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Orlando City vs. Atlanta United: Final Score 1-1 as Lions Concede Late Equalizer Again

The Lions are unbeaten in four games but for the second time in a row they allow a late equalizer at home.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Orlando City scored first but allowed a late tying goal for the second straight home match in a 1-1 draw against Atlanta United in front of an announced crowd of 20,127 at Exploria Stadium. Kyle Smith gave the lead to Orlando City (5-4-5, 20 points) in the first half, but a late recycled set piece allowed Tyler Wolff to tie the match in the final minutes, although the equalizer for Atlanta (6-4-5, 23 points) did not come quite as late as New york City FC’s did last week.

The late goal conceded prevented Orlando from catching the Five Stripes in the standings. Orlando is now 3-8-7 in the all-time series against Atlanta in league play and 2-5-3 at home.

“I have to say that we played well today,” a visibly frustrated Oscar Pareja said after the match. “And I want to congratulate that group of players that pushed that match and that energy. That’s the team that we want to see. The other part is the frustration on giving up another goal at the end and not walking (away) with three points at the end. But we want to see that team more often and we want to see that energy more often. We want to see that Orlando City.”

Pareja’s lineup included Pedro Gallese in goal behind a back line of Rafael Santos, Robin Jansson, Antonio Carlos, and Kyle Smith. Cesar Araujo and Wilder Cartagena played central midfield behind an attacking line of Ivan Angulo, Mauricio Pereyra, and Facundo Torres, with Ercan Kara up top.

The first 20 minutes were like a heavyweight prize fight with the teams sparring but not landing anything. The Lions were controlling the midfield by having Smith move up the field as Ruan used to do, only instead of staying wide, he often tucked inside and left space for Torres to be the wide man on the right. It helped Orlando keep the ball and overload the midfield throughout the first half.

In the early going, Orlando swung a few crosses through the area but nothing came of them.

The first Atlanta foray into Orlando’s end concluded with Smith knocking the ball out for a corner at the 20-minute mark. Four minutes later, Torres cut inside and fizzed a shot just over Brad Guzan’s crossbar.

Carlos conceded a free kick on the next Atlanta attack in the 27th minute and was booked, even though earlier Angulo was pulled back with no attempt to play the ball as he was breaking in behind and no card was given. Juan Jose Purata headed wide on the free kick. A minute later, Atlanta got a fortunate bounce off a deflection and broke in transition. Jansson cut out the final ball with a well-timed clearance.

The Lions broke through in the 30th minute. A great hustle play by Angulo got him down the left and at the edge of the box he cut the ball back to Pereyra at the top of the area. The captain sent the ball in for Kara, who slid it to Torres. El Cuervo’s stab at the ball was blocked out to the right side, where Smith swooped in and finished to make it 1-0 with his first goal of the season.

“Ivan did really well to shed his defender on the left side,” Smith said of the lead-up to his goal. “He went down the line, I believe he got a cross off. The ball was bouncing around. It bounced out perfectly for me and I just tried to keep the ball low and it went through his legs, I believe.”

“Kyle is a very smart soccer player,” Pareja said. “In the movements that we tried today, we tried to overload them in the middle with someone who is not hesitating to ask for that ball. That way we could open Facu too.”

Purata headed off frame again on a 35th-minute set piece for Atlanta. The Lions then won a few corners but nothing came of them except a blocked Wilder Cartagena shot at the top of the box.

The Lions wanted a penalty in the 40th minute as Torres played a ball in behind for Araujo. The Uruguayan raced toward the ball and would have been behind the defense on the right side but Andrew Gutman, who was marking Torres, suddenly decided to take two steps backward and block Araujo’s path, leading to a big collision in the box. Allen Chapman saw no foul there.

Kara had a chance on a long throw-in but Guzan made a good point-blank save to keep the lead at one goal in the 45th minute.

Carlos cleared a late Atlanta corner and that was it for the half.

Orlando City held slightly more possession in the opening period (51.7%-48.3%), was the more accurate passing team (86.4%-85.2%), and had more shots (6-3) and shots on target (3-0). Both teams won three corners.

The second half settled into a bit more of a choppy affair. Both teams took turns possessing but not fashioning much danger until a chance by Orlando in the 51st minute. Smith took a layoff from Torres on the right and blasted a shot that was blocked in front. The ball deflected to Pereyra, who flicked it toward goal but it was right at Guzan.

Most of the rest of the half was played between the boxes and some hopeful attacks mostly broke down without any danger. Torres was nearly played in behind by Kara in the 63rd minute but the pass was slightly behind him and ended up getting knocked away.

The Lions got an injection of life from Martin Ojeda coming into the game and he smashed a shot on goal in the 78th. That shot was headed just inside the left post but Guzan robbed him with a diving save, the way he usually does against Orlando.

The Lions were nearly in two minutes later but Ojeda’s cross was deflected by a defender and trickled just wide for a corner. Araujo’s blast from distance in the 84th was just inches over the bar.

Atlanta then struck for the equalizer off a set piece in the 86th minute. A corner kick was cleared out of the area but fired back in on goal from distance by Matheus Rossetto. Gallese made a diving save on it, but the rebound ended up with Wolff, who roofed the ball in off Smith, giving Gallese no chance to save it and making it 1-1.

“We cleared the ball and then their player got a touch and a shot off,” Smith said. “Pedro made a save and it went right to their player, and then he shot it and deflected it off me into the goal.”

Atlanta had the better of the play in the final minutes and injury time. Machop Chol had an open look from the top of the area but missed the net badly and nothing came of a late Atlanta corner. That was it and the visitors had again stolen late points in Exploria Stadium.

Despite the draw feeling like a loss because of when the last goal was scored, the Lions played well against their nemeses from the Peach State, shutting down high-scoring forwards Thiago Almada and Georgios Giakoumakis. The two combined for just one shot attempt and it wasn’t on target.

“I think the team as a whole did a lot of great work today,” Cartagena said. “I think we were stretched a bit. They tried to stretch us out, and we were able to really collect ourselves and play as a unit and defend well. We ran a lot, we pressed a lot, we were able to recover a lot of balls forward into the field, and I think we did great, and like I said, we’ve got great sensations by the way that we played the game today.”

Orlando City held slightly more possession (50.3%-49.7%), and had more corners (8-6), shots (14-11) and shots on target (6-3). Guzan’s four saves were the difference, and particularly two of them — the one on Kara on the long throw and the denial of Ojeda’s blast.

“To our fans, that support deserved much more, and we wanted to walk off not with frustration but with joy,” Pareja said. “But I’m proud of this group, seriously. I think they played well.”

“We need to take the positives away. We played well tonight,” Smith said. “We need to just keep being consistent in our performances so we can get results home and away from home.”


The Lions travel to the New York metropolitan area next to take on the New York Red Bulls next Saturday night at 7:30 p.m.

Lion Links

Lion Links: 2/20/24

The Wall sells out, Robin Jansson earns recognition, Concacaf W Gold cup preview, and more.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Happy Tuesday, everyone! We’re now just one day away from the first competitive Orlando City game of the year, and it can’t get here fast enough. As usual, we have plenty to cover this morning, so let’s jump straight into it.

The Wall Sells Out for Orlando City’s Season Opener

The Wall, the supporters section of Orlando City’s stadium, has sold out of single-match tickets ahead of Saturday’s home opener against CF Montreal. Limited tickets for the match are still available for the rest of the stadium, and hopefully it will fully sell out for the first match of the season. This Saturday will be the 10th consecutive time in which the Lions start their MLS season at home. It should be a great match and a chance for Orlando to get its season off to a good start between Concacaf Champions Cup matches against Cavalry FC.

Robin Jansson Praised as a Top Defender in MLS

Orlando City center back Robin Jansson was recognized as one of the best center backs in MLS by MLSsoccer.com‘s Joseph Lowery. The 32-year-old has been an integral part of Orlando’s defense since joining the league in 2019 and should continue anchoring the team’s back line this season. Not only is he excellent in terms of defense, but the Beefy Swede can also make an impact on offense with his passing and surprising runs up the field. Jansson is one of the most consistent defenders in the league and agreed to a new contract with the club earlier this month.

MLS Transfer News Roundup

The 2024 Major League Soccer season might kick off tomorrow, but transfers are still flying thick and fast, which means we have things to catch up on. We start with one of the teams opening the season tomorrow, Inter Miami, which has officially transferred midfielder Gregore to Botafogo in the Brazilian top flight. We move on to NYCFC, which has completed the signing of striker Jovan Mijatović from Red Star Belgrade. The 18-year-old Serbian youth international has inked a deal that runs through the 2028 season, with an option year for 2029. We finish up with the Houston Dynamo, which have signed Coco Carasquilla to a contract extension. The Panamanian midfielder’s deal now runs through the 2025 season and has option years for 2026 and 2027.

Concacaf W Gold Cup Preview

The inaugural Concacaf W Gold Cup kicks off later today, so make sure you get up to speed on everything you need to know about the competition. The United States Women’s National Team has been grouped with Argentina, the Dominican Republic, and Mexico, and will be looking for a strong showing following a disappointing campaign at last summer’s World Cup. The tournament will feature a total of 12 teams, with eight Concacaf representatives and four from CONMEBOL. The top two finishers in each of the three groups advance to the knockout round, along with the top two third-place finishers. The USWNT begin play tonight against the Dominican Republican at 10:15 p.m. from Dignity Health Sports Park.

Americans in Midweek Action

With a number of American players taking part in games during the working week, get everything marked down on your calendar so you don’t miss anything. Things get started this afternoon with a huge game, as Malik Tillman, Ricardo Pepi, Sergino Dest, and PSV Eindhoven take on Borussia Dortmund in the UEFA Champions League. European competition continues on Thursday as well, with Christian Pulisc, Yunus Musah, and AC Milan facing Rennes in the Europa League play. Things finish out on Friday as the red-hot Brandon Vazquez and Monterrey face Juarez in Liga MX competition.

Minnesota United Close to Coaching Hire

A coaching search that will surely go down as one of the most thorough in MLS history is nearing its conclusion, as Minnesota United is reportedly close to naming Manchester United assistant Eric Ramsay as the team’s new skipper. While nothing is official yet, Ramsay is said to be the leading candidate, and The Athletic‘s Tom Bogert says that the team is closing in on the hire. If he joins, Ramsay will become the youngest coach in league history at the tender age of 32, and he will also become Minnesota’s second coach following Adrian Heath’s departure in October of last year.

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That’s all I have for this morning. Vamos Orlando!

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Opinion

Orlando City’s 10th Anniversary is the Time to Remember the Club’s Originals

Orlando City’s 10th year in MLS should be used to honor the players who built the club.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC

The 2024 season is Orlando City’s 10th in Major League Soccer. The club has scheduled several events throughout the year to celebrate having been in the country’s top division for a decade, but the season should also be a time for fans to reflect on the people who made it happen without getting to experience the result.

Orlando City arrived in Orlando in 2010 with the goal of reaching MLS. However, it was the first professional soccer team in the city since the 1990s and resides in a football hotbed, leaving many to wonder if the team would be successful. The most famous doubt came at the team’s inaugural media day, when longtime WESH 2 sportscaster Pat Clake told club founder Phil Rawlins and inaugural Head Coach Adrian Heath that, while he wished them luck, a professional soccer team in Orlando would never work.

The Orlando project got off to a much better start than the Austin Aztex, Rawlins’ former project. During the team’s first season in 2011, Orlando City substantially outdrew its predecessor, proving there was an appetite for soccer. But there was another factor to the team’s popularity. The Lions won…a lot.

The success of a team at home has a significant impact on the enjoyment of attending games. In four USL Pro seasons, Orlando City was 40-3-9 (W-L-D) at the Citrus Bowl (now Camping World Stadium) and Walt Disney World’s ESPN Wide World of Sports, winning three regular season titles and two USL Pro championships. Seeing the local team win and score frequently is much more likely to result in people returning for more games. That’s exactly what the Lions did, and it helped to create a following.

When MLS considered Orlando City for expansion, the league looked at average attendance, season ticket numbers, and community involvement. All of these factors were directly related to the team’s success on the field. For this reason, the key players on those teams are responsible for Orlando City being in MLS in the first place. 

In addition to their work on the field, the players from the USL Pro era worked in the community to build a following. They spoke with local groups and were active throughout Central Florida, convincing people to attend games. It was all about the effort of getting the team into MLS. Unfortunately, many of those players didn’t get to experience the results of their labor.

The core of Orlando City’s team from 2011 to 2013 remained the same, with Miguel Gallardo in goal, Luke Boden at left back, Rob Valentino at center back, Kevin Molino and Jamie Watson in the midfield, and Dennis Chin up top. The success they had resulted in the club being announced as the newest expansion side on Nov. 19, 2013. However, of those six stalwarts, only Boden and Molino continued with the team into MLS.

Over the past 10 years, Orlando City has had several star and fan favorite players come and go. As the club’s USL Pro era gets further in the rearview mirror, the players who built the organization are forgotten or unknown by a large portion of the fanbase that didn’t experience the early seasons.

To the club’s credit, Orlando City worked to keep the memory of the team’s foundation alive in recent years. This preseason, Chin, Lewis Neal (a 2011 original who returned to the team in MLS), and Dom Dwyer (who was on loan with the team in 2013 and returned in 2017) were involved in the popular away jersey unveiling. Additionally, Chin signed autographs and took part in a Q&A session during the Society XXI preseason game against the New England Revolution. They’ve had other events, like the 2022 U.S. Open Cup games against the Tampa Bay Rowdies, when former players have been invited back.

Additionally, the club raised banners last year for the 2011 and 2013 USL Pro championships and announced this year that it will display the trophies in a new permanent exhibit called “The Vault.” The club also released an updated version of the three-lion USL Pro logo from those first four seasons.

When people consider the factors that resulted in Orlando City joining MLS in 2015, the fan support during the USL Pro years is the first thing that comes to mind. But without the success of those teams and the work the players put into building the following, the club likely never would’ve made it to the top division. This 10th anniversary season is a good time to remember those club legends.

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Lion Links

Lion Links: 2/19/24

Orlando City wins preseason finale, post-match concert artists named, U.S. Open Cup in jeopardy, and more.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Merry Monday morning, Mane Landers. We’re about to get to see Orlando City play matches in both the MLS regular season and the Concacaf Champions Cup. Cavalry FC is up first on Wednesday and CF Montreal on Saturday. That’s a whole lot of Canada to start things off, eh? Before we get to the links, please join us in wishing a happy birthday to Orlando Pride star Marta, who turns 38 today.

Orlando City Defeats the Rapids in Preseason Finale

The Lions won their final preseason match against the Colorado Rapids 3-2 at Inter&Co Stadium on Saturday. Kyle Smith got the scoring going mere seconds into the match and Facundo Torres doubled the lead on a penalty kick before the end of the first half. The Rapids tied it up in the second half, but Orlando City rookie Jeorgio Kocevski scored a late winner in stoppage time to keep the Lions unbeaten in the preseason. Orlando ended the preseason schedule with a record of 4-0-1.

Orlando Postgame Concert Announced

As I get older, I see each decade get its time in the nostalgic spotlight. Evidently, it is the 1990s’ turn. Orlando City announced a concert that will follow the Austin FC match at Inter&Co Stadium on March 23. You didn’t ask for it — and neither did anyone else — but Vanilla Ice, Rob Base, and Montell Jordan are headlining an “I Love the 90s” post-match concert. I’m not entirely certain if everyone will be required to stop, collaborate, and listen, but it’s certainly a possibility.

PRO Referee Strike Looms

Normally, if I told you that Orlando City didn’t have to worry about the Professional Referees Organization (PRO), I’m willing to bet you’d be pretty happy. Now it’s a real possibility that the Lions’ first match will likely have stand-in referees. The Professional Soccer Referees Association rejected a new collective bargaining agreement with PRO, meaning that there will be a lockout. PRO has identified “qualified replacements” ready to make sure that matches will be able to be played.

Open Cup in Jeopardy

The start of the 2024 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup is only a month away, although that isn’t a certainty. U.S. Soccer and MLS are still not seeing eye to eye regarding how many of the senior squads will participate. On the other side of the equation, the USL is pushing back against the demands from MLS.

Ultimately, this is a power struggle between the upper levels of organized soccer in this country. If a compromise solution can’t be found, it could mean that the Open Cup won’t take place this year. If that happens, it won’t help any of the involved parties and it will be devastating to the supporters of all the clubs at every level.

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  • Thanks to Zakaria Taifi’s mother, Alyssa Taifi, we know that Orlando City B defeated Philadelphia Union II by a score of 4-0 in a preseason scrimmage, and that there was some chippiness in the match.
  • Inter Miami is under pressure to get roster compliant. As such, Federico Redondo will not be joining the Herons due to Miami’s inability to bring him in because of MLS regulations regarding payment methodology.
  • Inter Miami midfielder Victor Ulloa announced he is retiring, which will also help Miami’s roster cap problems.

That will do it for today. Check back for our coverage of Orlando City’s two matches this week. Vamos Orlando!

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