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Orlando City vs. D.C. United: Player Grades and Man of the Match

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Well, that was a fun win and I’m sure we’d all like to see a lot more of that next season. Orlando City possessed the ball in the attacking half, created many good scoring chances and finished plenty of them in a 4-2 win over D.C. United on Decision Day. And it could have been even more lopsided than that, as Kevin Molino hit a post and missed a header just wide, and Carlos Rivas whiffed on a half volley try with an empty net to shoot at.

Still, it was an outstanding result and the Lions finish the season feeling good after beating two playoff teams in the final two matches of the season by a combined 6-2 score. Now begins the process of Jason Kreis molding this team into what he wants it to become.

But first, let’s give out our final match grades for 2016.

Starters

GK, Joe Bendik, 5.5 – With only three shots on target and two goals allowed, this would usually not be a very good grade. However, Joe had zero chance on the first goal, which came off essentially a two-on-nobody after perhaps the worst back pass in Orlando City history (more on that later). Kennedy Igboananike’s goal was a freaking rocket and also didn’t allow Bendik much of a chance to stop it. Ultimately, United wasn’t a very dangerous team overall in this game and Joe didn’t have much of a chance to show his stuff, for either good or bad.

D, Mikey Ambrose, 6 – A solid day for Mikey, in my opinion, with one chance created and a lot of creativity shown in his combination play up the left side with Kaká and others. His 71.7% passing rate could have been better, and he had no accurate crosses on four attempts and only one accurate long ball out of five. He also forced Seb Hines to cover a lot of ground early in the game as he got caught upfield a couple of times. Still, there were way more positives than negatives and he has a lot of upside. Finished with a tackle, a clearance, and two interceptions.

D, Seb Hines, 4 – Folks will point a lot of fingers at Seb after this game, and rightfully so when you consider the world’s softest back pass that was nominally intended for Joe Bendik but essentially gave United its first real lifeline in the game. Hines started the game wobbly, but had to cover a lot of space (see above review for Ambrose). Defensively, which is the primary job he has, Hines did OK. He had two clearances, two interceptions, and one tackle. He gave away a free kick early with a clumsy foul, though. He and Jose Aja did a nice job of moving the ball and keeping Orlando from being penned into their own end.

D, Jose Aja, 7 – On a team-high (tied with Hines) passing attempts, Jose completed 83.6% and won nearly everything in the air. He led the team in touches (76), interceptions (3), and clearances (3) and tied Cristian Higuita for the most tackles (4). His towering headers turned balls into the Orlando box into throw-ins for the opposition. He had only one nervy giveaway in the second half, but he immediately won the ball back. Good day for Aja although it could have been better had Igboananike not gotten the better of him for the second D.C. goal. Kennedy has done that to a lot of defenders though.

D, Rafael Ramos, 6.5 – Over the past two games, Rafa hasn’t shown us much we haven’t seen before. He’s been effective moving forward but has had issues here or there on the defensive end. Ramos completed 97.5% of his passes and was a fluid part of the offense, assisting on Molino’s opening goal. His habit of sneaking in behind the United defense created problems for the opposition all game. He got beat badly by Julian Buescher on Igboananike’s goal but he was limping noticeably at the time and was subbed out just afterward for Kevin Alston, so injury probably played a role in that. His biggest issue is his crossing accuracy, as Rafa was 0-for-5 in that department. He finished with a tackle, two interceptions and a blocked shot.

MF, Antonio Nocerino, 7 – Another very solid game for the Italian, who completed 90.7% of his passes, kept United moving laterally instead of straight down the middle of the pitch, and broke up play on D.C.’s few attacks. Five of his eight long balls were accurate, and he finished with three tackles and two interceptions. The main difference between Nocerino now and at the beginning of the season is that he understands the system and not only where he should be but also where his teammates belong. You can see him confidently directing the players around him.

MF, Cristian Higuita, 8 – What a game for Cristian. The young Colombian notched his first goal and assist of the season, completed 93.% of his passes, made a team-high four tackles, and was his usual pesky self all over the field on defense. Jason Kreis said he wanted Cristian to move up behind the attacking midfielders during play and that paid off big for Higuita in this game. Also…no yellow cards.

MF, Kaká, 8 – The maestro of the midfield had a vintage performance against United. His long ball to Ramos set up Molino’s goal and gave the captain a hockey assist. He had a regular assist later on Higuita’s goal and made Sean Franklin look like a traffic cone to score a goal of his own in the 21st minute – a gorgeous shot off the inside of the back post. He created four chances and completed 82.6% of his passes. His lone blemish may have been his unselfishness, as a couple of his passes were easily cut out when he could have instead shot on target.

MF, Matias Perez Garcia, 6.5 – MPG was robbed early on a shot that should have been a goal if Travis Worra hadn’t channeled his inner Bill Hamid. That was one of two shots for the Argentinian. He passed accurately (90.9%) and had his usual hustle but seemed to disappear at times. He had only one tackle but no unsteady touches. He didn’t draw as many fouls around the box as usual. Just a solid outing.

MF, Kevin Molino, 8.5 (MOTM) – The Trinidadian put on a show in an effort that showed definitively that he wants to be a part of this club in 2017. In addition to his 13th-minute goal, he hit the post in the 56th minute and had a few other chances just miss the target. His four shots and five chances led all players in the game and he had a passing accuracy of 81.8%. He was clicking with everyone around him all game long and was a bit unlucky not to at least score a brace. He also played solid defense, with a tackle and two interceptions. His hustle was noticeable.

F, Carlos Rivas, 6 – The Colombian striker did a lot of things well in this game but finishing wasn’t one of them. He missed a bouncing pass from a Molino pass in the 52nd. He then was sent in on a beautiful dummy by Molino in the 68th minute when just one simple touch would have had him in past Worra on an empty goal. But Rivas did a good job of wreaking havoc with his speed and spreading the ball around to help develop the attack rather than take on multiple defenders by himself. His passing accuracy of 68% doesn’t look like much until you compare it with what we’ve seen out of Cyle Larin when deployed as a lone striker the last few weeks. He continues to try his customary long shots with predictable results.

Substitutes

F, Cyle Larin (69’), 5 – The Canadian came on for MPG but didn’t have much impact on the game other than to worry the back line a bit. He registered only one shot (off target), took only 10 touches, and completed just two of his four passes. Did nearly score on a cross that was cut out at the last second in the 80th minute when Ambrose sent Kaká down the left and the captain squared a ball into the six-yard box.

F, Julio Baptista (75’), 7 – The Beast made an impression in his 15 minutes. He took a pass from Higuita and blasted a goal that took a slight deflection off Marcelo Sarvas in the 89th to cap the scoring. Tried an audacious bicycle kick off a corner in the 84th that would have made for a spectacular goal but he didn’t get all of it. A minute later he nearly snuck in a shot to the near post that caught side netting instead. He completed all three of his passes and his seven touches were nearly as many as Larin had in six fewer minutes played.

D, Kevin Alston (81’), N/A – Kevin entered for a limping Ramos and didn’t have much time to make an impact. He did register one tackle but completed neither of his two passes. With the Lions on the attack for most of his time on the pitch, there wasn’t much involvement for Alston.

That’s the way I saw Orlando City’s individual performances in a 4-2 season-ending win over D.C. United. Please vote for your player of the game below and let me know how wrong you think I was in the comments section below.

Polling Closed

Player Votes
Kaká 64
Kevin Molino 21
Cristian Higuita 44
Antonio Nocerino 4
Jose Aja 4
Other 3

Orlando City

Orlando City vs. Chicago Fire: Player Grades & Man of the Match

How did your favorite Lions perform in a frustrating road draw against the Chicago Fire?

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

A point is a point, but Orlando City is certainly capable of playing better than it showed in a frustrating 1-1 draw with the Chicago Fire. Despite Facundo Torres’ early goal, the Lions looked like they weren’t on the same page for large stretches of the game, and displayed plenty of sloppiness. That may be partly due to being on short rest, but it was a disappointing performance against a struggling Chicago team. Here’s how I rated the individual performances during this one.

Starters

GK, Pedro Gallese, 5 — Pedro did some good things, one of which was coming off his line early in the 20th minute and neatly playing the ball with his thigh to avoid handling it outside the area, while preventing a 1-v-1 opportunity. Unfortunately, he should have done better on Chicago’s goal, as the ball was hit with not much pace, although it was back against the direction he was moving. He finished with two saves, one clearance, and 77% passing accuracy.

D, Robin Jansson, 5 — Like his partners in defense, the Swede looked more and more ill-at-ease as the game wore on in his return from injury. He allowed Hugo Cuypers to get goal-side of him for the equalizing strike, and looked like he just fell asleep on the play. He had one tackle, one block, three clearances, one foul committed, and one yellow card on the defensive end, which will earn him a suspension for card accumulation, preventing his participation Saturday in New York. Going forward, he completed a dribble, drew a foul, provided a key pass, and passed with 85% accuracy, while showing some uncharacteristic sloppiness with the ball — something that plagued the entire team.

D, Wilder Cartagena, 5.5 Once again deployed as a center back, Cartagena had an okay night at the back, but we’ve seen better. For defensive statistics, he recorded two tackles, two clearances, one block, one interception, and one foul committed. His 80% passing accuracy wasn’t great though, and he looked uncharacteristically sloppy when trying to find his teammates and build out of the back. He was also partly at fault for Cuyper’s goal, as he failed to provide cover for David Brekalo, who stepped up to provide pressure on the ball. That counts as the major blemish on his night, alongside his passing accuracy.

D, David Brekalo, 6 The Slovenian was the best of the three center backs in this one. The highlight of his night was an outstanding tackle on Cuypers in the 68th minute to stonewall him and prevent what surely would have been a dangerous shot. He finished with three tackles, a team-high five clearances, one foul committed, two fouls drawn, one completed dribble, and a passing accuracy of 85%. I’d really like to see what a partnership of him and Jansson are able to do in a four-man back line, as we haven’t really had the chance to see that due to various injuries.

WB, Facundo Torres, 6 Torres grabbed the lone goal courtesy of one of the strangest goalmouth scrambles I’ve ever witnessed. Aside from that though, he didn’t carry a ton of danger himself, and instead did more work setting others up for chances. His highlight in that regard was serving up a cross on a platter for Luis Muriel that the latter headed directly at the goalkeeper just moments before Chicago’s equalizer. We know he’s capable of creating for himself and scoring, and he continues to look largely neutered in the wingback role he’s being asked to play, though he should have ended Wednesday night with a goal and an assist. Like most of OCSC’s other players, Torres struggled with sloppiness on the ball at times, and his distribution wasn’t his best. He was still able to provide three key passes, take three shots (one on target, two blocked), and passed with 83% accuracy. He contributed two tackles on defense, but the Lions need him at the other end of the field.

MF, Nico Lodeiro, 5.5 Lodeiro, like most of the team, had an evening that he’ll want to forget. He chipped in on the defensive side with two tackles, an interception, and a clearance, but it just wasn’t happening for him going forward, aside from a well-timed pass to send Ivan Angulo behind the defense on a play that would draw a penalty 99 times out of 100. He took one shot that was blocked and drew a foul, but the big issue was his passing. His 84% success rate wasn’t awful, but on several occasions he delivered the ball directly to a Fire player (he had plenty of company in doing that) and just couldn’t seem to get on the same page as his teammates. One of his better passes was to Torres in the first half on a play that was ultimately called back for offside against the Uruguayan.

MF, Cesar Araujo, 6 Cesar did pretty much everything he could have been expected to from a defensive standpoint. He finished with a team-high four tackles, was second on the team with four clearances, and also had an interception and a block. He drew four fouls while not committing any of his own, but his 84% passing accuracy left something to be desired. Like most of his teammates, he just looked out-of-sync on several occasions, delivering the ball straight to an opponent, and it was more noticeable due to how safe he typically is with the ball.

MF, Ivan Angulo, 6.5 (MotM) Angulo had a lively evening, and was involved in almost everything Orlando did well going forward. His combination down the right with Muriel in the first half led to Torres’ goal, and just after the half hour mark he intercepted a ball near midfield and bore down on goal, but seemed to be caught between passing and shooting, and the ball he ended up playing went harmlessly behind for a goal kick. He should have won a penalty kick after evading Chris Brady and being fouled from behind by Federico Navarro, but no decision was forthcoming. His night finished with two shots (one off target, one blocked), four completed dribbles, two key passes, two fouls drawn, and 91% passing accuracy.

WB, Dagur Dan Thorhallsson, 5.5 This formation doesn’t seem to suit Dagur Dan’s attacking skills. He’s versatile and played well as a right back last year, but the in-between nature of the wingback role looks like its doing him more harm than good. He was too slow to track Arnaud Souquet’s run, who crossed for Cuypers to fire home, and that’s the big blip against him in this one. He finished with one tackle and two clearances defensively, while completing a dribble and passing with a team-best 95% accuracy on offense. I think he’d really benefit from either being a fullback or a midfielder, instead of a mix between the two.

F, Martin Ojeda, 4.5 Asked to play as the second striker alongside Muriel, things just weren’t happening for Ojeda. Whether it was a ball that wouldn’t fully bounce his way, or a pass that was just off the mark, it was yet another case of so close, yet so far. He finished with one tackle, one foul committed, one foul drawn, and 85% passing accuracy. The lack of key passes or shots is indicative of the difficulties he had, and you simply have to get more out of a Designated Player. Given how involved Ramiro Enrique was during his short time on the field, Ojeda’s night is that much tougher to swallow.

F, Luis Muriel, 5.5 — Like most of his teammates, it was a frustrating performance from Muriel. He did some good things and showed plenty of flashes of the quality that he has, but ultimately wasn’t able to impact the scoresheet. His night was perhaps best summed up by his powerful 77th minute header, that would surely have been a goal if he’d put it anywhere but straight at the goalkeeper. He also was maddeningly reluctant to shoot. I’m all for a striker who wants to create for others, but sometimes you can’t look for the perfect opening and just need to hit the damn ball. He recorded two tackles, one clearance, one shot (on target), two fouls drawn, and 84% passing accuracy.

Substitutes

F, Ramiro Enrique, (79′), N/A Enrique came on for Muriel with just over 10 minutes to play, and looked lively and dangerous during his time on the field. He made an excellent run from midfield as the game wound down, but fired his shot a bit off target. He finished with one completed dribble, one off-target shot, and completed the lone pass that he attempted.

D, Rafael Santos, (79′), N/A Santos entered the fray in place of Ojeda, and did what was asked of him. He recorded one tackle, one clearance, one foul drawn, and a key pass, while accurately delivering 75% of his passes to their destination.

MF, Kyle Smith, (90′ + 2), N/A Smith subbed on for Dagur Dan with the game in its final stages. He completed one of his three passes, sending the other two directly to a Fire player but helped Orlando get out of Chicago with a point.

MF, Jeorgio Kocevski, (90′ + 2), N/A Kocevski came on for Torres in the dying stages of the game. He completed the one pass he attempted and helped the Lions see out the remaining time on the clock.


That’s how I saw the individual performances from a largely frustrating evening in Chicago. Feel free to voice your thoughts on how the players did down in the comments, and be sure to vote in our Man of the Match poll. Vamos Orlando!

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Orlando City

Orlando City at Chicago Fire: Five Takeaways

What did we learn from Orlando City’s disappointing draw with the Chicago Fire?

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Orlando City traveled to the Windy City with a good chance to take home all three points. That wasn’t the case, as the Lions allowed a second-half goal and drew the Chicago Fire 1-1 at Soldier Field. It wouldn’t be an Orlando City match if there wasn’t controversy involving the referee and video review, but we’ll get to that soon enough. What follows are my immediate takeaways from a sloppy and frustrating draw on the road.

Ugly Goals Still Count

It’s been a hot minute since Facundo Torres has scored a goal, but he didn’t have to wait too long in this match to get back on the board. Ivan Angulo and Luis Muriel combined in the attacking midfield to get into the final third with the ball finding Torres in the box. At that point he took too many touches, got closed down, and it became a scrum in front of goal. After the ball pinged in, out, and all around, Torres found himself climbing off the pitch, only to take squib of a shot while falling down that somehow got through the tangle of legs and went into the bottom left corner of the goal. It was ugly, but exactly what Orlando City needed to get things started.

Defensive Holes Evident

I will admit that my prediction was wrong. I thought that the return of Robin Jansson would mean that Oscar Pareja would go back to the 4-2-3-1 formation he usually deployed. Instead, he stayed with the 3-5-2 he’s used the last several matches, with Jansson playing on the left of the three-man back line. Chicago is not a very good attacking team, but the Fire consistently found space in the box, and made Orlando City pay for it in the 70th minute. Good thing there wasn’t a video review decision that impacted the match. Oh wait.

Another Brick in the Wall

Orlando City was once again the victim of poor officiating and inconsistent application of video review in calling penalties. Angulo took a nice pass from Nico Lodeiro, slipped between two Chicago defenders, made his way into the box, made a move around the keeper, and then was fouled…twice. The keeper clipped him, and then the defender fouled him from behind. I thought it was a penalty, the commentators on Apple TV+ thought it was a penalty, and everyone except Fire fans, PRO referees, video assistant referee Edvin Jurisevic, and Don Garber thought it was a penalty. Unfortunately, it’s just another example of the “if it helps Orlando City, it’s not a foul/penalty” that we have seen so many times this season. Not only should it have been a penalty, it should have been a sending off for denial of a goal-scoring opportunity.

Poor Passing

Much of the match, Orlando City looked like a team not on the same page. Too many times players tried to be too clever when making a pass. Too many times the ball was played into spaces allowing a turnover. Too many explicit turnovers. Too many heavy passes, too many light passes — none of it what we expect from this team. Don’t let the 83% team passing percentage fool you. This was a disorganized team when in possession playing against Chicago.

Tired Legs or Tired Minds?

This match was Orlando City’s sixth match of the month. That is a lot of games. I’m not certain that the team looked tired when running, but as I noted above, the passing wasn’t good and that can come from your brain being tired. A tired player will try to do something they shouldn’t, thinking they can, or take too long to do what they should do. How many times did a player take way too much time to even think about taking a shot? Orlando City usually generates plenty of chances on goal. Against Chicago, the Lions only managed eight shots with two on goal. It was all just not crisp enough.


Those are the things I observed in the once-again frustrating draw against the Fire. Let us know in the comments below what stood out to you. As always, vamos Orlando!

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Lion Links

Lion Links: 5/30/24

Orlando City draws on the road, Duncan McGuire called up, Grace Chanda will reportedly sign with the Orlando Pride, and more.

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Image courtesy of Orlando Pride

For those of you who watched Orlando City’s game Wednesday night, I hope the universe repays you with good fortune in some way today. The week rolls on though, as we get ready for more Orlando soccer this weekend, along with international friendlies around the world to enjoy. For now though, let’s get to the links!

Orlando City Draws Against the Chicago Fire

The Lions went on the road and had to settle for a 1-1 draw against the Chicago Fire. Neither goal was anything to write home about in a match that was highlighted by sloppy play and yet another controversial refereeing decision the Lions had to deal with. A draw on the road while on short rest generally isn’t the worst result in the world, but it was a poor performance from the Lions. They’ll aim to get back in the winning column this Saturday when they travel to play the New York Red Bulls.

Duncan McGuire Called Up For Training Camp

Orlando City forward Duncan McGuire was one of 25 players called up for the United States Men’s Olympic Soccer Team’s training camp ahead of a friendly with Japan on June 11. McGuire has earned his spot on the team during a solid second season with the Lions that has included five goals. Columbus Crew goalkeeper Patrick Schulte, Koln forward Damion Downs, and LA Galaxy defender Jalen Neal are a few of the other notable players called up. Nashville SC center back Walker Zimmerman is the only player over 23 that was called up for this camp.

Grace Chanda Will Reportedly Join the Pride

An agreement was reportedly reached between the Orlando Pride and Zambian attacker Grace Chanda for her to join the club on a deal through 2025, with an option for 2026 as well. It would be a free transfer, but she would not join the Pride until after the Olympics. Chanda was named to the 2022 Women’s Africa Cup of Nations Best XI and was also on the shortlist for the 2022 Best CAF Women’s Player of the Year Award. The 26-year-old did not play in last year’s World Cup due to an illness, but has come off the bench in Madrid CFF’s past two games. The Pride are having a historic year and Chanda should help them push for a title if she does end up joining her international teammate, Barbra Banda.

Getting to Know Emily Sams

Pride defender Emily Sams is the latest player to field questions as part of the club’s video series for fans to learn more about the players. Sams spoke about the disappointment in how the team’s season ended last year after missing out on the playoffs on a goal differential tiebreaker. She also talked about the team’s aspiration to not only make the playoffs but contend for a title this year. It’s her second season with the Pride and she’s been a key reason why Orlando has done so well so far. Sams discussed what the team’s atmosphere is like, as well as how she likes to spend time outdoors exploring Orlando’s many lakes when not on the field.

Free Kicks


That’s all I have for you today. I hope you all have a wonderful Thursday and rest of your week.

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