martin Ojeda, and Facundo Torres, with Ercan Kara up top.

Throughout the first half, New York’s pressure gave Orlando City trouble and the few times the Lions had something going in possession, players split their teammates with passes and sent them straight to the opposition.

Frankie Amaya sent a shot wide in the 10th minute from outside the box and Lewis Morgan followed suit a minute later as Orlando continually lost control of the ball.

The game was 15 minutes old before the Lions got the ball into the opposing penalty area when Petrasso sent in a low cross that Andres Reyes cut out for a throw-in. The Lions then won a corner kick in the 19th minute and played it short. The set play was so poorly executed that the Red Bulls were about a foot away from being able to catch Gallese off his line from midfield, but Angulo poked the ball away at the last moment to deny the visitors the chance.

Morgan blasted a shot right at Gallese in the 22nd minute and that should have served as a warning sign but instead the Lions just kept playing the ball into danger. A turnover in the defensive third just seconds after the save on Morgan’s shot fizzed just wide of the right post.

A minute later, Jansson gave the ball away and then took a yellow card keeping Elias Manoel from breaking in behind the defense. The ensuing free kick was blocked by the wall.

The game settled down a bit after that but Orlando struggled to get the ball past the midway line and once there, could not put an accurate pass on a teammate’s foot. The first half mercifully came to an end without the team conceding but the Lions were completely dominated in the opening 45 minutes.

Orlando City ended up with more possession (60.2%-39.8%), and was slightly more accurate in passing (74.6%-72.5%) but the visitors dominated in shots (7-1). There were no shots on the halftime stats but one was later credited to Torres. Thankfully, of New York’s seven, only Morgan’s effort was on target. Each team won one corner kick.

Pareja said he liked his team’s demeanor even though they were struggling to break through the Red Bulls’ press.

“I went in the locker room and I asked, ‘(assistant coach) Diego (Torres) we haven’t taken a shot, now, have we?’ ‘No.’ And I said, ‘And you know what? I like the game. But we haven’t taken a shot.’ And he said, ‘But we have heart. These guys are a good team and it’s going to be tight. It’s going to be very tight.’”

Not much changed in the opening minutes of the second half, but Orlando did eventually get more control in the match. The Lions continued to be sloppy in possession at times, though.

Araujo gave the ball away in his defensive third in the 47th minute and scrambled back to block the ensuing shot after the giveaway. Five minutes later, Torres sent a poor pass across in the attacking third and New York countered. Morgan ended up firing wide at the end of the play.

Orlando finally fashioned a chance in the 54th minute when Halliday shook free on the right and sent a dangerous cross that skipped just out of Kara’s reach in front. The ensuing corner, however, led to the opener. The cross into the box found Araujo’s head. The midfielder nodded a shot toward goal that bounced up and caught the outstretched arm of Sean Nealis. Referee Guido Gonzales Jr. pointed to the spot immediately. Struber called the penalty a “wrong decision” by the referee in his postgame press conference, but the play was reviewed and the call upheld by the video assistant referee, Jose Carlos Rivero.

Torres stepped to the spot and Coronel dove to his left. The shot went slightly the other direction to open the scoring in the 56th minute.

Prior to taking the shot, Torres was standing at the spot having a discussion with Kara and Ojeda.

“We talked and trained penalties yesterday and today. I just felt like I had a ton of confidence,” Torres said. “And so I told that to my teammates, and thankfully they agreed, and let me take the PK, and thankfully I scored.”

After his goal, Torres celebrated by putting the ball under his shirt to indicate that he and his partner are expecting a child.

“I’m going through a very happy time in my life right now — not just with my football, but off the field as well,” he said after the match. “So, thankfully we were able to get three points as well against a Red Bull team that’s very difficult and in a game that was incredibly difficult. They’re always running, they all press, and they give you absolutely no space. So to take three points tonight was fantastic.”

Shortly after the goal, Ramiro Enrique replaced Kara, making his MLS/Orlando City debut. His relentless energy helped Orlando win some 50/50 balls as the visitors’ legs grew heavier.

But the Red Bulls kept coming after the equalizer. In the 72nd minute, John Tolkin sent a floating, hopeful ball into the area. Gallese came off his line to punch it away but a shot was immediately sent back toward his goal. From his knees, the Peruvian parried it away and the Lions were able to clear and counter attack, with Enrique winning a free kick on the other end.

In the 80th minute, Enrique was on the end of a good passing sequence up the right and he danced past two defenders before unleashing a shot that was deflected wide.

Orlando seemed to be about to get a free kick just outside the area when Torres was taken down in the 86th minute but the ref allowed play to continue. The Red Bulls countered and Casseres smashed what appeared like an equalizer toward goal but Gallese got his shoulder on the shot and it caromed off the side of his face, but he made the stop.

After shaking off the cobwebs, Gallese was able to continue. He was interfered with on the ensuing corner kick and Orlando was able to take a breath.

Pareja went to a five-man back line down the stretch and Orlando City had eight minutes of stoppage time to survive. The Red Bulls won two dangerous free kicks in injury time but Morgan sent the first of those well over the net and Casseres fired his effort straight to Gallese. That was the last action of the match.

Orlando held slightly more possession (50.6%-49.4%) and earned more corners (4-3), but the rest of the statistics favored the visitors. New York passed more accurately (75.7%-71.7%) and finished with more shots (14-6) and more shots on target (4-1).

“In the second half, we kind of got our groove and once we got that penalty and Facundo Torres put it in the back of the net, we kind of calmed down and settled into the game a bit more,” Petrasso said.

Orlando City improved to 7-9-2 in the all-time series in league matches (8-9-2 in all competitions). The Lions have won three straight against the Red Bulls in all competitions, including consecutive 1-0 decisions in the regular season, and improved to 4-4-1 at home against New York in MLS play — 5-4-1 in all competitions.


Orlando City will be back in action at home again next Saturday when FC Cincinnati visits Exploria Stadium.

Orlando City

Orlando City vs. CF Montreal: Three Keys to Victory

What does Orlando City need to do to secure all three points in the home opener against CF Montreal?

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Orlando City will host CF Montreal in the club’s first match of the 2024 MLS regular season this Saturday night. The Lions are coming off the Concacaf Champions Cup match against Cavalry FC Wednesday night. Orlando City will want to get things started the right way as expectations and aspirations are higher than ever for the club.

What does Orlando City need to do to secure a victory in the home opener against their Canadian opponents?

Roster Management

Orlando City has four matches in 11 days — the previously mentioned Wednesday match against Cavalry in Canada, the match against Montreal on Saturday, the return match against Cavalry in Orlando next Tuesday, and then a trip to Ft. Lauderdale to take on Inter Miami. That is quite a start to competitive play in 2024.

Because of the schedule congestion, Oscar Pareja will need to rotate players. That means we’re not likely to have the preferred starting 11 as much as any of us will like. Kyle Smith, Michael Halliday, Jeorgio Kocevski, and others will likely see playing time. How well Pareja manages when to use which players, and for how long, will determine not just the result of this match against Montreal, but for each of the other matches as well.

Defensive Communication

Rodrigo Schlegel is serving a suspension in this first league match and will not be available. That means Orlando City’s newest center back, David Brekalo, will probably get the start alongside Robin “The Beefy Swede” Jansson. Having a good center back pairing is absolutely essential to the success of any defense. We know that because once Jansson and former Lion Antonio Carlos worked together for a while, they became an absolute fortress on the back line.

Now, Jansson will need to build the same chemistry with Brekalo if the Lions want to maintain their position as one of the best defenses in the league. With Schlegel unavailable, there is no question that Jansson and Brekalo will have the opportunity to start building that relationship. Hopefully, it will be good enough to keep Montreal — especially Josef Martinez — out of the goal.

Keep Torres Scoring

Facundo Torres had a great preseason. Orlando City’s new owner of the No. 10 shirt needs to keep doing the same. He’ll need to score goals, provide assists, and create problems for Montreal’s defense. Traditionally, Montreal has put out a three-man back line. While that means it’ll be a five-man back line when Orlando City has the ball, during changes of possession there should be space for Torres to get free and get scoring opportunities.

If Montreal smartly tried to contain Torres, then it will have to deal with Duncan McGuire, Nico Lodeiro, and Ivan Angulo. Orlando City’s offense has the potential to score quite a few more goals this season, and it all starts Saturday night against Montreal. Get two on the board and I think it will mean three points in the standings.


That is what I will be looking for Saturday night. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below. Vamos Orlando!

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Lion Links

Lion Links: 2/22/24

Orlando City beats Cavalry FC, Lions receive General Allocation Money for Junior Urso’s rights, USWNT gets ready for Argentina, and more.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

How’s it going, Mane Landers? It’s nice to start the morning fresh off of a huge win and I’m hoping that becomes a regular occurrence this year. Hopefully the work week has been kind to you as we ride the high of the Concacaf Champions Cup into Orlando City’s first game of the MLS season this weekend. For now, let’s dive into today’s links from around the soccer world.

Lions Win in Concacaf Champions Cup Opener

Orlando City kicked off its Concacaf Champions Cup campaign with a solid 3-0 win against Cavalry FC in Canada. Some players did better playing on the turf of Starlight Stadium in British Columbia than others, but the Lions ultimately did well on the road to make things less stressful for themselves for the second leg on Tuesday in Orlando at 6 p.m. Orlando’s offense showed little rust and the defense did its part in its first competitive match of 2024. Before the match, Head Coach Oscar Pareja announced that Robin Jansson will serve as the team’s captain this year, so it’s nice to see his tenure start with a clean sheet.

Junior Urso Signs With Charlotte FC

Orlando City received $50,000 in 2025 General Allocation Money from Charlotte FC in exchange for Brazilian midfielder Junior Urso’s right of first refusal. This transaction cleared the way for Urso to sign with Charlotte, joining on a deal through 2024, with an option for 2025. The Bear became a Lion back in 2020 and was an integral part of Orlando’s transformation under Head Coach Oscar Pareja that included winning the 2022 U.S. Open Cup. The 34-year-old impressed as a trialist with Charlotte during the preseason and should give Dean Smith’s side a veteran presence both on and off the field. While it’s never fun seeing a fan favorite playing for another Eastern Conference foe, I wish nothing but the best for Urso and hope he gets a warm reception when Charlotte visits Orlando this season on Sept. 18.

MLS Coaching Changes for 2024

There was a considerable amount of coaching turnover in MLS since last season, adding some intriguing storylines for this year. After a rough time in Miami, Phil Neville has a chance at redemption with a Portland Timbers side that narrowly missed out on the playoffs last year. The Colorado Rapids’ Chris Armas, D.C. United’s Troy Lesesne, and the New England Revolution’s Caleb Porter are other familiar faces in new places who could impress. As for those new to the scene, Dean Smith joined Charlotte from England, while Sandro Schwarz is now at the helm of the New York Red Bulls after years in Germany and Russia. I’m also interested to see how long it takes for John Herdman to turn things around with Toronto FC.

Analyzing Argentina Ahead of USWNT Clash

After a dominant 5-0 win over the Dominican Republic, the United States Women’s National Team will take on Argentina tomorrow in the Concacaf W Gold Cup’s group stage. The U.S. has won the past four meetings between the past two nations, and Argentina is coming off of a scoreless draw with Mexico. The Orlando Pride’s Mariana Larroquette spearheads an Argentine attack that can be a bit inconsistent when it comes to creating chances. That being said, Vanina Preininger can pull strings from the midfield and Argentina has multiple players capable of scoring from distance. Laurina Oliveros will likely start in goal after her clean sheet in the opener, and the defense also includes Kansas City Current center back Sophia Braun.

Free Kicks

  • The Orlando Pride’s Rafaelle and Adriana both started in Brazil’s 1-0 win over Puerto Rico.
  • The LA Galaxy signed Ghanaian winger Joseph Paintsil as their third Designated Player. The 26-year-old joins from Genk in Belgium and signed a contract with the Galaxy through 2027.
  • The Revolution beat Panama’s Independiente 1-0 on the road in the Champions Cup opener for both teams.
  • The new changes to MLS’ competitive rules, such as in-stadium VAR announcements and off-field treatments, have been postponed amid the league’s referee situation.
  • The United Soccer League announced that all 47 of the teams under its umbrella will take part in this year’s U.S. Open Cup.
  • Bayern Munich officially announced that Thomas Tuchel will leave once this season is over. Although Bayern is second in the Bundesliga standings, it’s lost its past three games, including a defeat to Lazio in the Champions League.
  • Porto scored a stunning goal in stoppage time to shock Arsenal in the UEFA Champions League.

That’s all I have for you today. I hope you all have a wonderful Thursday and rest of your week!

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Orlando City

Orlando City vs. Cavalry FC, Concacaf Champions Cup: Final Score 3-0 as Torres Brace Leads Lions to Road Win

The Lions are in the driver’s seat after a comprehensive victory over Cavalry FC in western Canada.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Duncan McGuire opened the scoring and Facundo Torres added a brace to lead Orlando City SC to a comfortable 3-0 win over Cavalry FC at Starlight Stadium in Langford, British Columbia in the first leg of Concacaf Champions Cup play. Orlando scored their first road goals in the competition and have a huge advantage heading into next week’s return leg.

“It’s very good for the team. The clean sheet is very important for us and scoring three goals is a good score for returning home,” Orlando City Assistant Coach Diego Torres said after the match. “Cavalry is a good team. The Canada league is a good league. All of our team respects all rivals. The team came here serious for the game.”

With Oscar Pareja sidelined due to suspension for a red card after the second leg against Tigres in 2023, Diego Torres’ lineup was made up mostly of presumed starters for the 2024 season, with Pedro Gallese starting in goal behind a back line of Kyle Smith, Robin Jansson, Rodrigo Schlegel, and Dagur Dan Thorhallsson. Cesar Araujo and Wilder Cartagena took their usual spots in the central midfield behind an attacking line of Ivan Angulo, Martin Ojeda, and Facundo Torres with McGuire up top. Presumed starters Rafael Santos, Nico Lodeiro, David Brekalo, and Luis Muriel were not in the lineup, with the latter two new Lions not in the matchday squad.

Center back Daan Klomp was positioned on the line and was able to get in front of Araujo’s header on frame. On the ensuing corner, Schlegel got under his header and sent it well over the bar.

Cavalry’s defense again denied a shot off a corner moments later. This time it was Callum Montgomery knocking it away. The Lions recycled and a shot appeared to go out off the goalkeeper but a goal kick was awarded.

Araujo again got forward in the 13th minute and the defense again blocked it, although this time it was outside the six-yard box rather than on the line. Moments later, McGuire had a go from a tough angle on the left but he mishit his shot and it went out on the other side for a throw-in. Torres then fired from the top of the box in the 19th minute but his effort was always rising and sailed well over the bar.

The Lions found the breakthrough moments later. Cartagena sent the ball wide to Angulo on the left and the Colombian sent Ojeda down the flank. The Argentine sent a great cross into the area and McGuire redirected it past Cavalry goalkeeper Marco Carducci to make it 1-0 in the 21st minute.

Orlando stayed on the front foot and in the 27th minute it was Angulo dancing through the defense and sending a lethal-looking cross through the six. Unfortunately, none of his teammates were making runs on the far side and it skipped harmlessly through.

Cavalry then nearly fashioned something out of nothing when a ball into the area nearly found Sergio Camargo right in front. However, the ball got through to Gallese, who scooped it up.

Thorhallsson, who had a terrific first half, nearly sent in Angulo in the 28th minute on a quick counterattack and then sent a dangerous cross over Carducci in the 32nd that just needed a touch from a teammate but didn’t get one.

No matter though, the Icelandic fullback got his assist in the 38th minute. Tucking inside for much of the night, he sent Torres wide on the right. The Uruguayan cut inside from the right at the top of the box and sent a shot on target. The ball bounced off the artificial turf in front of Carducci, who got a hand on it but couldn’t knock it wide of the post. Torres’ strike made it 2-0.

Cavalry won a late corner but sent the cross right at Gallese at the end of the half and that was it as far as the scoring chances. The Lions took their 2-0 advantage to the locker room.

At the break, the Lions held the advantage in shots (9-2), shots on target (3-0), passing accuracy (97.3%-73.5%), and corners (3-2).

Cavalry started the second half with more energy. Smith did well to win a goal kick to thwart an early attack and Schlegel got a head to a dangerous cross in the 49th to clear Orlando’s lines.

Orlando’s first decent chance of the second period came in the 53rd minute when Araujo stole a ball in the attacking third on the press. He found Ojeda on the left and the Argentine sent a cross in front, however, the defense again cut it out for a corner. The Lions couldn’t do anything with the set piece.

The game got a little chippy after that, with Cavalry’s Charlie Trafford picking up a yellow card for stepping on McGuire’s foot during a challenge. Moments later, a worse-looking challenge by Trafford on Thorhallsson went unpunished with a second yellow, despite being a worse foul.

Torres was then taken down on a rough challenge by Montgomery, who was booked. Ojeda went for goal from distance on the set piece, but Carducci made the save at the hour mark.

Gallese nearly got crossed up in the 61st minute when a fluttering ball fooled him and he had to fight it off to avoid an embarrassing situation. That was the start of a couple of chances for the hosts, sandwiching the Orlando City debut of Lodeiro, who subbed on for Ojeda.

In the 62nd minute, Cavalry created something off a throw-in, sending a ball into the box for Jesse Daley, who sent his weak effort right at Gallese on a wasted opportunity. Moments later, Jansson conceded a free kick and Cavalry nearly paid it off. Klomp got his head to the service but sent it just inches over the crossbar.

Cartagena nearly scored a surprising goal in the 68th minute when he sent a chip towards Carducci’s goal. The Cavalry goalkeeper was backpedaling and had to tip the shot over his crossbar.

Five minutes later, substitute Ramiro Enrique set up Lodeiro in the box but the midfielder sent his shot off the crossbar in the 73rd minute. Angulo followed with a shot that was blocked by the defense for a corner.

Two minutes later, the Lions put the game to bed. A fantastic sequence set up Torres’ brace. Enrique did well to send Angulo in behind the defense on the left. The Colombian sent a perfect cross to the back post and Torres sent a diving header off of Carducci’s hands and in to make it 3-0 in the 75th minute.

Cavalry got back on the front foot for a few minutes after the third goal. Camargo sent a shot right at Gallese in the 79th minute

Orlando should have scored again seconds later. Another excellent buildup play from Enrique and Angulo ended up on Araujo’s foot right in front of goal, but the midfielder couldn’t dig it out of his feet and the defense arrived to knock it away.

A poor giveaway by substitute Rafael Santos on the left sideline gave Cavalry a chance in the 82nd minute. The cross in front was deflected out to the top of the area. Diego Gutierrez smashed a shot toward goal, but Felipe took one for the team and blocked it out for a corner. Klomp was nearly sent in behind on the recycle of the ensuing set piece but the defender was either offside or was judged to have fouled Gallese and Orlando was awarded a free kick. Gallese then scooped up a one-hopper off a shot from a tight angle to his right in the 88th minute.

That was the last half chance for either side and the Lions saw out three minutes of injury time to claim their first Concacaf Champions Cup victory.

The final statistics were more flattering for the hosts than the halftime numbers. Orlando led in possession (55.4%-44.6%), shots (13-9), shots on target (5-4), passing accuracy (85.1%-82%), and corners (6-4).

“Now we prepare for the next leg at home,” Diego Torres said. “I know this game is very important. And the next game now is very important.”

“I wanted the players to be brave, and there’s certainly things that we can learn from it,” Cavalry Head Coach Tommy Wheeldon said. “I don’t think it was a three-nil game. I think between both boxes we matched up with them very, very well. I think they probably defended better in there’s and they finished better in ours, and that’s the difference.”


Orlando City will host Cavalry FC next Tuesday night in the second leg. Prior to that, the Lions have a quick turnaround ahead of Saturday’s MLS opener at home against CF Montreal at 7:30 p.m.

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