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Leagues Cup Group Play: Five Takeaways

What did we take away from two wild group stage matches in the Leagues Cup?

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Dan MacDonald, The Mane Land

Orlando City concluded group play of the 2023 Leagues Cup Saturday night with a 3-2 defeat of Liga MX club Santos Laguna in front of a roaring home crowd at Exploria Stadium. The Lions faced the Dynamo and the Verdiblancos (Green and Whites) in the South 2 group. We usually provide you with takeaways after each Orlando City match in the Major League Soccer season, but what follows here is a bonus five takeaways from OCSC’s group stage play.

A Tale of Two Refs

Orlando City took two points away from its first match against Houston β€” one point for the match ending in a draw and a bonus point for winning the shootout. If you have been following other group stage matches you will notice that this isn’t your run of the mill PRO referee pool of game time arbitrators as fouls and yellow cards have flowing a plenty. That is not to say that the quality of calls has been better or worse than usual, but it is to say that it seems no matter who or what is in charge of an Orlando City game, the squad simply isn’t immune to controversy. In the first match, it came near the tail end of the first half, when a soft call was made which awarded the Dynamo a penalty kick, which they converted. In the second match, the Lions felt there was a foul on Santos Laguna’s second goal that tied the game at 2-2. There was no foul given during play, so it was always unlikely the goal would get overturned. Luckily for Orlando, neither call cost the team a spot in the knockout round but they were still unnerving as a fan to witness.

Shootout Success

Orlando City won the first shootout of this year’s Leagues Cup over Houston by being perfect from 12 yards out, and due to a huge save by Pedro Gallese. It is always a treat to see a shootout and even more so when the result ends in Orlando’s favor. Luckily, thanks to Cardiac Cat magic, Orlando did not have to test its perfect shootout record against Santos Laguna. Personally, I love the way that Orlando City approaches shootouts in such a professional and work-like manner, and it just goes to show how important it was to re-sign Gallese prior to the season starting.

No Denying Duncan

It has been said that Orlando runs on Duncan, but at this point maybe a more fitting nickname should be something along the lines of “the answer” or “the response,” as in back-to-back games Duncan McGuire found an almost immediate answer when the opposition struck first. Both goals were created by amazing hustle plays which just go to highlight that it is impossible to keep the first-year pro off the field at this time.

Watching him play, I often forget that just seven months ago McGuire was finishing up his collegiate career and now he has reached double-digit goals for Orlando City across all competitions with a third of the season still left to go.

Magic Mo Returns

Orlando City was even with Santos Laguna on the scoreboard at halftime, and once the second half started, captain Mauricio Pereyra made sure that the match did not stay level for long, scoring his first goal of the season one minute into the second half. It was a thing of beauty from the Maestro and truly caught just about everyone watching the match off guard, including goalkeeper Gibran Lajud, although there was little that the Mexican keeper could do to get a glove on it.

The Cardiac Cats Strike Again

After Santos Laguna equalized, the match truly opened up. After several substitutions for both sides and a hydration break, six minutes of stoppage time was added, and it appeared as though Orlando City was destined to fight for a spot in the knockout round through a penalty kick shootout. Enter Wilder Cartagena, who picked a perfect moment to score his first goal for Orlando City. The sequence of events started with a truly amazing defensive effort by Cesar Araujo just above the 18-yard box in Orlando City’s defensive half. The Uruguayan then broke out a lung busting run to the other side of the field, took a short pass from Ercan Kara and then crossed it into the box for Cartagena, who made a smart diagonal run and used supreme touch to beat the keeper. Exploria erupted in celebration, and just a few minutes later, Orlando City clinched a 3-2 victory.

Bonus Takeaway: Survive and Advance

The Lions are certainly not newcomers to tournament knockout-style play, as they won the U.S. Open Cup just one year ago and now find themselves entering a familiar atmosphere once again. Advancing past the group stage was always an attainable goal for a team that seems to be continually finding answers to the questions asked of it of late. In the famous words of Jim Valvano, all the Lions need to do now is “survive and advance.” There are no bonus points awarded for style or flair moving forward, and matches won’t have to be pretty as long as the results continue to come.


Ultimately, I thought the group stage play of this year’s Leagues Cup was entertaining and provided fans with some quality matchups that we just aren’t accustomed to seeing. I know that it has been implemented in MLS NEXT Pro, but I was a huge fan of the shootout immediately following a draw, as it provided just that extra bit of needed drama. Let us know in the comments below what your biggest takeaways were from the group stage and as always, vamos Orlando!

Orlando City

Orlando City at D.C. United: Three Keys to Victory

What does Orlando City need to do to earn its first away victory of the season?

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Jeremy Reper

Orlando City is back in action this Saturday night against D.C. United at Audi Field. Despite coming off back-to-back results, the off-week was well timed for the Lions. A little extra rest for the squad, plus giving players time to recuperate from various knocks should mean a nearly full strength Orlando City.

What does Orlando City need to do to earn all three points on the road against its Eastern Conference rivals?

The Dynamic Duo Return

Cesar Araujo returned to the Orlando City lineup against the New York Red Bulls, meaning the Lions should finally have their top choice defensive midfield pairing back together. The timing couldn’t be more perfect given Orlando City will be dealing with D.C. United striker Christian Benteke. He has five goals in five matches, which is half of the 10 goals D.C. United has scored all season.

So far this regular season, every match in which the Lions give up more than one goal has resulted in a loss. Keeping Benteke and the rest of D.C. United off of the score sheet is critical to getting a result. Orlando City can concede one goal and still walk away with points on the road, but only if the Lions manage to accomplish the next key below.

Goals are the Goal

To say Orlando City has been wasteful in front of goal is a bit of an understatement. So far this regular season, the Lions have 93 shots, with 27 on target, but only five goals. Orlando City has created scoring opportunities, but failed to convert them in anything close to an efficient manner. Of the five goals scored, Duncan McGuire has two, Nico Lodeiro has one, and Jack Lynn has one. The other was credited as an own goal on Lynn’s backheel attempt.

The list of players who haven’t scored yet this season is too long to type, but I don’t need goals from the defenders β€” though I will take them. I just need Facundo Torres, Ivan Angulo, Luis Muriel, and Martin Ojeda to get something going. Ideally, all four of them score in this match, but I’ll take whatever goals we can get.

End the Trend

Orlando City hasn’t fared well against D.C. United recently. Nearly a year ago, the Lions lost at home 3-1 to the visitors. The last trip to Audi Field was a 1-1 draw in which Orlando City gave up a goal in the 80th minute to settle for a single point. In 2022, Orlando City lost both matches to D.C. United. It’s time to get things going in the right direction.

The Lions also need to stop losing on the road. Losses to Inter Miami and Atlanta both came on the road, with Orlando City yet to find any points away from home. Last season, the Lions were veritable road warriors. The team needs to find that form again as it was a major reason the club finished second in the Supporters’ Shield race.


That is what I will be looking for this weekend as Orlando City takes on D.C. United. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below. Vamos Orlando!

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Lion Links

Lion Links: 4/11/24

Learning more about Morgan Gautrat, OCB plays tonight, Champions League action, and more.

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Image courtesy of Orlando Pride / Jeremy Reper

How’s it going, Mane Landers? I’m having a fairly stressful but great week after adopting my first cat and getting him all set up here. It may take a few weeks to turn him into a loyal Orlando soccer fan, but I have high hopes. Regardless, I’m looking forward to the gauntlet of games with Orlando City B playing today, the Orlando Pride tomorrow, and Orlando City on Saturday. Let’s get to the links!

Getting to Know Morgan Gautrat

Orlando Pride midfielder Morgan Gautrat was the latest player to field questions as part of the video series for fans to learn more about the players who wear purple. She weighed in on how she changed her game once she transitioned to the United States Women’s National Team at age 19, going from a playmaking attacker to a player who slots in deeper in the midfield. Gautrat brings leadership, experience, and a strong skillset to a young Pride team that’s built a strong culture around it. She also spoke on how Florida is her soccer home, what her spirit animal is, and the team’s aspirations this season.

Orlando City B Takes On Philadelphia Union II

The Young Lions are on the road today at 4 p.m. for an MLS NEXT Pro match against Philadelphia Union II. OCB last played in Chester, PA in last year’s season opener, winning 3-1 in an impressive victory. The team will hope for a similar result tonight to get back on track after a loss to Inter Miami II earlier this month. Philadelphia has yet to lose in regulation this season and has won both of its home matches. It should be a tough match for the Young Lions, but a great chance to climb back up the Eastern Conference standings for them.

Assessing USWNT After SheBelieves Cup Win

The United States Women’s National Team is moving towards the Olympics with plenty of momentum after winning the SheBelieves Cup and Concacaf W Gold Cup. There were plenty of parallels between the SheBelieves Cup final and the Gold Cup semifinal against Canada, one was just a bit more waterlogged. Canada used a late penalty to send the game to penalty kicks, Sophia Smith scored, and Alyssa Naeher stood on her head in the penalty shootout. The key differences were that Mallory Swanson has given the attack some needed dynamism after returning, and the defense struggles without Naomi Girma to anchor it. It was also Twila Kilgore’s final game as the USWNT’s interim head coach, and now attention will turn towards how Emma Hayes can elevate the team once she takes over.

Champions League Quarterfinals Roll On

Atletico Madrid and Barcelona both won in their first legs of the Champions League quarterfinals, although neither match was a blowout. Atletico Madrid hosted Borussia Dortmund and scored twice in the first half. Dortmund brought one back in the second half, but Atletico Madrid held on to secure a 2-1 win. The road team completed the comeback in the other match though, with Barcelona winning a 3-2 thriller against Paris Saint-Germain that included four goals in the second half. All in all, this was a great round of quarterfinal first legs filled with plenty of goals, and the second legs next week should be pretty entertaining.

Free Kicks

  • Andrew Wiebe was the latest analyst to dive into Orlando’s attacking woes this season. I personally think things will naturally improve once the team gets some rest under its belt and Luis Muriel settles in. I agree with Wiebe though that Wilder Cartagena and Cesar Araujo must return to form.
  • The Champions League shouldn’t overshadow a strong slate of Europa League quarterfinals today. My favorite matchup of the four would have to be the Italian showdown between AC Milan and Roma.
  • English forward Rachel Daly announced that she is retiring from international soccer. The 32-year-old scored 22 goals last season with Aston Villa and has scored 16 goals in 84 appearances with England.
  • Midfielder Dillon Serna is hanging up his cleats at age 30 after a career that included time with the Colorado Rapids and Colorado Springs Switchbacks.
  • Manchester City’s Rodri is feeling the wear and tear of his team’s pursuit for silverware. Rest may be hard to come by for him during a congested schedule, and he hasn’t lost in the past 66 games he’s played in.
  • Former Liverpool midfielder Danny Murphy shared the struggle he had after retiring, providing details on his drug addiction and the despair felt after he quit playing.

That’s all I have for you today on this fine Thursday. Treat yourself to something you deserve, check in with a friend you haven’t spoken to in a while, and have a great day!

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Lion Links

Lion Links: 4/10/24

MLS Earth Day kits are in, Dagur Dan Thorhallsson gets noticed, U.S. wins SheBelieves Cup, and more.

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Image courtesy of Orlando Pride / Jeremy Reper

Welcome to Wednesday, Mane Landers. Time to start your day with some tasty links. Orlando City and the Pride are back in action this weekend, and OCB has a match tomorrow. That means plenty of goodness to end the week. Three straight days of Orlando matches is something for which to be grateful. Let’s get to the links.

Orlando City’s Greener Goals

Orlando City joins the other clubs in MLS in celebrating Earth Day with the Greener Goals week of service. Each club will volunteer time to help the environment. The club has two cleanups scheduled, including one in the area around the stadium in which fans can contribute to the effort. Additionally, all the clubs will have special One Planet pre-match kits. The kits are made from recycled materials and represent either soil, woods, or water. I’m guessing that the Orlando City kit is of the soil variety.

Dagur Dan is Da Man

The Mane Land PawedCast isn’t the only outfit noticing that Dagur Dan Thorhallsson is a force to be reckoned with. To be fair, he had some struggles during Orlando City’s hectic start to the season. Once he was rested, he was back in form and others outside of Orlando are taking notice. It’s not particularly surprising given his very nice right foot on crosses, his ability to take on opponents, and his ability to get back on defense. I’m looking forward to more from him because I don’t want no Fop! I’m a Dagur Dan man!

Barbra Banda Sends Zambia to the Olympics

After a 2-1 loss to Morocco in the first leg, Zambia bounced back with a 2-0 road win in the second leg to qualify for this summer’s Olympics. Orlando Pride forward Barbra Banda scored twice in the match, including a penalty in extra time to secure the win on aggregate. It’s the second straight trip to the Olympics for Zambia, with Banda scoring six goals in the group stage of the last Olympics. This year, Zambia is in a tough group against the U.S., Germany, and Australia, but has the talent to make a run.

Once Upon a What?

Once Upon a Coconut is now the official coconut water sponsor of Orlando City, the Orlando Pride, and Inter&Co Stadium. If you’re like me, your first response was, “I was unaware that official coconut water sponsors were a thing.” Well, they are, and now the club is a leader in this exciting new frontier. All kidding aside, sponsors mean money for the club, which is a good thing, and the product will be available to sample in the Mane Street Plaza Fan Zone. Drink up, me hearties!

USWNT Wins the SheBelieves Cup

It took the USWNT all the way to penalty kicks to finally win the 2024 SheBelieves Cup, defeating Canada 2-2 (5-4). Canada struck first before the U.S. took the lead on a Sophia Smith brace. Canada equalized late on a soft penalty conceded by Crystal Dunn, and the match went to spot kicks to decide things. Despite missing the first shot, the U.S. eventually won, thanks to three saves by Alyssa Naeher, who also contributed a goal in the shootout.

In the third-place match, Brazil and Japan also went to penalty kicks, with Brazil winning the shootout 3-0 after a 1-1 draw, with Lorena saving all three of Japan’s penalty kicks. Cristiane scored the equalizer for Brazil in the 71st minute to ultimately send the game to penalties. The Orlando Pride’s Angelina and Marta played for Brazil.

Racial Abuse in El Trafico

Following LAFC’s 2-1 victory over the LA Galaxy Saturday, the Galaxy’s Ghanaian forward, Joseph Paintsil, was the victim of online racial abuse. Reportedly, an LAFC fan used a derogatory slur and criticized Paintsil’s performance in the match. MLS, the Galaxy, and LAFC all condemned the incident. The parties are continuing to work with local authorities to hold the person accountable.

To be very clear, as far as I’m concerned, there is no room for this in soccer or anywhere. No racism, no homophobia, no transphobia β€” just stop being horrible.

Free Kicks


That will do it for today. Remember to check back daily as we get you ready for all the upcoming matches. Vamos Orlando!

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