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Top 10 Moments of 2023: Orlando City Scores Late Winner to Beat Santos Laguna

Our No. 7 moment of 2023 is the Lions’ first-ever win against a Liga MX opponent, and it was done in Cardiac Cats fashion.

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Dan MacDonald, The Mane Land

As we count down to the new year of 2024 — which will be Orlando City’s 10th in MLS and the Orlando Pride’s ninth in the NWSL — and say goodbye to 2023, it’s time to look back at the club’s 10 best moments of the year as selected by The Mane Land staff via vote.

Orlando City needed a result when Santos Laguna came to Exploria Stadium on the final day of South 2 group play in the 2023 Leagues Cup competition. The Lions had won a shootout after drawing the Houston Dynamo 1-1 on July 21. The Dynamo turned around and drew Santos Laguna 2-2 and then won the ensuing shootout on July 25. So the Lions sat on two points, with Houston on three and Santos Laguna on one. A draw or better was needed to advance to the knockout rounds and a shootout win or better would hand Orlando City first place in the group.

The Lions had not beaten a Liga MX side in three attempts. Orlando City fell 1-0 at home against Santos Laguna in the 2021 iteration of the competition. Earlier this season, the Lions had drawn Tigres 0-0 on the road and 1-1 at home in Concacaf Champions League. By the end of the evening of July 29, the Lions had their first win over Liga MX competition after a 3-2 win at the death.

The Mexican side took the lead shortly before halftime on an Orlando mistake. Ivan Angulo got under an attempted switch, but his touch was heavy and he gave it away immediately to Raul Lopez. The Santos Laguna right back used Jansson as a screen and fired a hard, low shot that curled and skipped up off the turf and past Pedro Gallese to make it 1-0 in the 41st minute.

The Lions, however, responded immediately. They needed only three minutes to pull level. Facundo Torres sprayed a pass wide to the left from the middle for Rafael Santos to run onto. Santos sent in a perfect cross that Duncan McGuire redirected home with his head in the 44th minute to make it 1-1.

The teams went to the locker room all knotted up at 1-1 thanks to McGuire’s response. That momentum carried into the second half. Mauricio Pereyra took a through ball, dribbled right, and uncorked a blast into the upper right corner to make it 2-1 in the 46th minute. It was Pereyra’s first and only goal of the entire 2023 season and his final strike as a Lion.

This time, Orlando’s lead didn’t last long. The Lions cleared a set piece and Santos Laguna recycled, sending in a cross. Harold Preciado headed it in to tie the match in the 58th minute. The Lions appealed for a foul on the play but after review the goal stood, and the match went into the final half hour all even at 2-2.

As the second half wore on, Santos and Preciado each missed opportunities wide of net and the game seemed likely to end in a draw followed by a shootout. But there’s a reason Orlando City is sometimes called the Cardiac Cats. The games can get dicey either way when the seconds tick down toward the end.

The winning play looked like it was going to go Santos Laguna’s way before it turned in Orlando City’s favor. The Lions lost the ball in the attack and the Liga MX side broke on a 5-v-3 transition opportunity. As the play entered the Lions’ attacking third, Cesar Araujo made a fantastic open-field play to take the ball away and start the break the other way. After a few touches in the attack, it ended up back on Araujo’s foot on the right side. The defensive midfielder slipped the ball in for Cartagena, who redirected it through goalkeeper Gibran Lajud, opening his Orlando City account on the winning goal in the 92nd minute.

Orlando bled the final four minutes of stoppage time off the clock and held on for the victory. With the win, Orlando City won the South 2 group and then went south to play Inter Miami in the Round of 32. Unfortunately, that’s where the Lions’ Leagues Cup journey ended, due to a lack of finishing, some incredible officiating decisions (no second yellow for Lionel Messi before halftime, a soft penalty given Miami’s way early in the second half, and a disallowed goal for an offside that didn’t affect the play).

However, despite the Lions going out in the next game, a last-gasp win to knock out a Liga MX side and claim the group in Leagues Cup is a worthy inclusion in our top moments of 2023.


Come back through New Year’s Eve as we count down the remainder of Orlando City’s top 10 moments of 2023.

Previous Top Moments of 2023

10. The Orlando Pride select breakout stars Emily Madril and Messiah Bright in the 2023 NWSL Draft.
9. OCB draws at Chicago and then wins a shootout, clinching its first playoff spot since 2016.

8. Orlando Pride dump Portland Thorns 3-1 in June, kick-starting the team’s push for the playoffs.

Orlando City

Orlando City vs. Cavalry FC, Concacaf Champions Cup: Preview, How to Watch, TV Info, Live Stream, Lineups, Match Thread, and More

The Lions have the advantage heading into tonight’s second leg against Cavalry.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Welcome to your match thread for a Tuesday night Concacaf Champions Cup matchup between Orlando City and Cavalry FC of the Canadian Premier League at Inter&Co Stadium at 6 p.m. (FOX Sports 2). It’s the second meeting ever between the teams, who met for the first time just six days ago in Langford, British Columbia.

Here’s what you need to know ahead of the match.

History

There is exactly one game’s worth of history in this not-exactly-storied rivalry. Orlando City won the first match last Wednesday by a 3-0 scoreline at Starlight Stadium. Duncan McGuire put the Lions on the board first and Facundo Torres added a brace in a dominant performance by Orlando City. Those were Orlando’s first three away goals in continental competition and their first win on the road as well.

The Lions are experiencing their fourth international cup competition and their second foray into Concacaf Champions League/Cup, having drawn twice against Tigres UANL last season. Orlando bowed out of last year’s competition due to the away goals tiebreaker. Orlando City has also competed twice in Leagues Cup.

Overview

Orlando City is coming off a 0-0 draw against CF Montreal on Saturday in its MLS season opener at home. Pedro Gallese kept a clean sheet, keeping alive the club’s 10-year unbeaten streak in MLS openers (3-0-7). The Lions have not conceded a goal in their opener since Oscar Pareja became head coach, with three 0-0 draws, a 1-0 win over New York Red Bulls (2023), and a 2-0 win over CF Montreal (2022).

Cavalry FC hasn’t played since these teams met last week. The Canadian side is coming off a season in which it finished top of the table in the regular season but fell 2-1 after extra time in the CPL championship match against Forge FC. As far as CPL teams go, the Lions will be facing one of the league’s best, as you’d expect in a competition called “Champions Cup.” Cavalry showed its quality last week, jumping out to the more energetic start in each half and fashioning some good scoring chances in the second half.

The Lions will likely rotate some personnel for this match, given that they’ve played twice in the last six days and enjoy a three-goal advantage entering the second leg. Orlando City would advance with a win, a draw, or a loss by two goals or fewer, but there is a path for Cavalry FC. Here’s how the teams can advance:

“A very important match. The context of it, people may think the job has been done. The message today to the players was the game is not done yet,” Pareja said. “We respect our rival and the competition. We’re going in with full cylinders (tonight) trying to achieve us advancing to the next phase with a lot of responsibility because the tournament requires it.”

Orlando City has everyone available for tonight, including new striker Luis Muriel.


Official Lineups

Orlando City (4-2-3-1)

Goalkeeper: Mason Stajduhar.

Defenders: Rafael Santos, Rodrigo Schlegel, Kyle Smith, Michael Halliday.

Defensive Midfielders: Wilder Cartagena, Felipe.

Attacking Midfielders: Ramiro Enrique, Martin Ojeda, Shak Mohammed.

Forward: Luis Muriel.

Bench: Pedro Gallese, Dagur Dan Thorhallsson, Abdi Salim, Robin Jansson, David Brekalo, Cesar Araujo, Jeorgio Kocevski, Nico Lodeiro, Ivan Angulo, Facundo Torres, Jack Lynn, Duncan McGuire.

Cavalry FC (4-2-3-1)

Goalkeeper: Marco Carducci.

Defenders: Bradley Kamdem, Daan Klomp, Callum Montgomery, Shamit Shome.

Defensive Midfielders: Eryk Kobza, Charlie Trafford.

Attacking Midfielders: William Akio, Sergio Camargo, Fraser Aird.

Forward: Myer Bevan.

Bench: Jack Barrett, Jesse Daley, Tom Field, Diego Gutierrez, Michael Harms, Ali Musse, Lucas Dias, Lleyton Brooks, Tobias Warschewski.

Officials:

REF: Fernando Guerrero (Mexico).
AR1: Christian Espinosa (Mexico).
AR2: Michel Espinoza (Mexico).
4TH: Cesar Ramos (Mexico).
VAR: Adonai Escobedo (Mexico).
VAR1: Benjamin Whitty (Cayman Islands).


How to Watch

Match Time: 6 p.m.

Venue: Inter&Co Stadium — Orlando.

TV: FOX Sports 2.

Streaming: The match can be streamed on FOX Sports GO, and the FOX Sports app.

Twitter: For rapid reaction and live updates, follow along at @TheManeLand, as well as Orlando City’s official Twitter feed (@OrlandoCitySC).


Enjoy the match. Go City!

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Lion Links

Lion Links: 2/27/24

Dagur Dan Thorhallsson named to Team of the Matchday, Orlando City hosts Cavalry FC tonight, USWNT loses to Mexico, and more.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC

Happy Tuesday, everyone. Orlando City might not have gotten the result we were hoping for to start MLS play, but it’s a long season and it isn’t easy to play on two fronts when coming back from a long layoff. The Lions will get a chance to get back to winning ways tonight when they face Cavalry FC in Concacaf Champions Cup play. As usual, we have a lot to talk about, so let’s get after it.

Dagur Dan Named to MLS Team of the Matchday

Dagur Dan Thorhallsson has been recognized for his efforts in Orlando City’s opening game against CF Montreal with a place in the MLS Team of the Matchday. He got the start at right back and came on strong in the second half, completing three key passes and 88% of his passes on the night. He also completed a cross, a long ball, and took a team-high four shots, although he only put one on target. Sean Rollins gave him a grade of 6 out of 10 on the night, making him one of the highest-rated Lions not named Pedro Gallese.

Orlando City Chases History

Orlando City already made history last week when the team earned its first ever Concacaf Champions Cup victory with a 3-0 win over Cavalry FC. Tonight, the Lions are looking to make a little more history by earning the club’s first home victory in the competition, as well as advancing to the next round for the first time. OCSC put itself in a good position to do exactly that, as a win, draw, or a loss by two goals or fewer will be enough to see the good guys through to the next round. Orlando defender Kyle Smith shared his thoughts on tonight’s match.

The Calgary Herald provided an interesting look at tonight’s game from the view of the visitors as well. After falling at Starlight Stadium, the Canadian club heads to a tough environment in Orlando as the underdog.

USWNT Falls to Mexico

The United States Women’s National Team lost its final game of the Concacaf W Gold Cup group stage, falling 2-0 to Mexico. Lizbeth Ovalle gave Mexico the lead in the first half and Mayra Pelayo put the nail in the coffin with another goal in stoppage time. It was the USWNT’s first time losing at home against a Concacaf team in 23 years, and first time being beaten by Mexico since 2010. It was a rough game for the USWNT, as it struggled on both sides of the ball. As a result of this loss, the U.S. finish second in its group and will play in the quarterfinals this weekend.

Americans in Midweek Action

There are a number of United States Men’s National Team players taking part in games during the working week, so make sure you don’t miss any of the action. Tomorrow sees Gianluca Busio, Tanner Tessmann, and Venezia host Cittadella in Serie B action, while Giovanni Reyna, Matt Turner, and Nottingham Forest host Manchester United in the FA Cup. Things finish up on Friday, with Christian Pulisic, Yunus Musah, and AC Milan facing Lazio in Serie A, and Folarin Balogun and Monaco facing off against Paris Saint-Germain.

Free Kicks

  • Forward Luis Muriel is available for selection tonight and could make his Orlando City debut.
  • Orlando Pride forward Mariana Larroquette started and had an assist in Argentina’s 3-0 win over the Dominican Republic.

That’s all I have for you this morning. Vamos Orlando!

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Orlando City

Orlando City vs. CF Montreal: Player Grades and Man of the Match

How did your favorite Lions do in their scoreless draw against CF Montreal?

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Orlando City kicked off its 10th MLS season Saturday night, drawing CF Montreal 0-0 in downtown Orlando. The team was poor in the first half, but much better in the second 45 minutes. The Lions had multiple chances to win it late, hitting the woodwork and having a goal disallowed for offside. However, they claim a point to start the season and are in a great position to advance in the Concacaf Champions Cup Tuesday night.

Here’s how the Lions did individually in the scoreless draw.

Starters

GK, Pedro Gallese, 8 (MotM) — The Peruvian number one has been the most dependable Lion over the past few years and this game was no different. He was active in the first half, making four saves, but was bored in the second half until Kwadwo Opoku got in on goal in the second minute of stoppage time. Gallese came out and made a huge stop with his right leg, ensuring Orlando City would get a point. In total, the goalkeeper had five saves and completed 91.7% of his 24 passes, including four of his six long balls, while claiming his 34th clean sheet as a Lion.

D, Rafael Santos, 5.5 — After a rocky first outing in Canada, Santos had a much better game in the league opener with a team-high 108 touches. Defensively, the left back had one tackle, three interceptions, and one clearance in a clean sheet performance. Going forward, he completed 84.2% of his 76 passes, including a key pass. However, he only completed two of his seven crosses, a problem throughout the night for the Lions.

D, Robin Jansson, 6 — It wasn’t a bad game for the Orlando City captain, but he wasn’t as effective as fans have come to expect. The Swede had an interception and block, but no clearances. He completed 90.2% of his 61 pass attempts and four of his eight long balls (50%). 

D, David Brekalo, 7 — Saturday night saw the long-awaited debut of Brekalo, Orlando City’s new starting center back. It was a solid performance for the defender, who recorded two tackles, two clearances, and a team-high four interceptions. Additionally, his three aerial duels were tied for the team high. He completed 86.4% of his 66 pass attempts and two of his three long balls. The new arrival took two dribbles and two shots, putting one on target. Overall, Brekalo was a bright spot in this game for the Lions before being replaced by Kyle Smith in the 77th minute.

D, Dagur Dan Thorhallsson, 6 — Thorhallsson was one of several players that were much better in the second half than the first. Most of his passes in the first 45 minutes were left short or long balls too far, but he ended up completing 88.3% of his 60 passes with a team-high three key passes. He completed one of his two crosses and one of his five long balls. He took a team-high four shots, only putting one on target. Additionally, he one clearance defensively, but little else on that end of the field in 90 minutes of action.

MF, Wilder Cartagena, 5.5 — It was a short night for Cartagena, who was taken off at halftime for Martin Ojeda after picking up a yellow in the first half. The Peruvian completed 90.5% of his 42 passes and both of his long balls. However, he did little defensively in this game and only had one dribble going forward. It wasn’t a bad performance overall, but the Lions couldn’t afford to go down a man if he got booked a second time.

MF, Cesar Araujo, 7 — Araujo displayed his usual dependability for the Lions in this game. His 87 touches were third on the team and he completed 89.7% of his 68 passes, including two key passes. He failed to connect on his lone cross, but completed all eight of his long balls. Unfortunately, neither of his two shots were on target. Defensively, the defensive midfielder was active, recording two tackles, two interceptions, and a clearance.

MF, Facundo Torres, 5 — Torres is usually the best attacking player for the Lions, but he had a difficult game Saturday night. The attacking midfielder completed 81.3% of his 48 passes and didn’t connect on any of his five crosses. He had one shot that was on target, and could’ve had a goal when he and Felipe and converged on a late header off the crossbar but they were offside. He also had a tackle defensively, but this will be a game to forget for the Uruguayan.

MF, Nico Lodeiro, 6 — One of two Lions to make their competitive home debuts, Lodeiro started in his natural number 10 position. His 89 touches were second-most on the team and he completed 86.7% of his 75 passes with a key pass. Two of his five crosses were accurate and he completed three of his seven long balls. He took one shot on the night, but it was off target. Lodeiro was somewhat active defensively, recording a tackle, an interception, and a clearance before being replaced by Felipe in the 77th minute.

MF, Ivan Angulo, 5 — Angulo was less active than usual in this game, only recording 42 touches and not taking any shots. He completed 83.9% of his 31 pass attempts and didn’t connect on his only cross. He had two tackles defensively but didn’t do much else before being replaced by Ramiro Enrique in the 68th minute.

F, Duncan McGuire, 5.5 — McGuire scored in his first game back after an uncertain off-season, so there was a lot of excitement heading into the home opener. The young striker took two off-target shots but was solid with his hold-up play, winning a team-high three aerial duels. He wasn’t able to get too involved, with only 26 touches, and he completed 64.3% of his 14 passes. He also had one key pass, one inaccurate cross, and one clearance.

Substitutes

MF, Martin Ojeda (46′), 6.5 — Ojeda came on at halftime for Cartagena and made a big impact on a much better second half. He completed 90.9% of his 22 passes with three key passes, and he was accurate on three of his seven crosses and both long balls. Additionally, one of his two shots was on target. He also helped out defensively, recording a tackle and a clearance.

F, Ramiro Enrique (68’), 5 — Enrique joined the game in the 68th minute, replacing Angulo, but didn’t make much of an impact. He only had 14 touches in 22 minutes while playing in the midfield. The attacker completed 77.8% of his nine passes without any key passes and failed to complete his lone cross. It was his header in the 80th minute that hit the crossbar and was redirected in by Felipe, but it was ruled out for offside.

D, Kyle Smith (77’), 5.5 — Smith came on for Brekalo to help see out the clean sheet alongside Jansson. Defensively, he had one clearance at center back, but no other defensive stats. He completed 78.6% of his 14 passes, including a key pass and completed his one cross.

MF, Felipe (77’), 6 — Felipe played well in the final 13 minutes of the game after replacing Lodeiro, recording an interception and a clearance and completing 90% of his 10 passes with one key pass. His most noteworthy moment came in the 80th minute when Enrique’s header off the crossbar was knocked in, but he was judged to be offside.

F, Jack Lynn (90’), N/A — Lynn came on for the final minutes of the game, replacing McGuire up top. He had four touches and won an aerial duel, a flick-on header near midfield, while completing one of his three passes (33.3%). He also had one accurate cross.


This is how I saw the individual performances of Orlando City’s first game of the 2024 MLS regular season. How did you see the game? Let us know in the comments below and don’t forget to vote on your Man of the Match.

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