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Intelligence Report: Let’s Learn More About Orlando City Defender Joao Moutinho

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Orlando City picked up last year’s No. 1 MLS SuperDraft pick Joao Moutinho from LAFC on Dec. 11 in exchange for speedy left back Mohamed El-Munir. The Mane Land reported the impending trade a few days before it happened, but the Portugal native became a Lion the way we expected and the Libyan international fullback packed up and moved to Los Angeles.

Moutinho completed his rookie season in Major League Soccer in 2018. The No. 1 overall pick out of Akron appeared in 14 games (10 starts) in 2018, scoring one goal and attempting seven shots (one on target) in 872 minutes. Before picking up a minor knock during preseason, he was getting minutes in preseason scrimmages and even scored his first goal as a Lion.

To learn more about the new defender, I reached out to Alicia Rodriguez, who covers LAFC as the managing editor for SB Nation’s Angels on Parade blog.

Joao Moutinho was selected first overall by LAFC just a year ago. Why do you think the club was willing to move him so early in his career?

Alicia Rodriguez: That’s a good question. I think the main factor is that LAFC thought he would take longer than a year to develop into a reliable starter, and so they moved for El-Munir as part of a “win-now” approach. I think LAFC, like all teams, aims to balance building for the future and winning now, but with the star performers they have now and the nature of turnover in MLS, going for a move that aims to help the team win titles right away makes sense.

How did he fit in with LAFC’s style of play and what factors led to him being relegated to the bench?

AR: He had some good games and some games that weren’t very good, but it was his rookie year. And LAFC’s style of play meant a lot of pressure was put on the defense, and there were times when all the defenders, including Moutinho, couldn’t hold off an opponent. All in all, I think the reason he was on the bench was because he was a rookie and Jordan Harvey showed he was still a consistent MLS starter. There’s no harm in that, and with Harvey aging (eventually), it seemed like there was a succession plan for Moutinho to step in eventually. But they decided to speed up the timeline, arguably, in trading for El-Munir instead.

What did you perceive as Moutinho’s strengths and weaknesses during his rookie season?

AR: Moutinho entered the pros with projections he could play defensive midfielder, center back or fullback. I still think that versatility is a strength, and given how young he remains, he may end up playing a few positions in his career. But in showing that versatility, Moutinho has good finishing chops with his feet and can pop up for the occasional goal, especially as a late runner into the box. His 1-v-1 defense is solid if not yet exceptional, although there’s promise there. As for weaknesses, his crossing seemed to be nonexistent — might have been a product of what he was asked to do, but I think he’s more comfortable with the ball on the grass instead of launching crosses. He’s also lightweight, seemingly far too lightweight to play center back in MLS, so he needs to add more bulk to even have a shot of potentially becoming a center back in the future.

If you were to estimate what Moutinho’s ceiling is as a player, what would it be and what position would you say best suits his skill set?

AR:  I have watched him play all of 15 competitive games, but I think he could be an MLS-caliber starter by 2020. His ultimate ceiling? Too hard to really project that at this point, frankly. And like I said before, I think he has skills to be versatile, but I’m skeptical he’ll be a center back in MLS unless he bulks up and his body holds up to the physical play in the middle. Chances are he’ll remain a fullback but perhaps he’ll get some run as a midfielder in the future, too.


Much thanks to Alicia for her insight on one of Orlando City’s newest additions. It will be interesting to see how many minutes the youngster can get and where James O’Connor plays him on the pitch. To find out more about Moutinho’s time with LAFC, check out Alicia’s season review of his rookie year.

Lion Links

Lion Links: 7/24/24

The Olympics are here, the MLS Skills Competition thrilled, the East won the MLS NEXT All-Star game, and more.

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Image courtesy of Orlando Pride / Jeremy Reper

Welcome to Wednesday, Mane Landers. With the start of the Olympics, the NWSL x Liga MX Femenil Summer Cup, and the Leagues Cup, it’s tournament time in our soccer world. There is plenty to watch and follow, but I want to take the opportunity to wish my wonderful wife a happy birthday! She is very supportive of my work with The Mane Land, and I appreciate her greatly. Now, let’s get to the links.

Olympic Pride

The Olympics are upon us, and thus the opportunity to watch the Orlando Pride’s representatives in action. You will definitely want to check out the matches, as it is Marta’s last Olympics. The Brazilian is playing in her sixth Olympics, though she isn’t there just because of her name. She has earned it through her play. It’s no surprise to Orlando Pride supporters that Marta secured her place on the squad, as she has looked much more like her old self this season during the Pride’s undefeated regular season run.

MLS Skills Competition and MLS NEXT All-Star Game

The MLS Skills Competition took place Tuesday at Lower.com Field in Columbus, OH. Liga MX won the Shooting Challenge, MLS won the Touch Challenge, Liga MX took the lead again on the Cross & Volley Challenge, and MLS tied things up by winning the Passing Challenge. The Crossbar Challenge tiebreaker went to the visitors, as Liga MX won the overall competition. Special Olympics Ohio received a $25,000 donation as Liga MX’s charity of choice.

The Philadelphia Union’s young star, Cavan Sullivan, scored a goal and provided an assist as the East squad came from two goals down to win 4-2 over the West in the MLS NEXT All-Star Game on Tuesday. Orlando City was represented by Colin Guske and Juan Rojas on the winning side. It was quite a showcase for the future of MLS.

U.S. to Face Host France in Olympic Opener Today

The U-23 USMNT starts its Olympic journey today against host France. Orlando City’s Duncan McGuire will likely be leading the attack for the Yanks. He will be a part of a squad unlike those that many are accustomed to watching, since the normal stars won’t be in attendance. Of course, that does give players like McGuire a chance to shine on the international stage.

USWNT Prepares for Zambia

The USWNT begin its quest for Olympic gold tomorrow against the Zambian National Team. Obviously, Orlando Pride supporters will get to watch Pride players Barbra Banda and Grace Chanda for Zambia. USWNT Head Coach Emma Hayes is aware of the expectations surrounding her squad, and knows the challenge that Zambia presents. Hayes said the assumption that the U.S. will simply dominate is “disrespectful” of the growth of the women’s game across the world.

This is Zambia’s second Olympics, though the road to Paris was not an easy one, thanks to the Football Association of Zambia. There are accusations of money laundering by the president of the association, and sexual misconduct by a coach. It really is impressive that the team made it and will compete. Of course, Banda and Chanda are not the totality of the Zambian team, meaning there is a lot more to know about the USWNT’s first opponent.

Free Kicks

  • The Concacaf Award Nominees have been announced. U.S. national team players Sophia Smith and Christian Pulisic are up for their respective Player of the Year awards.
  • The New Zealand Women’s National Team was allegedly spied on by a drone for the Canadian Women’s National Team during training for the Olympics. The two teams will meet on Friday for their fist match.
  • Former Lion Denny Chin has a new gig with Young Money APAA Sports.
  • The Orlando Pride are also participating in a school supply drive for the Orlando community, and you can contribute as well. Here’s Simone Charley to tell you all about it.

That will do it for today.

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Lion Links: 7/23/24

Duncan McGuire’s road to Paris, MLS transfer happenings, USWNT will play Iceland after the Olympics, and more.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Jeremy Reper

Happy Tuesday, everyone. It was a rather odd weekend as all three of Orlando’s soccer teams recorded 1-1 draws. The games will continue to come thick and fast between the Orlando Pride’s Summer Cup participation, Orlando City’s Leagues Cup opener, Orlando City B’s regularly scheduled programming, and the start of the Olympic tournaments. Before we get into today’s links, let’s all wish a happy birthday to Orlando Pride forward Alex Kerr!

Duncan McGuire’s Path to Olympics

Orlando City’s Duncan McGuire will likely suit up for the United States Olympic team in just one day’s time, and he’s had quite the interesting journey to arrive at this point. After being overshadowed in the 2023 MLS SuperDraft despite the Lions selecting him with the sixth overall pick, McGuire proceeded to have an outstanding rookie season by bagging 13 goals. His family members have long been some of his biggest supporters, and it’s good to hear that they’ll be on hand to cheer him on over in France. As the only traditional striker on the roster, he’ll have a good chance to make an impact. With as odd as his road has been to get here, it won’t be at all surprising if he does.

MLS Transfer Happenings

There are a number of MLS transfer moves that we need to catch up on. We’ll start with something that’s been rumored for awhile, as Atlanta United has officially sold Caleb Wiley to Chelsea for a fee reported to be in the area of $11 million. We stay in the Eastern Conference with Nashville SC, which has used a U22 Initiative spot to sign midfielder Patrick Yazbek from Viking FK. D.C. United has signed Boris Enow from Maccabi Netanya, a move that will add some important depth to the midfield. Shifting to the West, FC Dallas has signed Manuel Cafumana from Maccabi Haifa on a year-long loan deal. He continues the trend of midfield signings, and has experience playing for the Angolan national team. Finally, LAFC has sold defender Mamadou Fall to Barcelona after he spent last season on loan with the Spanish club.

USWNT Will Face Iceland in Friendlies

The United States Women’s National Team has announced that it will play a pair of matches against Iceland in October. The friendlies will take place on Oct. 24 in Austin, and Oct. 27 in Nashville, and will be the team’s first games following this summer’s Olympic tournament. Iceland is the 14th ranked team in the world, and should present a good test for the U.S. team. Additionally, a third match will take place on Oct. 30, with an opponent and location still to be announced. The USWNT will begin Olympic play on Thursday against Zambia.

Mexico Names Head Coach

Mexico has named Javier Aguirre as the team’s new head coach with legendary former defender Rafa Marquez joining the staff as an assistant. This is Aguirre’s third stint as the head coach of the team, but he will only have the job through the 2026 World Cup, after which he will turn the duties over to Marquez ahead of preparations for the 2030 edition of the tournament. Aguirre led Mexico to the round of 16 in the 2002 and 2010 editions of the tournament, and recently spent time coaching Monterrey and Mallorca. Marquez’s playing career needs little introduction, but he recently left his post as manager of Barcelona B in order to join Mexico’s staff.

Free Kicks

  • Make sure to participate in Orlando City’s school supply drive.
  • The Lions held steady at 14th in ESPN‘s MLS power rankings.
  • West Ham United has brought a very striking bus with them on the team’s tour of the United States.

That’s all I have for you this morning. Vamos Orlando!

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Orlando City

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

How did your favorite Lions perform in Orlando City’s 1-1 draw with NYCFC?

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Sometimes a draw can feel like a win and sometimes it can feel like a loss. On Saturday night, the draw felt like a draw, pronounced in a southern drawl to really draw out the effect. Each team had its moments, but in the end neither really felt like they deserved all three points, and as they say, ball don’t lie. So, in the end, the final score was 1-1, and both teams took home one point.

Orlando City probably should feel more disappointed since the Lions were playing at home, but the offense just looked out of sync all evening, and in some ways they are lucky they even earned their one point. That they did though, and now the MLS season takes a break for the Leagues Cup, which starts Friday.

I have my purple pen out, and I am ready to issue some grades, so here we go. Let’s take a look at how Orlando City’s players rated individually in their Eastern Conference matchup.

Starters

GK, Pedro Gallese, 6 — NYCFC only managed eight shots on the night, so Pedro was not called on to make a lot of saves, but he did make a few on well-struck balls from NYCFC attackers — in particular, one from Hannes Wolf in the 34th minute that was headed for the lower corner before El Pulpo pushed the ball out wide with his gloves. Unfortunately, Wolf got the better of Gallese later in the match on a shot from close range that left the Peruvian with very little chance to save the ball, though on the angle from inside the goal it did look like he was a little too far to his left when he came out and perhaps had he taken a better line he might have gotten a hand on it. However, I think that goal is tough to pin on Gallese, and aside from that, he was solid in the back, though he did only complete 56% of his passes.

D, Rafael Santos, 5.5 — Saturday night was not one of the Brazilian’s better games, as while he did mix in a few dangerous crosses, I thought on the whole he was lacking some precision offensively, and defensively there were several plays down NYCFC’s attacking right side that were scary and left him scrambling to recover. I do not think the goal was his fault. Though it did happen on his side of the box, it came off a completely unexpected turnover from Wilder Cartagena, and Santos was caught pushing up the field and could not recover in time. He made a huge block on a shot from Santiago Rodriguez in the 75th minute, but that block came because he had given the ball away moments earlier, so he had darn well better have hustled to block the shot that came from his turnover. He also committed an unnecessary foul in a dangerous area late in the match, though thankfully nothing came of the resulting free kick. Santos completed 82.5% of his passes on the night, including three accurate long balls on five attempts. None of his three crosses found their targets and his lone shot was blocked. Defensively, he finished with two tackles, two interceptions, the aforementioned block, and one clearance. He made way for Kyle Smith in stoppage time.

D, Robin Jansson, 6.5 Orlando City’s captain had a quiet match. Though he was second on the team in completed passes, with 48 (at 87.8%, including completing four of seven long balls), he had zero tackles, which now makes three consecutive games where that has been the case. Just because you make zero tackles does not mean you had a bad game, and Jansson did not, but it does mean that when you are a center back and the other team does not run at you that there are not a lot of highlights to write about in your player grades. The Beefy Swede won one aerial ball and had one interception and one clearance, and he drew three fouls on the opposition. But NYCFC did not have a lot of the ball (45% possession) and did not really tread aggressively near Jansson’s area.

D, Rodrigo Schlegel, 6.5 — I could copy and paste most of Jansson’s comments and apply them to Schlegel, but of course I will so no such thing. Besides, Rodri was first on the team in completed passes, with 51, and completed them at a 92.7% rate, so that is a differentiator worth noting, and unlike Jansson he did have one tackle to go with two clearances. NYCFC’s heatmap from Saturday night, courtesy of whoscored.com, is instructive in evaluating the performance of both of Orlando City’s center backs, because you can see that NYCFC tried to attack down the sides much more than in the middle. That indent right above the top of the 18 yard box on the left (NYCFC is attacking right to left in this heatmap) is where Jansson and Schlegel patrol, and NYCFC just stops cold and gets very few touches in the middle of the field from about 35 yards out all the way to the goal. Schlegel and Jansson really locked down the center of the field, and while they did not generate a lot of stats on the night I thought both were solid.

D, Dagur Dan Thorhallsson, 6 — As it always is, Dagur Dan’s work rate was extremely high Saturday night, but the finishing touch just eluded the Icelandic right back during this game. Orlando City struggled to create chances all game long and Thorhallsson was complicit in some of that, as he was unable to open up the defense with one of his trademark cutbacks and he was unable to get on the end of any of the many crosses that came from left to right. He did complete 91.2% of his passes and had one successful take-on, and might have had two had he not been fouled toward the end of the first half. Defensively, he had two interceptions and two clearances, and unlike his counterpart on the other side of the defense, he did not cause me to pound my couch in frustration at any point during the match, which was good for the Lions and good for my upholstery.

MF, César Araujo, 7 — I was a little concerned when Araujo earned a yellow card in the 13th minute, knowing that he was now one foul away from putting Orlando City down a man for the rest of the match, but he played a clean game the rest of the way, and what a strong defensive game it was. He had nine loose ball recoveries, five tackles, four interceptions, three wins on take-on attempts by NYCFC, and he won two aerial balls. On the offensive side, he led the team in touches with 70, completed 46 passes at an 80.7% completion rate (including three of his six long balls) and drew two fouls. Araujo also contributed to the heatmap I shared above, as his presence also helped Orlando City to stop NYCYC from progressing the ball through the middle of the attacking third of the field.

MF, Wilder Cartagena, 6.5 — If there was a stat for goal culpability then Cartagena would definitely have earned the highest percentage for NYCFC’s one goal on Saturday night, as his misplay of a ball led directly to a counterattack and NYCFC scoring the equalizer. I do not want one misplay to completely overshadow the whole of the match for Wilder though, because aside from that he did contribute throughout the match, and his low rocket from 31 yards out in the 83rd minute nearly beat NYCFC goalkeeper Matt Freese to give the Lions back the lead. He also led the team in tackles with six, made four recoveries of loose balls, and won four of the five take-on attempts tried against him. He completed 34 passes at a 79.1% completion rate and had the aforementioned shot on target, one of only five shots on target for Orlando City. Goals change games, and Wilder definitely cost the Lions with his misplay, but on the whole I thought he played well, though not as well as his midfield partner Araujo did.

MF, Iván Angulo, 6 — Angulo worked hard in the heat on Saturday night, making runs up and down the field and coming achingly close to turning the corner or unlocking the defense with a pass several times but to no avail. He made a darting run in the 35th minute that led to his only shot on target, but he did not get a ton on it, and it was saved rather comfortably at the near post. The Colombian completed 93.5% of his passes, including one key pass, made one tackle, and he went the full 90 on a hot and humid night, running at full acceleration deep into stoppage time as the Lions chased a winner.

MF, Martín Ojeda, 7 — We will never know if Ojeda’s shot in the 52nd minute would have gone in, but we do know that it turned into an unlikely assist by deflecting off Ramiro Enrique and going straight into the back of the net to give Orlando City a 1-0 lead. It was another solid, but not spectacular, offensive performance by Ojeda against NYCFC, as he led the Lions in crosses (11), progressive carries (4) and key passes (3); won both of his take-on attempts on the dribble; and completed 22 passes, though at only a 78.6% completion rate. His work rate was excellent, and he left it all on the field, departing in stoppage time for Jeorgio Kocevski.

MF, Nico Lodeiro, 6 — Lodeiro was the one change from Wednesday night at Nashville, as he started instead of Facundo Torres. Orlando City’s offense did not create a lot of chances in the first half and Nico did play a part in that, but it took Orlando a period of time to figure out NYCFC’s game plan. I did not think it was a poor performance, just more of a quiet one devoid of any major moments. He completed 19 passes at a 82.6% completion rate, with one key pass among those completions. Lodeiro connected on one of two crosses and one of three long balls. Defensively, he chipped in two tackles. He was subbed out at halftime for Torres. 

F, Ramiro Enrique, 7.5 (MotM)— The scoring streak continues, and now there is a dance! Enrique scored in his fourth straight game on a goal that I am not sure if he ever saw, but without his deflection it may not have gone into the net. Whether he saw it or not does not matter. What matters is it gave Orlando City a 1-0 lead and then Ramiro and Angulo participated in a slightly out of sync, but still enjoyable, celebratory dance — one that I look forward to seeing again, hopefully as soon as in the next match. Enrique completed 11 passes, created two chances, and got both of his shots on target, with NYCFC’s Matt Freese making a nice save on his second attempt. He also recorded an interception. I thought it was another solid start for Enrique, as he contributed all over the field, including with some hold up play, before making way for Luis Muriel in the 73rd minute. 

Substitutes

MF, Facundo Torres (46′), 6 — Facu came on at halftime for Lodeiro, and helped to breathe some life into the Orlando City offense. He did not have his best stuff, and he had the benefit of Oscar Pareja’s halftime tactical adjustments, but he was active and engaged throughout the second half and helped to create some chances. During the pregame show the announcers mentioned he had picked up a bit of a knock during the week, which likely contributed to his coming off the bench and for his decent, but not memorable, performance. He took one shot, which was well struck but ended up far off target, and completed 11 passes at a 78.6% rate with one key pass. He tried several passes that were full of flair, but alas none of them connected, and on the whole things just did not click for him.

F, Luis Muriel (73′), 6 — Muriel came on for Enrique and he was looking to make plays from the moment he stepped on the field. He showed tremendous skill on several dribbles, led the team in aerials won (3), and though he only played five passes, he completed them all, including one key pass and one accurate long ball. The defining moment for Muriel though was on the final attack from Orlando City, and he was able to turn and get a shot off on goal, but there just was very little on it, and Freese easily made the save to his left. I expect that he will see some more minutes in Leagues Cup matches to see if he can get himself going, because thus far he just has not contributed enough to justify his role as a Designated Player.

D, David Brekalo, (85’), N/A As he has been doing during the last few matches, Brekalo subbed in late, this time coming in for Schlegel and taking over his role as center back. I thought he looked active and strong during his few minutes, but the only play of his that really stood out was when he was a little too strong on an attempt to get his head onto a ball into the box on a cross from Araujo, committing a foul on the play. Brekalo completed both his pass attempts on the night, but he did not have the opportunity for much else.

D, Kyle Smith (90′ + 3), N/A — Kyle came in on the dying minutes of the game to replace Santos at left back, and in his few minutes he did not have the opportunity to contribute much to the match. He attempted three passes but completed none, and did not have the opportunity to do much else in his few minutes on the field.

MF, Jeorgio Kocevski (90′ +3), N/A — The rookie from Syracuse came on at the same time as Smith, replacing Ojeda, and was able to complete one pass and make one tackle while on the field. That one pass was on the final attack of the game, and it might have earned him a secondary assist had Muriel been able to get a little more on his shot or place it in the corner in the final minute, but alas he did not and the final whistle blew moments later.


That’s how I saw the individual performances on Saturday night. What did you think? Be sure to let us know in the comments, and vote in the poll below for your Orlando City Man of the Match.

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