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Orlando City vs. New York City FC: Player Grades and Man of the Match



I’ll be honest, grading this squad, on the first day of the 2019 season is not something that I would wish on anyone. Pretty much no matter the outcome of the match, good, bad, or the draw we witnessed, this is a daunting task. I will give this my best go.


GK, Brian Rowe, 6 — First time out for new Lion Rowe, whose one-on-one stop was the icing on the cake for a pretty good outing. It was a bit surprising to see Rowe sending kicks long, considering that we all witnessed the certain play from the back towards the end of last season, but it could be because the height of the targets may have increased this season. Rowe ended the night with four solid saves. I am not sure there was much he could have done on the two NYCFC goals, but the ones that he should have handled, I give him credit for handling them very well.

D, Kamal Miller, 6.5 — How long has he officially been a Lion? I will say the left side was easily the more dangerous side for the home squad all evening, and Miller was a big part of that. Tracking back was solid, the communication was good, and the vision was there. For a back line that seems a bit patchwork, Miller was a very bright light throughout the match. Two aerials won, three tackles, and an 81% passer rating was a solid outing.

D, Alex De John, 6 — One goal might be on Alex, but he made up for it as the match went on. Being the center of three in the back, as a new Lion, would be a tall task for anyone, but you could certainly see the chemistry starting to blossom. The task was fairly tall, especially after NYCFC went up by two, but Alex grabbed the back line by the back of the neck and pulled the boys together, ending the afternoon with three solid tackles and an 85% passer rating.

D, Shane O’Neill, 6.5 — The second year Lion was solid again. The “veteran” on the back line played well both in defense and running up the sideline in attack. He passed at an 83% rate, with one attacking dribble, and one tackle, highlighting a good outing. He also showed good speed tracking back against counter attacks.

WB, Danilo Acosta, 6.5 — Again, part of the left side of the formation that certainly seemed the more dangerous all evening. The give-and-go play with Miller, Sebas Mendez, Chris Mueller, and Sacha Kljestan was solid, as was the tracking back to assist on defense. A solid first outing in purple, and certainly a stake in the ground to keep starting in that position. His 82% passing was decent, and you could certainly see the sparks flying and what the future holds.

MF, Sebas Mendez, 6 — He was given the softest of soft yellows from my vantage point, but the rest of the match was interesting to say the least. The rating here may be due to being with a new team, and Sebas expecting players to be in places where they weren’t. However, the fire was there, the drive was there, and seeing him grab players during every break and talk to them was extremely impressive, as was his 91% passer rating, and his two tackles on defense.

MF, Sacha Kljestan, 6 — It was a decent outing for the captain, and he certainly had many moments of shock and awe. It was certainly a bit crowded in the middle of the pitch all match, as NYCFC kept its formation fairly tight for the match, which was certainly a factor in keeping his passer rating at 76%. To his credit, he also had three total shots, with one on target and two blocked, but it was good to have him shooting on goal, if for no other reason than to keep the defense thinking. He could have had an assist on a shot Mueller missed just wide.

MF,Will Johnson, 7 — If only that first shot had gone in. If tonight didn’t remind you why Johnson is in purple, I am not sure what will. He had two shots, although both were a bit off target, a 90% passer rating, one aerial won and five solid tackles, which had him in the running for MotM. Tonight should endear him to the detractors, as he was still running his guts out in stoppage time, and if you still have questions, just re-watch the match. Solid night for Will, and a solid sign for what to expect for the season to come.

WB, Kyle Smith, 6 — Another new Lion to get familiar with, Smith had a good outing, with an 89% passer rating and three shots — with one on target and two blocked — and one tackle to round out his time on the pitch. He may not have the name recognition yet, and his crosses need a bit of work, but it is coming. Smith worked extremely well with O’Neill to hold down the right side. Keep an eye on this guy moving forward.

F, Chris Mueller, 7.5 (MotM) — Cash Rules Everything Around Me (CREAM). Just remember, Wu Tang is for the masses, and so is Chris “Cash” Mueller. Do not let the 71% passer rating detract you from the fact that Mueller was that beast mode player we saw last year, only more so. The free kick, put in the most dangerous of places, was so good that no one touched it, and it ended up in the back of the net. His hustle on offense and defense was infectious, and every time he got on the ball, the crowd was just waiting for the magic to happen. It might be a close call, but he certainly deserves the MotM call today for his goal, his team-high five chances created, and his hustle in multiple positions.

F, Tesho Akindele, 7 — Another field player with a deceptively low passer rating, Akindele finished at 73%. It was the rest of his time on the pitch that made the impact. He had one shot, and oh by the way it went into the back of the net, to go along with the aerial battles and two tackles. Can any of you remember a more consistent threat up top as a true striker behind Dom Dwyer? Yes, that statement was a bit rhetorical, but think back to last season and let me know the last time you can say the high press, the target striker, and hold and attack worked as well as it did today. Tesho was a very big part of that, a driving part.


F, Dom Dwyer (69’), 6.5 — It only took Dom a few minutes to make an impact, and that impact was assisting on the game tying goal, with a great run and assist to Tesho in the 75th minute. As Dom gets more minutes, it will be interesting to see he and Tesho gain more minutes together. He nearly provided the game winner that Maxime Chanot knocked down with his hand, too.

MF, Nani (70’), 6 — As hard as it is for me to cheer for a former Red Devil, Nani is going to be a name, and a player, to watch this season, Although we didn’t get to see much on the offensive side, he unlocked New York City’s defense with one long through ball that found Dwyer to set up the tying goal, earning him the proverbial hockey assist. His defensive prowess was on display, ending the evening with two solid tackles. With a solid 15 minutes on the pitch, you could see the vision, but the 67% passing rating might deceive you (small sample size). His passes were to where players should have been, and will get there with a bit of time.

MF, Josué Colmán (77’), 6 — When Colmán came on for Tesho, it was the first time this season that Orlando City has had all of its DPs (regular and YDP) on the pitch at the same time. His effort was solid, but 13 minutes is not a good amount of time to completely show what you have learned since last season. There were some flashes, like the pass that sent Mueller to the end line to cross for Dwyer, and we certainly saw a bit more confidence in going directly at opposing players. This is definitely a player to whom more minutes will mean the world.

It was a solid first outing for 2019, and the Lions have continued their tradition of being undefeated to begin the MLS season. Again, OCSC fielded a starting XI that may not be the ultimate best XI, but we may have just been witness to the depth that is to come. Head Coach James O’Connor has shown a wildly different side to team and tactics, something that many did not expect. It should stand as a positive as to what is to come moving forward in the 2019 season. Who was your MotM? Let us know in the poll below, and give me an idea how you rated the Lions in the comments below.

Polling Closed

Player Votes
Tesho Akindele 7
Will Johnson 29
Danilo Acosta 3
Chris Mueller 210
Shane O’Neill 8
Other 13

Lion Links

Lion Links: 12/2/23

The Pride sign a new keeper, the MLS playoffs continue, the USWNT is in action, and more.



Dan MacDonald, The Mane Land

Salutations on this satisfactory Saturday, Mane Landers. We’re heading for the home stretch of 2023, and what a year it has been. Make sure that you are catching all of our Season in Review articles for both the Orlando City and Orlando Pride players. Things tend to happen personnel-wise in December, so be prepared. Until then, let’s check out today’s links. But first, let’s wish a happy 26th birthday to Orlando City goalkeeper Mason Stajduhar.

Pride Sign a New Keeper

The Orlando Pride signed Finnish goalkeeper Sofia Manner from FC Honka of Finland’s top flight, the Kansallinen Liiga. With the addition of Manner, the Pride have four keepers on the roster heading into 2024. Manner is expected to compete for the starting job, though the same could be said of both Anna Moorhouse and Carly Nelson. It is unlikely all four netminders will be on the Pride once the season starts. Manner has international experience and was the best keeper in the Kansallinen Liiga.

MLS Conference Finals Tonight

I wouldn’t blame you if you decided not to watch the remainder of the MLS playoffs after last weekend’s disappointing result. However, if you are going see how it all sorts out, you might want to study up on the matches. We’re all too aware that the Columbus Crew will be facing FC Cincinnati to see which club wins the Eastern Conference. Over on the other side, LAFC will take on the Houston Dynamo to determine the Western Conference champion.

MLS Player Moves

As the playoffs come to a close, the signings and transfers around the league are ramping up, but who will stay and who will go? New York Red Bulls midfielder Dru Yearwood is heading to Nashville SC as reported by The Athletic (paywalled) since Dax McCarthy is out of contract there and won’t be returning.

The Philadelphia Union have signed midfielder Jesus Bueno to a new three-year contract through 2026 with an option for 2027. Meanwhile, Gustavo Bou won’t be returning to the New England Revolution. So, um…maybe he’d like to come south and score goals for Orlando City rather than against the Lions? Before anyone gets too crazy, it should be on a non-DP deal.

USWNT Hosts China

The USWNT is back in friendly action against China this afternoon in Ft. Lauderdale at 3 p.m. and then on Tuesday, Dec. 5 at 8 p.m. in Frisco TX. Interim head coach Twila Kilgore will be in charge since newly-named Head Coach Emma Hayes doesn’t start until the 2023-2024 Women’s Super League season in England is over. Hayes is the current head coach of Chelsea FC Women’s. This is the first match between the two teams since 2018, and a lot has changed. The USWNT has been very solid on defense in 2023, allowing only two goals back in the SheBelieves Cup.

Free Kicks

  • If you haven’t heard of a “sin bin,” think of it like a penalty box in hockey. The idea has been getting a runout in lower league matches in English football by the International Football Association Board (IFAB) with some good results. It’s not yet confirmed, but MLS may institute the change in 2024. The idea is to reduce dissension by having a player sit for 10 minutes during a match. Tottenham manager Ange Postecoglou has spoken out against the idea. What do you think of the concept?
  • Real Salt Lake has promoted Kurt Schmid to sporting director and interim chief soccer officer.
  • Cristiano Ronaldo will have to deal with a $1 billion class-action lawsuit for his role in promoting NFTs for Binance. Maybe that’s why he signed for Al-Nassr in the Saudi Pro League?
  • Speaking of the Saudi Pro League, it looks like Mohamed Salah may not be leaving EPL side Liverpool anytime soon. The prolific striker is looking for a new contract to stay at Anfield.
  • I’ll take things Pedro Gallese would not do for $400, Alex.

That will do it for today. Please go forth and enjoy your weekend!

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2023 Orlando City Season in Review: Kyle Smith

Let’s look back at The Accountant’s fifth MLS season.



Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Fullback Kyle Smith was originally signed on Dec. 21, 2018 when James O’Connor was Orlando City’s head coach. He proved to be a valuable Swiss Army knife-type player and earned a new contract on March 29, 2021 through the 2022 season with a 2023 club option. Orlando City picked up his 2023 option at the end of the 2022 season but then signed Smith to a new one-year contract for 2023 just weeks later with an option for 2024.

Let’s have a look back at The Accountant’s fifth MLS season.

Statistical Breakdown

Smith appeared in 25 matches during the 2023 regular season, starting 17 times and logging 1,501 minutes. It was his third-most appearances but his second-most minutes since making the jump from Louisville City to MLS ahead of the 2019 season. He scored one goal and assisted on three others, setting a new career high in the latter category. Smith attempted seven shots, putting two on target. He passed at a 78.7% clip, including nine key passes, five successful crosses, and 36 successful long passes. Defensively, Smith recorded 35 tackles, 16 interceptions, 40 clearances, and two blocked shots. He drew eight fouls while committing 20 and was booked five times on the year.

The 31-year-old appeared in all three of Orlando City’s three playoff matches — both off the bench — and logged 65 minutes. He did not score a goal or assist on one, attempting one shot, which he put on frame. He passed at an 82.5% rate in the postseason. He posted two tackles and a clearance defensively. He did not commit a foul or draw one and he wasn’t booked.

In the 2023 Concacaf Champions League, Smith came off the bench in the first leg at Tigres, playing minutes, passing at just a 25% rate (small sample size), did not attempt a shot, did not draw or concede a foul, and was not booked.

During Leagues Cup play, Smith appeared in all three of Orlando’s matches (all starts), logging 150 minutes. He did not contribute to a goal or attempt a shot in the tournament, committing four fouls and earning two yellow cards. Smith did not play in Orlando City’s lone U.S. Open Cup match.

Best Game

Smith’s best match of 2023 came in Orlando City’s 1-1 home draw against Atlanta United on May 27, and not only because that’s when he scored his lone goal of the season, although that doesn’t hurt. El Soldado started and went the full 90 minutes. He fired two shots on the night, putting one on target (and in the net), and passed at an exceptional 90.3% rate on 31 attempts, which was his third-best passing night of the season. He completed two successful long balls on two attempts, chipping in four clearances (second only to Antonio Carlos), a tackle, and an interception on the night. His big moment came in the 30th minute, when a well-worked attack up the left kicked out to him on the right side. Smith was perfectly positioned and made no mistake in putting the Lions ahead 1-0.

Although the match was spoiled by a late equalizer, Smith turned in one of his best performances since joining Orlando City and if not for his goal, the outcome might have been a lot more somber than a 1-1 draw.

2023 Final Grade

Smith received a composite score of 6 out of 10 for his 2023 performance from The Mane Land staff. This is an improvement over the 5.5 he earned last year but slightly below the 6.5 he earned for the 2021 season. Previously, Smith was given a 5.5 in 2020 and he got the same score after the 2019 season. The staff awarded Smith for his effort, versatility, and willingness to do whatever it takes to win. He is the quintessential team player. But beyond all of the above, he simply played well most of his minutes on the pitch. At his age, he’s going to struggle to contain the league’s speediest wing players, particularly when playing on his weaker left side, but his ability to adapt is unquestioned. The perfect example of that was when he was tucking inside from his fullback spot earlier in the season to add an additional player to the midfield and freeing Facundo Torres up to have more space in which to operate on the right side.

2024 Outlook

Smith’s return may ultimately rest with whether or not Oscar Pareja stays on with the Lions, although a decision might need to be made earlier than that, as the club must make a decision on his option. Pareja has valued Smith’s versatility and work ethic over the last few years, and with more competitions and matches than ever before, it’s always good to have a depth player who can plug and play in multiple positions. He played his second-most MLS minutes in 2023, so he’s still seeing the field plenty.

If I had to guess, and this section is for exactly that, I’d say the club will either exercise his option or sign him to a new one-year deal with an option year for 2025. However, what complicates matters is that Smith is over age 24 and has played five MLS seasons, which means he’s eligible for free agency. If he’s back in 2024, I would expect him to again be a key backup at both fullback positions, getting some spot starts in U.S. Open Cup or when fixture congestion is heavy.

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2023 Orlando City Season in Review: Abdi Salim

We continue our Orlando City player retrospectives with a look at one of the Lions’ 2023 draft picks.



Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Orlando City used its third pick of the 2023 MLS SuperDraft to select Abdi Salim with the 17th overall pick. Salim played his college soccer at Syracuse and the Lions picked up the center back to help with depth at a position that didn’t really have a ton of established bodies behind Antonio Carlos, Robin Jansson, and Rodrigo Schlegel. He was then signed to a one-year deal in February that contained three option years for the 2024, 2025, and 2026 seasons.

Let’s have a look at Salim’s first season as a professional.

Statistical Breakdown

Salim made his Major League Soccer debut at home against FC Cincinnati on March 4. It was Salim’s only start of the year and he went the full 90 minutes as the Lions drew 0-0 against the eventual Supporters’ Shield winners. He made two other appearances in away games against D.C. United and Charlotte FC, both of which ended as 1-1 draws as he finished with 148 MLS minutes on the year.

Defensively he recorded four tackles, four interceptions, three clearances, a block, and won two aerial duels. He did not record any offensive statistics, but was solid with his distribution as he averaged 87.3% passing accuracy and completed one cross and one long ball each.

Given that it was only his first season as a professional, he spent the bulk of his time in MLS NEXT Pro with Orlando City B. With the Young Lions he played in 16 matches, starting 14 of them and racking up 1,162 minutes. He finished with 11 interceptions and a tackle while committing seven fouls and drawing 11 and picking up one yellow card. Salim took nine shots, put two of them on target, and scored a goal on each one he got on frame. He passed very well, finishing with a 90.2% success rate, two key passes, and 18 long balls.

Best Game

The honor of his best game goes to his first ever professional appearance, when he started and played the whole game in the aforementioned 0-0 draw against FC Cincinnati. Salim finished with three tackles, three clearances, and an interception while passing with 87% accuracy, completing a long ball on his only attempt, and helping the Lions keep a clean sheet at home. He was a bit shaky at first, as he was deployed as the third center back in a three-man back line, but he settled down in the second half and finished with a grade of 5.5 out of 10 from Nic Josey.

2023 Final Grade

Given that Salim didn’t crack 200 minutes and we require a minimum of 450 to award a grade for the season, he receives an incomplete for the 2023 season. He did some good things when down with Orlando City B, and filled in well enough with the senior side when called upon, but we simply need to see more of him in order to figure out what he’s really able to do.

2024 Outlook

It’s likely that Salim will spend more time with Orlando City B next season, but with no one seemingly laying claim to the fourth center back position, he should have a chance to show what he’s capable of during preseason. He seemed to be in competition with Thomas Williams for the back up spot not occupied by Rodrigo Schlegel, but he may have moved past him in the pecking order as he made more appearances than the Homegrown signing, both with OCSC and OCB. Regardless, as an inexpensive young player with potential, there’s no reason to think he won’t be here next year.

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