Orlando City at Colorado Rapids: Player Grades and Man of the Match
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.
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.
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.
Orlando City at New York Red Bulls: Three Keys to Victory
What does Orlando City need to do to earn all three points on the road at Red Bull Arena this Saturday night?
Orlando City is back on the road this Saturday with a match against the New York Red Bulls at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, NJ. The Lions have four results in the last four matches, but only one win. That needs to change if this team is going to be a serious contender once the playoffs come around.
Orlando City defeated the Red Bulls 1-0 to begin the 2023 MLS regular season at Exploria Stadium. Now the Lions have a chance to sweep the Eastern Conference rival in the regular season with another victory. What does Orlando City need to do to get all three points on the road this weekend?
Take Advantage of Tired Legs
The Red Bulls are coming off a midweek away match against Inter Miami, and a flight back to New Jersey. That means that new Red Bulls skipper Tony Lesesne won’t have as much time to game plan as Oscar Pareja will with a full week between matches. It also means that there may be some tired legs on the Red Bulls’ side of the pitch.
If Orlando City can get through the first half with either the lead, or at least even on the scoreboard, it will be tougher for New York in the second half, especially once the hour mark hits. Use possession and passing to make the Red Bulls run as much as possible and then hit them with the fresh legs of Duncan McGuire to finish them off.
Score First, Score Second
We saw what happens when Orlando City doesn’t find a way to get a second goal in the last match against Atlanta United. They don’t call them the Cardiac Cats for nothing. The Lions must get the early lead to make New York chase the match, but they also need to get a second goal before the Red Bulls can get their first.
If Orlando City can go up by two goals, it will be demoralizing for a team that is playing twice in four days, and will have the tired legs mentioned above. It will also give the Lions the mental confidence to potentially get a third goal, as the club did against Inter Miami. Finishing the chances and putting the match to bed early is a big key to victory.
Keep a Clean Sheet
The Red Bulls haven’t scored a ton of goals this season, nor do they have any player lighting things up on the offensive side of the ball. Orlando City hasn’t earned a clean sheet since the April 29 match against the LA Galaxy. The Red Bulls are the type of opponent that could help the Lions solve that dilemma.
Doing so will mean Pedro Gallese must continue being one of the best keepers in MLS. Many of the goals conceded this season are not on him — not all, but certainly many. Michael Halliday will still be with the USMNT U-20 squad this weekend and we might see Oscar Pareja employ three at the back in his absence. If so, it will be contingent upon whoever is lined up on the right to deal with John Tolkin when he presses up the pitch, which he will.
If the three center backs do their job, and if Cesar Araujo plays like he usually does, then the attack will likely come from the flanks. It is contingent upon the wingbacks to make sure they don’t neglect the defense, especially later in the match.
That is what I will be looking for this Saturday night as the Lions look for a fifth straight result. Please let me know your thoughts in the comments below.
Lion Links: 6/1/23
MLS All-Star voting is underway, midweek MLS results, Sevilla wins Europa League, and more.
Welcome to June, Mane Landers! I hope May treated you well as we get ready for another month filled to the brim with soccer. The Florida summer is heating up, so make sure to stay hydrated out there as we break out the beach umbrellas and dust off the grills. But for now, let’s jump into today’s links!
MLS All-Star Voting Begins
Voting is underway for the 26 players who will be selected for the MLS All-Star Team this summer. Of those 26 players, 12 will be chosen from a combined vote from fans, media, and current players. Orlando City defensive midfielder Cesar Araujo was noted as a candidate who could make this year’s team. Personally, I think goalkeeper Pedro Gallese, center back Robin Jansson, and forward Ercan Kara have a real shot at playing in the All-Star Game if they keep up their form. This year’s MLS All-Star Game will take place against Arsenal in the nation’s capital, with D.C. United Head Coach Wayne Rooney at the helm.
MLS Midweek Action Brings Plenty of Goals
The Lions weren’t in action for this midweek round of games, but there was still plenty of soccer to enjoy from the other MLS teams. Atlanta United and the New England Revolution battled to a 3-3 draw at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Carles Gil and Bobby Wood gave the Revs a 2-0 lead heading into halftime. Atlanta then scored three times in the second half, only for Gil to find an equalizer in stoppage time. It wasn’t the only high-scoring game of the evening either, as the Columbus Crew won 3-2 over the Colorado Rapids thanks to a goal and two assists from midfielder Lucas Zelarayan. Elsewhere in the Eastern Conference, FC Cincinnati beat New York City FC 3-1 and D.C. United and CF Montreal played to a 2-2 draw. Orlando City’s next opponents, the New York Red Bulls, won 1-0 at Inter Miami.
Sevilla Wins Seventh Europa League Title
It took a penalty shootout to decide the winner of this year’s Europa League final, with Sevilla beating AS Roma in Budapest. It was the Spanish club’s seventh time lifting the Europa League trophy. This win salvaged a rough La Liga season for Sevilla and it will play in the Champions League next year. Paulo Dybala gave Roma the lead in the first half, but an own goal levelled things in the 55th minute. Chris Smalling nearly gave Roma the win in extra time, but his header hit the crossbar. It was Jose Mourinho’s first defeat in six European finals and Roma will aim to qualify for the Europa League again when it takes on Spezia in its final Serie A game of the season on Sunday.
More Teams Claim Spots in U-20 World Cup Quarterfinals
Host Argentina was bounced from the U-20 World Cup after a 2-0 loss to Nigeria in the U-20 World Cup. After a scoreless first half, Nigeria struck twice and will face either Ecuador or South Korea in the next round. The other South American nations in action fared a bit better than Argentina, with Brazil cruising past Tunisia, 4-1, in a match that included three goals in stoppage time, and Colombia beating Slovakia, 5-1. In a clash between European sides, Italy won 2-1 over England after Cesare Casadei scored from the spot in the 87th minute. In the quarterfinals, the U.S. will face the winner of today’s match between Gambia and Uruguay.
- Orlando City B moved up a spot to seventh in the MLS NEXT Pro power rankings.
- Orlando City’s U-12 team is returning to Orlando with some new silverware.
- St. Louis City midfielder Eduard Löwen won MLS Goal of the Matchday for his free kick goal against the Vancouver Whitecaps.
- Lesle Gallimore was named as OL Reign’s next general manager after serving as commissioner of the club’s girls academy since 2020.
- Rumors are swirling that Inter Miami and FC Barcelona will join forces to sign Lionel Messi, with Miami signing him as a free agent and then loaning him to Barcelona.
- Arsenal forward Beth Mead will not play for England in this summer’s Women’s World Cup as she continues to recover from her ACL injury.
- American coach Jesse Marsch, who was dismissed from Leeds United earlier this year, has been linked with a move to AS Monaco in Ligue 1.
- Dundee United announced that American midfielder Ian Harkes is one of six players who will leave the club after it was relegated. Harkes has played for the Scottish club since 2019, joining from D.C. United.
- The Soccer Tournament kicks off today and you can check out the full slate of games.
That’s all I have for today. I hope you all have a wonderful start to June!
Lion Links: 5/31/23
Nani will return to Exploria Stadium for celebrity match, Amanda Allen scores again for Canada, U-20 USMNT defeats New Zealand, and more.
Hello, Mane Landers. I hope all is well with you down in Florida. There’s not much new with me up here in Chicago. Now that high school sports have finished up for the school year, I’ll be busy this summer working at Wrigley Field. There is plenty to get to today, so let’s get to the links.
Nani Will Return to Exploria Stadium for Celebrity Match
Former Lion captain Nani will return to Exploria Stadium on June 23 to participate in the celebrity soccer match called The Beautiful Game. The 36-year-old expressed his thoughts on his return to Orlando and taking part in this match next month.
“For me it is an honor to be back in Orlando and be with the fans one more time,” said Nani. “I can’t wait to see my friends from the club, The Wall and all Orlando City supporters again. I’m thankful for this opportunity to play one more time with Roberto Carlos, Ronaldinho, and so many legends.”
Nani played three seasons for the Lions, recording 28 goals and 23 assists in 77 appearances for the club. The match will feature icons such as Ronaldinho, Roberto Carlos, Carlos Valderrama, Javier Mascherano, and Rivaldo as well. The match will also have halftime entertainment, and more additions to the rosters set to be announced at a later date.
Amanda Allen Scores Again in Concacaf Women’s U-20 Championship
Orlando Pride forward Amanda Allen made the starting lineup again for Canada in the 2023 Concacaf Women’s U-20 Championship in the Dominican Republic. In Canada’s final group stage match against the U.S., Allen converted a penalty kick for Canada’s first goal in what finished as a 5-2 loss for her side.
It was Allen’s second goal of the tournament, but she was injured in this match as well. Canada finishes second in the group, with the U.S. on top. On Friday, the U.S. will play Costa Rica and Canada will face Mexico in the semifinals.
U-20 USMNT Advances to World Cup Quarterfinals
Orlando City defender Michael Halliday came on as a substitute in the 71st minute for the U.S. U-20 Men’s National Team in its U-20 World Cup match against New Zealand. The U.S. shut out New Zealand 4-0 to advance to the quarterfinals in Argentina. That victory gives the U.S. its fourth-consecutive shutout in the tournament. Austin FC midfielder Owen Wolff, San Jose Earthquakes forward Cade Cowell, FC Dallas defender Justin Che, and Hajduk Split midfielder Rokas Pukstas all scored for the Americans. In the quarterfinals on Sunday, the U.S. will face the winner of tomorrow’s match between Gambia and Uruguay.
Interim Head Coach Anthony Hudson Leaves USMNT
The U.S. Soccer Federation announced that Anthony Hudson is leaving his role as the USMNT’s interim head coach to pursue a new opportunity. Hudson is reportedly set to take a head coaching role with a club in the Middle East. He was the head coach of the U.S. U-20 team in 2020 and had been an assistant under Gregg Berhalter for the USMN before being named interim head coach in January. Hudson will be replaced by B.J. Callaghan, who will be the interim head coach for the USMNT for the Concacaf Nations League and Gold Cup competitions this summer. Callaghan has been an assistant coach with the USMNT over the last four years and was previously an assistant coach with the Philadelphia Union.
USMNT Will Host Ghana and Germany for October Friendlies
The USMNT will play two international friendlies in October against Germany and Ghana. The U.S. will take on four-time World Cup Champion Germany on Oct. 14 in East Hartford, CT. The last time the USMNT played Germany was in 2015, with the Yanks winning 2-1. On Oct. 17, the USMNT will face Ghana in Nashville. The Black Stars will look to get their first win on American soil against the Stars and Stripes. Ghana eliminated the Americans in the World Cup in 2006 and 2010, but the U.S. defeated Ghana in the group stage at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. The last time these two sides met was in 2017, when the USMNT edged Ghana, 2-1.
- The latest MLS Power rankings were released. The Lions moved down one spot to 15th after their 1-1 draw against Atlanta United.
- The LA Galaxy parted ways with President Chris Klein. Head Coach and Sporting Director Greg Vanney will remain with the club. The Galaxy have missed the playoffs in four of the last six seasons.
- Former Netherlands forward Quincy Promes will be prosecuted for his involvement in drug trafficking. Promes is accused of allegedly smuggling 1,360 kilos of cocaine in 2020.
- Juventus is reportedly emerging as the leader in the race to acquire Christian Pulisic on a transfer from Chelsea. Pulisic has one-year remaining on his contract with the English Premier League side.
- Forbes.com’s James Nalton shared his insights on five potential USMNT players to watch during the U-20 World Cup .
- An arrest warrant has reportedly been issued in Brazil for LA Galaxy midfielder Douglas Costa for unpaid child support.
- Is it just me or did The Athletic forget to mention our beloved Lions’ U.S. Open Cup run last year?
That will do it for me today, Mane Landers. Enjoy your Wednesday and I’ll see you next time.
Orlando City at New York Red Bulls: Three Keys to Victory
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