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Orlando City

Orlando City at Colorado Rapids: Player Grades and Man of the Match

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Orlando City had a tough task going out to Colorado to play the league’s stingiest defense in the thin Rocky Mountain air. But the Lions responded by playing outstanding team defense and earned a much-needed point to send the team above the red line, at least until D.C. United and New York Red Bulls play on Sunday afternoon in the nation’s capital.

While three points is always better than one, a nice traveling contingent from Orlando visited Dick’s Sporting Goods Park and saw their side hold the Rapids scoreless while nearly nicking a late game winner on chances by Cyle Larin and Tony Rocha. The way the team had been conceding goals, it was a nice first step toward righting the ship for the stretch run and a good way to open a stretch of three games in nine days.

Let’s get to tonight’s grades.

Starters

GK, Joe Bendik, 6 – Joe didn’t have to work as hard as usual, as the Rapids got only one of their 13 shots on frame. But he was aggressive coming off his line to challenge for balls in the air and generally did what he needed to do in earning his third clean sheet of the season. While it’s hard to give him a high score for what he had to accomplish, it’s still a shutout and he kept his back line — featuring two new starters — organized. He didn’t put a foot wrong but he didn’t have many opportunities either.

D, Mikey Ambrose, 6.5 – Making his first MLS start, Ambrose played a solid if unspectacular game at left back. He handled the defensive end very well, getting into passing lanes, forcing his man back toward the top of the box, and grabbing a few key takeaways on the sideline. He was cautious going forward and didn’t involve himself much in the offense, but that’s OK. He is a defender first and an attacker second and tonight reflected that. He tied Jose Aja for the team high in interceptions (5), blocked two shots and connected on 82.7% of his passes. A bright start for Mikey.

D, David Mateos, 6 – David made several one-on-one defensive plays that kept the Rapids from generating excellent scoring chances. It started in the 18th minute, knocking the ball out for a corner off of Marlon Hairston and dispossessing Eric Miller in the 34th. Was fortunate not to be sent off in the 65th minute, sacrificing himself to take down a streaking Kevin Doyle. What likely saved him is Doyle not having possession and the hustle of Servando Carrasco who may have been able to get into the shooting lane by the time Doyle tracked down the ball. Made a great play in the 72nd minute to break up a counter. Finished with 88.9% passing accuracy, three tackles, four interceptions, four clearances and two blocked shots.

D, Jose Aja, 6 – A solid start for the Uruguayan, who struggled in passing a bit (77.4%) but made five interceptions and four clearances to help keep the sheet clean. He did get beat to a cross by Kevin Doyle but thankfully the glancing header was off target. Picked up a booking for kicking the ball at an opponent and that will be worth watching this week considering Antonio Nocerino’s suspension for the same infraction, but Aja’s looked far less intentional.

D, Kevin Alston, 6.5 – One of Kevin’s better defensive games in a while, he finished with an interception and three clearances and generally did a nice job of limiting Marc Burch’s effectiveness on the flank. He passed at an extremely efficient 90.2%, one key pass and two of his three long balls were accurate on a night in which he was conservative in the attack, just as Ambrose was on the other side.

MF, Antonio Nocerino, 7 (MOTM) – The Italian continues to grow more confident as he sees more minutes and that is translating into instinctual running to spots where he knows he should be. He beat Doyle to a ball in the 42nd minute and earned a free kick. He hustled back on defense all night and still managed to be part of the attack. His two tackles, four interceptions and a clearance on defense paired nicely with his 86.9% passing accuracy, one key pass, one accurate cross and a shot (well off target, however). On a night where a lot of players turned in similarly solid performances, Nocerino’s two-way play and his team high 78 touches earn him the nod from me.

MF, Servando Carrasco, 5.5 – Servando continues to hustle and work hard, which is going to earn him minutes, but his passing was a bit off on this night. His percentage was 81.4% doesn’t seem so bad, but none of his four long balls or three crosses were accurate. He was dispossessed once and gave up a very dangerous set piece in the second half before being subbed off. To his credit, he did head the free kick behind for a corner.

MF, Kaká, 5.5 – While it wasn’t a terrible night for Kaká, it was hardly one of his best. Credit Colorado for surrounding the Brazilian all night and making his life difficult, but he was also hampered a bit by playing next to Julio Baptista (more on him in a minute). The captain completed a low (especially for him) 78% of his passes, coughed up the ball twice, and shot off target in his lone attempt at goal. Neither of his two crosses or his two long balls were accurate.

MF, Julio Baptista 4.5, – The Beast is officially not a midfielder. With Kevin Molino unable to play and Matias Perez Garcia coming off a quad injury, the Brazilian started in the middle of the attacking midfield, although he and Kaká swapped spots a few times. He looked slow to 50/50 balls all night, completed only 68.2% of his passes, and touched the ball just 36 times before being replaced by MPG in the 62nd minute. He did make three interceptions and draw three free kicks, but he just didn’t seem to link up well with his teammates.

MF, Brek Shea, 5.5 – Although he still didn’t provide the kind of performance Orlando City needs out of him on the offensive end, Shea was better tonight than the last two games. He got both of his shots on target but unfortunately both were straight at his USMNT teammate, Tim Howard. His help on the defensive end was much better tonight than we’ve seen recently, blocking crosses, making clearances and stealing the ball twice. His passing rate of 83.3% was an improvement as well. Nearly sent in Cyle Larin in the second half but couldn’t quite clear Axel Sjoberg. Took a yellow card for the team by delaying a quick Colorado restart on a throw-in.

F, Cyle Larin, 4.5 – Kid Fantastic had a rough night. Although he worked hard, the service to him was largely nonexistent due to the stifling Rapids defense. He managed just 32 touches, got neither of his shots on target and led the team in bad touches (5). He passed at a 61.5% clip and only drew one free kick. About the best thing he did was work hard. His hustle earned a corner at the start of the second half and he certainly put in the work. It’s just that the service in to him was cut off and it took him out of the game. Still, he could have been a hero had he gotten his late shot on target in the 78th minute. He may also have been able to set Shea up for a tap-in with the right pass on the play.

Substitutes

MF, Matias Perez Garcia (62’), 5.5 – While MPG was an instant upgrade over Baptista, he didn’t get much accomplished in about 30 minutes of play. He did complete 92.9% of his passes but he didn’t have a key pass, or connect on a cross or a long ball. He drew only one foul.

MF, Tony Rocha (70’), 6 – The young midfielder completed all 17 of his passes after subbing on for Servando Carrasco and had a late chance to be a hero, stepping into the attack and firing just wide of the post in the third minute of stoppage time. Another solid outing for the former OCB player.

D, Tommy Redding (75’), 5.5 – The Homegrown Player came on for a cramping Aja for the final 15 minutes plus stoppage time and helped his team keep a clean sheet. He only completed 66.7% of his passes but he’s hurt by a small sample size (six total passing attempts). He finished with two tackles and a clearance in a solid if unspectacular appearance, coming into a difficult situation.

That’s how I saw the performances from tonight’s match. Who stood out to you, both good and bad? Please vote for your Man of the Match in the poll below.

Polling Closed

PlayerVotes
Mikey Ambrose20
David Mateos22
Antonio Nocerino111
Kaká4
Kevin Alston3
Other12

Orlando City

Intelligence Report: Orlando City vs. New York City FC

Get all the information you need on NYCFC, courtesy of someone who knows them best.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Another Orlando City match is right around the corner, and the Lions will try to keep the good vibes going during what has been a productive July. It won’t be easy though, as they welcome New York City FC to the familiar confines of the purple palace.

A date with the Pigeons means I caught up with Matthew Mangam, of the excellent Hudson River Blue. As always, he was very helpful in bringing us up to speed on New York City.

When last we talked, you said that this team needed to find its offensive spark again. It certainly managed to do that when it put four past Orlando City. Has that trend continued in the games since then?

Matthew Mangam: It definitely did not happen in the two matches after the win against Orlando. NYCFC did score first against Austin but ultimately lost, and couldn’t even manage two shots on goal against Chicago, drawing 0-0. Last game, NYCFC came back from 2-0 down to tie 2-2 with Atlanta United. The goals came from unusual scorers, Mounsef Bakrar and Talles Magno. So, the offense hasn’t been great recently but with the return of Magno, it can only get better. Players like Hannes Wolf and Santi Rodríguez have slowed down as of recently, resulting in guys like Alonso Martínez to see less of the ball and get fewer scoring chances.

With 29 goals conceded, NYCFC has one of the stingiest defenses in the league, what has made that unit so good?

MM:  NYCFC’s defense is solid, but it wouldn’t be complete without Matt Freese. The All-Star snub has made tons of amazing saves this season to earn NYCFC results and he seems to get better and better as time goes on. Also, the back line of Birk Risa and Thiago Martins has been consistent throughout the season, allowing for the two to get comfortable playing together. Although the right back spot has changed every so often, Kevin O’Toole has stayed as the starting left back. James Sands as the defensive midfielder does a great job in winning the ball back and protecting Martins and Risa. The defensive unit is the same from last season, so it’s only getting stronger with every game played.

It’s always fun to check in on former Lions, so tell me a bit about Andres Perea. How has he performed this season?

MM: Andrés Perea has been good this season, but not as good as he was last season during his loan spell. Perea does have two goals this season and one assist, but he’s given the ball away more than last season. He’s also not been as accurate passing-wise but I am still a huge advocate for him. He just suffered an injury against Chicago and may be out for some time, but I have no doubt that when he returns he’ll be back to his usual self. We’ve seen Nick Cushing use Perea in a three-man midfield with Keaton Parks and Sands as well. He doesn’t seem to be a certain starter, but he’s one of the few midfield depth pieces NYCFC has.

Will anyone be absent due to injuries, suspensions, call-ups, etc.? What is your projected starting XI and score prediction?

MM: NYCFC had five players out against Atlanta. The only set returner is Sands, who is back from yellow card suspension. I’m not sure if Cushing will want to rush back players such as Tayvon Gray, O’Toole, and Perea with such a quick turnaround. Malachi Jones had surgery after the injury he suffered against Orlando and will be out for several months. So, to guess a starting XI that I don’t think will be right, this is definitely the hardest one to predict yet this season.

4-2-3-1: Matt Freese, Christian McFarlane or Kevin O’Toole, Birk Risa, Thiago Martins, Ilenič or Tayvon Gray, James Sands, Keaton Parks, Agustin Ojeda, Santi Rodríguez, Hannes Wolf, Alonso Martínez.

I think the final score will be 2-2, it’ll be an entertaining game.


Thank you to Matthew for the information on NYCFC. Vamos Orlando!

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Lion Links

Lion Links: 7/19/24

Dagur Dan Thorhallsson signs new contract, Orlando Pride sign National Team Replacement Players, MLS roster rules change, and more.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Happy Friday! I’ll be spending a majority of the day traveling, as I have a flight to Boston this morning and then a drive up to Maine. It should be a nice weekend with friends, and I’m planning on consuming as much lobster as possible while I’m up there. Let’s dive into today’s links!

Dagur Dan Signs New Contract

Orlando City has signed Dagur Dan Thorhallsson to a new contract that will keep him in the City Beautiful through 2026, with an option for 2027 as well. The versatile player joined Orlando before the 2023 season and has flourished at right back since moving there. He’s locked down the position, so it makes all the sense in the world that Orlando would want to keep him around. Thorhallsson has two goals and three assists to his name so far this season and is a key part of the team’s game plan when attacking.

Ramiro Enrique Makes Team of the Matchday Bench

Forward Ramiro Enrique earned a spot on the bench of the latest Team of the Matchday for his efforts in Orlando’s 3-0 win over Nashville SC on Wednesday. Enrique’s rocketed strike capped off a solid performance, as he was also a force in the air and looked dangerous at the top of Orlando’s offense. The 23-year-old forward was also selected as Man of the Match in our Nic Josey’s player grades for the game. Enrique now has three goals in his past three games, so it’s nice to see him get some deserved recognition.

Orlando Pride Sign National Team Replacement Players

Midfielder Claire Winter and goalkeeper Kenna Caldwell were signed by the Pride as National Team Replacement Players for this international break. The Pride are without seven players due to the Olympics and Winter and Caldwell are available for selection for the upcoming  NWSL x Liga MX Femenil Summer Cup. Caldwell was a non-roster invitee to the Pride’s preseason and has been training with the team since. Winter has played in Denmark, Spain, Ireland, and Puerto Rico over the course of her career, and she was also a National Team Replacement Player for NJ/NY Gotham FC back in 2021.

MLS Makes Changes to Roster Rules

MLS clubs will have a bit more flexibility in terms of roster construction after the league announced changes that go into effect now that the secondary transfer window is open. Teams can now use all three Designated Player slots and all three U22 Initiative slots, eliminating the limitations that hamstrung some of those slots in the past. There’s also now an option for teams to build their roster with two DP slots, four U22 Initiative slots, and $2 million more in General Allocation Money. Speaking of GAM, up to $3 million of total transfer revenues can be converted into it, which is more than double the amount that it was before.

Only time will tell if these changes are enough to make the league more competitive with others, both on the field and in the transfer market. I feel like the increased flexibility is a positive, and I suspect savvy general managers will find ways to optimize their rosters fairly quickly. Let’s hope Luiz Muzzi can work some magic this transfer window.

USMNT Falls in Latest FIFA Rankings

After a disappointing Copa America that included a group stage exit, the United States fell five spots to 16th in the latest men’s FIFA rankings. While the U.S. underperformed, I do think it’s worth noting that strong tournaments from Uruguay, Germany, and Switzerland also played a part in them rising above the U.S. in the rankings. Mexico dropped two spots to 17th, while Panama and Canada both jumped up eight spots to 35th and 40th, respectively.

Spain moved up five places to third in the rankings following its dominant Euro 2024 run, while Argentina remained at the top after winning Copa America. Colombia jumped up three spots to claim ninth place, while Croatia fell out of the top 10 and is now in 12th.

Free Kicks

  • Former Lion Benji Michel will reportedly sign with Real Salt Lake. The Homegrown Player left Orlando on a free transfer to join FC Arouca in Portugal in January of 2023. It’s definitely going to be weird seeing him play for another MLS team if this comes to pass.
  • The Houston Dynamo made a splash by signing German winger Lawrence Ennali as a U22 Initiative Player. The 22-year-old joins from Polish club Gornik Zabrze for a reported transfer fee of $3 million and should give the Dynamo some needed firepower to compete in the Western Conference.
  • The Philadelphia Union traded away $150,000 in 2024 GAM to St. Louis City in exchange for Samuel Adeniran. The 25-year-old forward scored eight goals for St. Louis last season and the club can receive another $300,000 in GAM if conditions are met as well.
  • Toronto FC added American defender Henry Wingo as a free agent. although it gave $75,000 in 2025 GAM to D.C. United for his discovery rights. The 28-year-old has spent the past four years with Ferencvárosi and has MLS experience due to his time as a Homegrown Player with the Seattle Sounders.
  • The three divisions of the English Football League can be watched through CBS Sports this upcoming season. It’s notable news for those who want to watch Wrexham AFC or Americans like former Lion Daryl Dike.
  • Manchester United has officially signed 18-year-old defender Leny Yoro from Lille. Yoro started in 30 games for Lille last season and United reportedly paid a $67.6 million transfer fee for his services.
  • Patrick Vieira and Strasbourg have parted ways, leaving the French club without a manager just a month before the Ligue 1 season starts. Strasbourg finished 13th in the standings in Vieira’s first year with the club last season.
  • Borussia Dortmund has signed Serhou Guirassy, who scored a whopping 28 Bundesliga goals for Stuttgart last season.

That’s all I have for you today. I hope you all have a fantastic Friday and rest of your weekend!

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Orlando City

Orlando City Signs Dagur Dan Thorhallsson to New Contract

The Icelandic midfielder-turned-fullback extends his deal to stay in Orlando through at least 2026.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Orlando City announced this afternoon that the club has re-signed Icelandic midfielder/fullback Dagur Dan Thorhallsson to a new contract. The new deal will keep the 24-year-old in purple through the 2026 MLS season with a club option for 2027.

“Since Dagur has arrived at the club, he has proven himself to be someone who is adaptive and versatile in all situations, showing a willingness to do whatever the team requires of him in any scenario,” Executive Vice President of Soccer Operations and General Manager Luiz Muzzi said in a club press release. “His dedication to hard work and to his teammates is visible every day. He’s a consummate professional, both on and off the pitch, and we’re excited to have him representing our club for the foreseeable future.”

The Lions signed Thorhallsson on Jan. 31, 2023 to a two-year contract with a pair of option years. He joined OCSC from Breidablik in Iceland’s top flight and made his first appearance for the club less than a month later, coming off the bench in Orlando City’s 1-0 opening day win over the New York Red Bulls on Feb. 25, 2023, coming on in the 78th minute to replace Martin Ojeda. After spot duty to start his Orlando career, Thorhallsson converted to fullback and has developed his game and has become a regular starter.

In his career with Orlando City, Thorhallsson has made 54 appearances (34 starts), playing 2,998 minutes. He’s scored four goals and added six assists, passing at an 85.7% rate. He was a part of one of the league’s best defenses in 2023 and has been a key part of a recent improvement by the Lions in their own end. Counting all competitions, Thorhallsson has participated in 65 games (40 starts), adding an assist in non-MLS games to go along with the numbers above. After his first season with Orlando City, The Mane Land staff gave Thorhallsson a solid grade of 6.5 out of 10 for the 2023 season.

“I am so happy to have extended my contract with this amazing club,” Thorhallsson said in the club’s release. “Since I came to Orlando, it has felt like home, and I will be forever grateful for the opportunity I have gotten to play for the best fans in the country. There’s nothing better than a warm, Orlando night at Inter&Co Stadium, so I can’t wait for many more to come. The fans deserve the best, and that is what I will continue to try to give while I am here in Orlando.”

Prior to joining Orlando City, the native of Hafnarfjörður, Iceland native scored 11 goals and added seven assists in 40 appearances with Breidablik, helping the club win the Icelandic championship in 2022. He has appeared in four matches with Iceland’s national team and represented Iceland previously at the U-16, U-17, U-18, U-19, and U-21 levels, scoring two goals at the youth international level.

Thorhallson spent his youth career with Icelandic clubs Fylkir and Haukar, as well as Belgian side Gent from 2013-2018. He began his senior career with six appearances at Haukar in 2016 in his mid-teens. He returned to Iceland from Belgium and appeared in 16 matches with Keflavik, scoring one goal during the 2018-2019 season and appeared in one league match and four cup matches on loan with Norwegian side Mjøndalen IF. He signed with that club in 2019 and made 12 appearances in league play over two seasons from 2019-2021. During that time, he also played 12 games on loan with Kvik Halden FK in 2019, scoring five goals, and played in 20 matches on loan with Fylkir, scoring once.

What It Means for Orlando City

Thorhallsson arrived as a potential midfield replacement for Junior Urso at the beginning of 2023, but with his versatility and willingness to play anywhere, he cemented himself into the right back position around the Leagues Cup break in 2023, helping the Lions go on a successful final run that lifted the club to second in the Supporters’ Shield standings. While he is still developing at the position, and is sometimes still prone to errors, he’s only 24 and has plenty of upside.

Able to tuck inside and help in the midfield, play on the wing, and serve as a wingback or a fullback, Thorhallsson can plug into a lot of spots across multiple formations. He provides Oscar Pareja with some tactical options on how to use him. Thorhallsson has already equaled his goal (2) and assist (3) totals from 2023 in fewer games (albeit more minutes). He has a good rapport with winger Facundo Torres on the right side of Orlando City’s attack and possesses good instincts about when to overlap and when to cut inside.

The signing extends a promising Orlando City career. He should be in the midst of his prime years over the next two seasons, and provides a solid and dependable player.

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