Orlando City went on the road and won 2-1 against the Philadelphia Union for all three points. Both teams were without usual starters due to the international break, injury, or suspension. The Lions got off to a hot start, with Martin Ojeda and Ivan Angulo both scoring within the first 10 minutes of the game. Former Lion Andres Perea scored to bring the Union back within one, but the defense survived an onslaught of shots to win. It was Orlando’s first road win of the 2023 season and snapped the Union’s 24-game unbeaten streak at home. Here’s how each Lion individually performed in the victory.
GK, Mason Stajduhar, 6.5 — In his first appearance of the season, Stajduhar came up with five saves to ensure Orlando left Philadelphia with all three points. His first big stop of the night came in the 37th minute after a foul right outside of the box. The goalkeeper reacted well to Jack Elliott’s strike, jumping to push it just over the crossbar. The Union came out swinging at the start of the second half and Stajduhar did well to deny Joaquin Torres. But his best save came in the 75th minute, when he parried away a header from Alejandro Bedoya at point-blank range. There were a few shaky moments in the first half, as he made a meal of two long ball attempts that Philly pounced on. He dove to stop Perea’s first shot and couldn’t recover in time for him to stop the second after it hit the post. But he settled in as time went on and was accurate on seven of his 16 long balls, including the one that led to Orlando’s first goal. He had 24 passes at a 54.2% success rate, but ultimately did very well in one of the tougher stadiums to play in as a visitor.
D, Luca Petrasso, 5 — The left back had 53 touches in 79 minutes of action, but wasn’t able to make much of an impact on either side of the ball. Three of his six long balls were accurate and his lone cross didn’t find its mark, although it was a decent effort into the box. Problems arose for Orlando when Petrasso was often caught too far up the field to help defend Philadelphia’s counters. As a result, he only had two interceptions and two clearances in the match. The 22-year-old was also beaten in the air by Bedoya, allowing the Union captain to put a header on target that needed heroics from Stajduhar to keep out. Petrasso won two of his five aerial duels, had two unstable touches, and was accurate on 69.7% of his 33 passes. It wasn’t a particularly great outing from the left back, who was subbed off for Antonio Carlos late in the match.
D, Rodrigo Schlegel, 7 — After a rough game last weekend against Charlotte FC, Schlegel bounced back in this one. The center back led the Lions with 11 clearances, while also contributing three interceptions, two blocks, and a tackle. Schlegel won three of his five aerial duels and ended the game with a nice slide tackle to snuff out Philadelphia’s final opportunity. Schlegel had 27 passes at a 77.7% success rate and neither of his two long balls were accurate, although he did have two key passes. This was a great defensive performance from Schlegel to make life difficult for Philadelphia’s attackers. Mikael Uhre had a brace last weekend, but wasn’t able to get much going against Schlegel. Considering he’s played more MLS minutes than any other Lion, some deserved rest could be headed his way as Antonio Carlos works his way back from injury.
D, Robin Jansson, 6.5 — The Beefy Swede was putting out fires on the left side of Orlando’s defense all night long. Jansson positioned himself when the Union went on the counter and he had three clearances and a tackle in the match. The center back made smart slide tackles and was a force in the air as well, winning all three of his aerial duels. Four of his eight long balls were accurate and he completed 79.3% of his 29 passes while contributing a key pass. Jansson also didn’t commit a foul and has not received a yellow card since the season opener.
D, Kyle Smith, 4 — With Michael Halliday away on international duty, Smith started at right back for the Lions. The veteran was bossed by his former teammate on the Union’s goal, with Perea beating him once in the air and again on the rebound off the post. Smith won three of his seven aerial duels and committed four fouls, including one from a dangerous spot in front of goal right before halftime and another that allowed a free kick from near the corner. Defensively, he contributed eight clearances, a tackle, an interception, and a block. Three of his eight long balls were accurate, but he didn’t have a cross, key pass, or shot. Smith wasn’t as sharp with the ball as he needed to be and had 47 passes at a 74.5% success rate.
MF, Mauricio Pereyra, 7.5 — The captain notched his first assist of the season with a perfect ball over the top for Ojeda. The ball had enough on it to get past Elliott, but was weighted enough to give Ojeda all the time in the world to pick out his shot. Pereyra helped pull the strings on the second goal as well, getting another assist for setting Ojeda up to get the ball to Angulo. He connected on three of his four long balls, was accurate on one of his two crosses, and finished with 54 passes at a strong 85.2% success rate. The Uruguayan gave the Union headaches off the ball too, leading the Lions with five tackles and blocking a shot as well. Pereyra led the Lions with 74 touches and was successful on three of his four dribbles. Although he didn’t have a shot himself, Pereyra did well to garner attention from defenders and find the open man to maintain possession.
MF, Cesar Araujo, 6.5 — The Uruguayan was overshadowed by other Lions in this one, which is far from the worst thing for a defensive midfielder. Araujo quietly helped connect Orlando’s defense with its offense, completing 80.7% of his team-high 57 passes. He had nine long balls as well, although he was only accurate on three of them, and made two key passes. Araujo helped out defensively with three clearances, two interceptions, a tackle, and a block. His only weak spot in this one was when battling for balls in the air, as he only won one of his five aerial duels. Still, it was a solid performance from him and he did well working in tandem with Felipe to frustrate the Union.
MF, Felipe, 6.5 — It was Felipe’s first start of the season and he was great in the heart of the midfield. The 32-year-old led the Lions with six interceptions and recorded three tackles, two clearances, and a block. He had a key pass by setting up a shot for Ojeda and completed 77% of his 49 passes. There were a few moments of disconnect and neither his lone long ball nor his two crosses were accurate. The MLS veteran had 74 touches and won all three of his aerials. Felipe was shown a yellow card in the 20th minute, but didn’t let the caution impact his presence on defense and his experience helped the Lions see out the game.
MF, Martin Ojeda, 7.5 (MotM) — Ojeda was Orlando’s lone Designated Player on the pitch and lived up to his billing with a goal and an assist in the first 10 minutes of the match. He was patient and clinical with his strike, beating Joe Bendik for his second goal in as many games. The 24-year-old was just as composed when slipping the ball between defenders for Angulo to put away a few minutes later. Ojeda took a whopping eight shots, putting three on target, sending two off target, and having the other three blocked. He was also great when facilitating the offense, making two key passes, finding his man on four of his five long balls, and completing 79.6% of his 49 passes. Ojeda also contributed two tackles and two clearances on defense. The only blemishes on his performance were a few late opportunities to put the game to bed that he should’ve done better with. Ojeda is our Man of the Match for keeping Orlando looking dangerous from start to finish on the road.
MF, Ivan Angulo, 7 — Angulo certainly earned his first goal of the season. The Colombian winger made a good tackle to get his team started on a counter attack and then made a nice run to get past two defenders to slot his shot home. It was one of his two shots in 70 minutes of action, the other ruled off-target, although it appeared Bendik nudged it just wide of the far post after Angulo did well to beat Olivier Mbaizo with his speed. He only had 30 touches, but was a constant part of Orlando’s attack and had a key pass as well. Angulo could’ve taken better care of the ball, as he had four unstable touches and 24 passes at a 75% success rate. His only cross was unsuccessful as well. Angulo made an impact on defense too, contributing two tackles, an interception, a clearance, and a blocked shot. While he may need to work on his first touch, it was a great night from Angulo as he feasted on Philly’s defense once Pereyra and Ojeda cut it up for him.
F, Ramiro Enrique, 6 — Enrique did well holding up play and attracting attention from Philadelphia’s defenders so other Lions could work their magic. He deserved credit on the scoresheet for chesting down a long ball to set up Pereyra’s assist. Enrique is only 5-foot-7 but won five of his 10 aerial duels and did well up against one of the best center back duos in the league in Elliott and Jakob Glesnes. The statistics don’t reflect his impact on offense, as his only shot was blocked and he had no key passes. Before being subbed off in the 79th minute, he had 30 passes at a 73.3% success rate and his only long ball was inaccurate. Regardless, the 21-year-old was solid in his first trip to Subaru Park and helped out on defense with two clearances and a tackle.
MF, Gaston Gonzalez (70’), 5.5 — The winger had 10 touches in over 20 minutes of action and looked better than he did in previous games. Gonzalez showed off some of his strength and skill on the ball on the left side of the pitch, but wasn’t particularly dangerous. He was successful on one of his two dribbles, won one of his two aerial duels, and was inaccurate on his one cross and one long ball. He completed two of his four passes and had a clearance as well.
F, Duncan McGuire (79’), N/A — The rookie delivered a great key pass to serve the ball to Ojeda in the center of the box on a silver platter. McGuire beat Glesnes to a pass from Ojeda in the final third and then casually slipped the ball between the reigning MLS Defender of the Year’s legs for Ojeda to shoot. McGuire had seven touches, and completed three of his four passes. He only won one of his four aerial duels, but did well on offense to keep the Union on their toes while hunting for an equalizer.
D, Antonio Carlos (79’), N/A — The center back made his first appearance of the season, coming on for Petrasso to give the Lions some more height and stability in defense, and so the team could go five at the back in defense. Carlos had one interception, completed three of his five passes, was accurate on one of his two long balls, and won one of his two aerial duels. It was mostly just nice to see Carlos back on the field after missing games due to injury.
MF, Dagur Dan Thorhallsson (84’), N/A — Coming on for Pereyra late in the match, he only had four touches and completed his only pass. Thorhallsson had a chance to put the game on ice in stoppage time, but his shot went wide of goal.
That’s how I saw the individual performances in Orlando’s 2-1 road win against the Philadelphia Union. Vote for your Man of the Match in our poll and let me know your thoughts in the comments below.
Lion Links: 12/8/23
Orlando City will play Flamengo in preseason friendly, Kylie Strom signs new deal, USMNT’s Copa America group draw, and more.
Happy Friday! The work week is almost over and I’m really looking forward to the weekend. I’ll be celebrating a friend’s birthday and knocking out most of the holiday shopping that I haven’t gotten around to just yet. Hopefully the malls aren’t too chaotic. Regardless, it should be a nice next few days. But for now, let’s get to the links!
Orlando Will Face Flamengo in 2024 FC Series
Orlando City’s first preseason game will take place on Jan. 27 when it takes on Flamengo at Camping World Stadium as part of the 2024 FC Series, which was previously known as the Florida Cup. Going up against one of Brazil’s powerhouses should be great preparation for the Lions after a record season in 2023 that earned them a spot in the 2024 Concacaf Champions Cup. It will be the second meeting between the two sides after a 2015 friendly in Brazil that Flamengo won 1-0. It will be nice to see the Lions in action at Camping World Stadium again and the kickoff time for next month’s match will be unveiled at a later time.
Kylie Strom Signs New Deal With Pride
Defender Kylie Strom, who was a free agent following the 2023 season, will return to the Orlando Pride after signing a three-year deal with the club. She joined the Pride in the summer of 2021 from Atletico Madrid and started in 26 games this past year, holding down the left back position. The Pride now retain their starting back line heading into 2024 and have full protection in Tuesday’s expansion draft. Although the defense struggled at times, it improved as the season wore on and the Pride nearly made the playoffs. Jordyn Listro is now the only free agent left from last year’s squad.
NWSL Announces Blueprint for 2024 Schedule
The framework for the 2024 NWSL season was revealed and the 182-match regular season has been formatted so that NWSL games don’t take place during international breaks. The biggest change is that the NWSL Challenge Cup is no longer a tournament and now just a match between the NWSL Shield winner and the NWSL champion, meaning San Diego Wave FC will play NJ/NY Gotham FC on March 15. However, there will be a weekend tournament organized by the league for all 14 teams during a break in the regular season while the Summer Olympics take place. The playoffs will feature eight teams and won’t include byes this year, with the quarterfinals starting on Nov. 9 and the NWSL Championship set for Nov. 23. Clubs can begin their preseason camps as early as Jan. 22 and no later than Jan. 29.
Copa America Teams Learn Their Groups
The United States Men’s National Team will take on Uruguay, Panama, and Bolivia in its group in the 2024 Copa America. Uruguay was one of the strongest opponents the U.S. could get drawn against, as the South American team has scored 13 goals so far in CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying. The important match between the USMNT and Uruguay will take place on July 1 in Kansas City. We’ll see how much Orlando City winger Facundo Torres plays for Uruguay in the tournament. As for Orlando’s Peruvian pair of Pedro Gallese and Wilder Cartagena, Peru is in a tough group against Argentina, Chile, and whichever nation prevails between Canada and Trinidad & Tobago.
We also have a clearer idea on which teams will be playing in Orlando. Two games will take place at Exploria Stadium, with Chile playing either Canada or Trinidad & Tobago on June 29 before Bolivia and Panama face off on July 1.
Gisele Thompson Signs With Angel City FC
Angel City FC signed young defender Gisele Thompson to a three-year contract that had this year count as the first year, with an option for an additional year in 2026. She turned 18 earlier this month and turned down an offer to play at Stanford to instead sign with Angel City, meaning the club did not need to use a draft pick for her to join. Gisele is the sister of Alyssa Thompson, who Angel City traded up to select with the first pick in the 2023 NWSL Draft. They are the youngest players on Angel City’s roster and will become the second pair of sisters to play in the league.
- The Colorado Rapids are reportedly in talks with American goalkeeper Zack Steffen to sign him from Manchester City.
- According to reports, St. Louis City will trade away Lucas Bartlett, Jared Stroud, and $300,000 in General Allocation Money to D.C. United in exchange for 23-year-old midfielder Chris Durkin.
- Everton broke out of the relegation zone with a surprising 3-0 win over Newcastle United. Everton has responded well after being handed a 10-point reduction last month, winning three of its past four games.
- Prosecutors in Italy requested the maximum ban of four years for Paul Pogba for doping after he tested positive for testosterone.
- Brazilian club Santos was relegated for the first time in its 111-year history, and its fans aren’t handling it very well.
That’s all I have for you today. I hope you all have a fantastic Friday and rest of your weekend!
2023 Orlando City Season in Review: Favian Loyola
The Homegrown midfielder spent most of the year with OCB but made his MLS debut in July.
Orlando City signed midfielder Favian Loyola to a Homegrown Player deal through 2025 on Dec. 2, 2022, with club options for 2026 and 2027. The OCSC Academy product became the club’s 13th all-time Homegrown signing and it was no surprise after his fantastic 2022 season. The Camp Lejeune, NC, was coming off a breakout year in the club’s youth system, which culminated with his selection to the 2022 MLS NEXT All-Star Game, in which he was named MVP. After starting the 2022 season on an academy contract, Loyola earned an MLS NEXT Pro deal, signing it last August. When he signed his Homegrown deal in December he became the first player to climb the club’s developmental ladder from the academy, to the current OCB setup in MLS NEXT Pro, to the first team.
Let’s take a look back at Loyola’s 2023 campaign, which was abbreviated due to surgery on his arm to remove a blood clot on Aug. 27.
Loyola played in just one MLS match with the Lions, making his first-team debut July 1 in a 3-1 home win over the Chicago Fire. The 18-year-old came on as a substitute in the third minute of stoppage time for Facundo Torres and is officially credited with one minute played, although that match went to nine minutes of stoppage. In that short amount of time he managed six touches and attempted six passes, completing all of them — one of them being a key pass. Loyola did not attempt a shot or record any defensive stats, but he did commit one foul, but he was not booked for it.
The bulk of Loyola’s 2023 season was spent with Orlando City B in MLS NEXT Pro, where he was a key player off the bench for Martin Perelman’s side. He appeared in 20 of the team’s 28 matches, starting seven, and logging 732 minutes. He scored two goals and added three assists, putting 10 of his 21 shots on target during the year. Loyola completed 80.3% of his passes with OCB, served up seven key passes and six successful long balls, and completed three crosses. He recorded four tackles and three interceptions, committed 11 fouls while drawing 10, and was booked three times.
With just the one MLS match to his credit, Loyola’s MLS debut against Chicago was his best game of the 2023 Major League Soccer Season. It was a memorable match, as he subbed on for Torres, who set the tone for the Lions with a brace that night, and it was also the game in which Mauricio Pereyra made his 100th appearance with Orlando City. Loyola made the most of his short amount of time on the pitch, despite committing a foul during his first minute of MLS play. He settled in and completed all six of his passes and created a scoring chance just seconds after his foul, when he sent a ball to Ramiro Enrique, although the Argentine had his shot attempt blocked from a tight angle.
2023 Final Grade
As Loyola came up short of the minimum total of 450 minutes played to receive a rating on our 1-10 scale, The Mane Land has no choice but to mark his grade as incomplete for the 2023 season. If his meteoric growth continues, Loyola will likely have much more than one appearance next season as his skills at passing and finding pockets of space translate well to the next level. He wasn’t able to return to the pitch after the surgery for his blood clot, but he should be ready to go for 2024.
With Loyola being just 18 years old and the club having him under contract, I would expect his role to be the same in 2024. He’ll be learning the ropes with OCB, playing most of the season with the club’s reserve side in MLS NEXT Pro, where he will continue to be a key player. However, if he continues to develop his game, he could push for more late substitute appearances with the first team or even get a start if the Lions draw a lower-league team in the U.S. Open Cup. One thing Loyola will need to work on is controlling the ball, as he turned the ball over 15 times with OCB in 2023.
Previous Season in Review Articles (Date Posted)
Orlando City to Play Friendly vs. Brazilian Side Flamengo
The Lions will face the Brazilian giants for the first time since November 2015.
Orlando City announced its first preseason match of the 2024 season this morning. The Lions will square off against Brazilian Serie A side CR Flamengo in a friendly on the afternoon of Saturday, Jan. 27, 2024 to kick off the team’s preparations for the 2024 MLS season. The match, which will take place at the club’s former home grounds at Camping World Stadium, will be OCSC’s second meeting with Flamengo and is part of the 2024 FC Series (formerly known as Florida Cup). Kickoff time will be officially announced later this month.
“This is both an exciting way to open the new year for our supporters and a great test for our team, as we look toward a 2024 that also includes Concacaf Champions Cup early on,” Orlando City SC Executive Vice President of Soccer Operations and General Manager Luiz Muzzi said in a club press release. “We’re excited to have the eyes of the Nação on Orlando during this time and are hopeful that this match will be the springboard for a very successful 2024 for our team and fans.”
“We are thrilled to return to our traditional January preseason window focused on top South American clubs,” FC Series / Florida Cup CEO Ricardo Villar said in the press release. “We look forward to delivering a first-class experience to Flamengo while in town and welcoming the Orlando City fans back to Camping World Stadium, where the club’s MLS campaign began back in 2015.”
The two sides met after the MLS season in 2015, when the Lions traveled to Rio de Janeiro on Nov. 15 of Orlando City’s inaugural season in Major League Soccer. Flamengo claimed a 1-0 win at the Maracana that day on a goal by Luis Antonio on a free kick that deflected off of Orlando City midfielder Darwin Ceren and left trialist goalkeeper Thierry Graca unable to recover. That match could have gone differently had Lions striker Bryan Rochez converted a first-half penalty, but he had a weak effort saved.
The match should serve as a good early test for the Lions, who are coming off their most successful season in Major League Soccer play and reached extra time all square with MLS Cup finalist Columbus despite being down a man in the Eastern Conference semifinals. Flamengo is one of Brazil’s most storied clubs, having won eight Serie A championships, three Copa Libertadores titles, four Copa do Brasil crowns, and one Intercontinental Cup.
“This preseason in the United States, including games with MLS (conference) semifinalists, is a great opportunity to grow the Flamengo brand inside the very important American market, where we will play in the 2025 FIFA Club World Cup,” Flamengo Vice President for Communications and Marketing Gustavo Oliveira said in the press release. “With the 2026 FIFA World Cup and the investments that are being made by the country, world football has in the United Stated, a new, enormous point of attention. Flamengo, as major European clubs, are alert to this and will, more and more, reinforce their presence in the country, may that be with work on social media focused on the American public, may it be by way of in-person events of the Flamengo brand, as this pre-season will be.”
Ticket information for groups and individuals can be found at FCSeries.com. Public tickets go on sale Tuesday, Dec. 12. Orlando City Season Ticket Members will have a match ticket presale and will be contacted directly by their ticket representative at a later date.
Lion Links: 12/8/23
Orlando Pride Sign Kylie Strom to Three-Year Deal
2023 Orlando City Season in Review: Favian Loyola
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