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Orlando City

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.



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.

Orlando City

Orlando City vs. Inter Miami: Photo Gallery

An album of images from Orlando City’s hard-fought draw at home against the Herons.



Dan MacDonald, The Mane Land

The Lions brought much more roar on Sunday night to face their southern rivals but had trouble finding the net, allowing the Herons to nick a point even while short staffed. None of Miami’s high-priced talent traveled for the match after facing Toronto midweek, and physicality ensued, firing up the sold-out crowd at Exploria Stadium.

Talking with some of the other photographers on the sideline who had flown in for this match, they rated the Orlando atmosphere top-notch; in their experience, other cities don’t compare to the in-stadium fan enthusiasm.

The Lions were in “the net is lava” mode, with Duncan McGuire and Iván Angulo each missing prime one-on-one chances with Miami goalkeeper Drake Callender in each half, McGuire leaving it straight at Callendar, and Angulo badly missing the net after a missed first touch. So of course Miami struck first, with David Ruíz scoring early in the second half.

This fired the Lions up even more and Martín Ojeda pinballed McGuire in behind the Miami back line, allowing Duncan to do what Duncan does to draw the score level. The Lions generally looked the more dangerous team for most (but not all) of the night. However, it is scorin ggoals that actually counts, leaving both teams unchanged in their respective Eastern Conference standings. Orlando remains second at 14-7-9, while Miami stays in 14th at 9-15-5.

The Lions continue to control their own destiny in terms of getting a top-four finish as they look to lock up home field advantage for a best-of-three matchup in the MLS Cup playoffs.

With home dates left against Montreal and a sputtering-but-dangerous New England remaining, there’s still plenty of time to be part of that world-class gameday atmosphere by going out to support the team as they push for a strong finish.

We hope that you enjoy these images from a hard-fought, come-from-behind draw against Inter Miami at Exploria Stadium.

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Orlando City

Orlando City vs. Inter Miami: Five Takeaways

Here’s what we learned from Orlando City’s 1-1 draw at home against Inter Miami.



Dan MacDonald, The Mane Land

Orlando City returned to Exploria Stadium after a midweek loss to New York City FC and had to settle for a 1-1 draw with Inter Miami. The Lions did well to equalize after conceding first, but will likely feel that they left opportunity knocking as the Eastern Conference remains tight near the top. Here are my five takeaways from the third Tropic Thunder clash this year.

Lack of Execution Plagues the Lions

Orlando’s offense struggled to put the ball in the back of the net in this match. That’s not to say they didn’t create quality chances, as the Lions served up good crosses and dangerous long balls throughout the match. Only three of Orlando’s 16 crosses found their mark in the end. The execution just wasn’t there when it came to finishing attacks, whether it be poor decision-making when the time came to play the final ball or just missing the target completely. Of Orlando’s 13 shots, six were on target and only a couple of those gave Miami goalkeeper Drake Callender much difficulty. Ivan Angulo missing the goal entirely after Dagur Dan Thorhallsson picked out a perfect pass for him stands out. Expecting every promising attack to end with a goal is unfair, but weak finishing cost the Lions from claiming a big win at home.

Corner Kicks Gave the Lions Headaches

While the Lions didn’t have any corner kicks in the match, Inter Miami had seven and created some of its best chances with them. In the 61st minute, a corner kick taken by Robert Taylor found Leonardo Campana all alone in the center of the box. The Ecuadorian forward’s header mercifully went wide, but it was indicative of how Orlando had its hands full on set pieces. Pedro Gallese had to come up with a remarkable save in the first half as well after Campana barreled through Cartagena to head the ball at goal. Even though the Lions didn’t concede from a set piece, I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s something focused on this week just to ensure the team is organized enough to overcome uncalled fouls without needing its star goalkeeper or some luck.

Plenty of Physicality in Rivalry Match

It was easy to tell these two teams didn’t care much for each other, as they both fought hard on and off the ball. There were 27 fouls and seven yellow cards handed out by referee Armando Villarreal. Miami committed 16 of those fouls and received five of the yellow cards as they did whatever it took to slow down Orlando’s progress. Facundo Torres suffered the brunt of it and was fouled four times so that he couldn’t work his magic against Miami’s defense. It was the kind of physical match that can be expected of two rivals and made for an intense match that will likely have players from both sides seeking an ice bath. The Lions did well to stay composed for a majority of a very chippy match.

Duncan McGuire Shakes Off the Rust

Forward Duncan McGuire got back to his scoring ways with a crucial equalizer for his ninth goal of the MLS season. It was an important goal for reasons beyond the scoreline as well, as McGuire had squandered a golden opportunity to score earlier in the match by not being able to get his shot past Callender. He was also kicking himself for not getting on the end of a few other chances as well. His 84 minutes on the field were the most from him in one game this season, and the Lions will need him more often now that Ercan Kara is in Turkey. It was the rookie’s first goal since July and, although not perfect, the kind of performance to build upon moving forward.

Orlando Showcased Its Depth and Versatility

Head Coach Oscar Pareja switched things up at halftime, replacing Cesar Araujo with Martin Ojeda and having Mauricio Pereyra sit a bit deeper in the midfield to potentially create chances on the break a bit quicker using his service. Although Ojeda didn’t get a goal or an assist, his presence was notable on both sides of the ball and he played a key role in Orlando’s goal. Having a player of his caliber able to come off the bench has been a boon for Orlando this season, letting Pareja really kickstart the changes he wants to make to the team. Similar things could be said about Orlando’s other substitutes: Junior Urso, Ramiro Enrique, Gaston Gonzalez, and Michael Halliday. Their energy and skill kept Orlando pushing for more and gave the sense that a winner would have come had the game lasted a bit longer.

That’s what I took away from Orlando’s 1-1 draw with Inter Miami. Let me know what you gathered from the match in the comments below

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Lion Links

Lion Links: 9/25/23

Orlando City draws with Inter Miami, Viviana Villacorta out for the season, OCB wins last game of the regular season, and more.



Dan MacDonald, The Mane Land

Last night’s Orlando City match wasn’t the best, but it wasn’t the worst either. It’s a pretty fitting feeling on a Monday, as we all get back into the swing of the work week after a nice weekend of soccer. There are plenty of ups and downs from a rollercoaster Sunday, so let’s dive right into today’s links!

Orlando City Draws With Inter Miami

In the latest edition of the Tropic Thunder rivalry, Orlando City and Inter Miami split the points at Exploria Stadium in a 1-1 result. Miami struck first, but the Lions did well to find an equalizer, even though they couldn’t find a winner in the end. It wasn’t Orlando’s best game by any means, but it was a decent response to a 2-0 loss on the road to New York City FC. Orlando now has 51 points, tying its club record for the most points in a season, set in 2021. The Lions will have a chance to break that record on Saturday when they host CF Montreal.

Viviana Villacorta Out for the Season

Orlando Pride midfielder Viviana Villacorta will miss the remainder of the NWSL season after suffering an ACL tear in her left knee during training. The 24-year-old was selected with the ninth overall pick in the 2021 NWSL Draft, but was not able to make her debut until 2022 due to sustained an ACL tear in her right knee that kept her out for all of the 2021 season. This year, she has 21 appearances across all competitions for the Pride and notched the first assist of her career in a big road win against the San Diego Wave on April 29. This is a tough blow to the Pride’s midfield with just three games remaining as she has ended her season early due to injury for the third straight year. The Pride are only a point out of a playoff spot and are back in action on Oct. 2 against Angel City FC.

Orlando City B Wins On Decision Day

On the final day of the MLS NEXT Pro regular season, Orlando City B won 2-1 at home over FC Cincinnati 2. The Young Lions had already clinched a spot in the postseason heading into this match, but the win secured their spot as the fifth seed. Jack Lynn briefly held the Golden Boot lead after scoring, but ended up tied at 19 goals with New York City FC II’s Matt Myers and Colorado Rapids 2’s Remi Cabral. The trio ended in a three-way tie for the league’s Golden Boot honors. OCB will hit the road for its first MLS NEXT Pro playoff game, although the opponent is not yet known thanks to the new rule where higher seeds choose which team they want to face.

USWNT Wins in Megan Rapinoe’s Final Match

The United States Women’s National Team beat South Africa in a 2-0 win at Soldier Field. Trinity Rodman and Emily Sonnett scored and the defense did well to secure its second shutout against South Africa after a 3-0 win this past Thursday. This game also marked forward Megan Rapinoe’s final game with the USWNT, with the 38-year-old subbed off for the last time in the 54th minute. These were solid wins from the USWNT following the World Cup and it will aim to keep the momentum rolling next month in a pair of friendlies against Colombia.

Free Kicks

  • Three Orlando City academy sides came up with shutout victories this weekend.
  • Before the USWNT’s friendly with South Africa, U.S. Soccer Sporting Director Matt Crocker stated that plans remain in place for a new head coach to be at the helm in time for the training camp in December
  • American midfielder Yunus Musah did well in his AC Milan debut, playing all 90 minutes in a 1-0 win over Verona.
  • A match in the Netherlands between Ajax and Feyenoord had to be abandoned due to fans throwing fireworks onto the field while Feyenoord led 3-0. According to police, tear gas had to be used to stop unrest outside the stadium after the match, and Ajax later fired Sven Mislintat, its director of soccer.
  • Newcastle became the first English Premier League team to have eight different players score in a match after crushing Sheffield United, 8-0.
  • Atletico Madrid ended Real Madrid’s perfect start to the season by beating its rival 3-1, with Alvaro Morata bagging a brace.

That’s all I have for you today, Mane Landers. I hope you all have an easy Monday and rest of your week!

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