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Revisiting My Orlando City Preseason Takes

Just how accurate were some of my preseason predictions?

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Dan MacDonald, The Mane Land

It seems like the first half of the season flew by as Major League Soccer and Orlando City now race headfirst into the dog days of summer. I figured that now was as good a time as could be to revisit some of my personal hot takes and preseason predications that I conjured up all the way back in February to see just how close to clairvoyant I truly am. If you need a quick refresher on my predictions, as well as those from the rest of the staff here at The Mane Land, feel free to check out the roundtable.

What part of Orlando City gives you the most confidence entering the new season?

I made the bold prediction that bringing back and re-signing goaltender Pedro Gallese in the off-season instilled in me the most confidence as we entered into the 2023 season. In terms of accuracy regarding my prediction…spot on! The Peruvian No. 1 and OCSC statistical leader currently is tied for sixth in MLS for total clean sheets on the season, with six, has 44 saves on 60 shots faced — for an effective 73.3 save percentage, which ranks in the upper tier of keepers — and continues to dominate highlight reels with electrifying saves like this one that came within the first minute of play last week at Seattle.

It is clear that as Orlando continues to find chemistry in the field of play, the coaching staff and fans should have no questions regarding El Pulpo in net and the opportunity he gives the squad to be competitive match in and match out.

What is your biggest concern with Orlando City entering 2023?

I would have to rate my prediction regarding my biggest concern as fairly accurate. I said that my biggest concern would be with center back depth. We have seen various scenarios play out throughout the first half of the season where the heart of the defense has been stretched thin due to injury, schedule congestion, and yellow card accumulations. It started with Antonio Carlos missing several matches in a row to start the season. The simple fix was to plug Rodrigo Schlegel into the starting XI next to Robin Jansson, which is fine enough in theory until the need for additional depth creeps in. Luckily, Jansson has done well to stay healthy so far this season after missing the end of 2022 with a foot injury. And, like Jansson, Schlegel has also been available for the entirety of the season. Carlos has missed one match due to yellow card accumulation. Things appear to have calmed down for the back line and the lineup is more predictable, but the beginning of the season should still serve as warning that OCSC is just one injury or card away from feeling very thin on the back line.

Which new player are you most excited about seeing this year?

While newcomer and MLS SuperDraft Pick Duncan McGuire has taken the season by storm and is undoubtedly the most exciting new player throughout the first half of the season, I still stand by my pick. I chose new Designated Player Martin Ojeda as the new Lion whom I was most excited to see take the field. An up-and-down first half of the season has seen Ojeda move to more of a supersub role (a role which I am all in on right now) as he finds his place and builds chemistry with players on the team. My honest assessment of his season so far is that he is playing sped up and needs to just take a big deep breath. The talent and ability are there, but too often Ojeda has sent his shot screaming into the stratosphere or trying to do to much to impact a moment.

Which 2022 newcomer will make the biggest leap in 2023?

Me and fellow staff writer Ben both predicted that Cesar Araujo would make the biggest jump this year out of the players who joined the team during the last campaign. I took my prediction one step further and believed Araujo would find himself named to the MLS All-Star Game as a defensive midfielder. A big swing and a miss…while Araujo has been solid on the season and does so many things that don’t show up on the final stat sheet, his game currently feels more or less like a copy and paste job from the year prior. There is still a lot of season left for Araujo to sprinkle in some new pieces of his game as he continues to grow in MLS, but I don’t think at this point that he has made the biggest leap from the 2022 newcomers.

What position in the Eastern Conference will the Lions occupy at season’s end?

The season is still way too young to see if I will hit the mark on my prediction that Orlando City will finish the season in fourth place. To say that the majority of the Eastern Conference is clustered together would be the understatement of the season so far, as only six points separate Orlando City from the fourth-place Philadelphia Union. However, only five points separate Orlando City from the 12th-place Chicago Fire. The margin for error over the last 15 games of the season feels razor thin at this point. Draw or drop a game you are supposed to win and you could find yourself completely out of the playoff picture.


I would have to give myself a B+ for those predictions thus far, but there are so many matches still yet to play out. Let me know in the comments below, how you felt that I did with my preseason thoughts and if you have any new hot takes for the second half of the season.

Lion Links

Lion Links: 7/18/24

Orlando City beats Nashville SC, Ally Watt signs new contract, Mauricio Pochettino linked with USMNT job, and more.

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Image courtesy of Orlando Pride / Jeremy Reper

An Orlando City midweek win makes this Thursday morning feel a bit more like a Friday. It’s been a pretty busy week for me as I get all my ducks in a row before a weekend trip to Maine. But for now, let’s get this morning started off on the right foot with today’s links from around the soccer world.

Orlando City Wins Fourth Straight

The Lions went on the road and claimed all three points in a 3-0 victory against Nashville SC. Orlando took care of business against a Nashville team that struggled on both sides of the ball. The offense has also continued to enjoy its renaissance this summer, and Orlando’s goal differential is now a positive number. The Lions have won their past four games, only conceding two goals during that stretch. There’s not much time to celebrate though, as they will host New York City FC on Saturday.

Ally Watt Signs New Orlando Pride Contract

Forward Ally Watt is the latest player to sign a new deal with the Orlando Pride. She’s agreed to a new contract through the 2025 season, with an option for 2026 as well. Watt has been a versatile part of Orlando’s attack this year and has two goals and an assist to her name so far. Her speed is a lethal weapon, no matter if it’s when starting up top alongside Barbra Banda or providing fresher legs as a substitute. The Orlando Pride have been taking care of business during this break in the NWSL season, also signing Bri Martinez, Summer Yates, Cori Dyke, and Viviana Villacorta to new deals.

Mauricio Pochettino Linked With USMNT Coaching Job

Another interesting name has been thrown into the mix for the United States Men’s National Team’s head coaching gig. Mauricio Pochettino, who left Chelsea in May after just one season, is reportedly a candidate for the job. He’s had success at the club level with Tottenham Hotspur and Paris Saint-Germain, but he does not yet have experience coaching at the international level. If he does become the next USMNT coach, I’d be interested to see how well he can elevate the U.S. attack. His past teams have featured plenty of pressing and attacking, but he’s also been fortunate to coach the likes of Kylian Mbappe, Harry Kane, and Neymar.

New Owners Claim Majority Stake in Angel City FC

Willow Bay and Bob Iger have bought a majority stake in Angel City FC at a $250 million valuation, making the NWSL club the most valuable women’s sports team in the world. Iger is the CEO of the Walt Disney Company and Bay is the dean at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. Bay will have full control of the club’s board of directors and she’ll represent the club on the league’s board of governors. This valuation is a testament to how much the NWSL and women’s soccer as a whole has grown in recent years.

Free Kicks

  • Cucho Hernandez won MLS Goal of the Matchday for his weekend strike from distance in the Columbus Crew’s 5-1 win over LAFC. Orlando’s Facundo Torres finished last in the voting, despite his nice goal against the New England Revolution.
  • Cavan Sullivan became the youngest player to make his MLS debut after coming on late in the Philadelphia Union’s 5-1 win against the Revolution. The midfielder is 14 years old and broke the the record set by Freddy Adu by 13 days.
  • The LA Galaxy is reportedly close to signing German attacker Marco Reus as a free agent. Reus and LAFC’s Olivier Giroud joining the league during the same summer makes me glad that rivalry is in the Western Conference.
  • American forward Alex Zendejas will miss some time after suffering a calf injury in Club America’s match on Friday.
  • Germany will be without one of its best players for the upcoming Olympics, as midfielder Lena Oberdorf will miss out due to a knee injury. It makes things a bit more difficult for Germany in a group that also includes the U.S., Zambia, and Australia.
  • Mexico is on the hunt for its next head coach after firing Jaime Lozano following a disappointing Copa America campaign.
  • There were reports that English defender Lucy Bronze was eyeing a move to the NWSL, but she will be staying in Europe for a while longer after signing a two-year deal with Chelsea.

That’s all I have for you this time around. I hope you all have a wonderful Thursday and rest of your week!

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Orlando City vs. Nashville SC: Final Score 3-0 as Lions’ Offense Continues to Roar

The Lions climbed to .500 on the season with their fourth consecutive victory and picked up their fourth straight shutout win over Nashville.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Orlando City scored two first-half goals on set pieces and added an insurance goal late, beating Nashville SC 3-0 at Geodis Park in Nashville, TN. Cesar Araujo and Ramiro Enrique scored for the Lions (9-9-6, 33 points), who also got an own goal off Alex Muyl’s face in the first half, as Orlando won its fourth straight match overall and its fourth consecutive game — all via shutout — against Nashville SC (6-10-8, 26 points).

The Lions improved to 6-4-3 on the road this season, remain unbeaten on the road against Nashville in the regular season (2-0-3), and also kept their second clean sheet in three matches.

“We are really happy indeed with the results, but most importantly with the seriousness of the team, the discipline, the responsibility that the boys have had in bouncing back from those difficult moments,” Orlando City Head Coach Oscar Pareja said after the match. “I thought we played a very serious game.”

Pareja made just one change from the starting lineup that beat the New England Revolution on Saturday. Pedro Gallese started in goal behind a back line of Rafael Santos — replacing Kyle Smith at left back — Robin Jansson, Rodrigo Schlegel, and Dagur Dan Thorhallsson. The central midfield pairing of Araujo and Wilder Cartagena lined up behind an attacking midfield line of Ivan Angulo, Martin Ojeda, and Facundo Torres, with Enrique up top.

The opening moments were sloppy for both teams, but Nashville handled it better, getting a couple of early shots away. Helping the hosts out a bit with that was Santos’ two early turnovers. Araujo blocked Teal Bunbury’s effort in the third minute and Hany Mukhtar sent a blast right at Gallese from outside the box a minute later.

Orlando’s first promising attack came in the 11th minute, with Ojeda finding Torres in the box. The Uruguayan got onto it but got under it and sent it over the bar. Five minutes later, Thorhallsson sent a good ball across the field outside the box for Cartagena to run onto, however, the Peruvian got well under his effort and sent it high into the stands.

The Lions found the opener on a set piece won when Alex Muyl pulled back Enrique on a promising attack and the Nashville winger picked up a yellow card. Ojeda delivered a great ball to the back post, where both Teal Bunbury and Sean Davis expected the other to track Araujo’s run. Neither did, and Araujo headed the ball down and past Joe Willis to score his first goal of the season in the 19th minute.

“It’s always great to be able to score, but when you go into a game, the first thing you want is to help your team win in any way possible,” Araujo said. “With Martin, I knew very clearly the type of touch that he has, especially when he hits the ball like that. So, I just ran to the area that they always ask me to run to, and when I saw the ball coming to me, I just tried to get my head to it, and thankfully it went in.”

Following the goal, Nashville had a spell of attacking pressure, winning a few set pieces. The hosts should perhaps have leveled the game when Jack Maher was left unmarked on a pick play during a corner kick cross. The big defender had a free header but sent it wide to the left of goal in the 25th minute.

Angulo showed off his wheels in the 29th minute, blazing past defender Josh Bauer down the left channel Bauer reached out and grabbed him, picking up a yellow card, but this time Nashville was able to clear Ojeda’s service.

Ojeda made a great move in the corner to discard Shaq Moore in the 31st minute before crossing the ball into the box for Torres. The Uruguayan got his shot on target but couldn’t get much on it and Willis was able to save it.

Orlando doubled the lead in the 40th minute. Ojeda did well to shield the ball and win a free kick on the left. The Argentine then sent in a beautiful cross for Torres. Before it could reach Torres, the ball hit off the head of Maher, bounced off the face of Muyl, and ricocheted past Willis to make it 2-0. Own goal or not, it was Ojeda’s cross that created problems for Nashville.

“What’s happening with Martin now is that he’s performing with consistency,” Pareja said. “And the dedication that he has for his work and for his team is bringing those results. I have to recognize that Martin has helped us a lot in this part of the season that we needed to bounce back, and he has been a protagonist.”

The goal was a historic one for Orlando City, as it gave the club a seventh consecutive match scoring multiple goals — the longest such streak in club history. Orlando City has scored an incredible 21 goals in its last seven matches, averaging three per game since starting the multi-goal-game streak at Charlotte June 19.

Neither side got a clear-cut look for the rest of the opening period, and the Lions took their two-goal advantage to the lockerroom.

The Lions held the advantage at the break in possession (52.6%-47.4%), passing accuracy (87.4%-86.2%), and shots on target (2-1). Nashville won more corners (3-0), and both teams attempted four shots in the half.

The teams played a disjointed first 15 minutes of the second half. Orlando City looked to be intentional in its attack with the lead on the road, waiting for counterattacking opportunities. At the least sign of resistance, the Lions recycled the ball backward and probed for a cleaner opportunity. However, Orlando did well during that spell to limit Nashville’s attack as well. Neither side was able to register a shot.

Shortly after the hour mark, both teams got chances. Bunbury sent a volley attempt over the bar on a Nashville long throw in the 67th minute. Moments later, Angulo won a ball and sent in Torres on the right but Willis was able to smother his shot in the 69th.

Each team got another chance in the 72nd minute. Off a corner kick, the Lions cleared the ball to the top of the box. Amar Sejdic got to it and fired a shot between Schlegel’s legs, but Gallese caught it and ignited the break with a long outlet to Angulo. The Colombian found second-half sub Nico Lodeiro breaking but again Willis got big and couldn’t be beaten.

Enrique sealed the deal in the 81st minute. Angulo did well to get forward and played a ball for Muriel at the top of the area. Muriel’s shot was blocked by the defense, but Angulo picked up the rebound and poked it through traffic to Enrique on the right. The Argentine smoked a shot past Willis, off the bottom of the crossbar, and in from a tight angle to make it 3-0. It was the third straight match with a goal for Enrique.

“Enrique had a very rocky season so far, because first he got hurt. He had some physical problems with injuries. After that he had to go and receive his green card and it took a little bit of a time longer than we wanted,” Pareja said. “But his attitutde in the training ground and, similar to Martin (Ojeda), his dedication to the group is fantastic. So, I’m so happy to finally see the player that we brought here —the player that has instincts to score goals, but the player that is working for his teammates all the time. And that’s the characteristic of our team. That’s the culture that we had seen in this club, and he’s representing it well.”

Bunbury did well to take in a hot cross from Shaq Moore in the 86th minute, held off Jansson, and fired a shot, but it was off line and hit teammate Mukhtar.

It was a quiet night for Mukhtar, who managed only two shot attempts, putting one on frame, but he failed to threaten goal as he has done against Orlando so often prior to the Lions’ current four-game streak in the series.

“We know that Hany Mukhtar is a great player. He’s certainly one of the best players in the league, and we know how dangerous he can be,” Araujo said. “So, whenever we go to play him, we know that between Wilder and myself, one of us always has to be on him when they have the ball. And if it’s me, then I know Wilder is behind me, ready to take him. If Wilder’s there, I’m ready, moving into position to help defend. If he’s able to get by both of us, we know the defense is ready to step in and cut the ball away from him and really take him out of the game as much as possible.”

Defensive substitutions Jeorgio Kocevski and David Brekalo came on to help Orlando City see out the match.

Nashville had more misfortune than the loss, as second-half substitutions Dru Yearwood and Tyler Boyd each had to leave the game with injuries in the second half. Boyd was stretchered off in stoppage time and Nashville was out of subs. The hosts had to finish the match with 10 men.

It appeared that Forster Ajago pulled one back late in stoppage time, but he was clearly offside. The flag came up immediately after the ball went in and it was confirmed on review by the video assistant referee. That was about the last action of the match and the Lions had their fourth consecutive victory and fifth in six games.

Nashville turned around the possession advantage by the end of the game (50.3%-49.7%) as the hosts were chasing the match throughout the second period. The hosts also had more corners (6-1). Orlando City finished with more shots (9-8) and shots on target (5-2). Both teams passed at the same 85.5% success rate.

“We knew we had to come into this game continuing to put the work in and continuing to elevate the level that we have been playing,” Araujo said. “We started off the game really well, and we continue to raise the level of what we had been, and this team has never stopped working hard, even when the results weren’t falling for us. We continue to work hard and really just continue to push as one group.”


The Lions have another short week as they return home to host New York City FC on Saturday.

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Orlando City vs. Nashville SC: Preview, How to Watch, TV Info, Live Stream, Lineups, Match Thread, and More

The Lions close out a two-game road trip with a visit to Tennessee.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Welcome to your match thread for a Wednesday night matchup between Orlando City (8-9-6, 30 points) and Nashville SC (6-9-8, 26 points) at Geodis Park in Nashville, TN (8:30 p.m., FS1, free on Apple TV+). It’s the first of two scheduled meetings between the teams this season, with Nashville set to make the return trip to Orlando on Aug. 31.

Here’s what you need to know ahead of the match.

History

The Lions are 2-2-4 against Nashville in MLS regular-season matches and 4-3-5 in all competitions. Orlando is 1-0-3 on the road in the series in league play and 2-1-3 away in all competitions.

Orlando City last met Nashville SC at Geodis Park on Nov. 7, 2023 in the second game of a best-of-three, first-round playoff series. The Lions got an early goal from Ivan Angulo in a 1-0 win to sweep the series. Orlando City drew first blood in the series by beating Nashville 1-0 on Oct. 30, 2023 at Exploria Stadium. Wilder Cartagena’s blast from outside the area hit the underside of the crossbar near the right corner and bounced in for the game’s only score.

The teams last met in the regular season on Oct. 4, 2023 with Orlando City stealing a 1-0 win in Music City on Duncan McGuire’s goal just before halftime. That was one of only two shot attempts by the Lions all night and the only one on target. Orlando played well defensively and Pedro Gallese didn’t have to make a save as the hosts didn’t put any shots on frame.

Nashville visited Orlando back on April 1 of last year at Exploria Stadium and it was the visitors who made fools of the Lions, as Nashville won, 2-0. Fafa Picault and Hany Mukhtar did the damage for Nashville.

The teams did not face each other in regular-season play the year before, meeting only in the U.S. Open Cup in Orlando on June 29, 2022. Mukhtar scored in the second half, and that looked like it would be enough until Rodrigo Schlegel equalized deep in stoppage time. After a scoreless 30 minutes of extra time, the Lions won the ensuing penalty shootout, 6-4.

These sides met in the 2021 postseason in Tennessee, with Orlando scoring first through Daryl Dike’s early goal, but Nashville won 3-1 on Nov. 23, 2021 to knock the Lions out of the playoffs. Mukhtar tied it up before halftime on a fluky deflected goal off of Antonio Carlos and then put his team up in the 74th minute on a counterattack. Jhonder Cadiz put things away deep in stoppage time.

The teams met in Orlando on Oct. 31, 2021 and ended in a 1-1 draw after referee Allen Chapman’s Halloween Heist chalked off Andres Perea’s apparent stoppage-time winner. The referee’s excuse for overturning the goal was an imagined foul on Dike, who, if anything, was the fouled party. The decision cost the Lions a valuable home playoff match, which instead sent Orlando to Nashville. Mukhtar scored for Nashville to equalize in the second half after Dike’s first-half goal.

The teams met in Nashville on Sept. 29, 2021 with a late rally by the Lions earning the team a 2-2 road draw at Nissan Stadium. The hosts had taken a 2-0 lead on goals by Mukhtar — scoring off the rebound of his own saved penalty — and Randall Leal, but a penalty by Dike and a stoppage-time own goal by Brian Anunga turned the game around. On Aug. 18 of that season, the teams finished in another 1-1 draw. C.J. Sapong put the hosts ahead in the first half and Carlos leveled the score in the second half. The Lions, who played poorly in the opening 45, were the better team throughout the second half and Tesho Akindele’s shot off the crossbar was inches from providing a winner for Orlando.

The teams met on Decision Day of 2020 at Exploria Stadium, with Orlando melting down late, allowing two goals from the 88th minute on, and falling 3-2 at home on Nov. 8, 2020 — the team’s only home loss on the season. Dike and Nani goals sandwiched a strike by Daniel Lovitz, giving the Lions a lead until late. Headers by Mukhtar (in the 88th minute) and Cadiz (in the 93rd minute) turned the game on its head.

In the Lions’ first trip to Nissan Stadium, the teams played to a 1-1 draw on Sept. 2, 2020. Benji Michel put the Lions ahead with a stunner of a goal, but Leal knotted things up and that’s the way the match ended.

That 1-1 draw came a week after a 3-1 Orlando City win on Aug. 26 at Exploria Stadium. Dave Romney had opened the scoring for Nashville with a header off a free kick but Orlando scored the last three. Dike took a star turn for Orlando City, scoring a brace, and Chris Mueller also scored for the Lions.

Overview

The Lions are coming off a 3-1 win Saturday at New England. That was Orlando City’s first win over the Revolution at Gillette Stadium in club history. Facundo Torres’ brace put him on the MLS Team of the Matchday and gave him four goal contributions in his last five matches. Ramiro Enrique also scored, filling in for McGuire, who is away with the U.S. Olympic team. The Lions have won three straight games and four of their last five, and have a 5-4-3 road record on the season.

Tonight’s hosts are coming off a 2-1 away loss to D.C. United. Nashville is 4-3-5 at home, but has lost its last four games, but the three most recent losses have come on the road. The last home match was a 2-1 loss to Inter Miami. Mukhtar leads Nashville in goal contributions with 12 (five goals, seven assists), and has four goals and five assists against the Lions in his career. You should never bet your house on anything, but if you did, betting on Mukhtar to have a goal contribution against the Lions seems a near certainty. Meanwhile, forward Sam Surridge paces the Tennessee side with eight goals in 2024.

As it usually is, this matchup should be a tightly contested battle to the end.

“Every game has its own context, whether we have memory of, or feelings of, what happened in the prior games. In this case, with Nashville SC, we have had good experiences, and last year, we succeeded on the things that we wanted and our gameplan,” Orlando City Head Coach Oscar Pareja said ahead of the match. “But we always say that every game brings different challenges and different things that we need to prepare (for), because the game is dynamic, it moves, and they have changed their coach. All those things add up in preparation, but most important is that we can continue our line of improvement. That’s what we’re focusing on now.”

In addition to McGuire, Orlando City will be without Michael Halliday (knee) and Mason Stajduhar (lower leg). Nashville will be without Walker Zimmerman (Olympic duty), Julian Gaines (ankle), Anibal Godoy (lower body), Randall Leal (hip), and Lukas McNaughton (ankle), while Surridge (ankle) is listed as questionable.

Match Content


Official Lineups:

Orlando City (4-2-3-1)

Goalkeeper: Pedro Gallese.

Defenders: Rafael Santos, Robin Jansson, Rodrigo Schlegel, Dagur Dan Thorhallsson.

Defensive Midfielders: Wilder Cartagena, Cesar Araujo.

Attacking Midfielders: Ivan Angulo, Martin Ojeda, Facundo Torres.

Forward: Ramiro Enrique.

Bench: Javier Otero, Kyle Smith, Alex Freeman, David Brekalo, Felipe, Jeorgio Kocevski, Nico Lodeiro, Luis Muriel, Jack Lynn.

Nashville SC (4-2-3-1)

Goalkeeper: Joe Willis.

Defenders: Daniel Lovitz, Jack Maher, Josh Bauer, Shaq Moore.

Defensive Midfielders: Sean Davis, Brian Anunga.

Attacking Midfielders: Jacob Shaffelburg, Hany Mukhtar, Alex Muyl.

Forward: Teal Bunbury.

Bench: Elliot Panicco, Brent Kallman, Taylor Washington, Dru Yearwood, Amar Sejdic, Tyler Boyd, Joseph Skinner, Isaiah Jones, Forster Ajago.

Referees

REF: Pierre-Luc Lauziere.
AR1: Jeffrey Greeson.
AR2: Ben Pilgrim.
4TH: Matt Thompson.
VAR: Edvin Jurisevic.
AVAR: Jozef Batko.


How to Watch

Match Time: 8:30 p.m.

Venue: Geodis Park — Nashville, TN.

TV/Streaming: FS1, MLS Season Pass on Apple TV+ (free).

Radio: FM 96.9 The Game (English), Mega 97.1 FM (Spanish).

Twitter: For rapid reaction and live updates, follow along at @TheManeLand, as well as Orlando City’s official Twitter feed (@OrlandoCitySC).


Enjoy the game. Go City!

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