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Orlando City vs. Philadelphia Union: Player Grades and Man of the Match

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Orlando City’s season is over, as is the five-game winning streak the club took to Philadelphia with them. They return empty-handed and it’s no consolation that the Lions didn’t get the result they needed from New York City FC game either.

The Lions turned in a rather tame performance, weathering the typical early storm but never responding with any biting attack of their own. A frustrating evening of officiating couldn’t have helped, but the fact is Orlando City wasn’t good enough on this night and somehow failed to register a single goal in two meetings with one of the league’s worst defensive teams. No one else has had any trouble scoring against the Philadelphia Union but for some reason Orlando could not find the net.

Chris Penso’s officiating was, well, interesting at times. For example, who gives two minutes of stoppage in a second half that saw Fabinho lay on the pitch injured for about four minutes in the final 10 minutes of the match? Penso came in with a reputation for being quick to go to the pocket, and was giving a red card every three matches. But I don’t think anyone saw eight yellows, a sending off and a penalty all being piled on Orlando’s dinner plate of woes.

“I was disappointed with the sending off, disappointed at some of the things we did, some of it was a bit silly,” said Head Coach Adrian Heath after the match. “I’m at a loss about the referee’s performance. I really am. I’m at a loss with it. I don’t want to say anymore, I don’t want to say anything about him.”

That’s probably smart because Don Garber is quick to issue those fines if you dare criticize those beyond-reproach PRO referees.

Here are my player grades from a really stupid game that should never be spoken of again:

Starters

GK, Josh Ford, 8.5 (MOTM) – Making his first MLS start, Ford was outstanding. He came up with several big stops early, including a pair of early back-to-back saves and a tap to push a shot off the right post. He did a nice job cutting off crosses and with his general positioning all night. He couldn’t do much about the penalty in the 41st minute and deserved a better fate than a 1-0 loss in his first league start.

D, Luke Boden, 7 – A good, solid outing for Bodz, but nothing too spectacular. Got forward when he could and his crosses were decent but nothing really stood out as exceptional. His corner in first-half stoppage time was plenty dangerous, but the deflection it took went straight to Philadelphia goalkeeper Andre Blake.

D, Aurelien Collin, 8 – Solid night for the big Frenchman, who did well in the air, per usual. Just about had a goal in the 37th minute off a corner kick but the whistle blew as the ball went in due to Seb Hines colliding with Blake. Made a few vital challenges in the box and was his usual stalwart self.

D, Seb Hines, 8 – Good night for Seb, who worked his tail off. Did bump the keeper which may have cost the team a goal, but it wasn’t intentional, as he was attacking the ball in the air. Got a bit out of position a few times but always seemed able to make up for it. Along with Collin, Hines did a good job of defending crosses and corners. Won a game-high six aerials. The team didn’t play well as a whole, but the center backs had a good night overall.

D, Brek Shea, 6 – Shoehorned into the right back slot once too often, apparently. Shea never looked comfortable crossing the ball with his weaker foot and was eventually replaced by Rafael Ramos, moving forward to take Adrian Winter’s spot at midfield for awhile. He got caught forward a few times and was forced into a jersey tug that earned him a yellow card. Just generally never affected the game from right back or midfield and was subbed off in the 75th minute.

MF, Cristian Higuita, 5.5 – Higuita drew five Philadelphia fouls. Unfortunately, he committed six of his own, two of which drew yellow cards. He was also responsible for the foul in the box that resulted in Sebastien Le Toux’s penalty, and, therefore, the only goal of the game. It was just a little nudge, but it was also unnecessary. All the breakup play and solid passing in the world means nothing if you can’t stay on the pitch or allow the other team scoring opportunities.

MF, Darwin Ceren, 6.5 – Wasn’t quite as sharp as his normal self on this night. Completed 87.5% of his passes and provided two accurate crosses and six of eight accurate long balls, with a team-high 62 passes. That part was fine, but he seemed a bit off with his positioning or a step slow on this night and that led to six fouls committed and one of Orlando City’s eight yellow cards. Didn’t draw a single foul or take any shots.

MF, Carlos Rivas, 6 – The Colombian didn’t have one of his best nights. Only one of his seven crosses was accurate and he continually was careless in his passing, knocking the ball off opponents’ shins time after time. Completed just 69% of his passes. Only one of his four shots was on target and that one went straight at the goalkeeper on a chance he really should have buried. Did have two key passes but wasn’t his usual dangerous self, drawing only one foul.

MF, Kaká, 6.5 – The captain didn’t get a lot of help on this night. He was sometimes playing chess while his teammates played checkers, not giving him the right movement he either expected or wanted. Hit 84% of his passes and a shot on target, but had trouble getting the ball in dangerous areas.

MF, Adrian Winter, 5.5 – Had one shot on target, one cross and one key pass. The Swiss had a low passing rate (66.7%) and stayed behind Kaká on a counter attack, earning a scolding from the Brazilian for not using his movement to open up space. Ironically, he did end up getting his shot on goal out of that sequence. Disappeared for stretches and was subbed off in the 61st when Ramos came in at right back, bumping Shea up to the midfield.

F, Cyle Larin, 6 – A quiet night for the Canadian international, who tallied one shot, but it wasn’t on frame. He made only 19 passes on the evening, his first touch was a tad heavy at times, and he had trouble in hold-up play. While it’s true he didn’t get a lot of help and was often isolated, and that he didn’t get the service off the wings that he’s gotten in recent weeks, this is one of those matches where you remember that for all the good Kid Fantastic did this season, he was still playing in his rookie season. I can’t say why Bryan Rochez wasn’t in the 18, but his absence (muscle strain) was missed, as there was no clear like-for-like substitute available.

Substitutes

D, Rafael Ramos (61′), 6 – Rafa’s insertion into the game changed the dynamic immediately but the Lions couldn’t take an advantage. Made two key passes and completed 88.2% of his passes, but also earned a yellow card with his petulance after being called for a foul. It was a frustrating night for everyone and it wasn’t the only challenge Orlando City got whistled for that didn’t appear to be a foul, but by now he should know by now to keep his anger in check.

F, Pedro Ribeiroz (75′), 7.5 – Came on for Shea and did some good things. Completed all eight of his passes and did well with the ball in tight spaces. Got two shots off, with one forcing a good save from Blake. Generally made the most of his 15 minutes, plus the two paltry minutes of stoppage time that Chris Penso allowed.

Those are my player ratings. Vote below for your Orlando City Man of the Match.

Polling Closed

Player Votes
Seb Hines 0
Aurelien Collin 7
Josh Ford 49
Darwin Ceren 1
Other (tell us who in the comments section below) 1

Orlando City

Orlando City Can Build Valuable Momentum in April

The last two games of April present a good chance for the Lions to keep building momentum ahead of a challenging May.

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Dan MacDonald, The Mane Land

Orlando City got back to winning ways last Saturday and started a mini-undefeated streak in the process, as the Lions have now gone three games on the bounce without tasting defeat. OCSC has two more games to play during the month of April, and the scheduling gods have given the men in purple a chance to keep building on the recent run of good form, as a tricky and packed May schedule looms on the horizon. The last two April fixtures won’t be easy by any stretch, but an opportunity has presented itself if the Lions can play well and take advantage of it.

First, let’s turn our attention to Saturday’s game against CF Montreal up in Canada. Montreal currently has a record of 3-3-1 which is good for 10 points and eighth place in the Eastern Conference. These two teams faced each other in the very first game of the season, and it ended as a 0-0 draw, thanks largely in part to some shaky finishing on Orlando’s part and a couple excellent Pedro Gallese saves. Since then, Montreal has defeated a struggling FC Dallas team, an Inter Miami team that has looked equal parts unbeatable and extremely vulnerable at the back, and an FC Cincinnati side that so far has struggled to replace the goals of Brandon Vazquez. In other words, the wins haven’t come over bad teams, (aside from maybe Dallas) but rather teams that have had flawed, uneven starts to the season.

To be fair, many of the same criticisms could be leveled at Orlando City’s record. OCSC’s wins have come against Austin FC and D.C. United — two teams with leaky defenses that have each had uneven starts to the season — and the Lions have suffered losses that have ranged from uninspiring against Atlanta, to abhorrent against Miami. Where the two teams differ is that Orlando started the year battling on two fronts and then had key players missing through a combination of injury and international call-ups afterward. The Lions now have a nearly clean bill of health and looked much more cohesive with Wilder Cartagena and Cesar Araujo partnered in midfield once more — a welcome sight after some of the struggles that were endured when one or both were missing at various times.

The Canadian side also hasn’t kept a clean sheet since that opening game of the season against the Lions, a fact that could bode well for an Orlando side which has scored six goals in its last three games. As long as the defense can tighten up and not make the sorts of mental errors that led to goals against D.C. and the New York Red Bulls, there will be opportunities at the other end of the field for an attacking corps that has done a better job at putting the ball in the net than we saw during the first game of the season. In short, the game is a winnable one, and while getting road results in MLS is never easy, OCSC should feel reasonably confident about its chances to get points on its trip north of the border.

That leaves Toronto FC’s visit to the Purple Palace on Saturday, April 27. The Reds currently sit one spot below CF Montreal, in ninth place, with a record of 3-4-1 and 10 points. TFC’s victories have been over a New England team that has been struggling mightily, a Charlotte FC side that has had a decent but slightly inconsistent start to the year, and an Atlanta United outfit that can have the same said of it as Charlotte. The wins have all been solid ones, and the team looked pretty good in those three games.

On the flip side of things, the last of those wins came on March 23, with Toronto dropping its last three games in a row and conceding 10 goals in the process. They’ve got the second leakiest defense of any of the nine teams in the playoff places, while being tied with Cincinnati for scoring the fewest goals.

Then there’s the issue of player availability. The Reds’ injury list is a long one, with six players currently listed as out and an additional one as questionable. Among those listed out are Lorenzo Insigne, Richie Laryea, Brandon Servania, and Shane O’Neill. In other words, they’re likely to be missing guys that are key contributors for the team when healthy, and part of the recent losing streak can be attributed to dealing with the injury bug that’s bit the team with a vengeance. Playing on the road without a number of important key players is rarely a recipe for success, and Orlando City should have another good chance to pick up three points.


Now, this isn’t to say that taking all six points from these games is a foregone conclusion. MLS is a tricky league to get results in, and we have no way of knowing how the fortunes of Orlando, Montreal, and Toronto will change in the next eight days. But given the leaky defenses of the two Canadian sides, TFC’s injury situation, and Orlando City seemingly starting to find a better patch of form, the Lions have an opportunity to keep picking up points and climbing the Eastern Conference standings. Vamos Orlando!

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Lion Links: 4/19/24

Orlando Pride host the San Diego Wave, Orlando City B faces Crown Legacy FC, Europa League action, and more.

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Image courtesy of Orlando Pride

Happy Friday! Make sure to get your night plans in order as both the Orlando Pride and Orlando City B have games tonight. Figure out your drink of choice, charge those devices if you don’t plan on heading to the stadium for the Pride game, and knock out any chores before things get rolling. It should be a fun day, so let’s get it started with some links!

Orlando Pride Host the San Diego Wave Tonight

After earning their first win last week in Utah, the Orlando Pride are back in the City Beautiful for tonight’s game against the San Diego Wave at 8 p.m. The Pride’s four-game unbeaten run is on the line and will be put to the test against a Wave team that has four points from three games. San Diego has only scored two goals this season, but it has also secured a pair of clean sheets so far. The biggest storyline heading into the match is whether or not Barbra Banda will make her Pride debut. Hopefully Orlando can light it up at home and keep former Pride forward Alex Morgan and the rest of the Wave’s offense in check.

Orlando City B Takes On Crown Legacy FC

The Young Lions are also in action tonight at 7:30 p.m., with a match against Crown Legacy FC in North Carolina. Crown Legacy is only a point behind OCB, but is still searching for its first win of this MLS NEXT Pro season. OCB has played every game away from the Orlando area so far and ground out a 1-1 draw against Philadelphia Union II last weekend. Orlando hasn’t won a game since its season opener on March 16, but has been proven capable of getting points on the road. Wilfredo Rivera and Yutaro Tsukada linked up for the equalizer in that match, so hopefully they can keep that momentum rolling into tonight’s game.

Americans to Watch This Weekend

European soccer seasons and tournaments are nearing their ends and there are many Americans in important games this weekend. Haji Wright’s heroics put Coventry City into the FA Cup semifinals, and he will have a chance to impress again on Sunday against Manchester United. Elsewhere in England, Fulham duo Antonee Robinson and Tim Ream could put a dent in Liverpool’s title hopes, while Nottingham Forest’s Matt Turner and Giovanni Reyna will square off against Everton, as both sides aim to avoid relegation. Over in Italy, AC Milan duo Christian Pulisic and Yunus Musah will try to stop Inter Milan from claiming the Serie A title in a rivalry match at San Siro. There’s also a showdown between Americans in the Scottish Cup semifinals, with Celtic’s Cameron Carter-Vickers going up against Aberdeen and Dante Polvara.

Europa League Quarterfinals Come to a Close

The Europa League quarterfinals are done and dusted and only four teams remain in contention for some silverware. West Ham United took the lead against Bayer Leverkusen, but couldn’t overcome the aggregate deficit and the German club advanced. Leverkusen also scored a late equalizer to make it a 1-1 draw and extend its unbeaten streak to 44 games. Marseille scored at home against Benfica to send the game to extra time and then won the eventual penalty shootout. Atalanta did enough in a 1-0 loss to Liverpool to advance on aggregate, with Liverpool’s lone goal coming from an early Mohamed Salah penalty kick. AS Roma is also through to the semifinals after a 2-1 win against AC Milan, despite a red card in the first half. In the semifinals, Marseille will face Atalanta and Leverkusen will take on Roma.

Free Kicks

  • Houston Dynamo Head Coach Ben Olsen has agreed to a new contract that will keep him with the club through 2026. Olsen has quietly dragged the Dynamo out of the Western Conference’s basement and won last year’s U.S. Open Cup as well.
  • New York Red Bulls defender Andres Reyes was suspended an additional match for violent conduct in the team’s match against the Chicago Fire. This means Reyes will miss tomorrow’s match against LAFC and the home game against the Vancouver Whitecaps on April 27.
  • American left back Jorge Villafana is hanging up his cleats. He won the MLS Cup with the Portland Timbers back in 2015 and the Concacaf Gold Cup with the U.S. in 2017.
  • Replays won’t be a part of the FA Cup for the next six years. This will ease some of the schedule congestion for English Premier League teams, but it denies lower-division sides the chance at more revenue.
  • The folks over at Stars and Stripes FC shined a spotlight on forward Jubilo Iwata, who currently leads Japan’s J1 League in scoring after eight games. It’s always cool to learn more about some of the lesser-known players in the U.S. player pool.
  • An NFL game between the Philadelphia Eagles and Green Bay Packers will be played in Brazil at Corinthians Arena. However, there’s an unofficial rule at the stadium that green can’t be worn, as it is the color of Corinthians rival, so we’ll see if that’s adhered to come September.
  • Megan Rapinoe and Sue Bird’s production company will adapt Cleat Cute, a romance novel by Meryl Wilsner about love between teammates on a women’s soccer team. As someone who’s read it and loved it, I’m pretty excited for the show to say the least.

That’s all I have for you today. Stay hydrated and enjoy the games today. Go Orlando!

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Orlando City

Orlando City at CF Montreal: Three Keys to Victory

What does Orlando City need to do on the road against CF Montreal to take home all three points ?

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Dan MacDonald, The Mane Land

Orlando City opened the season against CF Montreal, playing to a 0-0 draw at Inter&Co Stadium back in February. Now, the Lions head to the Great White North to play the pesky Canadian club again. There’s no Concacaf Champions Cup competition to worry about this time, so hopefully Orlando City can get a victory.

What does Orlando City need to do to follow up the D.C. United victory with another win?

Just Say No

Outscoring your opponents while giving up two goals is all well and good, but outscoring your opponents while also keeping a clean sheet is much better. Orlando City has given up 13 goals over seven matches. It’s actually worse than that considering that the club has two clean sheets meaning those 13 goals came in just five matches. The Lions need to do better at not conceding goals.

Of course, one of those clean sheets came against Montreal to start the season, and the entire defense is seemingly healthy and ready to go. Our old foe Josef Martinez is always a threat and Matias Coccaro has three goals for Montreal so far this season. Stopping them is crucial. If Orlando City can maintain the same defensive discipline it showed in the previous match against Montreal, it will make earning points on the road much easier.

Designated Player Goals

Orlando City has scored seven goals so far this season. Duncan McGuire leads the team with three goals, thanks to his goal last week. Do you know who hasn’t scored yet? If you said any of Orlando City’s Designated Players, you would be correct. I’m not going to ring any emergency bells just yet, but it’d be a lot cooler if Luis Muriel, Martin Ojeda, or Facundo Torres scored a goal this week.

I think they are all close to breaking out. Torres has scored this year, just not in the MLS regular season. Muriel has been getting closer each match, and is still contributing in other ways. The same can be said of Ojeda. My point is that the goals are coming. Perhaps a trip to another country is exactly what they need to get off the mark.

The Battle on the Wings

Orlando City will be playing against former Lion Ruan. He lines up on the right for Montreal and will be a challenge for either Rafael Santos or Kyle Smith, depending on who gets the start. Of course, if Ivan Angulo is playing in his usual role on the left side of Orlando City’s attack, there could be some interesting races between the two speedy players.

I think that the other side of the field is where the match might be won or lost. Since Orlando City fell out of the Concacaf Champions Cup, the team has been on a more regular schedule. That has allowed Dagur Dan Thorhallsson to regain his form in the right fullback position for the Lions. He scored a goal last week, has an assist on the season, four crosses, and 10 key passes. He is an integral part of Orlando City’s attack and if he can win the battles against Raheem Edwards and Joaquin Sosa on the right side of Montreal’s lineup, he could have another big night.


That is what I will be looking for Saturday night. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below. Vamos Orlando!

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