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Intelligence Report: Orlando City vs. FC Cincinnati

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Following a successful first outing of 2023, Orlando City will try to keep the good times rolling on Saturday. The Lions will once again be at home, and they will be facing fellow Lions, FC Cincinnati.

Ahead of this one, I spoke to Bryan Weigel, co-founder of the excellent Cincinnati Soccer Talk. As usual, Bryan provided some outstanding insight into FCC ahead of the match.

Marco Angulo was FC Cincinnati’s big off-season signing. How does he fit into FCC’s lineup?

Bryan Weigel: Fitting new U22 Initiative player Marco Angulo into the FCC lineup in 2023 will be a crucial task for Head Coach Pat Noonan. The 20-year-old midfielder arrives from Independiente del Valle on a $3 million transfer and will play in a box-to-box role for the Orange & Blue. 

Supplanting existing midfielder Junior Moreno will take time if not all season. Moreno has been a stalwart next to Designated Player Obinna Nwobodo in a 3-5-2, but he cannot cover as much ground as the younger Ecuadorian. I think it is a luxury that FCC can slowly work in Angulo due to the veteran Moreno and former DP Yuya Kubo ahead of him on the depth chart. We have seen his tape and some time at training with most feedback being extremely positive.

Look for Angulo to come off the bench early on in 2023, but by the time both teams play in September, I think it is more likely that he will be a starter. Noonan seems to prefer a 4-4-2 diamond formation and I think Angulo will fit well once FCC moves to that later in 2023 or in 2024.

What area of the field is strongest for Cincy, and what area gives you the most concern?

BW: I would be silly if my answer for the strongest area of the field for FCC wasn’t the attacking trio of Brandon Vazquez, Brenner, and Lucho Acosta. Fortunately for Orlando, Brenner was back in Brazil for three weeks tending to a family illness and just returned to Cincy early last week. He came off the bench for goal scorer Sergio Santos, and I think it is 50/50 that he starts.

The other 18-goal scorer, Vazquez, looked dangerous at times this weekend, but was unable to find the back of the net on two really good chances. Acosta, an MVP candidate and MLS assists leader in 2022, is always dangerous and can create opportunities seemingly out of nothing. Santos will be the alternate to Brenner and is one of the fastest attackers in the league. Even the fourth striker, Dom Badji, is very talented and provides another option off the bench.

The area that gives me the most concern is the defense. While upgraded with Wolverhampton loanee center back Yerson Mosquera and former PSV/Atletico Madrid left back Santiago Arias, this group has not had much time together. Add in returners Nick Hagglund, Matt Miazga, and — in my opinion — a top-three left wing back, Alvaro Barreal, this group has talent, but needs time together.

Cincinnati had a great 2022, roaring out of the bottom of the East with a vengeance. What are the expectations for the team this year?

BW: 2022 was a pleasant surprise in FCC-land. New general manager Chris Albright pulled many of the right levers in adding players like Miazga, Nwobodo, Moreno, and draft pick Roman Celentano. Pat Noonan and his staff showed the ability to maximize the potential of the high-profile signings and look to do so again.

Windows for success in MLS are small, and the window with this group could be slamming shut soon as constructed. Young Designated Player Brenner is looking to move abroad and will likely depart this Summer. FCC has already turned down a $7.5 million bid for Brandon Vazquez and he could also be out soon. 

How will FCC address these potential losses and still fight for silverware? The project looks to be headed in the right direction and the management of many distractions will be key.

Are there any injuries, suspensions, etc. that will keep players unavailable for selection? What is your projected starting lineup and score prediction?

BW: There are only two injuries of significance so far this spring. Backup keeper Alec Kann has been out for the past several weeks, but returned to full training early this week. Sergio Santos picked up a knock around the 60th minute on Saturday, but he also returned to training.

Here is my projected Starting XI: (3-5-2)

Roman Celentano; Yerson Mosquera, Matt Miazga, Nick Hagglund; Alvaro Barreal Santiago Arias, Junior Moreno, Obi Nwobodo, Lucho Acosta ©; Brenner, Brandon Vazquez.

This match has always scared me as I think Orlando and its fans are very difficult to play against. Orlando was my pick for second in the Eastern Conference, and I like many of their moves. FCC looked a bit shaky in transition and if they don’t clean it up, I think Orlando can put several goals past Celentano.

In my view, both teams boast top-level talent in the East, but need the pieces to gel together. With that, I think FCC will be a bit more defensive minded and will try to hit Orlando on the counter or take advantage of pressing cues. 

My pick is a 2-2 draw in Orlando this weekend. Goals by Brenner and Vazquez.


As always, a huge thank you to Bryan for the information on FCC. Vamos Orlando!

Lion Links

Lion Links: 2/20/24

The Wall sells out, Robin Jansson earns recognition, Concacaf W Gold cup preview, and more.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Happy Tuesday, everyone! We’re now just one day away from the first competitive Orlando City game of the year, and it can’t get here fast enough. As usual, we have plenty to cover this morning, so let’s jump straight into it.

The Wall Sells Out for Orlando City’s Season Opener

The Wall, the supporters section of Orlando City’s stadium, has sold out of single-match tickets ahead of Saturday’s home opener against CF Montreal. Limited tickets for the match are still available for the rest of the stadium, and hopefully it will fully sell out for the first match of the season. This Saturday will be the 10th consecutive time in which the Lions start their MLS season at home. It should be a great match and a chance for Orlando to get its season off to a good start between Concacaf Champions Cup matches against Cavalry FC.

Robin Jansson Praised as a Top Defender in MLS

Orlando City center back Robin Jansson was recognized as one of the best center backs in MLS by MLSsoccer.com‘s Joseph Lowery. The 32-year-old has been an integral part of Orlando’s defense since joining the league in 2019 and should continue anchoring the team’s back line this season. Not only is he excellent in terms of defense, but the Beefy Swede can also make an impact on offense with his passing and surprising runs up the field. Jansson is one of the most consistent defenders in the league and agreed to a new contract with the club earlier this month.

MLS Transfer News Roundup

The 2024 Major League Soccer season might kick off tomorrow, but transfers are still flying thick and fast, which means we have things to catch up on. We start with one of the teams opening the season tomorrow, Inter Miami, which has officially transferred midfielder Gregore to Botafogo in the Brazilian top flight. We move on to NYCFC, which has completed the signing of striker Jovan Mijatović from Red Star Belgrade. The 18-year-old Serbian youth international has inked a deal that runs through the 2028 season, with an option year for 2029. We finish up with the Houston Dynamo, which have signed Coco Carasquilla to a contract extension. The Panamanian midfielder’s deal now runs through the 2025 season and has option years for 2026 and 2027.

Concacaf W Gold Cup Preview

The inaugural Concacaf W Gold Cup kicks off later today, so make sure you get up to speed on everything you need to know about the competition. The United States Women’s National Team has been grouped with Argentina, the Dominican Republic, and Mexico, and will be looking for a strong showing following a disappointing campaign at last summer’s World Cup. The tournament will feature a total of 12 teams, with eight Concacaf representatives and four from CONMEBOL. The top two finishers in each of the three groups advance to the knockout round, along with the top two third-place finishers. The USWNT begin play tonight against the Dominican Republican at 10:15 p.m. from Dignity Health Sports Park.

Americans in Midweek Action

With a number of American players taking part in games during the working week, get everything marked down on your calendar so you don’t miss anything. Things get started this afternoon with a huge game, as Malik Tillman, Ricardo Pepi, Sergino Dest, and PSV Eindhoven take on Borussia Dortmund in the UEFA Champions League. European competition continues on Thursday as well, with Christian Pulisc, Yunus Musah, and AC Milan facing Rennes in the Europa League play. Things finish out on Friday as the red-hot Brandon Vazquez and Monterrey face Juarez in Liga MX competition.

Minnesota United Close to Coaching Hire

A coaching search that will surely go down as one of the most thorough in MLS history is nearing its conclusion, as Minnesota United is reportedly close to naming Manchester United assistant Eric Ramsay as the team’s new skipper. While nothing is official yet, Ramsay is said to be the leading candidate, and The Athletic‘s Tom Bogert says that the team is closing in on the hire. If he joins, Ramsay will become the youngest coach in league history at the tender age of 32, and he will also become Minnesota’s second coach following Adrian Heath’s departure in October of last year.

Free Kicks


That’s all I have for this morning. Vamos Orlando!

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Opinion

Orlando City’s 10th Anniversary is the Time to Remember the Club’s Originals

Orlando City’s 10th year in MLS should be used to honor the players who built the club.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC

The 2024 season is Orlando City’s 10th in Major League Soccer. The club has scheduled several events throughout the year to celebrate having been in the country’s top division for a decade, but the season should also be a time for fans to reflect on the people who made it happen without getting to experience the result.

Orlando City arrived in Orlando in 2010 with the goal of reaching MLS. However, it was the first professional soccer team in the city since the 1990s and resides in a football hotbed, leaving many to wonder if the team would be successful. The most famous doubt came at the team’s inaugural media day, when longtime WESH 2 sportscaster Pat Clake told club founder Phil Rawlins and inaugural Head Coach Adrian Heath that, while he wished them luck, a professional soccer team in Orlando would never work.

The Orlando project got off to a much better start than the Austin Aztex, Rawlins’ former project. During the team’s first season in 2011, Orlando City substantially outdrew its predecessor, proving there was an appetite for soccer. But there was another factor to the team’s popularity. The Lions won…a lot.

The success of a team at home has a significant impact on the enjoyment of attending games. In four USL Pro seasons, Orlando City was 40-3-9 (W-L-D) at the Citrus Bowl (now Camping World Stadium) and Walt Disney World’s ESPN Wide World of Sports, winning three regular season titles and two USL Pro championships. Seeing the local team win and score frequently is much more likely to result in people returning for more games. That’s exactly what the Lions did, and it helped to create a following.

When MLS considered Orlando City for expansion, the league looked at average attendance, season ticket numbers, and community involvement. All of these factors were directly related to the team’s success on the field. For this reason, the key players on those teams are responsible for Orlando City being in MLS in the first place. 

In addition to their work on the field, the players from the USL Pro era worked in the community to build a following. They spoke with local groups and were active throughout Central Florida, convincing people to attend games. It was all about the effort of getting the team into MLS. Unfortunately, many of those players didn’t get to experience the results of their labor.

The core of Orlando City’s team from 2011 to 2013 remained the same, with Miguel Gallardo in goal, Luke Boden at left back, Rob Valentino at center back, Kevin Molino and Jamie Watson in the midfield, and Dennis Chin up top. The success they had resulted in the club being announced as the newest expansion side on Nov. 19, 2013. However, of those six stalwarts, only Boden and Molino continued with the team into MLS.

Over the past 10 years, Orlando City has had several star and fan favorite players come and go. As the club’s USL Pro era gets further in the rearview mirror, the players who built the organization are forgotten or unknown by a large portion of the fanbase that didn’t experience the early seasons.

To the club’s credit, Orlando City worked to keep the memory of the team’s foundation alive in recent years. This preseason, Chin, Lewis Neal (a 2011 original who returned to the team in MLS), and Dom Dwyer (who was on loan with the team in 2013 and returned in 2017) were involved in the popular away jersey unveiling. Additionally, Chin signed autographs and took part in a Q&A session during the Society XXI preseason game against the New England Revolution. They’ve had other events, like the 2022 U.S. Open Cup games against the Tampa Bay Rowdies, when former players have been invited back.

Additionally, the club raised banners last year for the 2011 and 2013 USL Pro championships and announced this year that it will display the trophies in a new permanent exhibit called “The Vault.” The club also released an updated version of the three-lion USL Pro logo from those first four seasons.

When people consider the factors that resulted in Orlando City joining MLS in 2015, the fan support during the USL Pro years is the first thing that comes to mind. But without the success of those teams and the work the players put into building the following, the club likely never would’ve made it to the top division. This 10th anniversary season is a good time to remember those club legends.

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Lion Links

Lion Links: 2/19/24

Orlando City wins preseason finale, post-match concert artists named, U.S. Open Cup in jeopardy, and more.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Merry Monday morning, Mane Landers. We’re about to get to see Orlando City play matches in both the MLS regular season and the Concacaf Champions Cup. Cavalry FC is up first on Wednesday and CF Montreal on Saturday. That’s a whole lot of Canada to start things off, eh? Before we get to the links, please join us in wishing a happy birthday to Orlando Pride star Marta, who turns 38 today.

Orlando City Defeats the Rapids in Preseason Finale

The Lions won their final preseason match against the Colorado Rapids 3-2 at Inter&Co Stadium on Saturday. Kyle Smith got the scoring going mere seconds into the match and Facundo Torres doubled the lead on a penalty kick before the end of the first half. The Rapids tied it up in the second half, but Orlando City rookie Jeorgio Kocevski scored a late winner in stoppage time to keep the Lions unbeaten in the preseason. Orlando ended the preseason schedule with a record of 4-0-1.

Orlando Postgame Concert Announced

As I get older, I see each decade get its time in the nostalgic spotlight. Evidently, it is the 1990s’ turn. Orlando City announced a concert that will follow the Austin FC match at Inter&Co Stadium on March 23. You didn’t ask for it — and neither did anyone else — but Vanilla Ice, Rob Base, and Montell Jordan are headlining an “I Love the 90s” post-match concert. I’m not entirely certain if everyone will be required to stop, collaborate, and listen, but it’s certainly a possibility.

PRO Referee Strike Looms

Normally, if I told you that Orlando City didn’t have to worry about the Professional Referees Organization (PRO), I’m willing to bet you’d be pretty happy. Now it’s a real possibility that the Lions’ first match will likely have stand-in referees. The Professional Soccer Referees Association rejected a new collective bargaining agreement with PRO, meaning that there will be a lockout. PRO has identified “qualified replacements” ready to make sure that matches will be able to be played.

Open Cup in Jeopardy

The start of the 2024 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup is only a month away, although that isn’t a certainty. U.S. Soccer and MLS are still not seeing eye to eye regarding how many of the senior squads will participate. On the other side of the equation, the USL is pushing back against the demands from MLS.

Ultimately, this is a power struggle between the upper levels of organized soccer in this country. If a compromise solution can’t be found, it could mean that the Open Cup won’t take place this year. If that happens, it won’t help any of the involved parties and it will be devastating to the supporters of all the clubs at every level.

Free Kicks

  • Thanks to Zakaria Taifi’s mother, Alyssa Taifi, we know that Orlando City B defeated Philadelphia Union II by a score of 4-0 in a preseason scrimmage, and that there was some chippiness in the match.
  • Inter Miami is under pressure to get roster compliant. As such, Federico Redondo will not be joining the Herons due to Miami’s inability to bring him in because of MLS regulations regarding payment methodology.
  • Inter Miami midfielder Victor Ulloa announced he is retiring, which will also help Miami’s roster cap problems.

That will do it for today. Check back for our coverage of Orlando City’s two matches this week. Vamos Orlando!

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