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Intelligence Report: Orlando City vs. Seattle Sounders FC



Orlando City will try for the third time to take something out of a game against the Seattle Sounders when the two teams tangle tonight at 10:30 p.m. ET at CenturyLink Field. The first two meetings saw the Sounders win a pair of lopsided matches by a combined score of 7-1.

When you factor in that Seattle is playing better of late, winning three of the last five and three straight at home, against an Orlando side that has one win from the last nine outings, things could seem a little bleak. Now add in that Jason Kreis will rotate the squad somewhat, meaning it won’t be a full first-choice starting XI, and Cyle Larin is still unavailable. Prospects for a result seem even more remote.

But hey, you’ve got to play the game, and anything can happen for 90+ minutes after a kickoff in a game of soccer. So, we’ll see what happens.

Stopping by to give us an advance scouting report on the Sounders is Andrew Tingkang from SB Nation’s Seattle blog, Sounder at Heart. I responded to SAH’s questions as well, and you can find those responses over at their place.

While it certainly is too early for Seattle fans to panic, the Sounders don’t seem to be clicking on offense the way they did down the stretch last season. What’s going on with the attack?

Andrew Tingkang: The Sounders’ attack has been hampered by injuries, national team call-ups, and an unsettled starting XI that seems to shift from week to week as players show better or worse form. Harry Shipp started the season injured, Will Bruin has been injured, Jordan Morris has been injured almost all year, and that’s just in the attack.  The Sounders seem to have two primary modes of attack: through-balls on the ground or over the top to Morris or Joevin Jones and building out of the back when there are no lanes for through-balls.  With Morris injured, and the defense shifting through fifth-and-sixth stringers due to the aforementioned injuries, the Sounders have had to try and find other ways of getting goals. 

Honestly, Nicolas Lodeiro seems to be the one who is missing the same sharpness that he had last season, missing great opportunities to put crosses away, delivering meandering crosses (especially corners) himself, and not quite hitting Morris or others in stride like he did last season. He’s still usually the best player on the pitch for the Sounders, capable of delivering a dose of magic at any moment, but he hasn’t connected this year with the ease he did last. Perhaps that’s the short off-season, perhaps it’s a combination of all the other factors adding up to hamper the Sounders, but if the Sounders are to defend their championship, Lodeiro likely needs to bring his game back up a notch.  

Statistically, it looks like Jordan Morris is the player who is having trouble linking up with Clint Dempsey, Nicolas Lodeiro, etc. Has Morris hit a sophomore slump or is he just being snake bitten?

AT: Maybe? It is really tough to tell with Jordan. We know he’s been literally hamstrung for part of the season and then earned himself a bum ankle, both injuries which he mostly played through. He’s also been shuffled back and forth from forward to wing, depending on how Brian Schmetzer sees the tactical approach for the day (usually a choice between Bruin and Shipp/Alvaro Fernandez). There have been games where Morris looks great on the wing with Bruin clearing space for him up top, and games where Morris looks best pushing the back line with more possession-oriented, defense capable wingers/mids behind him. Not to mention Jordan’s extremely short off-season, having less than a month between winning the MLS Cup and joining the USMNT camp in January. 

On the other hand, Morris should be doing much better statistically than he has been.  He has been clear on breakaways where his shot just wouldn’t fall right. He has served up balls to guys like Lodeiro and Dempsey on a platter that they couldn’t finish. Just this weekend, Morris watched his beautiful through-ball to Shipp, who was clear on goal, die in a puddle of water that stopped the ball in its tracks. 

All that to say is the jury is still out. We think Morris will return to form with a bit of health and a (hopeful) settling into the lineup, whether that’s at wing or forward. But we are expecting more from the young man than he’s achieved so far this year.

Flipping from offense to defense, only a couple of teams have conceded more goals than the Sounders so far in 2017. Is this simply a matter of getting through some injuries on the back line or is there more to the issue than meets the eye?

AT: This we can comfortably say is almost entirely due to injuries. The Sounders were one of the best defensive teams in MLS last year, especially through the MLS Cup run, and have only gotten better by swapping Mears for Evans. Unfortunately, Roman Torres and Brad Evans have not been able to stay healthy, leading to constant shuffling at the back as Chad Marshall and Jones have also missed a handful of games. Simply put, the Sounders have had to give way too many minutes to Jordy Delem, and Tony Alfaro has shown he is not ready to be a full-time starter. The Sounders have been eaten alive on the road, totally falling apart in the second halves of certain games, largely due to mistakes from the youngsters. Of course, at home the Sounders are giving up less than a goal-per-game, posting shutouts in their last three home matches, while also usually fielding slightly stronger lineups. I would expect the Sounders to be a top five defense with Jones, Marshall, Torres, and Evans all healthy, with Gustav Svensson filling in where needed.  

Injuries/suspensions/projected starting XI/score line prediction?

AT: Oniel Fisher and Jordy Delem are at the Caribbean Cup with Jamaica and Martinique, respectively. 

Projected lineup: Stefan Frei; Joevin Jones, Chad Marshall, Roman Torres, Brad Evans; Osvaldo Alonso, Cristian Roldan; Clint Dempsey, Nicolas Lodeiro, Jordan Morris; Will Bruin

Score prediction: 2-0 Seattle win.

Big thanks to Andrew from Sounder at Heart for giving us some insight on tonight’s opponents from the Pacific Northwest.

Orlando City

2023 Orlando City Season in Review: Alex Freeman

We start our Orlando City player reviews with a look at a Homegrown fullback who made his MLS debut this season.



Image courtesy of Orlando City B

Orlando City signed fullback Alex Freeman to a Homegrown Player contract on February 15, 2022. He became the Lions’ 12th Homegrown signing and his deal runs through the 2025 season with a club option for 2026, but the youngster did not see action in Major League Soccer last season. With the departure of Ruan, there was an opportunity for Freeman to win a job with the first team in camp but he wasn’t quite ready to make the jump, instead playing an important role with Orlando City B throughout the 2023 MLS NEXT Pro season.

Let’s take a look back at Freeman’s 2023 campaign.

Statistical Breakdown

Freeman made his MLS debut on April 29 in a 2-0 home win over the LA Galaxy. It was not just his debut with the first team, but it was also his only appearance with the senior squad in 2023, although he did make the substitutes’ bench a few times after that. Officially, he logged only one minute, entering in the 93rd minute. He was only on the pitch a matter of seconds, so it’s unsurprising that he registered nothing on the stats sheet.

The son of former NFL receiver Antonio Freeman, Alex starred with OCB in 2023. In MLS NEXT Pro play, Freeman appeared in 24 of OCB’s 28 matches, starting 22, and logging 1,855 minutes. He finished tied for third on the squad in goals (4), adding three assists and passing at a 79.1% success rate. Freeman attempted 25 shots, putting 11 on target, and contributed 10 key passes. He committed 22 fouls, drew 27 on the opposition, and was booked four times. He also started OCB’s playoff match at Columbus, playing 89 minutes in the Young Lions’ 2-1 road loss. Freeman didn’t contribute a goal or assist or attempt a shot in the match, but he passed at an 88% rate, created one scoring chance, and committed one foul.

Best Game

With only one MLS appearance to his credit, the default best game for Freeman came on April 29 in Orlando City’s 2-0 home win over the LA Galaxy. Freeman didn’t even officially touch the ball in the game, but it’s not every day a teenager gets to play in an MLS match, and I’m sure it was a special moment for him. It was certainly a milestone in his professional soccer career.

2023 Final Grade

As Freeman fell well short of the minimum 450 minutes played mark to receive a rating on our 1-10 scale, The Mane Land has no choice but to mark his grade as incomplete for the 2023 season. There are areas of Freeman’s game that need a bit of refining, but at the same time, it’s easy to see why he landed a Homegrown contract, why Orlando City would find him an intriguing prospect, and why he’s been getting called up by the United States for U-20 international duty. His attacking presence was huge for OCB in 2023 and he was one of the key players that led the Young Lions to the postseason.

2024 Outlook

I would expect Freeman to get more seasoning at OCB in 2024, although he’ll be given opportunities in preseason camp to show whether he’s closed the gap on the likes of Michael Halliday and Kyle Smith (assuming both return). If the club moves on from both Halliday and Smith, it’s not hard to picture Freeman starting the season providing depth at right back for the first team. Having just turned 19 in August, Freeman has a lot of potential and he should start to unlock that within the next year or so.

This is the first of our 2023 Orlando City Season in Review articles. Every player who played minutes this past season and who finished the year on the club roster will be reviewed (exceptions may be made for players let go when the club officially announces its roster moves). Players who logged fewer than 450 minutes (combined regular season plus playoffs, Concacaf Champions League, U.S. Open Cup, and Leagues Cup) will receive a composite score between 1 and 10 as determined by a panel of The Mane Land writers, while those who did not reach that threshold will receive an incomplete grade.

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Lion Links

Lion Links: 11/29/23

Orlando Pride players called up by Brazil, MLS announces 2023 Best XI, latest MLS roster moves, and more.



Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Hello, Mane Landers I hope all is well down in Florida. I’ve been very busy working throughout the holiday weekend at Under Armour. This week I’ll be working at Wrigley Field for Winterland while getting ready to cover high school wrestling tomorrow night. There is plenty to cover today, so let’s get to the links.

Pride Players Called Up By Brazil for Friendlies

Orlando Pride defender Rafaelle and forwards Marta and Adriana have been called up to the Brazil Women’s National Team for its upcoming friendlies.

Brazil will play two matches against Japan on Nov. 30 and Dec. 3 in Sao Paulo before playing Nicaragua on Dec. 6 at Estadio Fonte Luminosa in Araraquara.

MLS Announces the 2023 Best XI

Major League Soccer announced its 2023 Best XI, recognizing the league’s top players at each position. There were no Orlando City players selected for the team and eight players received the honor for the first time. Those players are St. Louis City’s Roman Burki and Tim Parker, FC Cincinnati defender Matt Miazga, Atlanta United duo Thiago Almada and Giorgos Giakoumakis, Houston Dynamo midfielder Hector Herrera, LAFC’s Denis Bouanga, and Columbus Crew forward Cucho Hernandez. Nashville SC’s Hany Mukhtar made the Best XI for the third consecutive time, while teammate Walker Zimmerman was named to it for the fifth time. MLS MVP Luciano Acosta of FC Cincinnati rounds out the list.

Latest MLS Off-season Roster Moves

The Colorado Rapids announced their latest roster changes as they prepare for the the 2024 season under new Head Coach Chris Armas. The club exercised its options for defender Andrew Gutman, midfielder Ralph Priso, and forward Calvin Harris. The Rapids declined contract offers to seven players, with the most notable names being defender Steven Beitashour and goalkeeper William Yarbrough, although the Rapids are in discussions about re-signing Yarbrough. Elsewhere, the New England Revolution exercised the permanent transfer option on forward Tomas Chancalay, signing him to a Designated Player contract through 2026, with a club option for the 2027 season.

UEFA Champions League Roundup

Champions League action returned in Europe, as we get close to wrapping up the group stage in a couple of weeks. Manchester City overcame a two-goal deficit to beat RB Leipzig 3-2 and win Group G. Newcastle United had a chance to qualify for the round of 16 but gave up a late penalty to Paris Saint-Germain, which Kylian Mbappe converted to end the match in a 1-1 draw. Borussia Dortmund beat AC Milan 3-1 to book its spot in the knockout stage. PSG, Newcastle, and AC Milan are all still alive in Group F heading into the final matchday in December. Shakhtar Donetsk won 1-0 against Royal Antwerp and also still has a shot to advance on the final matchday. Lazio, Atletico Madrid, Barcelona, and Young Boys all won their respective matches as well. Today’s matches include Manchester United on the road against Galatasaray, Real Madrid taking on Napoli, and Sevilla facing off with PSV Eindhoven.

Free Kicks

  • Concacaf has announced that BMO Stadium, Dignity Health Sports Park, Shell Energy Stadium, and Snapdragon Stadium will be the four venues that will host matches for the 2024 Concacaf W Gold Cup.
  • Barcelona midfielder Gavi will be sidelined for up to 10 months after undergoing knee surgery after suffering a torn ACL in his right knee.
  • The International Football Association Board approved a trial for sin bins, meaning players punished for dissent or specific tactical offense would be temporarily removed from the match for a set amount of minutes.
  • You have got to see this goal from Cwrt Rawlin FC in the Welsh seventh division.

That will do it for me today, Mane Landers. Enjoy your Wednesday and I’ll see you next time.

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Lion Links

Lion Links: 11/28/23

Luciano Acosta named MVP, Americans in action, scheduling news for U.S. national teams, and more.



Dan MacDonald, The Mane Land

Happy Tuesday, everyone. I’m dragging a little today after having an extended period of time off for the Thanksgiving holiday, but there’s no rest for the wicked and the only way out is through. With that being the case, let’s get into today’s news.

Luciano Acosta Wins MLS MVP

In a piece of news that plenty of people likely saw coming from several miles away, Luciano Acosta has been named Major League Soccer’s Most Valuable Player. Acosta racked up 34 goal contributions during the regular season, finishing the 2023 campaign with 17 goals and 14 assists as the driving force behind his team’s run to the Supporters’ Shield. He was voted the best player in the league by quite some margin and won the award in a landslide, taking 60.37% of the votes to Denis Bouanga’s 14.97% and Thiago Almada’s 6.46%.

American Stars in Midweek Action

There are a number of United States Men’s National Team players that will be in action this week, with several UEFA Champions League clashes highlighting the viewing slate. Christian Pulisic, Yunus Musah and AC Milan will face Giovanni Reyna’s Borussia Dortmund today in a game with huge ramifications for both teams. Malik Tillman, Ricardo Pepi, and Sergino Dest may play in PSV Eindhoven’s match with Sevilla tomorrow, and a win would likely go a long way to securing a place in the Round of 16. Additionally on Wednesday, Brenden Aaronson and Union Berlin have a chance to make a big move towards a place in the Europa League, as a win over Braga would leapfrog the German club into third place in Group C.

USMNT & USWNT Scheduling News

The USMNT will open its 2024 slate of games with a match against Slovenia on Jan. 20 in San Antonio. The match will fall outside of an international window, meaning that the January camp roster will largely be made up of domestic-based players. The USMNT has faced Slovenia twice before, with the most recent time being a 3-2 win in Ljubljana courtesy of a Jozy Altidore penalty kick.

While we already knew that the United States Women’s National Team would play China PR on Dec. 5 in Frisco, we now know that one of the team’s legends will be honored before the game. The U.S. Soccer Federation has announced that former Orlando Pride defender Ali Krieger, who stated in March that she will retire following the NWSL season, will be honored before the match. Krieger played 108 games for the USWNT and is a two-time World Cup winner with the team.

Notable Women’s Players to Miss International Matches

A pair of high profile women’s players will miss upcoming international games. First up, Sam Kerr will not feature in Australia’s back-to-back friendlies against Canada due to a foot injury. Kerr has struggled with injuries this year and her availability was limited during this summer’s World Cup.

Alexia Putellas will miss Spain’s two Nations League matches against Sweden and Italy after picking up a left knee injury. Putellas had missed Euro 2022 due to an ACL tear, but was back to help her side win the World Cup several months ago. Fortunately for Spain, the team is well positioned atop its group and has enough players in the squad that it shouldn’t feel her absence too keenly.

Free Kicks

  • A pair of Willian penalties and an early Alex Iwobi goal helped Fulham beat Wolverhampton, with American defenders Antonee Robinson and Tim Ream also starting.
  • New York Red Bulls forward Tom Barlow is reportedly headed to the Chicago Fire.

That’s all I’ve got for you this morning. Y’all stay safe out there.

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