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Orlando City

Orlando City vs. Toronto FC: Player Grades and Man of the Match



In a match that largely started off slowly and then picked up around the 60-minute mark, Orlando City looked largely content to search out the draw and one point until the match opened up after the first Toronto FC goal. A tough road match against a side that Orlando has always had issues against ended 2-1 after Orlando conceded a late goal in the 87th minute.

So, how did the Lions rate individually?


GK, Joe Bendik, 6 — Joe came out to claim through ball early, and made another fine save on Toronto’s first shot on goal. He came out quickly on the first goal and got enough pressure to have the shot go off the post, but there wasn’t much he could have done on the follow-up. Again on the second goal, there wasn’t much he could do on a half-volley from Ryan Telfer about 12 yards away.

D, Mohamed El-Munir, 5.5 — Very active in the attack and made some solid tackles. He did get beat again on a backside run —his Achilles heel — in the 32nd minute but it didn't come to any consequence. On the first goal he was found in no man’s land as the trailing attacker scored. It was his work going forward that did lead to the tying goal. But again he was involved in a conceded goal as he misplayed the winger and allowed the game winning cross.

D, Amro Tarek, 5 — Tarek had a quiet first half with some basic challenges. A quiet game from a center back isn't necessarily a bad thing but there was nothing memorable here. Just a solid match.

D, Lamine Sané, 5 — I feel as if he’s marking more space than man and it caused the first Toronto chance. He missed a header late in the first half that wasn't necessarily easy. But some good challenges and recovery at times. He was beat in that aforementioned manner for the 1-v-1 that led to the first goal.

D, Will Johnson, 4 — Defensively, Johnson seemed a bit off early in positioning and giving up some runs past him. Telfer pretty well abused him as he looked like Toronto’s best player. He was better in the second half but came in on an unnecessary challenge for his fourth yellow of the season. Telfer ultimately scored the winning goal as he was unmarked on the back side.

MF, Uri Rosell, 5.5 — Uri found the right ball to relieve pressure consistently. Had a nice 40-yard ball to Meuller in the 31st that was wasted. But in the second half he was largely quiet to the point he was subbed off in the 89th minute as he continues to build up to 90-minute fitness — his previous longest outing of the season was 45 minutes just five days ago.

MF, Cristian Higuita, 6.5 (MOTM) — Cristian made good challenges throughout the night but when he didn't play simple he got into trouble. A careless challenge, a typical Higuita move, in the 35th minute just outside the area could have been worse. He made a nice challenge in the 36th to take the ball from Michael Bradley, but he rushed the attack and made a poor shot. His goal was a great, low shot on a nice trailing run. A tough, physical game by him with a lot of quality, including one or two saving challenges in the penalty area.

MF, Justin Meram, 4.5 — Meram was very active early with a first-half chance down the wing and continually looking to drive forward. But whether due to no help or just on his own, he lost the ball frequently. Unforced errors plagued him continually in the second half, losing the ball in his feet and missing passes. He couldn't find a quality shot off a great ball from Colmán in the 85th minute.

MF, Sacha Kljestan, 5 — Nothing spectacular from Sacha on this night, but no memorable mistakes either. His first pass in the second half led to a decent Chris Mueller shot. But he often went backwards as he didn't seem to trust the attack. You can't have that from your No. 10 role.

MF, Chris Mueller, 6.5 — The rookie was active as usual. He found his way inside a bit more than normal and provided some good defensive work and counters late in the first half. He made some nice passes to Stefano Pinho that ended in nothing. He was arguably the team’s best player in the first half. His cross in the 68th minute led to one of the best chances in the second half but Alex Bono made a nice save on Meram’s header.

F, Stéfano Pinho, 3 — Pinho had a rough first half with nearly every touch being lost, losing physical battles, and not really being any factor. He was weak with his hold-up play, was easily knocked down or dispossessed, and failed to give his attacking teammates time to get into the final third to help out. He didn’t do much in the second half either before he was subbed out in the 64th minute, whiffing on a good opportunity in the penalty area.


MF, Josué Colmán (64’), 5.5 — He came in as a false nine and made an impact. One of his first touches was a cross to Kljestan for a shot on goal. He collected a deflection off Mueller and made a great layoff to Higuita for the Orlando goal. Josué gave a nice ball in the 85th minute to Meram on the counter attack that wasn't converted. Against a physical Toronto defense, he still found space to create opportunities.

MF, Richie Laryea (83’), N/A — The Toronto native came on for Chris Mueller late but ultimately had no effect on the match except a missed opportunity to find the right space in stoppage time on a pass from Colmán.

MF, Dillon Powers, (89’), N/A — In his first appearance of 2018, Powers didn’t have time to impact the match.

Vote for your Man of the Match or comment your thoughts on these game grades below.

Polling Closed

Cristian Higuita48
Chris Mueller11
Mohamed El-Munir8

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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