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Orlando City

Orlando City vs. New York Red Bulls, Round 2: Player Grades and Man of the Match



The Lions have been victimized on the counter-attack many times this inaugural Major League Soccer season. So it was highly satisfying to see Orlando City flip the tables and become the clinical team on the rush.

Carlos Rivas and Kaká kept feeding Cyle Larin and the Canadian international kept putting them in the back of the net. The five goals is a new club MLS record for a road game, breaking the old mark of three set at Chicago in June and equaled at New York City FC.

Here are my player grades from Orlando City’s third consecutive victory (feels good to say that):


GK, Tally Hall, 6.5 – Hall made three saves on the night and couldn’t do much about the two goals allowed, but I thought he had a chance to get to a few more of those aerial balls that became more dangerous than they needed to be as a result of letting them go. Hall still had a fairly good game, but it wasn’t vintage Tally.

D, Luke Boden, 6 – A mixed night for Bodz, who was asked to shift into an unfamiliar position when Seb Hines was stretchered off. Had a bad early turnover at left back in the 21st but Hines bailed him out with a tackle of Lloyd Sam in the box. Completely lost track of Sam on the second goal. Aside from that, it was a hard-fought shift from Boden who was calm on the ball and looked to clear his lines whenever possible.

D, Aurelien Collin, 7 – Big No. 78 had his hands full marking New York’s attack but he did an admirable job. Was very calm and tried to keep the back line organized with Hines early on and later with Boden next to him. It would have been very easy for the makeshift back line to get disorganized but Collin didn’t let that happen. He was a leader in the back, with the most touches, clearances and interceptions of the back four.

D, Seb Hines, 7 – An unfortunately short night for Hines, who was carried off the pitch after New York scored off a set piece. He was caught in a collision between two attackers and went down hard on his shoulder. While on the pitch, Hines was solid and snuffed out a Lloyd Sam attack in the box in the 21st minute after Boden’s turnover. Completed 82% of his passes and had three long balls in his 33 minutes.

D, Rafael Ramos, 7.5 – Four clearances, three blocked shots and two interceptions for Rafa, who kept Mike Grella relatively quiet and held his ground when one-on-one out wide. Used his speed well defensively. A few misplaced passes and a lack of offensive threat keep his score from being even higher.

MF, Cristian Higuita, 8 – Showed incredible hustle after having a shot blocked in the 43rd minute, tracking all the way back to help with a tackle just above his own penalty area to start the sequence that resulted in Cyle Larin’s second goal. Will unfortunately miss the Montreal match after picking up a yellow card on a mis-timed tackle attempt from behind Sacha Kljestan in the 28th. Higuita just continues to impress, with four tackles, two interceptions and two clearances to go with 92.1% passing accuracy. Drew a game-high five fouls.

MF, Darwin Ceren, 7.5 – The El Salvadoran was all over the pitch. He got on the ball everywhere, making a team-high 51 passes and completing 86% of them. Three interceptions and three clearances. I may be being picky, but I deducted half a point for a number of late decisions that kept him from either completing a pass or intercepting one. Could just be a matter of getting his timing back after being out, but a solid night.

MF/LB, Brek Shea, 7 – Three games and three wins since Shea returned. Was forced to reprise his role at left back after Hines was subbed out for Carlos Rivas. Tied Collin with a team-high five interceptions with two clearances and a blocked shot. Started the play that resulted in Cyle Larin’s third goal with a gorgeous outlet to Rivas. Helped Orlando withstand a lot of pressure from Sam and Shaun Wright-Phillips.

MF, Kaká, 7.5 – The captain’s return was a good one. Aside from missing the net with his shot attempts (none of the four found the target), it was a solid game. Showed great hustle and leadership and was more active defensively than we’ve seen in awhile. Led the team with 94% passing accuracy and had a team-high five key passes, adding two assists — including a perfect service to Larin for the game’s first goal and a touch pass to Bryan Rochez for the final tally.

MF, Lewis Neal, 5.5 – Another typical Lewis Neal outing. Was a step slow to break up some of New York’s midfield play and didn’t do much terribly dangerous on the offensive end, although he did put himself in a good spot in the 48th for a Cyle Larin cross but a deflection allowed Robles to collect it.

F, Cyle Larin, 8.5 (MOTM) – The Canadian scored a hat trick and forced a Damien Perrinelle own-goal with his presence. Three shots, three goals. That’s clinical finishing and he mostly made the right runs with the exception of one time with Kaká leading the break. Didn’t seem to have the rubber legs of the last match. Was a difference maker, completing 83% of his passes, made two key passes…oh, and set the MLS rookie goal scoring mark in style, becoming the first player in league history to net two hat tricks his rookie year.


LW, Carlos Rivas (34′), 8 – It wasn’t a perfect night for the Colombian, who finished the night with two brilliant assists plus the cross that forced the own goal by Damien Perrinelle. He was a deadly force on Orlando City’s counter attack, but he continues to rush his shots (shooting from too far away on one occasion when he could have been in all alone on Luis Robles) or right at the goalkeeper. He also made a few rash challenges and had at least one cheap giveaway. Still, he was such a menace offensively that we’ll forgive that tonight.

MF, Adrian Winter (65′), 5.5 – It was a tough 25 or so minutes for Winter, who squibbed a shot well high and played a few passes too late and got them intercepted as a result. Still, he worked hard during his shift and generally got in the way defensively as New York looked for a way back into the match.

MF, Bryan Rochez (76′), 8 – What an eventful 14 minutes for the Honduran U-20 star. Rochez came on and immediately got involved, getting behind Matt Miazga in the 77th and forcing the Red Bulls defender to grab him from behind, earning him a second yellow and a sending off. Was active in the counter attack and finished calmly in the 93rd minute to extend his goal-scoring streak to three games.

Polling Closed

Player Votes
Brek Shea 16
Carlos Rivas 36
Kaká 25
Cyle Larin 162
Cristian Higuita 11
Darwin Ceren 9
Aurelien Collin 11
Other (tell us who in the comments section) 1

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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Orlando City

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.

Previous Season in Review Articles (Date Posted)

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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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