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Orlando City at Chicago Fire: Player Grades and Man of the Match



Orlando went to Chicago with a chance to climb above the red line for the second consecutive week and again couldn’t quite get it done. D.C. United’s win ensures the Lions will stay just below the line although even on oints with sixth place again this week. This match could go down as a bit of a disappointment as Orlando was the better side and created several opportunities to put the game away but never could finish off the Fire.

With constant repetitive chants of "Fire, Fire, Fire" echoing around Toyota Park, Orlando played the ball into dangerous positions yet never put Chicago to the sword and allowed the Fire to play back into the match to earn a draw late.

Let’s get to the grades from tonight’s 2-2 draw.


GK, Joe Bendik, 6 -€” Joe was by no means flawless in this week’s match-up but there were moments just as in most matches this season where he showed his shot-stopping talent. In the 15th minute, as Seb Hines was rounded by the speedy David Accam, Joe came up big. He also had a nice save at the near post but could have definitely done better on the second Chicago goal, where the ball looked to go straight at him and deflected off his arm and into the back of the net. Here is to hoping that Orlando will not allow quick corners like the one Chicago played in to happen again.

D, Luke Boden, 6 -€” With Shea looking as if the move up field in Kreis’s system is permanent (even if it is not helping Shea’s play), Boden started again at left back where he looked to have a good relationship with Kaká. There were a few moments where he looked a bit indecisive in the attack but overall he played well moving forward and connecting while getting back on defense. Orlando ended up being a bit lucky in the 90th minute where Boden definitely had contact in the box bringing down Alvarez but Geiger was on the Lions' side as the call was not given to Chicago. Overall a decent night from Boden.

D, Tommy Redding, 4.5 -€” With Mateos out on suspension the young center back found himself back in the starting lineup and he started off a bit slow, with a bad pass almost letting Matt Polster into an early chance. Then he got called for an early foul just outside the box on David Accam, which led to the first goal for Chicago. After that, he then earned a yellow card in the 18th minute on a hard slide tackle on Accam. He wasn’t done. Redding then got caught up field, giving the ball away in the 26th minute. The theme is it was not a good game for Redding, who may have shown a few flashes of a future where he can be a good defender, but that day may not be today as he is still too inconsistent.

D, Seb Hines, 5.5 -€” Like his center back partner, Seb also started off slow, getting rounded by Accam in the 15th minute and being bailed out by Bendik with a good save, Hines definitely has some speed issues. However, after Redding went off in the second half, Hines looked to become more aggressive and assertive in defense. Even with the quick corner being put in by his man, Hines still looked like Orlando’s best central defender. I'm not sure if that is a good thing or not.

D, Kevin Alston, 5.5 – A few good connections saw Alston get forward but he does not bring the same type of speed into the attack that Rafael Ramos does. That being said, he also defends better and is not a liability for a red card. In Chicago, Alston had a solid if unspectacular game and has started to solidify his role as the starting right back for Orlando.

MF, Servando Carrasco, 6.5 -€” Simple and efficient could be the two words for Carrasco tonight. He worked his passes well around the pitch while not trying to do too much. He even got into the attack a few times and played a good cross onto the head of Cyle Larin that led to a Kaká finish. The type of play that we saw today from Carrasco should be what he aspires to do every match, simple and efficient.

MF, Cristian Higuita, 6 -€” Before the injury that saw Tony Rocha come in for Higuita, he looked to be his usual self, flying around the pitch and playing aggressively on defense. There were some highlights, especially the tackle on John Goossens inside the box in the 38th minute. Going forward, Orlando could be in for some trouble after trading Darwin Ceren if Higuita is injured long term.

MF, Brek Shea, 4 -€” Not sure what to say here, so let’s start with the positives, Brek Shea did not get injured and made a few good runs. Outside of that, Shea was pretty much horrible all night, mishitting his crosses by sometimes leagues, misplaying passes, and generally just not being sharp. It is hard to pinpoint what is going on with Shea but this could have been one of his worst performances and the only thing that left him on the pitch could have been the injury to Higuita. There was at least one moment in the 75th minute where Shea worked from outside in to get a shot on goal, but other than that, this was a forgettable performance.

MF, Kaká, 8.5 (MOTM) -€” There could probably be a whole story written on how well Kaká played tonight. He forced Chicago to move players around literally by himself and created chance after chance. The first goal by Larin in the 10th minute was set up by Kaká's chip and following that he put in a rebound in the 32nd minute, roofing the ball into the top of the net. With a goal and an assist the captain got more compliments from the announcers than Michael Phelps this weekend and even with one of his most complete performances Orlando still ended up with a draw, but I shudder to think what the game would have looked like without him. Kaká showed today that he still has a lot of soccer ahead and all he needs to do is stay healthy.

MF, Matias Perez Garcia, 6.5 – Getting his first start, the quick play-maker also had the confidence of the staff and team to take corners, putting in a good first ball off the head of Hines in the eighth minute that the defender could not put on frame. Following that was MPG's pass to Kaká that led to the first goal for Orlando and their chemistry looked good throughout the game. He also started the play for the second goal by drawing in defenders and releasing Carrasco down the right side. One of the only negatives from the day was the fact that his shooting left so much to be desired as there were a few moments where he found himself in space and looked like he was kicking a field goal instead of shooting on goal. But, beyond that, the crafty midfielder looks to be a good fit for Orlando moving forward.

F, Cyle Larin, 7 – Cyle got on the board early by splitting the central defenders from Chicago in the 10th minute as Kaká played him into the box and Cyle finished smoothly past Sean Johnson. Then, in the 32nd minute, Cyle got on the end of a cross from Carrasco and put the ball of the crossbar that fell to Kaká then got deposited for the second goal of the night for Orlando. Outside of a goal and having a hand in the other, Larin looked good throughout the day as his hold-up play has consistently improved and his movement up top keeps getting better — as seen in the 62nd minute, when he rounded the defense and then got pulled down by Johnson in the box. It should have been a penalty. We may not see him in purple for too much longer.


D, Jose Aja (56’), 5 – Coming in for an underwhelming Tommy Redding, Aja did not do much to stake a claim on the other center back role for Orlando on his debut. In the 76th minute he was beaten badly and luckily the shot went wide. Then again in the 86th minute he stepped up to only give the ball away and dive into a nasty tackle that gave away a free kick at the top of the box. That foul was the lead-up to the second goal for Chicago as the ensuing play gave the corner. Perhaps he needs more time with the team and I am sure there are better days ahead for Aja.

M, Tony Rocha (60’), 5.5 – It took a few minutes for Rocha to get into the game but when he did, he did not look out of place. He played his passes well and tried to get into the attack, even though his shot was at the moon instead of the goal. Rocha looks to be a player who can grow into a role with Orlando. Today he was just okay.

M, Kevin Molino (64’), 6.5 – Molino came on and did what I am sure he was asked to — attack. In the 79th minute he was only inches away from a goal. In the end, the attack did not lead to any goals for Orlando but he took it upon himself to put a few shots on frame and try to find more goals for Orlando. Having him and Perez Garcia available gives Kreis the chance to move Kaká outside, where he looked very dangerous.

That's how I saw the match. Who would you grade differently? And be sure to vote for your Man of the Match in the poll below.

Polling Closed

Cyle Larin4
Joe Bendik2
Servando Carrasco15
Matias Perez Garcia9

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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Orlando City

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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