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Orlando City vs. Charlotte FC: Final Score 2-1 as Lions Fall to League’s Bottom Team

The Lions wasted an opportunity to get points against cellar-dwelling Charlotte at home.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC

Orlando City’s Champions League hangover was on full display in a poor performance against the league’s worst team (so far) at Exploria Stadium. The Lions (1-1-2, 5 points) conceded twice in the first half and fell 2-1 at home to Charlotte (1-3-0), a team that had scored once and conceded a league-high seven times in its first three matches. The second half was much better than the first, but the hole was too deep to dig out of by then.

Enzo Copetti and Kerwin Vargas put the visitors up 2-0 by halftime. Martin Ojeda pulled one back for the Lions and there were opportunities to equalize but the tying goal never materialized in a game in which Orlando had two would-be goals denied for being offside. It was Charlotte’s first win in the series after Orlando took both matches by identical 2-1 scores last year.

“Very proud of our players in this moment, where we lost three points at home with a match that we all assumed that we should win,” Orlando City Head Coach Oscar Pareja said after the game. “Seeing the two halves and the way the game turned, I have to say that I’m very proud of these players. It’s my responsibility to create a lineup and create a game plan, and that part I have to analyze what (happened) in the first half. I did not help the boys, but their effort in the second half was fantastic.”

Pareja’s lineup was a strong one, considering the team was playing its fifth match in 15 days and suffered through a physical and emotional battle against Tigres UANL just three nights ago. Pedro Gallese started in goal behind a back line of Rafael Santos, Robin Jansson, Rodrigo Schlegel, and Michael Halliday. Cesar Araujo and Mauricio Pereyra played in central midfield behind an attacking line of Dagur Dan Thorhallsson, Ojeda, and Facundo Torres, with rookie Duncan McGuire up top. Ercan Kara picked up a knock late in the week according to a team spokesman and did not dress, with further evaluation needed to determine the extent of the injury.

Charlotte switched things up from its 3-0 loss to Atlanta. Karol Swiderski started on the bench despite the team having a regular match week. George Marks started in goal behind a back line of Harrison Afful, Bill Tuiloma, Adilson Malanda, and Jaylin Lindsey. The central midfield of captain Ashley Westwood and Derrick Jones was unchanged from last week, behind an attacking line of Vargas, Brandt Bronico, and McKinze Gaines, with Copetti up top in the 4-2-3-1.

The Lions were once again wasteful with opportunities in the first half and Charlotte topped its goal-scoring total from the first three matches of the year in less than half the game. Orlando City was incredibly sloppy at the back and was fortunate not to be punished even more than the two goals conceded.

The sloppiness started early with a turnover by Schlegel in the third minute that gave Charlotte an opportunity to break. Jansson did well to get back and deflect the shot back off the attacker and out for a goal kick.

A minute later, a good switch sent Halliday down the right in acres of space. The fullback’s cross was good and Ojeda knocked it in but he was offside on the play.

Charlotte had a couple of good chances to counter against the sloppy Lions over the next few minutes but couldn’t do much more than put a weak Vargas header out in front for Gallese to pick up.

Orlando’s first shot of the game came in the eighth minute when Torres was sent down the left side. The Young Designated Player smashed a shot toward the far post but Charlotte goalkeeper Marks stuck out a hand and made the save.

Ojeda tried a shot from outside the area in the ninth minute but it was deflected out for a corner. On the ensuing corner kick, Jansson had a free header but hit it just over the bar.

Charlotte switched the ball right to left in the 16th minute to free up Vargas for a shot but he missed wide of the right post. The Lions immediately turned over the ball in their own third and were fortunate that a heavy touch sent the ball back out for a goal kick rather than leading to a dangerous shot.

Orlando City had a good spell over the next few minutes, with McGuire getting into the box in the 18th minute. He fired a shot that took a slight deflection, which took some of the steam off of it and helped Marks make the save. Two minutes later, Thorhallsson was loose down the middle and had options in the box. He chose to shoot instead and sent it just over the bar.

A Schlegel mistake in the 25th minute gave Charlotte a transition opportunity but Gallese made a huge stop on Gaines’ shot to keep it scoreless.

That didn’t last long. A minute later the Lions were beaten over the top on a good long ball from Lindsey to Copetti, who slipped the ball past Gallese to make it 1-0 with his second goal of the season. Charlotte actually had two players who burned the back line, as Jansson and Santos both got torched.

“We need to get better,” Pareja said of the play by the defense. “Those plays obviously show us that we have a lot of work to do defensively, especially defending our crosses in.”

Orlando had a chance to pull that goal right back, with Torres bombing forward on a 2-v-1 break. The Uruguayan slowed as he was having trouble controlling the ball and he was bowled over from behind by Afful, who picked up a yellow card. However, the transition chance was gone and Ojeda smashed the ensuing free kick off a defender after taking a pass from Pereyra.

The switches to Halliday were open the entire first half and he again got forward in the 34th minute, sending a ball into the box that came off a defender and forced Marks to stop it. Three minutes later, Charlotte doubled its lead.

A switch to Vargas on the left beat Halliday and the Charlotte attacker fired a shot that deflected inside Gallese’s post off the defense, making it 2-0.

Neither team fashioned another good chance over the final minutes of the half and Charlotte took its shocking two-goal lead into the break.

Charlotte held a slim advantage in possession (50.6%-49.4%) at the break and passed more accurately as well (81.7%-78.5%). Orlando City had more shots (8-7) but the visitors put more on target (4-3). Each team earned one corner kick.

“We started the game off really strong. We were making the right decisions,” Santos said. “The game was going our way, according to our plan. And then once we hit around the 15-minute mark, they started to really put us in danger on the counter attack, primarily. And from that point on, we really just got caught out and then they punished us as a result of that.”

“In the first half we tried to congest the middle. We needed some solidarity there and just tried to use the spaces to control (the game), but things didn’t work that way,” Pareja said. “Things worked the other way. There was more space for them. The connections between all the defenders and the midfielders was bigger than we thought it was, or could be, in the game, and the second half we fixed it.”

Pareja sent on Kyle Smith and Ivan Angulo for Santos and Thorhallsson to start the second half and Orlando won a couple of early corners but didn’t do anything with them. Torres had a chance on the recycle of the second one but waited too long to shoot and had it poked away.

Things almost got worse for Orlando in the 50th minute. Gallese punched away a corner kick cross but it only reached the top of the box. Afful collected it there and fired a shot off the right post that nearly made it 3-0.

Angulo cut across the top of the box but kept it for himself and sent a weak shot dribbling wide of left post in the 54th minute. A minute later, Jansson won a ball in the air and no one pressed him so he came forward and smashed a shot but got under it, sending it into the upper deck.

The Lions finally got on the board in the 56th minute. Torres unlocked the defense with a pass in behind, and McGuire did well to get into the box on the left. The rookie sent a shot that Marks stopped. The ball came back to McGuire and the rookie squared it out of traffic to Ojeda, who fired into an empty net to make it 2-1.

“It was a play that Facu had started and hit up to Duncan behind the center backs,” Ojeda said. “Duncan was one on one with the goalkeeper, like it has to be with a forward, and it was initially saved and then Duncan was able to lay the ball off for me. Thankfully I was able to score. So, happy for the goal but we’re hurting that we weren’t able to get the victory tonight. But, we continue on.”

Orlando’s energy picked up with the goal and it seemed the Lions would go on to get an equalizer but it somehow never materialized. Torres sent a cross in for Ojeda in the 62nd minute. The Designated Player took his shot on the volley but got under it and lofted it out of play.

In the 68th minute, Ramiro Enrique nearly scored just a minute after subbing on, sending a header just inches over the bar from a good Torres cross. Moments later, substitute Gaston Gonzalez sent a ball across the face of goal but none of his teammates could get the touch needed to send it home.

In the 79th minute, Enrique was able to chip Marks and put the ball in the net but the flag came up and the call was confirmed by the video assistant referee for the second time in the match.

Ojeda smashed a ball that was headed under the bar in the 82nd but Marks got a hand to it to keep it out. Three minutes later, substitute Jack Lynn had a golden opportunity when he got down the right but his near-post attempt was at a comfortable height for Marks to save.

The final chance for City to tie the match was a good one. Torres sent a good ball into the area for Ojeda in stoppage time but he couldn’t make good contact at the back post and the ball skipped wide on what could have been the equalizing play. Ojeda finished the night with a game-high seven shot attempts, putting two on frame.

Orlando turned around the stat sheet in the second half, even if the Lions couldn’t turn around the scoreline. They finished with more possession (55.4%-44.6%), passing accuracy (80.8%-77.1%), shots (19-8), and shots on target (7-4), not allowing anything more than Afful’s shot off the post shortly after the restart.

“I have to move forward Once again, I take that responsibility. I didn’t like that first half — very unorganized and I think I didn’t (coach) well that half,” Pareja said.


The Lions can get some rest now with the schedule settling down a bit, but will need to make up some points for the ones dropped tonight. That won’t be easy with several international absences next Saturday at Philadelphia.

Lion Links

Lion Links: 4/16/24

Nico Lodeiro earns recognition, Marta up for Goal of the Week, MLS stock watch, and more.

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Dan MacDonald, The Mane Land

Happy Tuesday, everyone! I hope you had a good weekend and got your taxes filed correctly and on time. It was a good weekend for Orlando soccer, as the Orlando Pride, Orlando City B, and Orlando City went undefeated and picked up seven of the nine points on offer. As always, we have a lot to talk through today. Before we get into today’s links, let’s all wish Luis Muriel a happy birthday!

Nico Lodeiro Makes Team of the Matchday Bench

Midfielder Nico Lodeiro has earned recognition for his part in Orlando City’s 3-2 win over D.C. United, making the bench of the latest edition MLS Team of the Matchday. The Uruguayan entered the fray in the 72nd minute and helped OCSC come back and take all three points. He took the corner kick that David Brekalo equalized from, (even though he was not initially credited with the assist) and provided an outstanding through ball for Duncan McGuire’s game-winner. Sean Rollins graded him a 6.5/10 and named him Man of the Match in his player grades as well. Here’s hoping he keeps up the good work!

Marta’s Goal Nominated

Marta’s game-winning strike during Friday’s contest against Utah Royals FC has been nominated for NWSL Goal of the Week. On the road and in the game as a substitute, it didn’t take long for the Brazilian to make her mark on the match. She was barely on the field for five minutes when she met a ball that was rolling across the box with a first-time strike that she powered in off the back post. It proved to be the game’s only goal and was enough to give the Pride their first win of the season. Make sure you vote for her to win this week’s honor!

MLS Stock Watch

The fortunes of Major League Soccer teams are in constant flux, and it’s always nice to keep track of how your enemies are doing. Former Lion Sacha Kljestan weighed in on which clubs’ stock went up and which went down after the weekend’s games. We start on a good note, as a resilient performance from Orlando City saw the good guys pick up their second win of the season. The LA Galaxy hammered the Vancouver Whitecaps by a score of 3-1, and proved that their place atop the Western Conference standings is no fluke. On the other side of the coin, Toronto FC has given up 10 goals in its last three matches, and Jon Herdman needs to find a way to keep things from getting worse until the Reds’ group of injured players can return to the field.

Americans in Midweek Action

There are two big matches featuring American players this week, so get them marked down on your calendar and don’t miss any of the action. Thursday sees Christian Pulisic, Yunus Musah, and AC Milan travel to the Italian capital to try to overturn a 1-0 first leg deficit to Roma in the Europa League quarterfinals. Musah started Sunday’s match against Sassuolo and Pulisic subbed on in the second half as Milan clawed its way back to a 3-3 draw. Friday then has Juventus and Weston McKennie traveling to Cagliari for a Serie A tilt. Juve is currently third in the league and needs to keep picking up results to secure a UEFA Champions League place for next season.

UEFA Champions League Preview

Speaking of the Champions League, the quarterfinals wrap up today and tomorrow and there are a number of storylines to keep an eye on. Luis Enrique is strong in his belief that Paris Saint-Germain can overcome a 3-2 loss in the first leg to advance past Barcelona. Xavi has promised that Barca will look to attack rather than sitting and protecting its lead. Elsewhere, Bayern Munich will be without the suspended Alphonso Davies and likely Kingsley Coman due to injury, and their replacements will be hard pressed to contain Ben White and Bukayo Saka. Finally, Edin Terzic’s substitutions gave Borussia Dortmund a spark in the team’s 2-1 loss to Atletico Madrid in the first leg, which means the coach may have a selection headache on his hands as he tries to lead his side to a comeback.

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That’ll do it for me this morning. Vamos Orlando!

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Orlando City

Orlando City vs. D.C. United: Player Grades and Man of the Match

How did your favorite Lions perform in Orlando City’s 3-2 win over D.C. United?

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Orlando City came back from two deficits against D.C. United to claim a huge 3-2 win this weekend — the team’s second victory of the season. It looked like it would be a long night for the Lions in the first 20 minutes, but they turned it around. Down a goal late, David Brekalo and Duncan McGuire converted to earn Orlando City three points.

Here’s how I saw the individual performances by the Lions.

Starters

GK, Pedro Gallese, 6 — Gallese took his usual position in goal and had a strong night. He allowed himself to get pushed out of the play on the opening goal by Christian Benteke, though it arguably should’ve been a foul on D.C. He ended the game with four saves from six on-target shots, including two huge saves in second-half stoppage time. In addition to his shot stopping, Gallese completed 51.9% of his 27 passes, including seven of his 20 long balls. He was also credited with three clearances on the night.

D, Kyle Smith, 5.5 — Smith got the start at left back in this game over Rafael Santos, recording 53 touches. He had three tackles, three clearances, and a blocked shot. Going forward, he only completed 76.5% of his 34 passes, but connected with his lone cross and five of his nine long balls. He also won two aerial balls and was booked just before coming off for handling a ball that he should’ve cleared, giving D.C. a free kick in a dangerous position. The defender was replaced by Santos in the 73rd minute.

D, Robin Jansson, 6 — Jansson was a strong point for Orlando City once again in this game. He recorded one tackle, two interceptions, a blocked shot, and three clearances. Going forward, the center back completed 80.4% of his 46 passes, including four of his seven long balls. Arguably his biggest play of the game was drawing a foul late at the top of the box when D.C. was pushing for an equalizer.

D, David Brekalo, 6 — Brekalo had 60 touches and completed 76.6% of his 47 passes, including three of his 13 long balls. Defensively, he recorded one tackle, one interception, and two clearances. He made his first significant offensive impact as a Lion by getting his head to a Nico Lodeiro corner kick in the 82nd minute to even the game at 2-2.

D, Dagur Dan Thorhallsson, 6 — Thorhallsson only had 58 touches in the game, but the right back made the most of them. He completed 76.7% of his 30 passes and three of his six long balls, but failed to connect on his lone cross. Defensively, he recorded two tackles and three clearances. However, his biggest impact came in the 28th minute, when he got his head onto Ivan Angulo’s cross to even the game at 1-1.

MF, Cesar Araujo, 5 — Araujo’s 70 touches were the most on the team for this game. He only completed 78.2% of his 55 passes, but connected on two of his four long balls. Defensively, he won two tackles and blocked one shot while committing a team-high four fouls. He was also late getting over to cover Gabriel Pirani on the second goal for D.C. Overall, it wasn’t one of Araujo’s best games.

MF, Wilder Cartagena, 5.5 — Cartagena started in the defensive midfield alongside Araujo. He recorded 41 touches and completed 81.3% of his 32 passes, including a key pass, his one cross, and one of his three long balls. Defensively, he recorded two clearances. As is common with the midfielder, he was booked in the first half for standing over Jared Stroud after a foul by Angulo. He was taken off during a triple substitution in the 72nd minute, replaced by Lodeiro.

MF, Ivan Angulo, 6 — Angulo was the least involved of the midfielders, only recording 35 touches. However, he completed 76.2% of his 21 passes, including a wonderful cross to Thorhallsson on the Lions’ first goal of the night. His lone shot was off target, but he helped defensively with a tackle and team-high three interceptions.

MF, Facundo Torres, 5.5 — Torres recorded 50 touches in this game and completed 90.9% of his 33 passes with no key passes. He was accurate on only one of his three crosses, which was an issue. His lone shot was off target but not by much, as he sent his effort just wide of the right post from outside the area. He came off in stoppage time after the Lions took the lead for center back Rodrigo Schlegel.

MF, Martin Ojeda, 5.5 — Ojeda started in the attacking midfield for this game, recording 46 touches. He completed 71.4% of his 21 passes, including two key passes, one accurate cross on his four attempts, and two of his four long balls. He also had four unstable touches and an off-target shot. Defensively, the attacking midfielder had a team-high four tackles, helping his team retain possession before being replaced by Duncan McGuire in the 72nd minute.

F, Luis Muriel, 5 — Muriel got the start alone up top, but had a difficult night. He got involved in the game with 36 touches and completed 64.7% of his 17 passes, including two key passes. He took two shots, with one on target, and completed two dribbles, but had five unstable touches. He could’ve had a much better performance, but attempted to dribble through the opposition in the box rather than finding a teammate, losing possession. The forward’s night ended in the 87th minute when he was replaced by Felipe.

Substitutes

D, Rafael Santos (73’), 5.5 — Santos came on in the 73rd minute for Smith at left back. He had 14 touches and completed seven of his 10 touches (70%), but failed to connect on his one long ball and three crosses. He also didn’t record any defensive stats in his 17 minutes of action.

MF, Nico Lodeiro (72’), 6.5 (MotM) — Lodeiro came on in the 72nd minute for Cartagena, looking to make a difference. The midfielder touched the ball 18 times and completed 75% of his 12 passes, including two key passes, two of his three crosses, and one of his three long balls. Both of his shots were on target and his through ball for McGuire in second-half stoppage time gave him the assist on the game-winning goal. Although the stats sheet credited Torres with the assist on Brekalo’s goal, it was the veteran who took the set piece, which should result in a two-assist night once the league has had a chance to review the tape (see below…even Evan Weston calls him ‘Torres’ on his call). Lodeiro was a game-changer when he came on so, despite his lack of minutes, he earns my Man of the Match.

F, Duncan McGuire (72’), 6 — McGuire came on with Lodeiro as the Lions were chasing the game. He had 14 touches and completed 44.4% of his nine passes. However, the striker was brought on to score and did so in stoppage time, timing his run perfectly and finishing well on the breakaway. He also recorded a tackle and clearance but gets a high grade from me for doing exactly what he was brought on to do in scoring the winning goal.

MF, Felipe (87’), N/A — Felipe came on for Muriel as the Lions looked to see out a point, but he only touched the ball three times. He completed both of his passes, but didn’t record any other stats in his minimal time on the field.

D, Rodrigo Schlegel (90+2’), N/A — Schlegel came on right after the game-winning goal for Torres as the Lions looked to see out the win. He had two touches and an incomplete pass, but no other statistics.


That’s how I saw the individual performances in Orlando City’s win over D.C. United. Let us know how you saw the game and vote for your Man of the Match below.

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Lion Links

Lion Links: 4/15/24

Lions beat D.C. United, Pride pick up road win over Utah Royals, Barbra Banda arrives in Orlando, and more.

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Image courtesy of Orlando Pride / Jeremy Reper

Hello, Mane Landers. I hope all is well with you down in Florida. Orlando City and the Pride both won over the weekend, and there has been plenty of action in European soccer. Over the past week, I’ve been busy covering high school sports like lacrosse and softball. There is plenty to cover today, so let’s get to the links.

Lions Top D.C. United

Orlando City overturned a late 2-1 deficit to win 3-2 against D.C. United at Audi Field over the weekend. David Brekalo scored the equalizer in the second half to tie the match at 2-2. Duncan McGuire came off the bench in the second half and scored in stoppage time, as the Lions beat D.C. United for the first time since Oct. 2, 2021. The Lions were 0-3-1 against D.C. United over the last two seasons prior to Saturday’s win. Orlando has now picked up points in each of the last three matches. Orlando City will be on the road again this weekend when it takes on CF Montreal on Saturday.

Orlando Pride Defeat Utah Royals; Help Arrives

The Orlando Pride got their first win of the 2024 NWSL last Friday with a 1-0 against the Utah Royals. Marta came off the bench in the second half and scored the lone goal to seal the win for Orlando. The Pride drew each of their first three matches to start the season against Racing Louisville, Angel City FC, and the Chicago Red Stars. Friday’s result means the Pride have six points through four league matches and are fifth in the NWSL table.

Despite needing four matches to pick up their first win of the year, the Pride are ahead of last year’s pace at the same point in the season, and remain undefeated (1-0-3) despite still waiting to play with this off-season’s marquee signing, Zambian international striker Barbra Banda. The new Pride forward arrived on Sunday to a warm welcome at Orlando International Airport.

It will be interesting to see how quickly Seb Hines can get Banda acclimated to the club and the league. Orlando could use Banda’s offensive firepower, as the club has struggled to score goals in the early part of the season. The Pride will be back in action against the San Diego Wave this Friday.

Bayer Leverkusen wins Bundesliga; Manchester City Leads EPL Title Race

Bayer Leverkusen cruised to a 5-0 win against Werder Bremen on Sunday to win its first ever Bundesliga title with five league matches left to spare. Xabi Alonso’s side won the league title by a 16-point margin, ending Bayern Munich’s 11-year run as title holders. Leverkusen is also unbeaten through 43 matches across all competitions. Meanwhile, in England, we have a new Premier League title race leader as Manchester City crushed Luton Town 5-1 on Saturday. On Sunday, Arsenal lost 2-0 to Aston Villa and Liverpool lost 1-0 to Crystal Palace. There are six match days remaining and this race could go down to the wire. Manchester City is at the top of the table with 73 points, while Arsenal and Liverpool remain two points behind in second and third, respectively, with 71 points.

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  • Houston Dash winger Maria Sanchez has reportedly requested a trade four months after signing a record-breaking deal in NWSL history in the off-season to remain with the club.
  • Manchester United edged Chelsea 2-1 to beat the Blues for the first time ever. Making the win even bigger was that it took place in the Women’s FA Cup semifinal. United will play Tottenham in the final at Wembley on May 12.
  • The EFL Championship is three weeks away from its finale, with a few clubs featureing Americans still in the mix for promotion. Josh Sargent’s Norwich City side holds the final playoff spot, while Haji Wright’s Conventry and Duane Holmes’ Preston North End in the hunt for a shot at promotion.
  • The AS Roma versus Udinese match was suspended after defender Evan Ndicka collapsed away from play and had to be stretchered off. The game was tied at 1-1 with about 20 minutes remaining when Ndicka went down. The club shared this update on social media.

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

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