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Orlando City

Orlando City vs. Toronto FC: Final Score 2-0 as Lions Ride Duncan McGuire’s Brace to Victory

The Lions closed the season with another shutout win on the strength of two more goals by the rookie striker.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC

Duncan McGuire came off the bench in the second half and scored twice to lead Orlando City to a 2-0 road victory over Toronto FC at BMO Field on Decision Day. With the win, the Lions (18-7-9, 63 points) clinched the best road record in MLS (9-4-4) and extended their unbeaten run against Toronto (4-20-4, 16 points) to eight consecutive matches (6-0-2), completing a season sweep of the Reds for the second straight year.

“We’re very happy with the performance,” Orlando City Head Coach Oscar Pareja said after the match. “The players have (had) a great season but the most important part is is coming. It was not easy for us. It’s a difficult place.”

Pareja’s lineup was a heavily rotated one, with backups starting just about all over the field. Mason Stajduhar started in goal behind a back line of Luca Petrasso, Rodrigo Schlegel, Antonio Carlos, and Michael Halliday. Cesar Araujo was joined in central midfield by Felipe behind an attacking line of Gaston Gonzalez, Junior Urso, and Martin Ojeda, with Ramiro Enrique up top.

As expected from the lineup filled with backups, the game didn’t exactly start crisply for Orlando City. There was very little early possession beyond the center circle and defensively the Lions sometimes looked confused in coverage.

The rust of some players was evident early. Petrasso coughed up the ball in his own defensive third just five minutes in but Stajduhar did well to cut off the ensuing cross from Federico Bernardeschi.

The first half-chance for Orlando ended up on Felipe’s foot off a long throw-in by Araujo. The midfielder had a weak shot blocked by the traffic in front of Sean Johnson’s goal.

A minute later, Osei Owusu had a free header in the box off a Kobe Franklin cross, but he couldn’t get it on frame.

Toronto was forced into an early substitution in the 17th minute when Aime Mabika pulled up with what appeared to be a hamstring injury. With no defenders on the bench, Michael Bradley moved from the midfield to the back line and that turned out to be a key factor in the match.

The only shot on target for Orlando in the first half came in the 24th minute. Carlos got his head to a corner kick cross by Ojeda but he generated no power on the shot and it was an easy catch for Johnson. That was the last time in the half Johnson’s goal was even mildly threatened.

Four minutes after that attempt, Schlegel partially whiffed on his attempt to clear a cross into the box but Stajduhar was able to collect it. Bernardeschi then had his shot deflect off of Petrasso for a corner in the 30th minute. Owusu shook free of Schlegel for a free header on the corner kick but again missed the net.

Lorenzo Insigne sent a free kick over the bar in the 37th minute after Carlos brought down Owusu about 25 yards out from goal.

The Lions finally had a good-looking attack going in the 42nd minute when Gonzalez was sent down the left channel. The MLS U22 Initiative winger sent a cross through the top of the box that didn’t come close to a teammate and Toronto broke the other way, winning a corner. The Lions were able to clear the second ball after an unconvincing punch by Stajduhar left the ball near the top of his penalty area.

Insigne fired a shot from distance that Stajduhar stopped in first-half injury time after Urso turned the ball over cheaply in his own half. That was the last look for either side, despite a late corner won by Toronto. The game went scoreless to the break.

The hosts finished with more possession (59.7%-40.3%), shots (7-2), corners (3-1), and passing accuracy (88.3%-80.3%). Each team directed one shot on frame. Toronto was the much more threatening side as Orlando City generated very little offensively, often overcooking direct passes over the top and failing to pick out passes once they approached midfield.

“I think the first half the boys sustained,” Pareja said. “Toronto brought a lot of energy. This allowed us to bring the players that were on the bench who have been more regular in the lineups with more space.”

Pareja made no changes at halftime and Orlando City didn’t look any better to start the second period. Stajduhar was forced to make a save in the opening minute of the half when Insigne got in tight down the left.

Halliday was sent down the right in the 48th minute but he sent a cross straight to Johnson.

Bernardeschi then started creating mischief down the right. He sent a cross through the Orlando area in the 50th minute that Halliday was able to clear. A minute later, Bernardeschi sent a shot right at Stajduhar from the top of the area as the Lions were caught by Toronto’s movement.

Toronto’s Owusu scored in the 52nd minute but the flag came up immediately. The play wasn’t offside by much, but Carlos stepped forward just in time to put the Toronto forward off.

Gonzalez sent a decent cross through the Toronto area in the 54th minute but Ojeda couldn’t quite get there before it skipped through.

Just beyond the hour mark, Pareja made some substitutions and it made a huge difference. McGuire, Mauricio Pereyra, and Ivan Angulo came on for Enrique, Felipe, and Gonzalez.

Carlos made a vital sliding block as Toronto quickly got forward in transition after the game restarted. That was huge, because Orlando took the lead just seconds later.

Stajduhar started the play that gave the Lions the lead with a long ball forward. It was over the midfield and bounced high. McGuire ran onto it and chipped it past Bradley and then sped past the former USMNT man. Once he cleared his last defender, McGuire smashed an unstoppable shot into the upper left corner past Johnson to make it 1-0.

“That strike by Duncan was incredible,” said Stajduhar, who picked up his first career assist on the play. “I hit the long ball and kind of fell off to my left a little bit, saw him take the touch by Bradley, and I started to organize our prevent, our defense. And all of a sudden, I see the ball hit the back of the net. And I was like, ‘Holy crap, what a what a shot.'”

McGuire added a second in the 74th. This time substitute Kyle Smith, who had come on for Petrasso, sent a gorgeous through ball up the left side that was perfectly timed. McGuire again blazed past Bradley and slotted the ball past Johnson to make it 2-0 with his 13th strike of the season, .

“Happy to see Duncan scoring again,” Pareja said. “I think it’s the whole team, not just what happened in the second half, but the work that the boys did in the first half as well was important.”

From that point, Orlando City seemed content to see out the match, playing safely and not getting forward often over the final quarter of an hour. Robin Jansson replaced Schlegel, who appeared to be cramping, in the 78th minute.

In the 81st minute, John Herdman subbed off Bradley for the final time in his professional career. Latif Blessing replaced the former USMNT captain.

Just after the substitution, Orlando had a chance to make it 3-0 when Toronto turned the ball over to Ojeda at the top of the area. The Argentine took the ball into the area but a second touch allowed the defense to close and his shot was blocked.

The last chance for Toronto to pull one back came in the 90th minute after a bad giveaway by Araujo at the top of his penalty area. Sending a pass straight to Insigne, the Uruguayan had to breathe a sigh of relief when the Italian’s shot deflected off the outside of the left post and out for a goal kick.

That was the last decent opportunity of the match and the regular season came to an end with yet another Orlando City road victory.

Toronto maintained its possession advantage at the final whistle (59.5%-40.5%), and the Reds had the edge in shots (12-5), corners (5-1), and passing accuracy (88%-81.5%), with each team putting three shots on target. The Lions simply had one more Duncan McGuire than Toronto FC and that was all the difference in this match.

“Anytime you play anybody in this league, regardless of who it is, what their record is, it’s a tough game,” Stajduhar said. “There’s no real bad team. There’s a lot of parity in this league, so you have to be ready for anything, no matter who you play. Toronto probably had the better of us in the first half but we were able to hold it and take advantage of our opportunities.”

Following the match, both Pareja and Stajduhar dedicated the win to club equipment manager Chafik Tounzit, who was diagnosed with cancer earlier in the week.


And that will do it for the 2023 regular season. The Lions will next play in the postseason against Nashville SC in a best-of-three, first-round series. The dates and times of the matches will be announced soon.

Orlando City

Orlando City vs. D.C. United: Player Grades and Man of the Match

How did your favorite Lions perform in Orlando City’s 3-2 win over D.C. United?

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Orlando City came back from two deficits against D.C. United to claim a huge 3-2 win this weekend — the team’s second victory of the season. It looked like it would be a long night for the Lions in the first 20 minutes, but they turned it around. Down a goal late, David Brekalo and Duncan McGuire converted to earn Orlando City three points.

Here’s how I saw the individual performances by the Lions.

Starters

GK, Pedro Gallese, 6 — Gallese took his usual position in goal and had a strong night. He allowed himself to get pushed out of the play on the opening goal by Christian Benteke, though it arguably should’ve been a foul on D.C. He ended the game with four saves from six on-target shots, including two huge saves in second-half stoppage time. In addition to his shot stopping, Gallese completed 51.9% of his 27 passes, including seven of his 20 long balls. He was also credited with three clearances on the night.

D, Kyle Smith, 5.5 — Smith got the start at left back in this game over Rafael Santos, recording 53 touches. He had three tackles, three clearances, and a blocked shot. Going forward, he only completed 76.5% of his 34 passes, but connected with his lone cross and five of his nine long balls. He also won two aerial balls and was booked just before coming off for handling a ball that he should’ve cleared, giving D.C. a free kick in a dangerous position. The defender was replaced by Santos in the 73rd minute.

D, Robin Jansson, 6 — Jansson was a strong point for Orlando City once again in this game. He recorded one tackle, two interceptions, a blocked shot, and three clearances. Going forward, the center back completed 80.4% of his 46 passes, including four of his seven long balls. Arguably his biggest play of the game was drawing a foul late at the top of the box when D.C. was pushing for an equalizer.

D, David Brekalo, 6 — Brekalo had 60 touches and completed 76.6% of his 47 passes, including three of his 13 long balls. Defensively, he recorded one tackle, one interception, and two clearances. He made his first significant offensive impact as a Lion by getting his head to a Nico Lodeiro corner kick in the 82nd minute to even the game at 2-2.

D, Dagur Dan Thorhallsson, 6 — Thorhallsson only had 58 touches in the game, but the right back made the most of them. He completed 76.7% of his 30 passes and three of his six long balls, but failed to connect on his lone cross. Defensively, he recorded two tackles and three clearances. However, his biggest impact came in the 28th minute, when he got his head onto Ivan Angulo’s cross to even the game at 1-1.

MF, Cesar Araujo, 5 — Araujo’s 70 touches were the most on the team for this game. He only completed 78.2% of his 55 passes, but connected on two of his four long balls. Defensively, he won two tackles and blocked one shot while committing a team-high four fouls. He was also late getting over to cover Gabriel Pirani on the second goal for D.C. Overall, it wasn’t one of Araujo’s best games.

MF, Wilder Cartagena, 5.5 — Cartagena started in the defensive midfield alongside Araujo. He recorded 41 touches and completed 81.3% of his 32 passes, including a key pass, his one cross, and one of his three long balls. Defensively, he recorded two clearances. As is common with the midfielder, he was booked in the first half for standing over Jared Stroud after a foul by Angulo. He was taken off during a triple substitution in the 72nd minute, replaced by Lodeiro.

MF, Ivan Angulo, 6 — Angulo was the least involved of the midfielders, only recording 35 touches. However, he completed 76.2% of his 21 passes, including a wonderful cross to Thorhallsson on the Lions’ first goal of the night. His lone shot was off target, but he helped defensively with a tackle and team-high three interceptions.

MF, Facundo Torres, 5.5 — Torres recorded 50 touches in this game and completed 90.9% of his 33 passes with no key passes. He was accurate on only one of his three crosses, which was an issue. His lone shot was off target but not by much, as he sent his effort just wide of the right post from outside the area. He came off in stoppage time after the Lions took the lead for center back Rodrigo Schlegel.

MF, Martin Ojeda, 5.5 — Ojeda started in the attacking midfield for this game, recording 46 touches. He completed 71.4% of his 21 passes, including two key passes, one accurate cross on his four attempts, and two of his four long balls. He also had four unstable touches and an off-target shot. Defensively, the attacking midfielder had a team-high four tackles, helping his team retain possession before being replaced by Duncan McGuire in the 72nd minute.

F, Luis Muriel, 5 — Muriel got the start alone up top, but had a difficult night. He got involved in the game with 36 touches and completed 64.7% of his 17 passes, including two key passes. He took two shots, with one on target, and completed two dribbles, but had five unstable touches. He could’ve had a much better performance, but attempted to dribble through the opposition in the box rather than finding a teammate, losing possession. The forward’s night ended in the 87th minute when he was replaced by Felipe.

Substitutes

D, Rafael Santos (73’), 5.5 — Santos came on in the 73rd minute for Smith at left back. He had 14 touches and completed seven of his 10 touches (70%), but failed to connect on his one long ball and three crosses. He also didn’t record any defensive stats in his 17 minutes of action.

MF, Nico Lodeiro (72’), 6.5 (MotM) — Lodeiro came on in the 72nd minute for Cartagena, looking to make a difference. The midfielder touched the ball 18 times and completed 75% of his 12 passes, including two key passes, two of his three crosses, and one of his three long balls. Both of his shots were on target and his through ball for McGuire in second-half stoppage time gave him the assist on the game-winning goal. Although the stats sheet credited Torres with the assist on Brekalo’s goal, it was the veteran who took the set piece, which should result in a two-assist night once the league has had a chance to review the tape (see below…even Evan Weston calls him ‘Torres’ on his call). Lodeiro was a game-changer when he came on so, despite his lack of minutes, he earns my Man of the Match.

F, Duncan McGuire (72’), 6 — McGuire came on with Lodeiro as the Lions were chasing the game. He had 14 touches and completed 44.4% of his nine passes. However, the striker was brought on to score and did so in stoppage time, timing his run perfectly and finishing well on the breakaway. He also recorded a tackle and clearance but gets a high grade from me for doing exactly what he was brought on to do in scoring the winning goal.

MF, Felipe (87’), N/A — Felipe came on for Muriel as the Lions looked to see out a point, but he only touched the ball three times. He completed both of his passes, but didn’t record any other stats in his minimal time on the field.

D, Rodrigo Schlegel (90+2’), N/A — Schlegel came on right after the game-winning goal for Torres as the Lions looked to see out the win. He had two touches and an incomplete pass, but no other statistics.


That’s how I saw the individual performances in Orlando City’s win over D.C. United. Let us know how you saw the game and vote for your Man of the Match below.

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Lion Links

Lion Links: 4/15/24

Lions beat D.C. United, Pride pick up road win over Utah Royals, Barbra Banda arrives in Orlando, and more.

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Image courtesy of Orlando Pride / Jeremy Reper

Hello, Mane Landers. I hope all is well with you down in Florida. Orlando City and the Pride both won over the weekend, and there has been plenty of action in European soccer. Over the past week, I’ve been busy covering high school sports like lacrosse and softball. There is plenty to cover today, so let’s get to the links.

Lions Top D.C. United

Orlando City overturned a late 2-1 deficit to win 3-2 against D.C. United at Audi Field over the weekend. David Brekalo scored the equalizer in the second half to tie the match at 2-2. Duncan McGuire came off the bench in the second half and scored in stoppage time, as the Lions beat D.C. United for the first time since Oct. 2, 2021. The Lions were 0-3-1 against D.C. United over the last two seasons prior to Saturday’s win. Orlando has now picked up points in each of the last three matches. Orlando City will be on the road again this weekend when it takes on CF Montreal on Saturday.

Orlando Pride Defeat Utah Royals; Help Arrives

The Orlando Pride got their first win of the 2024 NWSL last Friday with a 1-0 against the Utah Royals. Marta came off the bench in the second half and scored the lone goal to seal the win for Orlando. The Pride drew each of their first three matches to start the season against Racing Louisville, Angel City FC, and the Chicago Red Stars. Friday’s result means the Pride have six points through four league matches and are fifth in the NWSL table.

Despite needing four matches to pick up their first win of the year, the Pride are ahead of last year’s pace at the same point in the season, and remain undefeated (1-0-3) despite still waiting to play with this off-season’s marquee signing, Zambian international striker Barbra Banda. The new Pride forward arrived on Sunday to a warm welcome at Orlando International Airport.

It will be interesting to see how quickly Seb Hines can get Banda acclimated to the club and the league. Orlando could use Banda’s offensive firepower, as the club has struggled to score goals in the early part of the season. The Pride will be back in action against the San Diego Wave this Friday.

Bayer Leverkusen wins Bundesliga; Manchester City Leads EPL Title Race

Bayer Leverkusen cruised to a 5-0 win against Werder Bremen on Sunday to win its first ever Bundesliga title with five league matches left to spare. Xabi Alonso’s side won the league title by a 16-point margin, ending Bayern Munich’s 11-year run as title holders. Leverkusen is also unbeaten through 43 matches across all competitions. Meanwhile, in England, we have a new Premier League title race leader as Manchester City crushed Luton Town 5-1 on Saturday. On Sunday, Arsenal lost 2-0 to Aston Villa and Liverpool lost 1-0 to Crystal Palace. There are six match days remaining and this race could go down to the wire. Manchester City is at the top of the table with 73 points, while Arsenal and Liverpool remain two points behind in second and third, respectively, with 71 points.

Free Kicks

  • Houston Dash winger Maria Sanchez has reportedly requested a trade four months after signing a record-breaking deal in NWSL history in the off-season to remain with the club.
  • Manchester United edged Chelsea 2-1 to beat the Blues for the first time ever. Making the win even bigger was that it took place in the Women’s FA Cup semifinal. United will play Tottenham in the final at Wembley on May 12.
  • The EFL Championship is three weeks away from its finale, with a few clubs featureing Americans still in the mix for promotion. Josh Sargent’s Norwich City side holds the final playoff spot, while Haji Wright’s Conventry and Duane Holmes’ Preston North End in the hunt for a shot at promotion.
  • The AS Roma versus Udinese match was suspended after defender Evan Ndicka collapsed away from play and had to be stretchered off. The game was tied at 1-1 with about 20 minutes remaining when Ndicka went down. The club shared this update on social media.

That will do it for me today, Mane Landers. Enjoy your Monday, and I’ll see you next time.

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Orlando City

Orlando City vs. D.C. United: Five Takeaways

What did we learn from a 3-2 road victory against D.C. United?

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Orlando City came from behind twice on the road at Audi Field to earn three points against a good D.C. United team, winning 3-2. It was by no means a perfect match for the Lions, but Head Coach Oscar Pareja and company pulled the right strings when it came to the lineup and substitutes after a bye week to earn the team’s biggest result of the still young season.

Here are our five takeaways from the match.

Sluggish Start

D.C. United found itself up 1-0 before most fans at home and in the stadium probably had a chance to settle into their seats. Christian Benteke, a man who you absolutely do not want to allow any space in the box, broke free for a header from the back post on a corner kick five minutes into the match. Say what you want about the contact that was allowed on Gallese, but El Pulpo could have been more demonstrative coming off his line. The shellshocked Lions took the next 20ish minutes to work themselves back into the match, but there was certainly a lot of concern early from those watching the events unfolding in the nation’s capital.

Angulo Creates the Equalizer

Once Orlando woke up, the squad was able to string together a solid second part of the first half with possession, passing, and solid cutting. The first equalizer of the night came in the 28th minute as Ivan Angulo streaked up the field and utilized his speed to get the ball into a dangerous position before playing a perfectly weighted ball to the back post, where Dagur Dan Thorhallsson slammed home an emphatic header. It was a welcome sign for Angulo to get involved as a contributor after an otherwise forgettable start to the year.

Muriel Lacking Quality

Much has been made about the signing of Luis Muriel, who has had a storied international career. His start to his time in the City Beautiful has been less than inspiring, however. On a night when he got the starting nod over fellow striker Duncan McGuire, Muriel looked slightly off and oftentimes was the victim of over dribbling or taking one too many touches.

His best goal-scoring opportunity came on a brilliant ball from Martin Ojeda with the D.C. keeper far off his line. Attempting to chip the keeper from distance would have been asking a lot and Muriel decided to dribble into the box, ultimately trying to guide the ball into the opposite corner. However, it was blocked by D.C. defender Aaron Herrera. One way or another, Orlando is going to need Muriel to find the back of the net, but when that happens may be anyone’s guess.

Breakagoalo

Remember where your heard the phrase ‘Breakagoalo,’ OCSC fans, as it is being coined here and now. With two weeks of rest, David Brekalo found himself inserted into what is undoubtedly his starting role for the remainder of the year, and he was able to open his Orlando City and MLS goal-scoring accounts. After D.C. once again pulled ahead, 2-1, a little after the hour mark of the match, Brekalo was able to showcase his athletic ability and aerial presence by outleaping multiple D.C. players on a corner kick, sending a glancing header into the net to level the game at 2-2.

These are the types of goals that Orlando City has lacked — not just this year, but last year as well — and there is no reason to think that Brekalo can’t find the net multiple times this year from corners and set pieces.

Duncan Does it Again

Duncan McGuire opened his account a little over a year ago, scoring his first career goal against D.C. United. Inserted as a super sub on Saturday, with the team down 2-1, it seemed then very fitting that he would be the one to find the late winner for the Lions. The TV angles unfortunately failed to capture the full greatness of his run, which started with an excellent ball from Nico Lodeiro. McGuire did everything right from that moment on by using two strong touches and then calmly picking out the right corner before hitting his famous flip celebration.

McGuire’s goal — and the late winner that it provided — was exactly what Orlando City needed to start to right the ship as the team looks to climb back up the table.


That’s what I saw in Orlando City’s come-from-behind victory against D.C. United. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

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