Orlando City finally snagged that elusive first home win of 2019 in last night’s 4-3 win over the Colorado Rapids. I’ve never gone whitewater rafting, but they say it’s a fun, wild ride. That’s a pretty good description of last night’s game as well. Ideally the Lions won’t be conceding quite so many goals typically, but since the final score went the right direction, I’m willing to overlook that.
When speaking to reporters after the match, Nani mentioned the team had been pressing and feeling a bit of pressure to deliver a win to the home fans. He said that now that the team has crossed that bit of business off the list, maybe they can play more relaxed and deliver more results. Let’s hope that’s the case, because winning at home >>>> losing or drawing at home.
But enough preamble. Let’s get to the individual player grades from last night’s game.
GK, Brian Rowe, 6 — While I wouldn’t say any of the three goals were on bad goalkeeping errors per se, Rowe would probably say he should maybe have done better on the first goal. If he couldn’t beat Kei Kamara to the spilled ball in the box on the first goal, he might have at least come off his line and made himself big to pressure the Rapids striker. He went long quite often but his passing percentage should ideally still be better than the 23.8% he produced last night. He also stayed a bit deep in his area a few times when he could possibly have snuffed out some danger before it became a problem. Still, he had a vital punch that could have led to a counter-attack if not for a Colorado foul and he made a couple of nice saves, considering the weather conditions and the wet ball, including a free header thumped low by Kamara in the second half.
D, Robin Jansson, 5.5 — The Swede had a difficult night against Colorado at times. The first goal hit off his head and fell in behind him but I’m sure he was screened by the leaping Lamine Sané on the play. He fell for a fake by Cole Bassett on the third Colorado goal and allowed the midfielder to cut back inside where he had a much better angle. His passing accuracy wasn’t great (74.2%) but he did lump some long balls forward, which contributed to that. His four clearances led the team and he added two interceptions. It wasn’t a terrible performance but he was as much affected by the rotation to a four-man back line as anyone.
D, Lamine Sané, 6 — If Sané had been one inch taller (or able to leap one inch higher), Kamara wouldn’t have opened the scoring nine minutes in. The French-Senegalese center back still had a decent game overall, with a tackle, three interceptions, and three clearances. His 77.5% passing rate led the back line, including the wingbacks. Even his 4/9 accuracy on long balls outshone his fellow defenders. Still, he got pulled out of shape a few times in the game, but he wasn’t alone in that.
D, Carlos Ascues, 5 — It was a short night for the Peruvian, who left the game at half an hour with a hamstring injury after getting tangled up with a Colorado player while running down a loose ball. He touched the ball just 20 times and his passing rate was just 53.8%, which was worst on the team in the first half. He was OK defensively (one blocked shot, two clearances) and helpful in moving the ball, but it wasn’t the best outing of his time in Orlando, nor his worst, but the shape change after his injury hurt the defense.
WB, Joao Moutinho, 6.5 — A somewhat chaotic night in defense prevented this score from being higher, but I thought Joao played well overall. He certainly drifts too far inside on defense sometimes and occasionally gets caught up the pitch too far, but I think that’s because he’s used to playing wingback, which seems a more natural position for his skill set than fullback. Last night he was asked to play fullback after the Ascues injury and there were some shaky moments defending. However, he’s also a good ball winner, leading all players in tackles in the game (7). He contributed two interceptions, notched an assist on his one chance created, and generally helped facilitate the attack. But there were a few bad touches on switches in the first half that broke down attacks, a poor back pass that almost went horribly wrong, and some poor positioning to offset some of the good he did.
MF, Sacha Kljestan, 6.5 — The mustachio’d one doesn’t do a lot of flashy things on the pitch and he may frustrate some fans, but I’ll bet James O’Connor is happy to have him. Kljestan finished second on the team in touches, with his 79 being just one fewer than Ruan’s 80. The ball finds him often and that’s because he puts himself in the right spots and because his teammates rely on him to connect the lines. He attempted one shot (which was blocked) and created two chances on the offensive end. His gorgeous chip pass over the top to spring Ruan started the sequence that led to the penalty on Axel Sjoberg — and ultimately to Nani’s game-winning penalty kick. He hit a pretty decent 80% of his passes and chipped in a tackle and an interception on defense.
MF, Nani, 8.5 (MotM) — With two goals and a hockey assist, it was a big night for Nani and it pushed him over the top for my Man of the Match. The Portuguese star man finally opened his Orlando City account with a nice header in front of goal. It wasn’t the most difficult goal he’s scored in his career, but he made no mistake on the opportunity. He played a great ball to Dwyer in the 43rd but Dom’s shot was blocked. He was calm and collected on his penalty, sending Tim Howard the wrong way. He lulled the defense to sleep at one point and then fizzed a cross through the six but nobody made a run to get onto it, so maybe he also mesmerized his teammates. His 87.5% passing rate was among the best on the team, he created two chances, and he got two of his three shots on goal (scoring on both). He also often tracked back and helped defensively.
MF, Sebas Mendez, 6 — While Mendez’s 94.4% passing accuracy stands out, he also had a couple of bad giveaways in the game. He was dispossessed twice and had two bad touches and seemed a bit late closing down a few times. He finished with two tackles and seemed to have trouble getting on the ball at times. It’s easy to forget how young he is and although he and Moutinho may be inconsistent at times, they’ve got a ton of upside and that showed through for the most part last night.
WB, Ruan, 8 — The highway patrol would like you to know that speed kills and watching Ruan play shows that’s absolutely the case on the soccer pitch. The Brazilian gave Dillon Serna fits throughout the first half, got to the end line repeatedly, and sent several dangerous passes into the area. He figured heavily in three of Orlando’s four goals. On the first, he fizzed a cross through Tesho Akindele’s legs that should have been tapped home, but the ball found Moutinho on the other side and he crossed in for Nani. Ruan roasted the Rapids on a counter attack off a Rapids corner kick to help set up Akindele’s goal. Finally, his cross late in the game led to the handball that Nani converted. He literally played Serna off the pitch by halftime, drew a yellow card on Kamara, and led the team in touches. He needs to improve his passing accuracy (67.5%) and defending, but his pace changes the game and Orlando wouldn’t have won last night without him. Defensively, he had four tackles, two interceptions, and a clearance.
F, Tesho Akindele, 8 — There were a couple of spells where the Canadian seemed to disappear from the proceedings last night but overall he was very good in his return from a hamstring issue. He scored the second goal and assisted on the third, but he was also important on aerial balls, winning a team high six of them. He passed at an 83% clip, which is a high rate for a striker. He created four chances, took three shots (one on frame), and even defended well, making three tackles and an interception. His only true misstep was getting himself nutmegged two yards out by Ruan’s cross on the buildup to the first goal, but at least Moutinho and Nani bailed him out for that miss.
F, Dom Dwyer, 6.5 — Dwyer was active all night but somehow didn’t figure in any of the scoring. He fired seven shots to lead all players and got four of them on frame, forcing two pretty good saves from Tim Howard. But he also knocked a header right at Howard from only a few yards out and completely missed the gaping empty net on the play that ended up as the handball on Sjoberg, so it’s a good thing that was spotted by Jair Marrufo to avoid him the embarrassment of the miss. He had one clearance on the defensive end, hit 70% of his pass attempts, and drew two free kicks.
MF, Oriol Rosell (30’), 6 — Uri came on for Carlos Ascues and O’Connor changed the shape to go four at the back. Rosell had a mixed night. He tied for second on the team in tackles and passed well (85.7%) but he also gambled and lost on a midfield ball that led to Colorado’s second goal and he was left to try to defend Kamara on an aerial attempt at the back somehow as the defense got pulled out of shape and, well, he didn’t do a great job of it. At least Rowe made the save. Mostly Uri had a decent night but there was room for improvement.
F, Chris Mueller (80’), 8.5 — It’s not easy to get a really high grade for essentially 10 minutes of work, but Cash did it. He scored his second goal of the year just a minute after getting on the pitch, and he darted and dashed around with the ball in the offensive end, bending the Colorado defense out of shape. He had 12 touches and eight passes (87.5% accuracy) in his short time on the pitch and he terrorized the Rapids in that time. He created one scoring chance, got his one shot on target, and beat one of the legendary American goalkeepers for a huge game-changing goal.
WB, Kyle Smith (90’+2), N/A — Smith came on for Nani in stoppage time as more of a time-wasting substitution than anything. He didn’t even touch the ball in about two minutes on the pitch so there’s really no way to give him a grade for the appearance.
That’s how I saw the performances on a rainy Saturday night in Orlando against the Rapids. Let me know where you agree and/or disagree in the comments below and be sure to vote for your Orlando City Man of the Match in the poll below.
Orlando City vs. Inter Miami: Five Takeaways
What did we learn from a thoroughly unenjoyable outing in South Florida?
Well. Orlando City’s second league game of the season was a thoroughly unenjoyable one, as the Lions got played clean out of South Florida by Inter Miami. As much as I hate to do it, we need to talk about this one, so what follows are my five thoughts from a horrific showing in SoFlo.
Early Mistakes Seal Orlando’s Fate
The Lions barely had a chance to get their feet underneath them before Pedro Gallese was picking the ball out of his net. Cesar Araujo received the ball in Orlando’s defensive third and immediately tried to play a blind pass backwards, but it went straight to a Miami player. Once the ball made its way from Lionel Messi to Julian Gressel to Luis Suarez, the latter made no mistake and scored to put OCSC into an early hole from which it would never recover.
Tough Night for Two Lions
Speaking of mistakes, that wasn’t the only one that Araujo made during this game. Miami’s second goal came as a result of Rodridgo Schlegel getting pulled out of position and Araujo failing to track the run of Suarez, who found it all too easy to fire past Gallese and double the deficit for Orlando. Schlegel was also culpable for the third goal, as he was too slow to step up with the rest of the back line, and prevented the tally from being called back for offside as a result. Almost no player in purple had a good game, but it was a particularly rough night for two guys who are normally so good for OCSC.
The Lions didn’t look bad going forward for a lot of this one. They managed to get the ball into some good areas, but just had trouble getting the final ball right that would lead to a chance. The introduction of Luis Muriel and Nico Lodeiro after halftime helped provide a spark early in the second half, but Orlando ultimately couldn’t find a way through and the score only got more and more lopsided as a result. When OCSC finally did fashion a clear-cut chance for Ramiro Enrique, the forward didn’t place his shot far enough in the corner and Drake Callender made a good save as a result.
Lack of Effort Worsens Scoreline
Somewhere around the 53rd minute, things really started to devolve for the Lions. Multiple turnovers in the team’s own half led to chance after chance for the home team, and Miami eventually made Orlando pay. The fifth goal will make for extremely unpleasant viewing, as Dagur Dan Thorhallsson decided to not close down Suarez on the wing, giving him way too much time to put the ball on a plate for Messi to head home, while the rest of the team took their time jogging back as Miami broke forward in transition. Orlando kept coming forward doggedly, but the lack of effort on display at times at the back was shocking and uncharacteristic to see.
I have no idea what happened in this match. As soon as the first goal went in, almost the entire team looked slow, out-of-sorts, and on its heels when Miami had the ball. That sort of thing is unacceptable in any game, but especially in this particular fixture. Yes, the match against Tigres is looming large on Tuesday, but the lineup Oscar Pareja put out was not one that suggested the Lions were punting on this game to throw everything they had at Tigres. Instead, an almost first-choice XI turned in perhaps the worst performance we’ve ever seen from an Orlando team coached by Oscar Pareja. It’s possible that we’ll look back on this game as the moment that this team came together and kicked onto bigger things, but in order for that to happen the Lions need to take a good, hard, brutally honest look in the mirror.
I’m sorry to say that’s the worst Orlando City performance I’ve seen in a very long time. Thankfully, the season is a long one and the Lions have plenty of time to right the ship and get back to playing in the manner we’re used to seeing. I think we’ll learn a lot about what we should expect from this team on Tuesday against Tigres. OCSC has a chance to respond the right way and make a statement, and you can bet I’ll be looking for one. Until then, vamos Orlando.
Strong Early Season Competition an Opportunity for Growth
Schedule congestion and tough opponents present opportunities for growth.
It is hard to imagine a more intense start to the season than the Lions have faced competing in both the regular season and the Concacaf Champions Cup at the same time, yet that is exactly the task that the boys in purple find themselves dealing with only days into the season. With both away and home matches already in the books, let’s examine how strong early season competition can be a key factor in the growth of the squad as the season progresses.
For comparison we can look back to one year ago, as thanks to winning the U.S. Open Cup, the Lions found themselves in the Concacaf Champions League for the first time in club history. During their short foray in the 2023 version of the competition, they were matched up against Mexican powerhouse Tigres UANL in a two-leg competition. Orlando did something that many MLS sides can not boast by coming out of the first leg in Mexico without conceding a goal and only failed to advance because of the competition’s away goals rule.
At the time, and even looking back through rose-colored glasses, those two performances demonstrated the quality that Orlando City was ultimately capable of, and it was a form which Orlando showcased in the later stretches of the 2023 season.
This year, once again Orlando is faced with stiff competition throughout its early season matches, which present a grand opportunity to build team chemistry and fortitude that will only truly manifest itself as the season progresses. While Cavalry FC may have not presented much a challenge on the pitch, the logistics of starting a season off thousands of miles away in the Pacific Northwest were challenges that the Lions had to face before a 48-hour turnaround to open the regular season against a CF Montreal side which some are projecting to be a surprise force in the Eastern Conference. Sandwich in the close-out leg against Cavalry in the CCC at home some 72 hours later, and you once again have a recipe for tired legs but early season growth through adversity.
Up next was Saturday’s forgettable trip to square off against archrival Inter Miami. A year ago, Orlando City was one of the only MLS sides to truly frustrate one of the world’s best and unfortunately for players, coaches and fans alike, the first meeting between the rival sides in 2024 ended with a landslide victory for Messi and friends. Still, despite the frustrating loss, there are lessons to be learned and mistakes to correct which can only help the squad grow as the season progresses.
As if all of the schedule congestion was not enough, Orlando learned that its prize for dispatching Cavalry in the CCC was a rematch against Tigres, once again in a two-match, survive-and-advance format. The first game will be played two and a half days after having been beaten down by Miami and the second will come a week later, with yet another MLS regular-season match crammed in between.
All in all, once Orlando City is done facing off against Tigres, the team will have traveled roughly 9,700 miles for matches in the first 21 days of the season and played a match roughly every 60 hours. These matches and the quality of the opponents present Orlando and its players with numerous chances for individual and squad growth, and the experience, especially for still a somewhat young team, is something OCSC can draw upon once the late season and playoff push portion of the calendar arrive. I truly believe this early in the season the importance of the results of the matches come secondary to the opportunities for growth when faced with so many challenges so quickly.
Let us know in the comments below if you think that the early season match ups against quality opponents will ultimately hurt or benefit Orlando City and, as always, vamos Orlando!
Orlando City vs. Inter Miami: Final Score 5-0 as Meek Lions Trounced in Comprehensive Road Defeat
Lions get crushed from the jump in South Florida.
Orlando City conceded two ridiculously easy goals in the first 11 minutes and another easy one before the end of the half en route to an embarrassing 5-0 loss to Inter Miami (2-0-1, 7 points) at Chase Stadium in Fort Lauderdale. The Lions (0-1-1, 1 point) gave Luis Suarez his first two MLS goals and an assist in the opening half (and another assist later). Lionel Messi also scored a brace and Robert Taylor added a goal.
Orlando generated some scoring chances, but struggled to hit the target when the game was still within reach. With the loss, Orlando City fell to 5-4-3 in league play against their Tropic Thunder rivals from the south. It was the first time the Lions have been shut out in Fort Lauderdale, and this season marks the first time in club history that Orlando City has failed to score a goal through the first two matches in regular-season play.
“Obviously a disappointing day for us, recognizing from minute one to the end of the game that didn’t look like us in many areas,” Orlando City Head Coach Oscar Pareja said after the game. “A team like them, you cannot permit them to have that many spaces, and lose that many duels, and give them that possibility to be sitting in our box in those counterattacks. Really disappointed, but we’re pushing as a group. You know I have big respect for this group, their professionalism in what they do, and if there is any possibility, we’ll search to find answers but this group’s professionalism will never be denied. We’re not going to leave this experience just to happen without taking the benefits of this, the reasons, and learn from it.”
Pareja’s starters included Pedro Gallese in goal behind a back line of Rafael Santos, Robin Jansson, Rodrigo Schlegel, and Dagur Dan Thorhallsson. Cesar Araujo and Wilder Cartagena took their usual spots in the central midfield behind an attacking line of Ivan Angulo, Martin Ojeda, and Facundo Torres with Duncan McGuire up top.
It didn’t take long for the hosts to get on top and it was Orlando City helping the Herons score the first goal. Araujo made a terrible mistake with a blind back pass, turning the ball over. It ended up out wide on Julian Gressel’s foot and the winger found Suarez, who fired first time into the corner where Gallese couldn’t get to it, making it 1-0 in the fourth minute.
“From there, I feel we couldn’t really turn the game in our favor,” Jansson said.
Orlando had two great opportunities to answer quickly. The first came when Thorhallsson fed McGuire in front in the seventh minute. The striker couldn’t get his feet set properly and when the ball arrived he sent it well off target from just eight yards out. A minute later, it was Araujo with a blast from just outside the box but his shot sailed just wide of the upper left corner.
The Lions, predictably, paid for those misses. Miami got a fortunate bounce off of Cartagena’s tackle attempt. As a result, Suarez was sent in on a fairly routine through ball but Araujo had stopped tracking him and Schlegel got pulled out of position with an overly aggressive move, giving the former Barcelona man room to slip through the line. He beat Gallese to make it 2-0 in the 11th minute.
Orlando City finally settled into the match a bit after that, although the damage had been done already. The Lions won a couple of corners and Schlegel sent a header wide on one of them. On the other, the ball was knocked to Torres near the top of the box. The Uruguayan tried a volley shot but couldn’t keep it down and it sailed well over the goal in the 21st minute.
Ojeda tried to pick out McGuire in the 23rd minute but Drake Callender came off his line and may have gotten a slight touch to the excellent cross. At the very least, he put McGuire off with his presence and aggressiveness.
Miami unlocked the defense for an easy third goal in the 29th minute. Schlegel was slow to step up to spring an offside trap and the through ball found Suarez behind the back line. Gallese came off his line to try to disrupt the play, but Suarez squared it to Taylor for an empty-net goal.
Messi came close to making it 4-0 with a free kick in the 34th minute. He sent his shot off the outside of the left post and Gallese may have had it covered anyway, moving quickly to his right.
The score almost got more embarrassing late in the half. Suarez again got in behind and scored but this time the flag came up and the offside call was upheld on review. It was extremely close, but the score remained 3-0.
That was the last close call of the first half and the Lions limped to the break down three goals.
The Lions held the advantage in possession (55.7%-44.3%) and corners (2-0). But Miami passed more accurately (90.6%-85.1%), fired more shots (5-4), and put more on target (3-0).
“Not good enough,” Jansson said of the performance. “It’s a derby and we’re coming out there with no energy, I feel. We don’t take control of the game like we normally try to do. Tonight was a rough one. It was not good enough on any part of the field, including myself, and I feel sorry for the fans who traveled here, and they deserve better.”
Pareja withdrew McGuire and Cartagena at the half, replacing them with Luis Muriel and Nico Lodeiro.
Ojeda appeared to pull a goal back just after the restart, playing his way through and slotting past Callender. However, Angulo was just offside in the buildup, negating the goal.
Messi came within inches of a fourth Miami goal in the 54th minute, sending a shot just outside the right post from the top of the area. The play was started by a turnover by Santos. A minute later, Santos didn’t pick up Gressel and Angulo stopped tracking him. That wasn’t optimal and Gressel ended up smashing a shot off the crossbar.
Things got worse for Orlando in a hurry after those chances. The Lions simply had no answers, giving up a pair of goals to Messi, as Miami continued to easily play into space behind the back line.
Schlegel again got pulled out of shape on a Miami transition attack. That allowed Jordi Alba to get in behind and shoot. Jansson cleared the ball off the line but could only knock it off the woodwork. Messi got the last touch of the ping-ponging ball and it trickled in to make it 4-0 in the 57th minute.
Four minutes later, Suarez blazed down the left and sent a good cross for Messi’s headed finish.
The Lions should have pulled a goal back in the 76th minute when Ramiro Enrique got in behind the defense. The Argentine left his shot too close to the center, where Callender still had to make a good save to prevent the goal.
Although Orlando City held more possession (52.8%-47.2%) and won more corners (5-1), Miami had the advantage in shots (11-8), shots on target (6-2), and passing accuracy (89.2%-85.6%). The Herons were much more lethal in front of goal, and Orlando was much sloppier in both final thirds. With the quality Miami has, that’s a poor combination and, as shown on this night, a game can get away quickly.
“We have to look at the game and see where we didn’t get our stuff done,” Jansson said. “We do it all the time, when we win and when we lose. We have to go through what we’re doing good and what we’re doing bad, because otherwise we will never become better. This was a bad take, and we’ve got to get the review, and get the analysis, and see where we had the most errors, and then we just have to take it from there.”
“We are responsible for a performance like this one, where nothing came right, and we will surely see what are the reasons and how can we improve it,” Pareja said. “We will continue with our heads up, and again, for me, I back this group up 100 percent. It’s a group that’s very professional. Didn’t play well today and nothing came right. We will take that responsibility, especially the coach. It’s not an easy result to absorb, but also we have the responsibility to bounce back immediately, and proximity (of the next game) helps give us the opportunity just to reshape again. But surely this will be in our memory for a little longer than normal.
“It’s just that they were better than us, and we didn’t do a good job today. We didn’t show up today the way we are…the start of the league doesn’t dictate the end of it.”
Orlando City has another quick turnaround before hosting Tigres in Concacaf Champions Cup action Tuesday night at home. The next league game is next Saturday when Minnesota United visits Inter&Co Stadium.
Orlando City vs. Inter Miami: Five Takeaways
Strong Early Season Competition an Opportunity for Growth
Orlando City vs. Inter Miami: Final Score 5-0 as Meek Lions Trounced in Comprehensive Road Defeat
Lion Links: 2/29/24
Orlando City at Inter Miami: Three Keys to Victory
Lion Links: 2/28/24
Orlando City1 week ago
Orlando City vs. CF Montreal: Five Takeaways
Orlando City2 weeks ago
Orlando City vs. Cavalry FC, Concacaf Champions Cup: Preview, How to Watch, TV Info, Live Stream, Lineups, Match Thread, and More
Orlando City1 week ago
Orlando City vs. CF Montreal: Preview, How to Watch, TV Info, Live Stream, Lineups, Match Thread, and More
Orlando Pride6 days ago
Orlando Pride Unveil New Kits Ahead of 2024 NWSL Season
Lion Links2 weeks ago
Lion Links: 2/19/24
Orlando City2 weeks ago
Orlando City vs. Cavalry FC, Concacaf Champions Cup: Final Score 3-0 as Torres Brace Leads Lions to Road Win
Orlando City7 days ago
Orlando City vs. CF Montreal: Player Grades and Man of the Match
Lion Links4 days ago
Lion Links: 2/29/24