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Orlando City

Orlando City vs. FC Cincinnati: Final Score 1-0 as Facundo Torres’ Goal Helps Lions Sink League Leaders

Lions take four out of six points on the two-match road trip heading into the international break.



Image courtesy of Orlando City SC

Facundo Torres struck just before halftime to lift Orlando City to a massive 1-0 road win over FC Cincinnati at TQL Stadium in Cincinnati, OH. The Lions (13-6-8, 47 points) held off a furious rally attempt by FC Cincinnati (17-4-6, 57 points) with only 10 men after Wilder Cartagena was sent off late, but managed to weather 13 minutes of stoppage time to become the first team all season to beat Cincy on its home field.

The win extended Orlando City’s current league unbeaten streak to five matches (4-0-1), with four of those games coming on the road. In an eight-day span, the Lions defeated the leaders of both MLS conferences.

“The first half was in a very good level that we created most of the chances,” Orlando City Head Coach Oscar Pareja said after the match. “We controlled the game and we should be thinking this is really the consistency that we’re fighting for and playing for. The second half, Cincinnati, who is a very good team, started just putting more numbers up front and we started defending a little lower than we wanted. But today we played very well with the ball and we played even better without it, which you have to know how to do that.”

Pareja’s lineup featured Pedro Gallese in goal behind a back line of Rafael Santos, Robin Jansson, Rodrigo Schlegel, and Dagur Dan Thorhallsson. Cesar Araujo and Cartagena started in central midfield behind an attacking line of Ivan Angulo, Mauricio Pereyra, and Torres, with Duncan McGuire up top.

Orlando City played an excellent first road half, keeping Cincinnati penned back through timely pressing and good control of the midfield.

FC Cincinnati, however, tried to open the scoring via the long ball. The first was sent forward for Brandon Vazquez in the sixth minute but Gallese came off his line quickly to knock it away. A minute later, a through ball found Sergio Santos breaking behind the defense. The forward scored but the flag immediately came up. There was a lengthy delay to review the play, as Rafa Santos was not even with his back line teammates, making it a close call. Ultimately, the call on the field was upheld and the game remained scoreless.

Orlando was wasteful over the next few minutes as Torres had a shot blocked behind for a corner and Pereyra tried a tricky through ball for McGuire despite having an open Torres breaking into space on his right moments later. Pereyra then sent a free kick from the left on target, making for an easy punch away for goalkeeper Roman Celentano.

Cincinnati got its first prolonged spell of possession after that and kept it for nearly four minutes before a ball into the area was knocked away by Schlegel.

McGuire went down holding his shoulder in the 27th minute after tangling with Matt Miazga on a 50/50 ball. Pareja was angry that no foul was called and McGuire had to substitute off, needing help to remove his jersey. Ramiro Enrique came on for the rookie on the day the Lions transferred striker Ercan Kara to Samsunspor in Turkey.

“The (other strikers) know and understand that this is an opportunity now for them, and I think they have the talent to do it,” Pareja said. “Duncan, Jack Lynn, and Ramiro, they have to take that position and embrace it in the best way and produce. I’m glad that Ramiro came and participated in that one goal. It’s important for us. He creates different movements. Duncan, Jack, and Ramiro provide different characteristics up front — even Martin (Ojeda). “

Moments later, Gallese went down holding his groin area. He got treatment for a few minutes and was able to continue.

A good chance nearly fell for Araujo in the 35th minute on a corner cross by Torres. Araujo looked to have a tap-in at the back post but Santiago Arias got there just in time to prevent a shot. Enrique followed with a shot that was blocked.

The Lions continued to have the better looks. Angulo shot wide in the 38th minute and Torres had a shot deflect into the outside netting a minute later. Orlando City still found the breakthrough just before the break.

Pereyra sent a ball to Enrique down the left side of the box. The Argentine took a heavy first touch and had to then beat Miazga to the end line, where he slid and knocked it back out in front of goal. The ball found Torres, who slotted home, opening the scoring in the 44th minute with his 11th of the season.

“It was a play where Wilder recovered the ball in the middle of the field and quickly played it over to Mauricio,” Enrique said through a club translator of the winning play. “And it just all kind of happened really quick, where I opened myself up for the diagonal and he hit it, and I hit it on the fast break, but I had a touch there that was a bit too far to control. So, I just kind of hit it back into the middle of the area, and thankfully Facu was there and he hit it, and he was able to score. And thankfully, with that goal, we were able to win tonight.”

The Lions saw out seven minutes of first-half stoppage time and took their slim lead into the break.

Orlando City held the halftime advantage in possession (50.5%-49.5%), shots (7-2), and corners (4-0). The hosts passed more accurately (87%-83.9%). Each team got just one shot on frame, officially.

In the second half, Orlando City was content to play solid defense and look for counterattacking opportunities and that helped the hosts take the lead in time of possession and most of the other categories. Orlando City’s block was forced lower and lower but the Lions defended resolutely and the hosts didn’t create many clear-cut chances. They wasted the few they did create.

Cincinnati kept more of the ball after halftime and it started right away, as the hosts held possession for over a minute after kicking off to restart the game. The possession broke down on a pass too far in front of Luciano Acosta. Jansson did well to deny a cross intended for Vazquez in the 51st minute.

Enrique nearly got in behind moments later after beating Miazga in the open field but second-half sub Yerson Mosquera ran him down from behind to thwart the counter opportunity. Anguo cut inside and fired a shot in the 55th minute but Miazga blocked it.

Acosta finally got a good look at goal in the 58th minute, when he got through the right side of the defense, but his shot was at Gallese, who made the save. Three minutes later, Cincinnati should have scored. A great, curling long ball wrapped around the Orlando defense and found second-half sub Aaron Boupendza, who made a mess of his shot while 1-v-1 with Gallese and sent it trickling softly wide to the left.

Orlando then controlled the attack for the next few minutes but couldn’t do anything with a couple of good crosses from Angulo.

Gallese was called into action again in the 69th minute as Santiago Arias fired a shot from the right, but El Pulpo was up to the challenge.

The defense in front of Gallese blocked a dangerous Acosta free kick from just outside the area in the 74th minute after Santos was called for a foul.

Boupendza headed wide in the 82nd minute on a rare moment of a Cincinnati attacker being left alone in front of goal. Just after that, Pareja sent on defensive reinforcements, bringing on Junior Urso, Michael Halliday, and Kyle Smith for Torres, Santos, and Thorhallsson.

Drew Fischer added eight minutes of stoppage time that grew to 13 after he went to the monitor to check whether Boupendza deserved a red card for an arm to Cartagena’s face. His decision was merely to caution the Cincinnati striker.

Moments after the check, there was a foul on Orlando City from distance and tempers flared. Cartagena got knocked down, then got back up and got into an opponent’s face. Fischer showed him a straight red, although there didn’t seem to be anything to warrant it. However, Fischer did not go to the monitor to re-check the decision and the Lions finished the match a man down.

The closest Cincinnati came to equalizing was in the 97th minute, when substitute Marco Angulo got a head onto a cross but sent it just wide. Acosta missed the net entirely from the top of the box in the 100th minute.

The last opportunity came in the 13th minute of stoppage time when the ball was sent in from the left. Mosquera tried to knock it on frame but it was a bit high for him and his intercession prevented Miazga from getting a chance at the back post.

That was it as the whistle blew for full time and the Lions had a huge win, finishing the season 1-0-1 in two matches against the team that should go on to win the Supporters’ Shield, barring a collapse in the final games of the season.

FC Cincinnati finished the game with the advantage in possession (56.7%-43.3%), shots (13-10), shots on goal (4-1), and passing accuracy (87.4%-81.6%). Orlando City won more corners (5-2).

“It was a great game by us. It was a very important victory,” Enrique said. “You know, they’re the first-place team in the entire league and this was their first loss at home. And, you know, coming into the game, we knew that it was going to be a difficult game, and that’s the way it was, and thankfully we stuck together as a team and we were able to come out with the win.”

“There’s a lot of things that we have to be proud of,” Pareja said about the performance. “But then we have many as well that we need to get better. If we keep this mentality we can fight. And I’m glad that the feeling that we can relate to it, but you have to maintain that consistency.”

The Lions will have a week off due to the upcoming international window before hosting the Columbus Crew on Sept. 16 at 7:30 p.m.

Orlando City

Intelligence Report: Orlando City vs. LAFC

Get some insider information on LAFC courtesy of someone who knows the team best.



Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

We find ourselves at the end of another week, which means that another Orlando City match is almost upon us. Following a two-week break, the Lions will return to action with a home contest against LAFC.

A date with LAFC means I got some insider info on the opposition from Trebor Tracy, the managing editor of Angels on Parade. They’re another former SBNation blog that has gone independent, and they continue to do excellent work covering LAFC, Angel City FC, and Orange County SC, so make sure you check them out!

Catch me up on some of LAFC’s off-season transfer business. Who are some names that were brought in, and who went out the door?

Trebor Tracy:  LAFC came into this season as close to a rebuild project as you can be for a team many expect to compete for championships and trophies each year. In the off-season the team saw 15 departures from the 2023 squad, and that’s not counting loans out. Among the bigger names leaving Los Angeles were both goalkeepers that helped lift LAFC to the 2022 MLS Cup, midfielder Kellyn Acosta, defenders Denil Maldonado and Diego Palacios, and of course, the departure of inaugural signing Carlos Vela. This was a team expected to look completely different this season and it has. As for the arrivals, the team spent the off-season loading up on the likes of goalkeeper Hugo Lloris, forwards Kei Kamara and Cristian Olivera, and defender Omar Campos. The rough start to the year for Los Angeles had a lot to do with the newness of the team and having to build that familiarity within the XI. 

Of the incoming transfers, who has made the biggest impression? Is there anyone who you’d like to see performing better than they have been so far?

TT: Its been hard for LAFC to replace a lot of the departures — not just in terms of production, but leadership and experience in several cases. While not technically an off-season arrival, Cristian Olivera, who arrived in summer window of 2023, really came into his own this season. With an entire off-season under his belt, he has by far been the best of the new arrivals for LAFC. He is producing goals, creating opportunities for others, and has that confidence this team thrives off of. On the other side of the coin, Hugo Lloris has been the biggest disappointment. In fairness to him, he has drastically improved during the team’s recent run, but the start of his MLS career had him easily one of the worst keepers in the league. 

LAFC is on a five-game unbeaten run in league play, what’s been working so well for the team during this stretch?

TT: Speaking of that run, the play of Lloris is why they have done so well recently. Well, that and Denis Bouanga appears to have found his soccer boots again. The 180 those two have done has been the catalyst for the team’s great run of form lately. 

Will any players be unavailable for selection due to injury, suspension, call-ups, etc.? What is your projected starting XI and score prediction?

TT: Availability reports come out night before the match, and we have the team presser this afternoon. with a few players set to return, I am unsure at the moment as to who exactly will be  ready to go.

Thank you to Trebor for helping get us caught up on LAFC. Vamos Orlando!

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Orlando City

Orlando City Needs to Start Using the Scoreboard Again

A deep statistical dive into Orlando City’s offensive struggles. We’re warning you…there will be math (but we do it for you).



Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

One of the more memorable scenes in my favorite movie of all time, Bull Durham, is when the manager walks into the showers after another loss, yells at the team about their recent performance, and ends with “this (baseball) is a simple game: you throw the ball, you hit the ball, you catch the ball. You got it!?” Soccer is, of course, a little different but the concept remains the same. You pass the ball, you shoot the ball, you score the ball. Unless you are Orlando City, recently.

Anyone can look at the recent results for Orlando City and see that goals have been, shall we say, less than plentiful. But why is that happening? Well, one idea may be that another team in Orlando is using up all the goals, with the Orlando Pride having scored 19 (excluding opposition own goals) to Orlando City’s 15, with the Pride having played four fewer games to boot, but goals are not a zero-sum equation (I know you asked your math teacher for years when you would ever need to use equations in the real world; you’re welcome!), so let’s dive into what has been going on for Orlando City and take a look at what may be causing an average of 0.94 goals/game (again, excluding opposition own goals) in the 2024 MLS season after an average of 1.6 goals/game in 2023.

Wayne Gretzky famously said, “you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take,” but I do not think a lack of shots taken is the main culprit for this Orlando City team this season. Yes, in the last match against the Red Bulls the Lions only managed five shots (all stats in this article are courtesy of,  in collaboration with Opta, which codes thousands of matches every weekend across hundreds of competitions all over the world), but for the 2024 season, Orlando City is averaging 11.8 shots/game, 1.1 shots/game fewer than the league average of 12.9 but actually 0.1 higher than Orlando City’s 11.7 shots/game from 2023. Orlando City’s 11.8 shots/game ranks 23rd in all of MLS — not great, but the team with the most shots/game, St. Louis FC at 16.8, has only earned one more point than Orlando City after playing the same number of games, and the correlation (I told you there would be math) between shots/game and goals is relatively weak (r = 0.25, a strong positive correlation would be an r between 0.7 and the maximum r value of 1.0), so a higher value of shots/game does not necessarily lead to more goals.

What does tend to lead to more goals is more shots on target. I know, I know, you never would have thought of that. And as we look into shots on target for Orlando City in 2024, lo and behold, this is where we start to really see where the problems have arisen this season. Orlando City ranks 26th in MLS this year with 29% shots on target, so when you combine a rank of 23rd in shots/game with a rank of no. 26 in shots on target, you get a team that has scored a low amount of Goals as compared to the rest of the league. Orlando City’s 29% shots on target rate in 2024 is an 18% decrease from its 2023 shots on target percentage of 36% (7% raw decrease (36%-29% = 7%) but an 18% percent decrease (29%/36% – 100% = -18%), and the Lions’ 29% shots on target percentage is 1.28 standard deviations below the MLS average.

This is probably the time for me to tell you I was that high school math teacher who students asked about using math in the real world, and I did teach AP statistics, where we frequently talked about standard deviations and 1.28 standard deviations below the average is, in this case, to use a technical term, u-g-l-y and they ain’t got no alibi.

Is it as ugly as Bubba Sparxxx rapped about back in 2000? Was that just a question to make a pop culture reference about a song I enjoyed when I was in high school? Yes and yes. The first time I ever heard former Orlando City coach Adrian Heath interviewed he said, “Goals change games,” which of course is obvious and means that those who are taking the most shots need to be game changers. Looking at the table below, we can see who has been taking the shots and the differences between 2024 and 2023:

At first glance there is some good news. Orlando City’s leading shot takers this year are generally shooting on target around the league average, but it is on the clinical side, the goals per shot on target and goals per shot attempt where we can see that Orlando City is struggling.

We do see that Duncan McGuire continues to be clinical when he gets his shots on target, but the big drop for him is that last year he put nearly three out of every four shots on target and this year he is down to something much closer to the league average of around one out of every three. Among players with at least 17 shots last year (I chose this number because it would be 0.5 shots/game across 34 games and because it is my father’s favorite number), Duncan ranked first out of 244 MLS players in shots on target percentage and in goals per shots on target, and though his numbers this year are still above average, he is down to 43rd and 13th out of the 108 players who have taken more than 17 shots, respectively (keeping the same shot volume threshold for consistency). Four other major takeaways from me on this chart:

  • Facundo Torres was second on the list for most shots taken in 2023 and was an excellent finisher (this does include penalties, but they are shots and you have to make them), but in 2024 he is tied for fifth in shots with Dagur Dan Thórhallsson at only 15 shots taken.
  • Martin Ojeda remains a high volume shooter, but he is looking much more like Jordan Poole than Steph Curry this year with a lot of shots on target but not a lot of makes. And by not a lot I mean, sadly, zero.
  • Orlando City as a whole is taking shots from slightly closer to the goal but the team’s most frequent shooters are shooting from farther away than last year, and you do not need me as a math major to tell you that goalkeepers would prefer long shots over close shots.
  • Ercan Kara was a somewhat maligned striker for Orlando City, but he was pretty lethal when he got a shot off, putting more than two out of every five shots on frame and scoring at twice the MLS average on goals/shot. His 2023 shot volume is low on this chart because he left halfway through the season, but in his two years in MLS he scored at 21% and 22% on goals/shot, which put him in the upper echelon of shooters in the league.

Going back to McGuire and where he ranked in all of MLS, here is a heat map, but with the corresponding percentile ranks of Orlando City’s players among players who took at least 17 (hi Dad) shots (red to green scale — 0% (dark red, very low performance) to 100% (dark green, very good performance).

The comparisons between 2024 and 2023 are the most stark again in the columns involving goals, as in 2023 Orlando City’s most frequent shooters were scoring in the upper echelons of all MLS players, and this year there is much more red/orange than green for those with at least 17 shots. The other biggest differences of course surround who is taking the shots. Luis Muriel has arrived and has taken the most shots in 2024, but looking at his career shooting stats there is not a lot of evidence that being a lethal finisher is something in his skillset. Barbra Banda he is not, but then again nobody is Barbra Banda (except Barbra Banda), and expecting Muriel to change his playing style to be more of a finisher rather than initiator while adapting to a new league and teammates is lot to ask for someone who joined after the season began.

The bigger need for Orlando City is to get McGuire back on the field and to get Torres going, Facundo’s shots/90 minutes is down more than 50% from last season (largely owing to playing a lot of wingback over the last several weeks), and for someone who was in the 94th percentile in goals/shot in 2023 to have decreased their shot volume by so much is the opposite of what you want. Plus, Facundo is my son’s favorite player and he misses seeing Torres’ selfie celebration.

I want to end with a positive, however, and that is wrapped around the concept of regression to the mean. In the case of Orlando City this would actually likely be a positive regression as opposed to a negative one. During the last four years, MLS has been remarkably stable in terms of goals/shot on target (35%, 32%, 33%, 33%) and goals/shot (12%, 11%, 11%, 11%). Just because the league has been stable does not mean that Orlando City automatically will improve, but with the talent of the players on the squad and their history, I think it is more likely than not that Orlando City’s low performance so far in 2024 will come back up towards league average — much like a Major League Baseball player’s batting average on balls in play often evens out over time based on their level of skill.

Orlando City has talented players, including many who led the team to the best record in the team’s history last season, and I believe it is likely that we will start seeing small increases in goals/shot on target and goals/shot as the season progresses. I certainly hope we do, because it is much more fun when Orlando City masters this simple game and scores the ball, scores the ball, and scores the ball.

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Lion Links

Lion Links: 6/14/24

Orlando City prepares to take on LAFC, Lions linked with Alan Saldivia, Orlando City B draws against Chattanooga FC, and more.



Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Happy Friday! I’m working for most of this weekend but am still looking forward to the absurd amount of soccer ahead of us. Both Orlando City and the Orlando Pride have games Saturday, and the 2024 Euros should give us some exciting matches from teams we don’t watch all too often. Let’s dive right into today’s links!

Orlando City Prepares for LAFC

The international break is over and Orlando City is back in action Saturday night for a home game against LAFC. It’s been a difficult season for the Lions so far, and they have been shut out in three of their past five games. Points have been hard to come by at home for Orlando and a match against one of the best teams in the Western Conference won’t make that any easier. With David Brekalo at the Euros, Rodrigo Schlegel is expected to start and it would be his 100th MLS appearance. Ramiro Enrique would also make his 50th appearance across all competitions as a Lion should he take the field.

Lions Linked Reportedly Bow Out of Bid to Sign Defender Alan Saldivia

With the MLS summer transfer window looming, a rumor surfaced of Orlando City making an offer to sign Uruguayan center back Alan Saldivia from Colo-Colo in Chile. The Lions reportedly offered $1.5 million for the 22-year-old, but that doesn’t reach the $2.2 million Colo-Colo wants at minimum. The Lions reportedly would not go higher. While center back isn’t exactly a pressing need for the Lions at this time, Saldivia would have given the team a young and talented player who could anchor the defense for years to come.

Orlando City B Drops Points in Disappointing Draw

OCB hosted Chattanooga FC and had to settle for a 2-2 draw after giving up a lead not once, but twice. The Young Lions had Chattanooga on the ropes late in the match, taking the lead just before the end of normal time, only to get punched in the mouth in stoppage time and then lose the penalty shootout. It was the second straight 2-2 draw at home for the Young Lions and they’re still on the hunt for their first win this month. OCB’s next game will be on the road against New York City FC II on Wednesday.

Getting Ready for the MLS NEXT Cup Playoffs

The MLS NEXT Cup playoffs kick off Saturday as the best teams across four age groups compete in a knockout format. Orlando City’s U-15 squad was recognized as one of the title contenders in its age group and will take on Real Salt Lake in the round of 32 on Saturday . The team also did well in MLS NEXT Flex, and Jakob Garcia, who has scored 18 goals in 21 games, is the kind of attacker who can make all the difference in knockout matches. Orlando’s U-17 team is capable of making a run as well, although it faces a tough first match on Sunday against the Philadelphia Union, which won the 2024 Generation Adidas Cup. It should be a fun tournament, and hopefully Orlando’s teams can advance far enough to be included in the games streamed on MLS Season Pass.

Free Kicks

  • Carl Robinson is back in MLS after Atlanta United hired him as an assistant coach. The 47-year-old played for Toronto FC and the New York Red Bulls to close out his playing career and also served as the head coach of the Vancouver Whitecaps.
  • Chicago Fire Designated Player Xherdan Shaqiri reportedly wants to return to Europe. The 32-year-old has been with the Fire since 2022 but hasn’t lived up to his billing and his contract is set to expire after this season.

That’s all I have for you today. I hope you all have a fantastic Friday and rest of your weekend!

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