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Orlando City

Orlando City vs. Charlotte FC: Final Score 1-1 as Lions See Win Streak Snapped

It was another ugly match against Charlotte as the Lions finish 0-2-1 in three games against the North Carolina side.



Image courtesy of Orlando City SC

A seeing-eye goal by Martin Ojeda on a long-distance free kick late prevented Charlotte FC from sweeping three matches against Orlando City as the teams played to a 1-1 draw on a wet night at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, NC. Orlando City (12-6-8, 44 points) saw its three-game league winning streak snapped but earned a road point against a Charlotte FC team (7-9-9, 30 points) that seems to leak goals against everyone in MLS except the Lions.

Both teams scored a goal that was ruled offside, and Enzo Copetti opened the scoring late for the hosts on his own craftily earned penalty that Rodrigo Schlegel knew nothing about. The point pushed Orlando City to third in the Eastern Conference, just past the Philadelphia Union, who have played one fewer match.

“Very happy with the performance of the players, especially in the second half,” Orlando City Head Coach Oscar Pareja said after the match. “I thought we played against a very good team, and a team who has a model that at the beginning confused us and we couldn’t stop them. That’s why I valued that reaction that we had in that first half and created some options that probably should take us to lead the game at the end of the half. The second half was more controlled.”

Pareja’s lineup offered up only two changes from the team that beat St. Louis City SC on Saturday. Wilder Cartagena’s yellow card suspension made way for Junior Urso’s first start since his return to Orlando City, while Ramiro Enrique slotted in for Ivan Angulo. Goalkeeper Pedro Gallese played behind a back line of Rafael Santos, Robin Jansson, Schlegel, and Dagur Dan Thorhallsson. Cesar Araujo joined Urso in central midfield behind an attacking line of Enrique, Mauricio Pereyra, and Facundo Torres, with Duncan McGuire up top.

Charlotte jumped on Orlando right off the opening whistle, coming out with far more energy and attacking presence. The hosts won a corner before the first minute had elapsed even though Orlando kicked off.

The home team won several early set pieces but couldn’t do much with them as the service into the box wasn’t always good and when it was, the play broke down or the Lions blocked the pass.

Charlotte should have scored in the 12th minute, as the ball found its way to Brecht Dejaegere, who stepped to his right and fired over the bar. Dejaegere, however, had pulled up lame trying a stepover moments earlier and had to sub off after the missed shot. Former Lion Justin Meram replaced him on the left wing.

The first Orlando shot didn’t come until the 29th minute and Enrique had his effort blocked by Jaylin Lindsey.

Charlotte quickly went back on the attack and Jansson had a crucial block in the 36th minute. Seconds later, Gallese made a big stop to punch away what must have been ruled a cross. He then immediately made a huge stop on Derrick Jones’ header from the top of the six on a wasteful effort by the midfielder.

Three minutes later, Ashley Westwood fired inches wide of the left post when he was wide open at the top of the box.

Orlando City came close in the 41st minute, when Enrique cut to his right and blasted a shot from outside the area, but it crashed off the right post and stayed out. Two minutes later, McGuire scored but it didn’t count.

The Lions caught Charlotte napping and too far forward and the ball was sent forward to Torres on the right. The Uruguayan had a 2-v-1 with McGuire against one defender. However, Torres had to take an extra touch to settle the wet ball on the fake surface. McGuire tried to hold his run, and Torres got the ball through to him. The rookie scored on a cannon shot inside the near post but the flag came up for offside. The video assistant referee confirmed it without sending the referee to the monitor.

McGuire had a second chance from a tight angle in stoppage time, when a great ball over the top found him. The rookie was able to bring it in but not before it squirted out in front of him. That made the angle easier to defend and his shot was saved. That was the last good look of the half and the teams went to the break scoreless.

Charlotte dominated the stat sheet at halftime, leading in possession (69.8%-30.2%), shots (7-4), passing accuracy (85.5%-73%), and corners (2-1), with each team getting one shot attempt on frame, officially — although it seemed Gallese had two saves in the opening period.

Pareja sent Ivan Angulo onto the pitch to start the second half, withdrawing Pereyra. Torres moved to the middle of the attacking midfield, with Angulo on the right and Enrique left.

Torres had a good opportunity from the left to get a cross in for a wide-open McGuire in the 47th minute but the ball sailed just over the striker’s head.

It was Charlotte’s turn to score an offside goal in the 53rd minute. A giveaway on a throw-in by Orlando in its own end got sent in from left to right but Ben Bender was already behind the last defender before the pass and although his finish over Gallese into the roof of the net was a good one, it was never going to count.

The hosts got back on the front foot for the next part of the game, with Jansson making a vital challenge to deny a cross in from the right in the 56th minute and Karol Swiderski fizzing a dangerous ball through the top of the six two minutes later that none of his teammates could get to.

Torres cut across the top of the area in the 59th and sent a curling shot that didn’t quite dip enough and sizzled just high of the top left corner.

Pareja made an interesting double switch at the hour mark, sending Ojeda and Felipe on for McGuire and Urso. Enrique moved up top as the striker. Ojeda, Torres, and Angulo made up the new attacking midfield.

Moments after the substitutions, Schlegel made solid contact on a header off a corner but it was right at goalkeeper Kristijan Kahlina, who fought it off in the 63rd minute. The play was offside anyway, as substitute Felipe was parked right in front of the goalkeeper, well behind the entire Charlotte defense.

Angulo forced a good diving save by Kahlina a minute later.

Jansson was having an incredible game but went down with a knock in the 77th minute. He was replaced by rookie Abdi Salim and Kyle Smith also came on for Santos.

Disaster struck a minute after the subs, when Schlegel was backing up in the box and went to play a ball directly at him. Copetti made a crafty play to come leaping in to get his leg in front of Schlegel, who knew nothing about what was going on behind him. Copetti made a meal of the slight contact and referee Rosendo Mendoza pointed to the spot. Copetti and Gallese exchanged words prior to the penalty but the Charlotte Designated Player placed an unstoppable penalty into the inside netting on the right, despite El Pulpo guessing correctly.

The play gave Charlotte a 1-0 lead in the 81st minute.

“When they scored the PK, again the braveness and the character of this group is amazing,” Pareja said of the team’s ability to fight back.

It appeared the hosts would get a clean, three-game sweep of the Lions on the season but Orlando City pulled one back in the 88th minute.

Ojeda lined up a free kick from long distance, looking to find someone at the back post. However, his delivery cleared everyone. Kahlina got a fingertip to it but could only knock it off the inside of his post and in.

“We work a lot on set pieces,” Felipe said. “Josema (Bazán), our assistant coach, is the guy that is always in charge of the set pieces. We work on those balls and it’s not by chance that we scored the goal, but it’s something from the training ground that we always work on, and we always keep improving every week. And again in tight games like this, those are the times that we need those goals and we were able to score today, so it was great for Martin and great for the team that we were able to score on a set piece that we work (on) so much.”

Orlando City had a promising attack in the third minute of stoppage time but Angulo’s pass to Enrique from the right was behind the Argentine. Ojeda tried a shot from 35 or 40 yards out a minute later that didn’t come close to troubling Kahlina.

Another controversial moment happened just as the six minutes of stoppage time were winding down. Copetti swung a forearm up and into the chin of Schlegel, who went down clutching his face. Mendoza showed Copetti a yellow card and then was directed by the VAR to go take a second look. The arm definitely swung into Schlegel’s face and the elbow was up, but Mendoza stuck with his original call. He then made Schlegel leave the field for a concussion check on a play he didn’t deem violent, confusing everyone involved.

“We don’t understand,” Pareja said of the decision to make Schlegel leave the pitch. “We were very annoyed by that, because (Mendoza) has almost five minutes to attend the player and make a test and he decided to wait five minutes and when he came out, he said that he needed to check it outside, knowing that the game was about to expire. We didn’t understand. We were frustrated but what can we say?”

Neither side got another good look and the teams split the points.

Although Orlando got more of the ball in the second half than the first, Charlotte finished with a comfortable advantage in possession (65.8%-34.2%). The hosts also led in shots (9-8), corners (4-3), and passing accuracy (83.7%-70%). Orlando City put more shots on target (4-2).

“I think it’s it’s a great result for us,” Felipe said. “It’s a point coming from behind. We always need to appreciate the point. It’s never easy to come to a place like Charlotte. So yes, it is a positive point for us and we keep building, we keep going because we are heading in the right direction.”

The Lions will come home briefly before heading back on the road to take on Supporters’ Shield-leading FC Cincinnati on Saturday.

Orlando City

Orlando City vs. Inter Miami: Five Takeaways

What did we learn from a thoroughly unenjoyable outing in South Florida?



Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Well. Orlando City’s second league game of the season was a thoroughly unenjoyable one, as the Lions got played clean out of South Florida by Inter Miami. As much as I hate to do it, we need to talk about this one, so what follows are my five thoughts from a horrific showing in SoFlo.

Early Mistakes Seal Orlando’s Fate

The Lions barely had a chance to get their feet underneath them before Pedro Gallese was picking the ball out of his net. Cesar Araujo received the ball in Orlando’s defensive third and immediately tried to play a blind pass backwards, but it went straight to a Miami player. Once the ball made its way from Lionel Messi to Julian Gressel to Luis Suarez, the latter made no mistake and scored to put OCSC into an early hole from which it would never recover.

Tough Night for Two Lions

Speaking of mistakes, that wasn’t the only one that Araujo made during this game. Miami’s second goal came as a result of Rodridgo Schlegel getting pulled out of position and Araujo failing to track the run of Suarez, who found it all too easy to fire past Gallese and double the deficit for Orlando. Schlegel was also culpable for the third goal, as he was too slow to step up with the rest of the back line, and prevented the tally from being called back for offside as a result. Almost no player in purple had a good game, but it was a particularly rough night for two guys who are normally so good for OCSC.

Offensively Anemic

The Lions didn’t look bad going forward for a lot of this one. They managed to get the ball into some good areas, but just had trouble getting the final ball right that would lead to a chance. The introduction of Luis Muriel and Nico Lodeiro after halftime helped provide a spark early in the second half, but Orlando ultimately couldn’t find a way through and the score only got more and more lopsided as a result. When OCSC finally did fashion a clear-cut chance for Ramiro Enrique, the forward didn’t place his shot far enough in the corner and Drake Callender made a good save as a result.

Lack of Effort Worsens Scoreline

Somewhere around the 53rd minute, things really started to devolve for the Lions. Multiple turnovers in the team’s own half led to chance after chance for the home team, and Miami eventually made Orlando pay. The fifth goal will make for extremely unpleasant viewing, as Dagur Dan Thorhallsson decided to not close down Suarez on the wing, giving him way too much time to put the ball on a plate for Messi to head home, while the rest of the team took their time jogging back as Miami broke forward in transition. Orlando kept coming forward doggedly, but the lack of effort on display at times at the back was shocking and uncharacteristic to see.

Wake-Up Call

I have no idea what happened in this match. As soon as the first goal went in, almost the entire team looked slow, out-of-sorts, and on its heels when Miami had the ball. That sort of thing is unacceptable in any game, but especially in this particular fixture. Yes, the match against Tigres is looming large on Tuesday, but the lineup Oscar Pareja put out was not one that suggested the Lions were punting on this game to throw everything they had at Tigres. Instead, an almost first-choice XI turned in perhaps the worst performance we’ve ever seen from an Orlando team coached by Oscar Pareja. It’s possible that we’ll look back on this game as the moment that this team came together and kicked onto bigger things, but in order for that to happen the Lions need to take a good, hard, brutally honest look in the mirror.

I’m sorry to say that’s the worst Orlando City performance I’ve seen in a very long time. Thankfully, the season is a long one and the Lions have plenty of time to right the ship and get back to playing in the manner we’re used to seeing. I think we’ll learn a lot about what we should expect from this team on Tuesday against Tigres. OCSC has a chance to respond the right way and make a statement, and you can bet I’ll be looking for one. Until then, vamos Orlando.

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Strong Early Season Competition an Opportunity for Growth

Schedule congestion and tough opponents present opportunities for growth.



Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

It is hard to imagine a more intense start to the season than the Lions have faced competing in both the regular season and the Concacaf Champions Cup at the same time, yet that is exactly the task that the boys in purple find themselves dealing with only days into the season. With both away and home matches already in the books, let’s examine how strong early season competition can be a key factor in the growth of the squad as the season progresses.

For comparison we can look back to one year ago, as thanks to winning the U.S. Open Cup, the Lions found themselves in the Concacaf Champions League for the first time in club history. During their short foray in the 2023 version of the competition, they were matched up against Mexican powerhouse Tigres UANL in a two-leg competition. Orlando did something that many MLS sides can not boast by coming out of the first leg in Mexico without conceding a goal and only failed to advance because of the competition’s away goals rule.

At the time, and even looking back through rose-colored glasses, those two performances demonstrated the quality that Orlando City was ultimately capable of, and it was a form which Orlando showcased in the later stretches of the 2023 season.

This year, once again Orlando is faced with stiff competition throughout its early season matches, which present a grand opportunity to build team chemistry and fortitude that will only truly manifest itself as the season progresses. While Cavalry FC may have not presented much a challenge on the pitch, the logistics of starting a season off thousands of miles away in the Pacific Northwest were challenges that the Lions had to face before a 48-hour turnaround to open the regular season against a CF Montreal side which some are projecting to be a surprise force in the Eastern Conference. Sandwich in the close-out leg against Cavalry in the CCC at home some 72 hours later, and you once again have a recipe for tired legs but early season growth through adversity.

Up next was Saturday’s forgettable trip to square off against archrival Inter Miami. A year ago, Orlando City was one of the only MLS sides to truly frustrate one of the world’s best and unfortunately for players, coaches and fans alike, the first meeting between the rival sides in 2024 ended with a landslide victory for Messi and friends. Still, despite the frustrating loss, there are lessons to be learned and mistakes to correct which can only help the squad grow as the season progresses.

As if all of the schedule congestion was not enough, Orlando learned that its prize for dispatching Cavalry in the CCC was a rematch against Tigres, once again in a two-match, survive-and-advance format. The first game will be played two and a half days after having been beaten down by Miami and the second will come a week later, with yet another MLS regular-season match crammed in between.

All in all, once Orlando City is done facing off against Tigres, the team will have traveled roughly 9,700 miles for matches in the first 21 days of the season and played a match roughly every 60 hours. These matches and the quality of the opponents present Orlando and its players with numerous chances for individual and squad growth, and the experience, especially for still a somewhat young team, is something OCSC can draw upon once the late season and playoff push portion of the calendar arrive. I truly believe this early in the season the importance of the results of the matches come secondary to the opportunities for growth when faced with so many challenges so quickly.

Let us know in the comments below if you think that the early season match ups against quality opponents will ultimately hurt or benefit Orlando City and, as always, vamos Orlando!

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Orlando City

Orlando City vs. Inter Miami: Final Score 5-0 as Meek Lions Trounced in Comprehensive Road Defeat

Lions get crushed from the jump in South Florida.



Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Orlando City conceded two ridiculously easy goals in the first 11 minutes and another easy one before the end of the half en route to an embarrassing 5-0 loss to Inter Miami (2-0-1, 7 points) at Chase Stadium in Fort Lauderdale. The Lions (0-1-1, 1 point) gave Luis Suarez his first two MLS goals and an assist in the opening half (and another assist later). Lionel Messi also scored a brace and Robert Taylor added a goal.

Orlando generated some scoring chances, but struggled to hit the target when the game was still within reach. With the loss, Orlando City fell to 5-4-3 in league play against their Tropic Thunder rivals from the south. It was the first time the Lions have been shut out in Fort Lauderdale, and this season marks the first time in club history that Orlando City has failed to score a goal through the first two matches in regular-season play.

“Obviously a disappointing day for us, recognizing from minute one to the end of the game that didn’t look like us in many areas,” Orlando City Head Coach Oscar Pareja said after the game. “A team like them, you cannot permit them to have that many spaces, and lose that many duels, and give them that possibility to be sitting in our box in those counterattacks. Really disappointed, but we’re pushing as a group. You know I have big respect for this group, their professionalism in what they do, and if there is any possibility, we’ll search to find answers but this group’s professionalism will never be denied. We’re not going to leave this experience just to happen without taking the benefits of this, the reasons, and learn from it.”

Pareja’s starters included Pedro Gallese in goal behind a back line of Rafael Santos, Robin Jansson, Rodrigo Schlegel, and Dagur Dan Thorhallsson. Cesar Araujo and Wilder Cartagena took their usual spots in the central midfield behind an attacking line of Ivan Angulo, Martin Ojeda, and Facundo Torres with Duncan McGuire up top.

It didn’t take long for the hosts to get on top and it was Orlando City helping the Herons score the first goal. Araujo made a terrible mistake with a blind back pass, turning the ball over. It ended up out wide on Julian Gressel’s foot and the winger found Suarez, who fired first time into the corner where Gallese couldn’t get to it, making it 1-0 in the fourth minute.

“From there, I feel we couldn’t really turn the game in our favor,” Jansson said.

Orlando had two great opportunities to answer quickly. The first came when Thorhallsson fed McGuire in front in the seventh minute. The striker couldn’t get his feet set properly and when the ball arrived he sent it well off target from just eight yards out. A minute later, it was Araujo with a blast from just outside the box but his shot sailed just wide of the upper left corner.

The Lions, predictably, paid for those misses. Miami got a fortunate bounce off of Cartagena’s tackle attempt. As a result, Suarez was sent in on a fairly routine through ball but Araujo had stopped tracking him and Schlegel got pulled out of position with an overly aggressive move, giving the former Barcelona man room to slip through the line. He beat Gallese to make it 2-0 in the 11th minute.

Orlando City finally settled into the match a bit after that, although the damage had been done already. The Lions won a couple of corners and Schlegel sent a header wide on one of them. On the other, the ball was knocked to Torres near the top of the box. The Uruguayan tried a volley shot but couldn’t keep it down and it sailed well over the goal in the 21st minute.

Ojeda tried to pick out McGuire in the 23rd minute but Drake Callender came off his line and may have gotten a slight touch to the excellent cross. At the very least, he put McGuire off with his presence and aggressiveness.

Miami unlocked the defense for an easy third goal in the 29th minute. Schlegel was slow to step up to spring an offside trap and the through ball found Suarez behind the back line. Gallese came off his line to try to disrupt the play, but Suarez squared it to Taylor for an empty-net goal.

Messi came close to making it 4-0 with a free kick in the 34th minute. He sent his shot off the outside of the left post and Gallese may have had it covered anyway, moving quickly to his right.

The score almost got more embarrassing late in the half. Suarez again got in behind and scored but this time the flag came up and the offside call was upheld on review. It was extremely close, but the score remained 3-0.

That was the last close call of the first half and the Lions limped to the break down three goals.

The Lions held the advantage in possession (55.7%-44.3%) and corners (2-0). But Miami passed more accurately (90.6%-85.1%), fired more shots (5-4), and put more on target (3-0).

“Not good enough,” Jansson said of the performance. “It’s a derby and we’re coming out there with no energy, I feel. We don’t take control of the game like we normally try to do. Tonight was a rough one. It was not good enough on any part of the field, including myself, and I feel sorry for the fans who traveled here, and they deserve better.”

Pareja withdrew McGuire and Cartagena at the half, replacing them with Luis Muriel and Nico Lodeiro.

Ojeda appeared to pull a goal back just after the restart, playing his way through and slotting past Callender. However, Angulo was just offside in the buildup, negating the goal.

Messi came within inches of a fourth Miami goal in the 54th minute, sending a shot just outside the right post from the top of the area. The play was started by a turnover by Santos. A minute later, Santos didn’t pick up Gressel and Angulo stopped tracking him. That wasn’t optimal and Gressel ended up smashing a shot off the crossbar.

Things got worse for Orlando in a hurry after those chances. The Lions simply had no answers, giving up a pair of goals to Messi, as Miami continued to easily play into space behind the back line.

Schlegel again got pulled out of shape on a Miami transition attack. That allowed Jordi Alba to get in behind and shoot. Jansson cleared the ball off the line but could only knock it off the woodwork. Messi got the last touch of the ping-ponging ball and it trickled in to make it 4-0 in the 57th minute.

Four minutes later, Suarez blazed down the left and sent a good cross for Messi’s headed finish.

The Lions should have pulled a goal back in the 76th minute when Ramiro Enrique got in behind the defense. The Argentine left his shot too close to the center, where Callender still had to make a good save to prevent the goal.

Although Orlando City held more possession (52.8%-47.2%) and won more corners (5-1), Miami had the advantage in shots (11-8), shots on target (6-2), and passing accuracy (89.2%-85.6%). The Herons were much more lethal in front of goal, and Orlando was much sloppier in both final thirds. With the quality Miami has, that’s a poor combination and, as shown on this night, a game can get away quickly.

“We have to look at the game and see where we didn’t get our stuff done,” Jansson said. “We do it all the time, when we win and when we lose. We have to go through what we’re doing good and what we’re doing bad, because otherwise we will never become better. This was a bad take, and we’ve got to get the review, and get the analysis, and see where we had the most errors, and then we just have to take it from there.”

“We are responsible for a performance like this one, where nothing came right, and we will surely see what are the reasons and how can we improve it,” Pareja said. “We will continue with our heads up, and again, for me, I back this group up 100 percent. It’s a group that’s very professional. Didn’t play well today and nothing came right. We will take that responsibility, especially the coach. It’s not an easy result to absorb, but also we have the responsibility to bounce back immediately, and proximity (of the next game) helps give us the opportunity just to reshape again. But surely this will be in our memory for a little longer than normal.

“It’s just that they were better than us, and we didn’t do a good job today. We didn’t show up today the way we are…the start of the league doesn’t dictate the end of it.”

Orlando City has another quick turnaround before hosting Tigres in Concacaf Champions Cup action Tuesday night at home. The next league game is next Saturday when Minnesota United visits Inter&Co Stadium.

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