Orlando City continued its winning ways with a 1-0 businesslike road victory against Nashville SC. With shots and scoring opportunities scarce throughout the match, Orlando City made the most of its limited chances late in the first half as Duncan McGuire returned to the scoresheet. The club then put on a defensive clinic throughout the second half and turned away Nashville time and again, allowing just two second-half shots (and blocking both). The win continued to build on a record-setting season for the club for both most points (57) and most wins (16) in a season since the Lions joined MLS in 2015.
Here’s how I saw each individual performance in what may have been a preview of Orlando’s first round playoff matchup.
GK, Pedro Gallese, 6.5 — For the second match in a row, the Peruvian goalkeeper found himself with little to do, earning a clean sheet without having to make a save. Gallese faced no shots on target on the night and completed 65.4% of his 26 passes, including eight of his 16 long balls. El Pulpo set a new personal single season record for clean sheets in a season, recordeing his 10th on the year, surpassing his previous high of nine, which he set last year. He came off his line to punch away a cross or two but largely wasn’t given enough to do to earn a higher grade.
D, Rafael Santos, 7 — The Brazilian left back put in another solid effort on both ends of the pitch against a dangerous Nashville attacking front. On the offensive side of the ball, Santos logged a key pass and one successful dribble. He completed his lone crossing attempt on the night, but none of his three long balls found their target. He passed 51 times at an 88.2% rate. Santos was defensively solid, recording two tackles, making an interception, winning an aerial duel, and logging one clearance. Santos committed one foul and ultimately continued to prove his worth on the back line.
D, Robin Jansson, 7 — The Beefy Swede was cooking all night long as the heart and soul of Orlando’s defense. He also got more into the attack than in matches past, making several lung-busting runs down the field, where he logged one successful dribble. Jansson had a tackle and a team-high four clearances as he broke up plays left and right, especially when Nashville was hunting for an equalizer. Fans held their collective breaths when Jansson went down in the first half after the full weight of Sam Surridge unintentionally found the top of his boot, but after some attendance from the training staff Jansson was able to soldier on. He completed 84.4% of his 64 passes, including two of his seven long balls, committed one foul, and won an aerial duel.
D, Rodrigo Schlegel, 7 (MotM) — Schlegel did his usual Schlegel things in this match, seemingly getting under the skin of the Nashville attacking players from the jump. He logged one tackle, one interception, and three clearances while also recording a team-high three blocked shots, including a vital one on Hany Mukhtar late in the second half. The center back committed two fouls. He attempted 60 passes, completing 90% of them, but was only successful on one of his seven long balls attempted. There is something to be said about the luxury of having Rodri fill in during Antonio Carlos’ extended absence and Schlegel deserves a lot of credit for being prepared match after match.
D, Kyle Smith, 6.5 — Smith got the nod to start during the midweek fixture, replacing Dagur Dan Thorhallsson. The accountant played a solid but ultimately unremarkable game while fighting off attempts from Nashville. Smith recorded one successful dribble but was unsuccessful on both of his crossing attempts. Defensively, he had just one tackle, but two clearances, and he won an aerial duel. Smith completed 88% of his 50 passes and was accurate on four of his seven attempted long balls. He was subbed off in the 85th minute when Orlando brought on Thorhallsson and Carlos in an attempt to protect the one goal lead.
MF, Cesar Araujo, 7 — Araujo did a little bit of everything throughout the match. The 22-year-old led the Lions with a team-high 84 touches and 75 attempted passes, and completed 92% of his attempts. He earned two fouls for the Lions while committing none. Along with his defensive midfield partner, Wilder Cartagena, Araujo did a fine job of keeping former MVP Hany Mukhtar in check. The Uruguayan contributed one tackle, one interception, and one clearance while pestering Nashville.
MF, Wilder Cartagena, 6.5 — Like Araujo, the Peruvian was given the tall task of defending Mukhtar and did well to be in the right place to alter runs or stymie the buildup. Cartagena was fouled twice on the night and committed two fouls as well, picking up a yellow card. Surprisingly, he did not record a tackle, interception, or clearance but he did record one blocked shot. He won two aerial duels and completed 89.1% of his 64 passes while also connecting on one of his two long balls.
MF, Martin Ojeda, 6.5 — The Argentinian Designated Player got the start for the midweek clash. Ojeda has quietly put together a solid first year in MLS and built upon it by logging his 10th assist across all competitions on the winning goal for Orlando City. Sprung down the left side on a ball by Mauricio Pereyra, Ojeda curled a key pass to a streaking McGuire, who flicked it off the near post and in to put Orlando ahead just before halftime. Defensively, Ojeda contributed one tackle and a clearance. He was successful on 73.3% of his 30 passes and landed one of his two long balls and one of two crosses. It was a solid outing for the DP, who keeps adding to his season totals in goals and assists.
MF, Mauricio Pereyra, 6 — The captain had little room to work most of the night but was responsible for unleashing Ojeda right before Orlando scored. He missed on both of his long ball attempts and completed 80.6% of his 36 passes. Defensively, he contributed a tackle and an interception on an otherwise pedestrian night for the leader of the squad.
MF, Facundo Torres, 6 — Speaking of quiet nights, Torres was coming off of one of his most dominant performances of the season, but he struggled to find the same impact against an aggressive Nashville defense. In defense of Torres, if would have been slightly easier to get water from a stone than to get any type of clean touch on the ball when he was constantly shoved in the back on almost every touch. Torres did not record a tackle, clearance, or interception and logged two successful dribbles while being fouled once (officially). He completed 81.8% of his 33 passes and his lone cross attempt from the endline sheepishly found the side of the net without posing much of a threat. Torres was subbed off in the 71st minute and thanks to missing out on 11 minutes of stoppage time was able to get some extra rest during a congested week.
F, Duncan McGuire, 7 — The rookie logged his 10th goal of the MLS season to provide the winning margin. There was a lot of talka bout whether he was onside, but the flag stayed down and video review showed that his run was in line with Ojeda’s pass. Besides finding the back of the net on his only shot attempt, McGuire completed seven of his 10 passes (70%) and completed one successful dribble while winning a foul and committing one. McGuire won a team-high three aerial duels.
MF, Ivan Angulo (65′), 5.5 — Oscar Pareja elected to bring on straight speed in the 65th minute by introducing Angulo and Ramiro Enrique into the match. While neither had a direct impact on the score sheet, their pace proved to be a issue for Nashville throughout the final half hour. Angulo completed all nine of his passes and logged one clearance and one interception. Based upon the congestion of fixtures this week, I expect Angulo to be back in the starting lineup for the home finale.
F, Ramiro Enrique (65′), 5.5 — Enrique came on alongside Angulo and brought plenty of energy with him. Enrique’s pace was a problem for the Nashville back line, but despite having at least two quality chances to go to goal, Enrique held up his attack to look for teammates, which ultimately resulted in the attack fizzling out. He completed 72.7% of his passes, won an aerial duel, and was fouled once.
MF, Junior Urso (72′), 6 — The Bear made another cameo off the bench for Orlando, this time spelling Torres. He had one successful dribble and was fouled once, and technically recorded a shot, which he tried from approximately the next county over. It was one of only two attempts all night by Orlando, though. Defensively he had one tackle and a clearance. Urso completed 72.2% of his 18 passes over the final third of the match and frustrated Nashville’s comeback efforts by winning a bunch of throw-ins and moving the ball quickly to his teammates.
D, Dagur Dan Thorhallsson (85′), N/A — The converted defender got some midweek rest before being called in to close out the match. Thorhallsson completed 50% of his four passes in limited action on the pitch. I would anticipate that he will be back in the starting lineup this Saturday.
D, Antonio Carlos (85′), N/A — A welcome sight for any Orlando City fan — and surely for the back line and Gallese as well — Carlos made his return to the field after an extended absence due to injury. The Brazilian center back got right to work, recording two clearances in quick succession and completed his lone pass on the night.
That’s how I saw the individual performances by the Lions. Let me know where you agree and disagree in the comments and make sure to vote for your Man of the Match in our poll below.
Lion Links: 2/20/24
The Wall sells out, Robin Jansson earns recognition, Concacaf W Gold cup preview, and more.
Happy Tuesday, everyone! We’re now just one day away from the first competitive Orlando City game of the year, and it can’t get here fast enough. As usual, we have plenty to cover this morning, so let’s jump straight into it.
The Wall Sells Out for Orlando City’s Season Opener
The Wall, the supporters section of Orlando City’s stadium, has sold out of single-match tickets ahead of Saturday’s home opener against CF Montreal. Limited tickets for the match are still available for the rest of the stadium, and hopefully it will fully sell out for the first match of the season. This Saturday will be the 10th consecutive time in which the Lions start their MLS season at home. It should be a great match and a chance for Orlando to get its season off to a good start between Concacaf Champions Cup matches against Cavalry FC.
Robin Jansson Praised as a Top Defender in MLS
Orlando City center back Robin Jansson was recognized as one of the best center backs in MLS by MLSsoccer.com‘s Joseph Lowery. The 32-year-old has been an integral part of Orlando’s defense since joining the league in 2019 and should continue anchoring the team’s back line this season. Not only is he excellent in terms of defense, but the Beefy Swede can also make an impact on offense with his passing and surprising runs up the field. Jansson is one of the most consistent defenders in the league and agreed to a new contract with the club earlier this month.
MLS Transfer News Roundup
The 2024 Major League Soccer season might kick off tomorrow, but transfers are still flying thick and fast, which means we have things to catch up on. We start with one of the teams opening the season tomorrow, Inter Miami, which has officially transferred midfielder Gregore to Botafogo in the Brazilian top flight. We move on to NYCFC, which has completed the signing of striker Jovan Mijatović from Red Star Belgrade. The 18-year-old Serbian youth international has inked a deal that runs through the 2028 season, with an option year for 2029. We finish up with the Houston Dynamo, which have signed Coco Carasquilla to a contract extension. The Panamanian midfielder’s deal now runs through the 2025 season and has option years for 2026 and 2027.
Concacaf W Gold Cup Preview
The inaugural Concacaf W Gold Cup kicks off later today, so make sure you get up to speed on everything you need to know about the competition. The United States Women’s National Team has been grouped with Argentina, the Dominican Republic, and Mexico, and will be looking for a strong showing following a disappointing campaign at last summer’s World Cup. The tournament will feature a total of 12 teams, with eight Concacaf representatives and four from CONMEBOL. The top two finishers in each of the three groups advance to the knockout round, along with the top two third-place finishers. The USWNT begin play tonight against the Dominican Republican at 10:15 p.m. from Dignity Health Sports Park.
Americans in Midweek Action
With a number of American players taking part in games during the working week, get everything marked down on your calendar so you don’t miss anything. Things get started this afternoon with a huge game, as Malik Tillman, Ricardo Pepi, Sergino Dest, and PSV Eindhoven take on Borussia Dortmund in the UEFA Champions League. European competition continues on Thursday as well, with Christian Pulisc, Yunus Musah, and AC Milan facing Rennes in the Europa League play. Things finish out on Friday as the red-hot Brandon Vazquez and Monterrey face Juarez in Liga MX competition.
Minnesota United Close to Coaching Hire
A coaching search that will surely go down as one of the most thorough in MLS history is nearing its conclusion, as Minnesota United is reportedly close to naming Manchester United assistant Eric Ramsay as the team’s new skipper. While nothing is official yet, Ramsay is said to be the leading candidate, and The Athletic‘s Tom Bogert says that the team is closing in on the hire. If he joins, Ramsay will become the youngest coach in league history at the tender age of 32, and he will also become Minnesota’s second coach following Adrian Heath’s departure in October of last year.
- Orlando City forward Luis Muriel thanked Atalanta fans who made a banner to bid him farewell this past weekend.
- The folks over at MLSsoccer.com have predicted Orlando City will finish third in the Eastern Conference this year.
- The U.S. Open Cup has reportedly gotten the green light to take place this year, although it will have a format different than in past years.
- Thorgan Hazard dedicated a goal celebration to his family’s parakeet that passed away.
- Crystal Palace has hired Oliver Glasner as the team’s new coach after Roy Hodgson stepped down from the role.
- Napoli announced the firing of Walter Mazzari just two days before the team’s Champions League tie against Barcelona, making him the second coaching casualty of the Italian Champions’ campaign.
- Continuing the coaching carousel trend, Marseille has fired Gennaro Gattuso after just five months into the job.
That’s all I have for this morning. Vamos Orlando!
Orlando City’s 10th Anniversary is the Time to Remember the Club’s Originals
Orlando City’s 10th year in MLS should be used to honor the players who built the club.
The 2024 season is Orlando City’s 10th in Major League Soccer. The club has scheduled several events throughout the year to celebrate having been in the country’s top division for a decade, but the season should also be a time for fans to reflect on the people who made it happen without getting to experience the result.
Orlando City arrived in Orlando in 2010 with the goal of reaching MLS. However, it was the first professional soccer team in the city since the 1990s and resides in a football hotbed, leaving many to wonder if the team would be successful. The most famous doubt came at the team’s inaugural media day, when longtime WESH 2 sportscaster Pat Clake told club founder Phil Rawlins and inaugural Head Coach Adrian Heath that, while he wished them luck, a professional soccer team in Orlando would never work.
The Orlando project got off to a much better start than the Austin Aztex, Rawlins’ former project. During the team’s first season in 2011, Orlando City substantially outdrew its predecessor, proving there was an appetite for soccer. But there was another factor to the team’s popularity. The Lions won…a lot.
The success of a team at home has a significant impact on the enjoyment of attending games. In four USL Pro seasons, Orlando City was 40-3-9 (W-L-D) at the Citrus Bowl (now Camping World Stadium) and Walt Disney World’s ESPN Wide World of Sports, winning three regular season titles and two USL Pro championships. Seeing the local team win and score frequently is much more likely to result in people returning for more games. That’s exactly what the Lions did, and it helped to create a following.
When MLS considered Orlando City for expansion, the league looked at average attendance, season ticket numbers, and community involvement. All of these factors were directly related to the team’s success on the field. For this reason, the key players on those teams are responsible for Orlando City being in MLS in the first place.
In addition to their work on the field, the players from the USL Pro era worked in the community to build a following. They spoke with local groups and were active throughout Central Florida, convincing people to attend games. It was all about the effort of getting the team into MLS. Unfortunately, many of those players didn’t get to experience the results of their labor.
The core of Orlando City’s team from 2011 to 2013 remained the same, with Miguel Gallardo in goal, Luke Boden at left back, Rob Valentino at center back, Kevin Molino and Jamie Watson in the midfield, and Dennis Chin up top. The success they had resulted in the club being announced as the newest expansion side on Nov. 19, 2013. However, of those six stalwarts, only Boden and Molino continued with the team into MLS.
Over the past 10 years, Orlando City has had several star and fan favorite players come and go. As the club’s USL Pro era gets further in the rearview mirror, the players who built the organization are forgotten or unknown by a large portion of the fanbase that didn’t experience the early seasons.
To the club’s credit, Orlando City worked to keep the memory of the team’s foundation alive in recent years. This preseason, Chin, Lewis Neal (a 2011 original who returned to the team in MLS), and Dom Dwyer (who was on loan with the team in 2013 and returned in 2017) were involved in the popular away jersey unveiling. Additionally, Chin signed autographs and took part in a Q&A session during the Society XXI preseason game against the New England Revolution. They’ve had other events, like the 2022 U.S. Open Cup games against the Tampa Bay Rowdies, when former players have been invited back.
Additionally, the club raised banners last year for the 2011 and 2013 USL Pro championships and announced this year that it will display the trophies in a new permanent exhibit called “The Vault.” The club also released an updated version of the three-lion USL Pro logo from those first four seasons.
When people consider the factors that resulted in Orlando City joining MLS in 2015, the fan support during the USL Pro years is the first thing that comes to mind. But without the success of those teams and the work the players put into building the following, the club likely never would’ve made it to the top division. This 10th anniversary season is a good time to remember those club legends.
Lion Links: 2/19/24
Orlando City wins preseason finale, post-match concert artists named, U.S. Open Cup in jeopardy, and more.
Merry Monday morning, Mane Landers. We’re about to get to see Orlando City play matches in both the MLS regular season and the Concacaf Champions Cup. Cavalry FC is up first on Wednesday and CF Montreal on Saturday. That’s a whole lot of Canada to start things off, eh? Before we get to the links, please join us in wishing a happy birthday to Orlando Pride star Marta, who turns 38 today.
Orlando City Defeats the Rapids in Preseason Finale
The Lions won their final preseason match against the Colorado Rapids 3-2 at Inter&Co Stadium on Saturday. Kyle Smith got the scoring going mere seconds into the match and Facundo Torres doubled the lead on a penalty kick before the end of the first half. The Rapids tied it up in the second half, but Orlando City rookie Jeorgio Kocevski scored a late winner in stoppage time to keep the Lions unbeaten in the preseason. Orlando ended the preseason schedule with a record of 4-0-1.
Orlando Postgame Concert Announced
As I get older, I see each decade get its time in the nostalgic spotlight. Evidently, it is the 1990s’ turn. Orlando City announced a concert that will follow the Austin FC match at Inter&Co Stadium on March 23. You didn’t ask for it — and neither did anyone else — but Vanilla Ice, Rob Base, and Montell Jordan are headlining an “I Love the 90s” post-match concert. I’m not entirely certain if everyone will be required to stop, collaborate, and listen, but it’s certainly a possibility.
PRO Referee Strike Looms
Normally, if I told you that Orlando City didn’t have to worry about the Professional Referees Organization (PRO), I’m willing to bet you’d be pretty happy. Now it’s a real possibility that the Lions’ first match will likely have stand-in referees. The Professional Soccer Referees Association rejected a new collective bargaining agreement with PRO, meaning that there will be a lockout. PRO has identified “qualified replacements” ready to make sure that matches will be able to be played.
Open Cup in Jeopardy
The start of the 2024 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup is only a month away, although that isn’t a certainty. U.S. Soccer and MLS are still not seeing eye to eye regarding how many of the senior squads will participate. On the other side of the equation, the USL is pushing back against the demands from MLS.
Ultimately, this is a power struggle between the upper levels of organized soccer in this country. If a compromise solution can’t be found, it could mean that the Open Cup won’t take place this year. If that happens, it won’t help any of the involved parties and it will be devastating to the supporters of all the clubs at every level.
- Thanks to Zakaria Taifi’s mother, Alyssa Taifi, we know that Orlando City B defeated Philadelphia Union II by a score of 4-0 in a preseason scrimmage, and that there was some chippiness in the match.
- Inter Miami is under pressure to get roster compliant. As such, Federico Redondo will not be joining the Herons due to Miami’s inability to bring him in because of MLS regulations regarding payment methodology.
- Inter Miami midfielder Victor Ulloa announced he is retiring, which will also help Miami’s roster cap problems.
- Someone needs to tell Lionel Messi that there are financial roster rules in MLS. I know he probably doesn’t know, given how many rules were bent to bring him to MLS. Now he wants Neymar too. It’s getting ridiculous.
- Bundesliga fans don’t want a proposed private equity investment in the league and they let everyone know it at Bayern Munich’s 3-2 loss to Bochum. The protest delayed the match by 13 minutes and involved tennis balls.
- Luton Town defender Tom Lockyer has not ruled out a return to Luton Town after he suffered a cardiac event in a match against Bournemouth last December.
That will do it for today. Check back for our coverage of Orlando City’s two matches this week. Vamos Orlando!
PawedCast Episode 396: Preseason Rewind, Cavalry FC Preview, and More
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