After a difficult series of road games, Orlando City returned to Exploria Stadium and drew 1-1 against New York City FC. The Lions got out to an early lead thanks to a goal from Ercan Kara, but faded later in the first half. The defense did well to keep the Pigeons at bay until Gabriel Segal scored his first MLS goal to equalize late. It was a disappointing result when three points were so close to being secured. Here’s how each Lion individually performed in the match.
GK, Pedro Gallese, 7.5 (MOTM) — Gallese proved yet again why signing him to a new contract was Orlando’s best move this off-season. El Pulpo came up with five saves in this match, with each seemingly getting more difficult as the match went on. From denying a header from Maxime Chanot off of a free kick to laying out and saving a long-range shot from Gabriel Pereira, Gallese worked hard to maintain Orlando’s lead. His clean sheet was ruined late in the match on a goal he couldn’t do much about due to the speed on the skipping cross. As far as his distribution, he completed 69.6% of his 23 passes and was accurate on three of his 10 long balls. He’s our Man of the Match for keeping Orlando in front for a majority of the match. He also injured his right hand during the match, but carried on.
D, Kyle Smith, 6 — As NYCFC lacked a clear center forward, it often tried to stretch Orlando’s back line and Smith struggled at times to defend in open space. He picked up a yellow card by taking Pereira down after being beaten and had a few nervy moments. However, Smith did well enough and led the team with three tackles, adding a clearance as well. Although he didn’t have any crosses, Smith completed three of his five long balls and had 44 passes at a 90.9% success rate. He was subbed off in the 84h minute for some fresher legs in Rafael Santos.
D, Robin Jansson, 6.5 — The center back served up a patented long ball to set up Orlando’s goal, finding Gaston Gonzalez out wide in a threatening area. The Beefy Swede connected on three of his five long balls and finished with 53 passes at a strong 88.7% success rate. Jansson anchored Orlando’s defense alongside Antonio Carlos and had four clearances, two blocked shots, and a tackle. Unfortunately, his night was marred a bit by not marking Segal’s run in the box well enough to stop him from equalizing.
D, Antonio Carlos, 7 — Carlos looked right at home in the center of defense at Exploria Stadium, finishing the match with four clearances and an interception. He was particularly dominant in the air, winning all three of his defensive aerial duels. Of his seven long balls, three were accurate and he was successful on 89.4% of his 47 passes. He nearly scored off of a corner kick in the second half by Spartan kicking a bouncing ball in front of goal, but Luis Barraza came up with the save.
D, Michael Halliday, 6 — His crossing could have been better overall, particularly when on the attack, but the right back also served up two key passes in this one. Only one of his four crosses was successful, as he completed 84.9% of his 33 passes on the right side of the field. He also delivered a fantastic long ball that coasted along the touchline for Martin Ojeda. There were a few defensive lapses, but he often recovered well enough to help put out the fire. Halliday had three clearances, an interception, and blocked a shot as well. He could’ve done better on NYCFC’s goal by heading away the danger more cleanly or stopping Talles Magno’s cross, but it’d also be a bit unfair to pin too much of the blame on him for a goal that seemed like a longtime coming from the opposition.
MF, Cesar Araujo, 6.5 — The 22-year-old had a busy night, leading the Lions with 78 touches and also completing 82.8% of his 58 passes. Araujo completed three of his six long balls and had a shot blocked late in stoppage time following a corner. Defensively, he had two tackles and a clearance to help limit NYCF’s chances. It was a solid outing from him and the ninth game in a row in which he’s played all 90 minutes.
MF, Wilder Cartagena, 7 — The Peruvian set a single-game club record by committing seven fouls throughout the match, all without receiving a booking. His 70 touches were second only to Araujo, and he had a team-high 60 passes at an impressive 90% completion rate. Cartagena had two clearances and a tackle to help out defensively as well. He put his only shot on target, although it was fired directly at Barraza, and was accurate on two of his five long balls. It was a strong performance from Cartagena and I wouldn’t mind seeing him taking more shots when the ball falls to him at the top of the box during attacking sequences.
MF, Ivan Angulo, 6 — Angulo had 31 touches in 65 minutes and led the team with three shots, although he only put one of them on target. That effort earned a corner from a tight angle, with another attempt blocked and a third sent into the stands. He was successful on two of his four dribbles and gave the team some needed speed on both sides of the ball. One of his two crosses found their mark and he was successful on 85.7% of his 21 passes. It wasn’t a bad night from Angulo by any means, but he wasn’t as dynamic as he’s proven to be in other matches.
MF, Facundo Torres, 6 — Although he didn’t have a shot, he did contribute to Orlando’s goal thanks to some combination play alongside Gonzalez that earned him an assist on the stat sheet. His presence at the top of the box and opportunity to surge towards goal opened up space for Gonzalez to cross once Torres played it back to him. NYCFC had him in his crosshairs throughout the match, and that helped open avenues for other Lions to attack. Still, it was a fairly quiet night from the Young Designated Player, even if his movement off the ball is worth noting. In 58 minutes of action before being subbed off for Mauricio Pereyra, the Uruguayan had 20 passes at an 85% success rate and completed one of his five crosses.
MF, Gaston Gonzalez, 7 — The winger received great service throughout the match and made it count in the seventh minute. He whipped in a cross with enough speed and bend on it that only an expectant Kara could get to it, giving Gonzalez his second assist of the season. There were times, especially early on, when he looked like Orlando’s best attacking option, as he won set pieces in good areas. But as the game wore on and Mitja Ilenic came on to defend him, he lost some of his sharpness. Gonzalez missed a golden opportunity for the Lions to double their lead by dribbling into traffic rather than playing the ball to an open Duncan McGuire. His lone shot of the match was off target and he was successful on just one of his four crosses. The Argentine winger had 25 passes at an 84% success rate and his only long ball was unsuccessful. Although he couldn’t maintain it for the entire match, Gonzalez displayed why the Lions were eager to bring him to Orlando.
F, Ercan Kara, 7 — The Austrian forward scored his third goal in four matches by getting on the end of a great cross into the box by Gonzalez. Orlando’s finishing this season has been lackluster, so it was nice to see Kara cap off some great team play with his strong header. His goal was also his only shot of the game, as he didn’t receive much service and had just 16 touches in 65 minutes. His hold-up play was a mixed bag. While he completed all six of his passes, he also turned the ball over a few times and was successful on one of his three attempted dribbles. Kara remains in good form and his goal proved how he can excel up top when given good service.
MF, Mauricio Pereyra (58′), 6.5 — In his first match since April 22, Pereyra came off the bench and gave needed life to Orlando’s offense. The Uruguayan led the Lions with three key passes, was accurate on both of his long balls and both of his crosses, and completed all but two of his 25 passes for an excellent 92% success rate. He set up Ojeda at the top of the box in stoppage time but his teammate rushed a shot on the half volley when he may have been able to take a touch to split the defense. Although he wasn’t able to extend Orlando’s lead or give the team a late winner, this was a great performance as he eases back into action.
F, Duncan McGuire (65′), 6.5 — He may have only had eight touches and five passes, but McGuire was active while on the field. The rookie made good runs and his only shot of the game was blocked. Center backs Chanot and Thiago Martins gave him difficulty at times, but he was far from neutralized. McGuire’s positioning continued to put him in good spots, but the service was lacking to really capitalize on it.
MF, Martin Ojeda (65′), 6 — Ojeda played with hunger, but didn’t see all too much of the ball. He had 14 touches and completed 90.9% of his 11 passes while connecting on his lone long ball. His only shot was a difficult one on the half volley in the box that he scuffed and sent off target. With some more rest under his belt now, hopefully he can provide more of an impact in the upcoming matches.
MF, Dagur Dan Thorhallsson (84′), N/A — The Icelandic midfielder had three touches and completed both of his passes during his cameo. He could’ve closed down Magno a bit better on NYCFC’s goal considering Halliday was preventing the angle at the near post. Thorhallsson had a tackle in the match as well.
D, Rafael Santos (84′), N/A — The left back completed three of his four passes and had five touches in his brief appearances. Although neither his one cross or one long ball found their target, they were decent efforts. He didn’t play long enough to earn a grade from us this time around.
That’s how I saw each performance from the Lions in their 1-1 draw at home against NYCFC It’s tough seeing the Lions drop points at home, but hopefully they can turn it around against their rivals. Who was your Man of the Match? Make sure to vote in our poll and let us know what you think in the comments!
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?
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?
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.
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!
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.
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.
- 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.
- Manchester United left back Luke Shaw may be done for the season due to a leg injury.
- In the Europa Conference League, Israeli club Maccabi Haifa secured a 1-1 draw with Belgium’s Gent to advance to the round of 16.
That’s all I have for you today. I hope you all have a wonderful Thursday and rest of your week!
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.
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.
Orlando Pride Place Megan Montefusco on Season-Ending Injury List
Orlando City vs. CF Montreal: Three Keys to Victory
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