Welcome to your match thread for a Friday night Leagues Cup matchup between Orlando City (10-6-7, 37 points in MLS play, 0-0-0 in Leagues Cup) and the Houston Dynamo (8-10-5, 29 points, 0-0-0 in Leagues Cup) at Exploria Stadium. It’s the only meeting scheduled for 2023 in this cross-conference series, as the teams are not slated to meet during the MLS regular season.
Here’s what you need to know ahead of the match.
Orlando City is 2-2-2 in the all-time series (1-0-2 at home). The last time these teams met was on June 18, 2022 at Exploria Stadium with Orlando City winning 2-1 on an Ercan Kara brace. One of the goals deflected in off of him, but that still counts. Sebastian Ferreira got Houston on the board but the visitors could not complete the comeback. It was Orlando’s first win in the series since the Lions’ first ever road game back in early 2015 provided the first MLS victory for the club.
Due to the quirky scheduling since the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the previous meeting between the teams took place on Sept. 21, 2019 in Houston, with the Dynamo winning, 2-1. Dwyer struck just six minutes in, but goals three minutes apart by Alberth Elis and Christian Ramirez in the 70th and 73rd minutes, respectively, turned that match around.
The teams met in Orlando on Sept. 22, 2018, with the match ending in a 0-0 draw. That was a memorable match for current Orlando City goalkeeper Adam Grinwis, who made his MLS debut that night.
The Lions went to BBVA Stadium in 2017 and were wiped off the field, 4-0. A leggy Orlando team flew directly to Houston from Toronto after a hard-fought game against the Reds and saw the rested Dynamo’s speed on full display. Elis, Mauro Manotas (twice), and Romell Quioto provided the goals and it honestly could have been worse.
The 2016 match in Orlando was another 0-0 draw, in what was a pretty forgettable game under Bobby Murphy, who was serving his first stint as Orlando City’s interim coach following the firing of Adrian Heath.
In the first meeting, back in 2015, the Lions went to Texas and came home with a 1-0 victory in Houston. Goalkeeper Tyler Deric — under extreme pressure from Pedro Ribeiro — punched the ball into the back of his own net for the only goal of the match. That was Orlando City’s historic, first MLS victory.
Tonight’s match kicks off play in the South 2 group of Leagues Cup (for more information on this competition, read our explainer). The group consists of Orlando City, Houston, and Liga MX side Santos Laguna. The teams will play each other in a round robin schedule and the top two teams will advance to the knockout rounds.
Orlando City is coming off a 2-1 road win at Atlanta United on Saturday, with Antonio Carlos and Duncan McGuire erasing a 1-0 deficit provided by Caleb Wiley. The Lions are 6-2-5 in their last 13 matches and 5-3-4 in home games in MLS play (5-3-5 in all competitions).
Houston is winless in its last five games (0-3-2) after last weekend’s 0-0 road draw at the Colorado Rapids. The Dynamo are 1-8-3 on the road in MLS play but did win at Tampa Bay in the U.S. Open Cup. Houston has advanced to the semifinals in that competition, so the Dynamo have figured out how to win non-league games. In fact, Houston has outscored its last two U.S. Open Cup opponents — Minnesota United and the Chicago Fire — 8-1.
The Dynamo attack is orchestrated by Designated Player and Mexican international Hector Herrera, who has posted three goals and nine assists on the season. That means he’s contributed to nearly half of Houston’s 26 goals this season. Eight of those 26 have been scored by French attacker Amine Bassi. Former LAFC and Real Salt Lake attacker Corey Baird is also a threat, figuring in six of his team’s goals this year (three goals, three assists).
“The importance of the [Leagues Cup] tournament is big for us,” Orlando City Head Coach Oscar Pareja said. “It’s a tournament that we are going to face with a lot of responsibility and the understanding that it offers an opportunity to get back into an international competition. Orlando wants to be on the map of contenders in the region that can fight for trophies. It’s important for the players to respect a tournament that is the first of its class in America. It represents a rivalry that’s already big enough with Mexico. These details make us think that we have to be on with full cylinders and like always, to win games and qualifications for the Concacaf Champions Cup.”
Orlando City will be without Gaston Gonzalez (thigh) and Michael Halliday (thigh). Newly signed midfielder Junior Urso is on the club’s roster for Leagues Cup and will be available if his P-1 Visa and International Transfer Certificate have arrived. Houston will not have Tate Schmitt (knee), Ifunanyachi Achara (knee), and Teenage Hadebe (leg).
Mandatory Match Content
- Our Intelligence Report provides more insight about the Dynamo with the help of Dustyn Richardson from Houston site Bayou City Soccer.
- The latest episode of The Mane Land PawedCast includes our key matchups and score predictions, as well as our exclusive interview with Orlando City Technical Director and Assistant General Manager Ricardo Moreira.
- Our David Rohe outlined his three keys to victory for Orlando City in tonight’s game.
Orlando City (4-2-3-1)
Goalkeeper: Pedro Gallese
Defenders: Rafael Santos, Robin Jansson, Antonio Carlos, Kyle Smith.
Defensive Midfielders: Cesar Araujo, Wilder Cartagena.
Attacking Midfielders: Ivan Angulo, Martin Ojeda, Facundo Torres.
Forward: Duncan McGuire.
Substitutes: Mason Stajduhar, Javier Otero, Luca Petrasso, Rodrigo Schlegel, Abdi Salim, Thomas Williams, Dagur Dan Thorhallsson, Juninho, Felipe, Favian Loyola, Ramiro Enrique, Ercan Kara.
Houston Dynamo (4-3-3)
Goalkeeper: Andrew Tarbell.
Defenders: Griffin Dorsey, Erik Sviatchenko, Micael, Franco Escobar.
Midfielders: Amine Bassi, Luis Caicedo, Artur.
Forwards: Nelson Quinones, Aliyu Ibrahim, Corey Baird.
Substitutes: Steve Clark, Xavier Valdez, Ethan Bartlow, Mujeeb Murana, Brad Smith, Charles Auguste, Brooklyn Raines, Adalberto Carrasquilla, Ivan Franco, Hector Herrera, Sebastian Ferreira, Thor Ulfarsson.
REF: Filip Dujic.
AR1: Ryan Graves.
AR2: Kevin Lock.
4TH: Kimbell Ward.
VAR: Oscar Macias Romo.
How to Watch
Match Time: 8 p.m.
Venue: Exploria Stadium — Orlando.
TV/Streaming: MLS Season Pass on Apple TV+.
Radio: FM 96.9 The Game (English), Accion 97.9 FM (Spanish), 810 AM.
Enjoy the match. Go City!
2023 Orlando City Season in Review: Abdi Salim
We continue our Orlando City player retrospectives with a look at one of the Lions’ 2023 draft picks.
Orlando City used its third pick of the 2023 MLS SuperDraft to select Abdi Salim with the 17th overall pick. Salim played his college soccer at Syracuse and the Lions picked up the center back to help with depth at a position that didn’t really have a ton of established bodies behind Antonio Carlos, Robin Jansson, and Rodrigo Schlegel. He was then signed to a one-year deal in February that contained three option years for the 2024, 2025, and 2026 seasons.
Let’s have a look at Salim’s first season as a professional.
Salim made his Major League Soccer debut at home against FC Cincinnati on March 4. It was Salim’s only start of the year and he went the full 90 minutes as the Lions drew 0-0 against the eventual Supporters’ Shield winners. He made two other appearances in away games against D.C. United and Charlotte FC, both of which ended as 1-1 draws as he finished with 148 MLS minutes on the year.
Defensively he recorded four tackles, four interceptions, three clearances, a block, and won two aerial duels. He did not record any offensive statistics, but was solid with his distribution as he averaged 87.3% passing accuracy and completed one cross and one long ball each.
Given that it was only his first season as a professional, he spent the bulk of his time in MLS NEXT Pro with Orlando City B. With the Young Lions he played in 16 matches, starting 14 of them and racking up 1,162 minutes. He finished with 11 interceptions and a tackle while committing seven fouls and drawing 11 and picking up one yellow card. Salim took nine shots, put two of them on target, and scored a goal on each one he got on frame. He passed very well, finishing with a 90.2% success rate, two key passes, and 18 long balls.
The honor of his best game goes to his first ever professional appearance, when he started and played the whole game in the aforementioned 0-0 draw against FC Cincinnati. Salim finished with three tackles, three clearances, and an interception while passing with 87% accuracy, completing a long ball on his only attempt, and helping the Lions keep a clean sheet at home. He was a bit shaky at first, as he was deployed as the third center back in a three-man back line, but he settled down in the second half and finished with a grade of 5.5 out of 10 from Nic Josey.
2023 Final Grade
Given that Salim didn’t crack 200 minutes and we require a minimum of 450 to award a grade for the season, he receives an incomplete for the 2023 season. He did some good things when down with Orlando City B, and filled in well enough with the senior side when called upon, but we simply need to see more of him in order to figure out what he’s really able to do.
It’s likely that Salim will spend more time with Orlando City B next season, but with no one seemingly laying claim to the fourth center back position, he should have a chance to show what he’s capable of during preseason. He seemed to be in competition with Thomas Williams for the back up spot not occupied by Rodrigo Schlegel, but he may have moved past him in the pecking order as he made more appearances than the Homegrown signing, both with OCSC and OCB. Regardless, as an inexpensive young player with potential, there’s no reason to think he won’t be here next year.
Previous Season in Review Articles (Date Posted)
- Alex Freeman: (11/29/23)
Lion Links: 12/1/23
Rodrigo Schlegel fined, MLS roster updates, USWNT faces China tomorrow, and more.
Welcome to December, Mane Landers! It always feels like a good sign when a month starts on a Friday. I don’t have many plans this weekend beyond helping a friend move and trying to make pad Thai for the first time. It should be a nice next few days to reset after a hectic week. But for now, let’s dive into today’s links from around the soccer world.
MLS Issues Disciplinary Rulings After Playoff Games
Orlando City center back Rodrigo Schlegel was fined an undisclosed amount by the MLS Disciplinary Committee for not leaving the field in a timely manner after receiving a second yellow card in the team’s playoff match with the Columbus Crew. Schlegel did not crowd the referee or plead his case disruptively, but he did linger a bit before exiting the match. It was one of many fines handed out by the MLS Disciplinary Committee for violations during the playoffs, and Crew forward Cucho Hernandez was fined for embellishment for going to ground clutching his face after Schlegel shielded the ball from him.
The Vancouver Whitecaps players and staff received fines and suspensions for their actions during and after their playoff match with LAFC on Nov. 5. Head Coach Vanni Sartini was fined $20,000 and suspended for an additional five games for entering the field of play in a confrontational manner and his comments about the refereeing following his team’s elimination. Vancouver defender Mathias Laborda was also handed a one-match suspension for his actions during the match.
MLS Teams Update Rosters as Deadline Looms
The deadline for MLS teams to decline contract options is today and clubs around the league are getting their affairs in order. The Portland Timbers confirmed that Sebastian Blanco won’t be with the team next year, as he was out of contract after seven seasons with the club. Designated Player Jaroslaw Niezgoda and fellow forward Franck Boli had their options declined by Portland as well. FC Dallas triggered the options on the contracts of midfielder duo Asier Illarramendi and Liam Frasier, while declining the options for midfielder Facundo Quignon and defender Jose Martinez. The New York Red Bulls kept a key part of their defense by signing Dylan Nealis to a contract through the 2024 season. Nashville SC declined seven options, and veterans Dax McCarty and Fafa Picault are out of contract. Both players could be worth keeping an eye on as an Orlando supporter, depending on if Wilder Cartagena and Ivan Angulo will return. According to The Athletic‘s Tom Bogert, McCarty is not likely to return to Nashville.
Racing Louisville Names Beverly Yanez as Head Coach
Beverly Yanez was announced as Racing Louisville’s next head coach after serving as an assistant coach during the 2023 season. The 35-year-old retired as a player in 2020 and was an assistant coach with NJ/NY Gotham FC for two years before joining Louisville prior to this season. Louisville has yet to reach the playoffs since joining the NWSL in 2021 and Yanez is now the club’s third head coach. She’s earned plenty of praise from Louisville’s players and it will be interesting to see how her first season as a head coach goes in 2024.
Alejandro Bedoya Receives Impact Award
Philadelphia Union midfielder Alejandro Bedoya won the MLS Impact Award, along with a $100,000 contribution by Audi to The Philadelphia Equity Alliance. Bedoya has worked with the nonprofit to promote inclusive economic growth and reduce poverty. He was also named 2022 MLS WORKS Humanitarian of the Year for his efforts to make a difference in the Philadelphia community. The Crew’s Darlington Nagbe and Nashville’s Taylor Washington were the other finalists for this year’s award.
Analyzing China Ahead of USWNT Friendlies
The United States Women’s National Team will close out its 2023 schedule with a pair of friendlies against China this month. The two nations will clash tomorrow at 3 p.m. in Fort Lauderdale before playing again in Frisco on Tuesday at 8 p.m. Although China lost all three of its group stage games in this past summer’s World Cup, it recently won the bronze medal in the Asian Games. China fell short in Olympic qualifying though, and 2022 AFC Women’s Coach of the Year Shui Qingxia’s contract was terminated, with Wang Jun taking over in an interim capacity for these friendlies. The USWNT should be able to find success on set pieces and crosses, although China has been working on strength training this year to compensate for that weakness. Tang Jiali, Zhang Linyan, and Shen Menglu are a few of the players in China’s versatile attack that could spell trouble for the Americans.
- Orlando Pride defender Rafaelle started as Brazil’s captain and Marta and Adriana came off the bench in a 4-3 win over Japan in a friendly. In her international debut, 19-year-old forward Priscila gave Brazil the late winner. The two teams will play again on Sunday.
- The Kansas City Current dedicated their press box to journalist and Kansas City native Grant Wahl.
- The New England Revolution have promoted Curt Onalfo to sporting director after four years as the club’s technical director. Onalfo served as the interim sporting director after Bruce Arena’s resignation in September and now gets the job fulltime.
- The MLS Players Association released a statement regarding Matt Miazga’s three-game suspension.
- Pierre Emerick-Aubamayeng scored a bicycle kick and a late winner as part of his hat trick in Marseille’s 4-3 win over Ajax in the Europa League.
- The 2023 Women’s College Cup semifinals kick off tonight, with Florida State facing Clemson and BYU playing Stanford. There are many talented players in action who are worth watching tonight before the NWSL Draft next month.
- Lyon, which is last in Ligue 1 with just seven points from 12 games, has sacked Fabio Grosso after less than three months as head coach.
That’s all I have for you today. I hope you all have a fantastic Friday and rest of your weekend!
Lion Links: 11/30/23
Orlando City faces big questions, Matt Miazga suspended, Emma Hayes meets USWNT for first time, and more.
November is finally coming to a close. It’s been a bit of a rollercoaster of a month for me, with highs, lows, and many things in between. All in all, I’m pretty glad it’s nearly over, although I expect December to be similarly hectic. At least this weather is allowing me to break out some winter clothes and turn on the fireplace in this new apartment. I’m not sure why a fireplace was installed in a Floridian apartment, but I’m not complaining. Let’s dive into today’s links!
Big Decisions Await Orlando City
With Orlando City’s season over, attention now turns to a critical off-season for the club. Head Coach Oscar Pareja is out of contract after leading the Lions to the playoffs for the past four years. The club will also need to decide if it will exercise the 2024 options on the contracts of both Executive Vice President of Soccer Operations and General Manager Luiz Muzzi and Technical Director and Assistant General Manager Ricardo Moreira. All three have orchestrated Orlando’s transformation that’s included winning its first trophy, having its best season this year, and qualifying for both the Concacaf Champions League and Champions Cup. Potentially transferring Facundo Torres to Europe, filling the empty Designated Player slot, and deciding which players to bring back for 2024 are also on the agenda. However, figuring out who will lead the Lions into this exciting next chapter is paramount. Personally, I think the club should do everything in its power to keep the people who brought Orlando to this point.
Matt Miazga Suspended for Three Games
FC Cincinnati will be without MLS Defender of the Year Matt Miazga for Saturday’s Eastern Conference final, as he was suspended by MLS for three games due to his misconduct after the match with the New York Red Bulls on Nov. 4. Miazga was also fined an undisclosed amount and will undergo a behavioral assessment as part of the league’s Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health Program. Following that aforementioned playoff match, reports surfaced that Miazga gained unauthorized access to an area reserved for the referees and acted aggressively. Any suspended games not served during Cincy’s playoff run will carry over into the 2024 season, although Miazga can petition for a reduction based on compliance with recommended treatment plans.
Emma Hayes Meets With USWNT Players and Staff
Emma Hayes, who was hired as the next United States Women’s National Team Head Coach earlier this month, made the trip to Florida to meet the team for the first time. Although she won’t be coaching the team for its upcoming pair of friendlies against China, she collaborated with interim head coach Twila Kilgore on the latest training camp roster and will continue to work with her until taking over in May. There won’t be much time between Hayes’ official start date and the 2024 Summer Olympics, making these moments of face time between player and future coach all the more important. USWNT captain Lindsey Horan spoke on the team’s goals after meeting Hayes for the first time.
“There’s so much talent in this team, and I don’t think the world has seen enough of it yet just because we need to go out and show it,” Horan said. “We need to be able to mesh together and show everything that we have, and what we’re all about, and how we can really collaborate and play together — be more of a team and be a powerhouse again.
“It’s going to be exciting for us to have her and see what she can do with this team and how she can help us moving forward.”
Ricardo Pepi Sends PSV Into Champions League Knockout Stage
PSV Eindhoven clinched its spot in the next round of the UEFA Champions League in dramatic fashion, with American forward Ricardo Pepi scoring the winner in a 3-2 comeback win over Sevilla in Spain. Trailing 2-0 in the second half, American left back Sergino Dest provided the assist on PSV’s first goal and Pepi found the winner in stoppage time, with fellow American Malik Tillman also coming off the bench. From his little flick to send a teammate forward to his run and clinical header, it was a great goal by the 20-year-old.
Elsewhere in the Champions League, Arsenal beat Lens 6-0 to advance, Real Madrid won 4-2 against Napoli to win its group, and Real Sociedad played to a scoreless draw with RB Salzburg. Manchester United remains in last place of its group after a 3-3 draw with Galatasaray, with goalkeeper Andre Onana unable to stop Hakim Ziyech from scoring off of two free kicks. All’s not lost for United though, as it can still qualify for the round of 16 by beating Bayern Munich at home so long as the other match ends in the group ends in a draw. It all makes for what should be an exciting final matchday in the group stage.
- The Kansas City Current announced that American midfielder Sam Mewis will not be returning to the club for the 2024 season. The 31-year-old has not played since 2021 as she continues to recover from a knee injury.
- The Utah Royals have signed free agent forward Imani Dorsey on a contract through the 2025 season. Dorsey has most recently played for NJ/NY Gotham FC, although she didn’t participate in this past season due to mental health reasons.
- Manchester United is reportedly ready to move on from Mason Mount just six months after he joined the team from Chelsea.
- Tomasz Kwiatkowski, the video assistant referee involved in a controversial handball that eventually led to Paris Saint-Germain’s equalizer in stoppage time against Newcastle, was removed from his next scheduled duty by UEFA.
- Amidst a four-game winless streak, French club Nantes has fired Pierre Aristouy as its manager, immediately replacing him with Jocelyn Gourvennec.
- We’ll end our links with this interesting article that dives into how Romelu Lukaku unexpectedly arrived at AS Roma and how he’s thriving at the Italian club.
That’s all I have for you today. I hope you all have a wonderful Thursday and rest of your week!
2023 Orlando City Season in Review: Abdi Salim
Orlando Pride Sign Finnish Goalkeeper Sofia Manner
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