Orlando City Getting Production From the Forward Position
The Lions’ recent production from Ercan Kara and Duncan McGuire bodes well for a playoff run.
The early part of the 2023 MLS season has been frustrating for Orlando City. Despite filling a Designated Player spot with a forward in Ercan Kara prior to the 2022 season, scoring was a problem in the opening games. However, the Lions have finally started to see production from that position, providing optimism for a turnaround.
Daryl Dike was Orlando City’s star striker during the 2020 and 2021 MLS seasons, netting a team-high 19 goals in those two seasons combined. Following his departure for English Championship side West Bromwich Albion after the 2021 campaign, the Lions spent big, bringing in Austrian striker Kara. They attempted to bolster their scoring further in the last two drafts, bringing in Jack Lynn and Duncan McGuire with their two most recent first-round picks.
Kara scored 11 goals in MLS play last season, more than Dike had scored in either of his two years in Orlando. It was only his first year in the league, so it was safe to assume that the Austrian would only get better, possibly even threatening Cyle Larin’s MLS single-season club record of 17 goals set in 2015. Given that the club used a valuable roster position on the forward, some even expected those results.
The pressure to score this season was always going to be on the 27-year-old. Lynn was used sparingly last year and McGuire is still getting used to the professional game, although he started well. The club signed Argentine Ramiro Enrique to replace Benji Michel as the speedy alternative, but he’s yet to find the back of the net.
The lack of experience, combined with a thigh injury to Kara, saw the Lions fail to get a goal from a forward in five of their first six MLS games. The only goal was a 53rd-minute conversion by McGuire away to D.C. United in a 1-1 draw. It wasn’t much better in the Champions League, with the team only finding one goal against UANL Tigres — Kara’s 90th-minute equalizer in the second leg that wasn’t enough to see them advance.
The poor production from the forward position was even more disappointing because of the team’s success defensively. Despite missing Antonio Carlos for the early part of the season and displaying two new starting outside backs, the Lions recorded clean sheets in their first two MLS games, as well as their first Champions League contest. They only gave up multiple goals twice in their first eight games in all competitions.
The turn in fortune started on April 15 in Minnesota. McGuire scored his second professional goal in the 88th minute and followed that with a first-half equalizer against D.C. United the next weekend. Since then, Kara has taken over the starting role.
After scoring just one goal on the season, Kara has now scored in his last three games and in four of his last five appearances. The team’s May 13 draw against the Columbus Crew in Ohio saw the Lions get two goals from the forward position for the first time this season.
The impact of forwards getting on the scoresheet has become more evident recently. When Orlando City wasn’t getting production from the position, the team only scored multiple goals in two of eight league games. Since Kara’s scoring run began on April 29 in a 2-0 win over the LA Galaxy, the Lions have scored multiple goals in three of their last five games and are coming off their first three-goal performance of the season.
Between Kara’s injury and the young backups, it was questionable where the team’s goals would come from. But Kara and McGuire have recently taken over that task. With his recent run of form, the Austrian is finally starting to look like the player Orlando City thought it signed prior to last season and McGuire seems to be adjusting well to the new level, showing why he was named the MAC Hermann Trophy winner last year at Creighton.
It’s been a disappointing start to the 2023 MLS season, primarily because of the team’s lack of goals. But the recent production from the forward position shows that the ability is there. If Kara and McGuire continue their current production, it could result in a run up the standings and see the Lions escape the first round of the MLS Cup playoffs for the first time since 2020.
Lion Links: 6/10/23
Lions want consistency, Alejandro Granados earns short-term contract, Pride welcome Thorns, and more.
Welcome to the weekend, Mane Landers. It’s a great Saturday to wake up because the Lions are back home tonight at 7:30 p.m. Personally, I am looking forward to seeing the team continue to build attacking momentum as the pieces have started to gel together. The pace of Ivan Angulo has been electric, and I’m hopeful Facundo Torres has finally turned the page he needed to this season. Aside from Orlando City today, we also have soccer in town on Sunday, with OCB taking on Cincinnati 2 and the Orlando Pride hosting the Portland Thorns. So, let’s dig right into it all in the links!
Orlando City’s Momentum and Consistency
Orlando City returns home tonight to take on the Colorado Rapids after a decisive 3-0 victory at Red Bull Arena. With the latest victory, the Lions are now unbeaten in their previous five league matches. Orlando City aims to keep up the consistency in its performances as the Lions gear up for the 13th-ranked team in the Western Conference, and the Rapids are desperate for points.
“They’re gonna come in to try and leave the position that they’re in right now,” Lions goalkeeper Pedro Gallese said. “They’re going to try and come in and take points from us in our home. We know that they’re going to come in strong, but we have to do the same and we’ve got to continue the form that we’ve had during this run that we’re on right now.”
Alejandro Granados Earns First-Team Deal
Orlando City has called up the services of midfielder Alejandro Granados from Orlando City B on a short-term agreement and will be available for selection today as the Lions take on the Colorado Rapids. The 17-year-old has six appearances for Orlando City B this season in MLS NEXT Pro. On the global stage, Granados recently featured for Spain at the U-17 European Championship. He appeared five times in the tournament as La Roja reached the semifinals. He even scored a goal in the quarterfinal round against Ireland that also qualified the side for the U-17 World Cup later this year.
Orlando Pride Host Portland Thorns
The Pride are back in town following a midweek Challenge Cup postponement against NJ/NY Gotham FC due to measures taken to prioritize player health and safety in the face of terrible air quality as a result of the Canadian wildfires. Sunday’s match is set to begin at 7 p.m. against the Portland Thorns. It will be the Pride’s first home match in 22 days, however, the team won the last two matches played at Exploria Stadium. One thing to watch for in the match will be set pieces. Four of Orlando’s last six goals in regular season play have been scored from a set piece, with three being corners. For the Pride, it will be a chance to begin to shift the history between the two clubs, as the Thorns have won 13 of their 17 all-time meetings with Orlando, including the last three in a row by a combined score of 12-0.
Orlando City Academy Boasts Nine D-1 Athletes
The Young Lions of the Orlando City Development Academy have wrapped up their studies for the year and are on their way to penning the next chapter in their lives. Nine graduates have committed to Division 1 programs across the United States. Five of the graduates were products of the 2021 U-17 MLS NEXT Cup champion team. Another notable mention is Orlando City B forward Chase Vazquez, who came off the bench in this year’s preseason matchup against Stetson University to score a hat trick.
- You will need Google Translate, but former Pride midfielder Gunny Jonsdottir recaps her soccer journey and early times in the United States.
- LA Galaxy striker Javier “Chicharito” Hernández suffered a torn right ACL in their midweek U.S. Open Cup defeat at Real Salt Lake.
- The Columbus Crew acquired Ukrainian center back Yevhen Cheberko from Croatian top-flight side NK Osijek through the 2026 MLS season.
- LAFC penned a Homegrown contract for 16-year-old midfielder Bajung Darboe.
- The USWNT has launched its new #WeBelieve campaign to gather personal messages from the fans.
- Former Inter Miami head coach Phil Neville has made a quick turnaround to join the Canadian Men’s National Team’s coaching staff.
- United States forward Catarina Macario has joined Chelsea on a free transfer from Lyon.
- Leeds United owner Andrea Radrizzani has reached an agreement to sell his stake in the club to 49ers Enterprises.
- Al Ahli are willing to offer Riyad Mahrez a contract worth €100 million plus bonuses to leave Manchester City.
- Ben Foster has signed a new one-year contract at Wrexham AFC.
That’s all I have for you today. Have a safe two days at Exploria Stadium. Remember to hydrate and look out for your friends. It is starting to feel a lot like summer out here. Vamos Orlando!
Intelligence Report: Orlando City vs. Colorado Rapids
Familiarize yourself with the Colorado Rapids, courtesy of someone who knows them best.
Another Orlando City game is almost upon us, as the Lions look to both extend their five-match unbeaten run and pick up two wins in a row. This week sees the Colorado Rapids come to town for the first home game of June.
A match with the Rapids means I spoke to Matt Pollard, of Burgundy Wave. That’s another site that has gone independent and the folks over there are continuing to provide great coverage of the Rapids, so make sure to check them out!
What were some of the big incoming and outgoing transfers for the Rapids ahead of this season?
Matt Pollard: The three biggest incoming players in terms of expectations were Kévin Cabral, Connor Ronan, and Andreas Maxsø.
Cabral is probably the highest-risk, highest-reward signing when it comes to the Rapids going after distressed assets. So far, it hasn’t panned out. He presses well, but that’s about it. The same issues he had at LA Galaxy (getting called offside, not finishing) are present here in Colorado. The difference is, he’s the focal point instead of the third player opposing defenses worry about.
Ronan and Maxsø have been great. Ronan was brought in to play alongside Jack Price. When Price went down for the season, Ronan stepped into the No. 6 role and adjusted well. He’s tidy at the back, works hard off the ball, and is one of the better assist providers on the team. Maxsø has been good defensively in the air and good at emergency defending. The Rapids typically give up goals by making a series of small errors. Rarely is the Great Dane one of those players who makes a mistake on a goal.
It’s hard to say if there were any significant departures from last year’s team. Most fans weren’t surprised or bummed out when Gyasi Zardes signed for Austin FC. The left back position has been an issue, so maybe Lucas Esteves. But he had some attitude issues and was hot headed. Robin Fraser’s such a culture guy, he wasn’t worth the headache.
It’s been a difficult start to the season for Colorado, what has been the biggest reason for the team’s struggles?
MP: Injuries. Injuries. Injuries. Price went down for the season in his second appearance. Diego Rubio has had three separate injuries. Maxsø was under concussion protocol for two games. I’ve lost count of how many players have had hamstring issues. As I’ve written about previously for Burgundy Wave, the infrastructure at Dick’s (Sporting Goods Park) is showing its age. The team had a really bad stretch in March and April with practice fields and winter sticking around. They’ve missed key players. They’ve had limited depth. All while playing eight games in May. Hopefully a full week of training has them healthy and refocused for Saturday.
With plenty of games left to play and only sitting six points out of the play-in spots, the Rapids are far from dead and buried. What needs to happen for Colorado to turn the season around?
MP: Get healthy and get going offensively. Rubio is still their only reliable chance creator. All their goal scorers have been streaky. If Rubio comes back healthy and can give the Rapids the production he had last year (a club-record 16 goals and seven assists), that would be fantastic. Add in Cabral, Jonathan Lewis, and Braian Galván having a good finishing streak, and they could be ok. Orlando fans should be wary of Michael Barrios coming off the bench tomorrow. All 12 of his goals for the Rapids have come in the second half.
Are there any players who will be unavailable for selection due to call-ups, injuries, suspensions, etc? What is your projected starting lineup and score prediction?
MP: The injury report just came out and there are only four players on it. That’s tied for the lowest of the season! Rubio is questionable, and Fraser’s been really cautious with his key players coming back from injury. I can’t see him getting more than 20 minutes Saturday. Moïse Bombito is suspended for a harsh second yellow against San Jose, so expect Lalas Abubakar to start at center back. Price is out, as mentioned previously. Max Alves is still removed from team activities as he’s under investigation for participation in a sports gambling scheme in his native Brazil.
Marko Ilic; Danny Wilson, Andreas Maxsø, Lalas Abubakar; Sam Nicholson, Keegan Rosenberry; Connor Ronan, Bryan Acosta, Cole Bassett; Jonathan Lewis, Darren Yapi.
I think Orlando wins a tight, ugly game. Oscar Pareja knows how to poop-house the Rapids. 1-0, Facundo Torres scores. I do think we’ll see one of the better performances from the Rapids of this winless stretch for what that’s worth.
Thank you to Matt for the excellent info and helping get us up to speed on the Rapids. Vamos Orlando!
Lion Links: 6/9/23
Orlando City gets ready for the Colorado Rapids, OCB faces FC Cincinnati 2 on Sunday, U-20 World Cup final is set, and more.
How’s it going, Mane Landers? I hope this Friday finds you well as we gear up for a weekend filled to the brim with Orlando soccer. My friends are taking me out for teppanyaki and scorpion bowls tonight, so it should be a pretty nice day on my end. Hopefully your Friday goes smoothly as well. Now, let’s dive into today’s links from around the soccer world.
Orlando City Prepares for the Colorado Rapids
The Lions are on a five-game unbeaten run as they get ready for a home match tomorrow night against the Colorado Rapids. Facundo Torres scored twice in the team’s 3-0 win over the New York Red Bulls last weekend. Hopefully he can keep the momentum rolling against a Colorado team that’s allowed 25 goals this season and sits last in the league in points per game, with just two wins in 17 matches. Pedro Gallese also recorded his 26th clean sheet for Orlando in last week’s win, and could make his 100th appearance as a Lion tomorrow night. The Lions will have to keep an eye on Irish midfielder Connor Ronan, who has six assists in his first season with the Rapids.
Orlando City B Aims to Bounce Back at Home
After a 3-0 defeat to Toronto FC II in Canada this past weekend, Orlando City B will look to right the ship on Sunday at home against FC Cincinnati 2. The Young Lions are unbeaten at home this season, winning four of their six games at Osceola Heritage Park. The last time these two teams played was in August of last year, with Cincy winning in the penalty shootout following a 2-2 draw. Although he didn’t score in that match, OCB forward Jack Lynn scored three goals against Cincinnati last year and currently leads OCB with six goals this season. Sunday’s match should be a good opportunity for OCB’s offense to bounce back against a leaky Cincy defense.
USMNT Players Focused Despite Coaching Search
With European seasons over, American players who have been plying their trade abroad are back in the U.S. to prepare for the Concacaf Nations League and Gold Cup this month. The team will be coached by B.J. Callaghan in an interim capacity while the search for a head coach continues. Although not having a permanent head coach for these tournaments isn’t ideal, Nashville SC center back Walker Zimmerman spoke on how the team still knows how to get the job done.
“We’re a team that has a very strong team chemistry, strong culture within our group. And we know that for us, not much has changed right now,” said Zimmerman. “We know the same principles, style of play, expectations, accountability – all those things are the same. So I think that’s player-driven, to hold each other accountable to the standards that we’ve set over the past four years. BJ, he’s on top of it. He’s knowledgeable about what we want to do, how we’re going to go about these games.”
The roster includes many of the players who featured in the World Cup last year, but the striker position is one to watch due to the new faces involved. Folarin Balogun is with the team for the first time and it will be interesting to see how he measures up against Ricardo Pepi, Alex Zendejas, and Jesus Ferreira. We will get to see who spearheads the USMNT’s attack next Thursday, when the Yanks take on Mexico in Las Vegas.
Italy and Uruguay Reach U-20 World Cup Final
Only two teams remain in the U-20 World Cup after Italy and Uruguay each won their semifinals. Uruguay, which beat the U.S. in the quarterfinals, beat Israel 1-0, thanks to a goal in the second half from Anderson Duarte. In Italy’s semifinal against South Korea, Cesare Casadei’s terrific tournament continued as he gave Italy the lead in the 14th minute. South Korea equalized soon after with a penalty kick, but 17-year-old forward Simone Pafundi scored a nice free kick to send Italy into the final.
The final will take place on Sunday at 5 p.m., with the third-place match set for 1:30 p.m. It will be Italy’s first time playing in a U-20 World Cup final, while it will be Uruguay’s third time after losing in 1997 and 2013.
- American defender Josh Wynder is headed to Benfica. The Portuguese club signed the 18-year-old from USL Championship club Louisville City for a reported $1.2 million transfer fee, which would be a record amount for a USL player.
- FC Cincinnati and the Houston Dynamo will host in the U.S. Open Cup semifinals. Both matches will be on Aug. 23, with the Dynamo playing Real Salt Lake and Cincinnati facing Inter Miami.
- Speaking of FC Cincinnati, the club is reportedly close to signing Gabonese forward Aaron Boupendza as a Designated Player for a $7 million transfer fee. Boupendza had 11 goals in 17 appearances for Al-Shabab in the Saudi Pro League this past season.
- Brooklyn will be home to a USL League One team, which will begin playing in the 2025 season.
- Liverpool agreed to buy back its Melwood training ground with the intention of turning it into a training facility for its women’s team.
- Czech police stated that 23 West Ham and Fiorentina fans were arrested for their actions while in Prague for the Europa Conference League.
- Liverpool signed midfielder Alexis Mac Allister to a contract through 2028. The 24-year-old had 12 goals and three assists last season for Brighton.
That’s all I have for you today. Have a fantastic Friday and rest of your weekend!
Lion Links: 6/10/23
Intelligence Report: Orlando City vs. Colorado Rapids
PawedCast Episode 351: Colorado Rapids Preview, the Miami Messi Mess, and More
My First Orlando City Road Match: New York Red Bulls
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