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Orlando City

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



Last time I did grades, a Canadian team was visiting Orlando and James O’Connor rolled out a Lions team that unexpectedly played with a back four. Anyone getting déjà vu? Luckily that’s where the similarities ended as Orlando left it late but claimed all three points, beating Vancouver Whitecaps for the first time. O’Connor revived his 4-3-3 for only the second time on the year as he made four changes from last week’s road trip to Utah with Lamine Sané, Uri Rosell, Nani, and Dom Dwyer all returning to the starting lineup.

Here’s how they performed:


GK, Brian Rowe, 7 — A pretty quiet game for Rowe compared to the other games he’s had as an Orlando player so far, which I’m sure he’ll appreciate. He dealt with a long distance Ali Adnan free kick, which was fiercely dipping in front of the former Whitecaps goalkeeper — one of only two saves he was forced into on the day. On a couple of occasions he hesitated in coming off his line before retreating again, something that doesn’t breed any particular confidence, but other than that it was a straightforward performance that was tough to fault.

D, João Moutinho, 7 — Moutinho looked like he was struggling to get into the rhythm of a back four early on, leaving gaping holes on the counter for his opposite number, former-Lion Scott Sutter, to run into and he just didn’t have the awareness to cover. Luckily he grew into the game on both sides of the ball. Defensively he registered two tackles and one interception. Offensively, we’ve previously seen him link well with Nani and that continued down the left flank. He was third on the team in passes, ahead of his countryman, but 10th in accuracy, connecting on 80%. He finished with three shot attempts (second on the team), including one on goal in first-half stoppage time on a good attacking run. Not the best performance from the 2018 first-round draft pick but room to improve.

D, Robin Jansson, 7.5 — Jansson is another that had a quiet day, which, for a defender, especially one in purple (or Parley, as it was today), is a nice change. Vancouver offered very little from open play but the big Swede stayed alert just after the hour mark to intercept a threatening through ball. He was overall very tidy, leading the team in clearances, with seven, and conceding no fouls.

D, Lamine Sané, 7 — Again pretty difficult to grade as Vancouver didn’t particularly ask any questions, shown by the fact Jansson and Sané were the only outfield Orlando players to have an average position on the defensive side of the halfway line. He only registered one tackle, one interception, and one clearance, and got done on a back heel by Fredy Montero to tee up an onrushing Hwang In-Beom, but excelled with his passing, making seven of eight long balls, and was also a regular target on set pieces, most notably when he narrowly put the ball over the bar on a corner as a Nani cross skimmed off his head.

D, Ruan, 8.5 — Ruan was everywhere today. He made a couple of early mistakes, but did well to quickly clean both of them up himself before impressing with a very well-timed slide tackle, making a joint-high two to go along with two interceptions and one clearance. The change in shape should have meant Ruan had slightly more defensive duties than normal but that didn’t stop him bombing forward — he was ever-present on the overlap, was second on the team for touches with 91, and attempted nine crosses — fewer only than Nani. Excluding substitutes, he also led the team in passing accuracy with 94.4% on 54 attempts, and it was his cutback to Sacha Kljestan that created the goal. If it wasn’t for Nani, he’d be my Man of the Match (spoilers!).

MF, Uri Rosell, 8 — Yes it’s perhaps largely down to Vancouver’s lack of interest in coming out of its bunker, but Uri’s return to midfield coincided with Orlando’s season high in possession, with 61%. The team’s average before today was just under 50%. The Lions dominated the ball and Rosell saw a large part of that, leading the team with a massive 101 touches. He was a cool head in dictating play, completing 89.7% of his 97 passes (the next highest was Méndez, with 69), and he was effective in preventing the out-ball when Vancouver tried to clear, helping keep the pressure on. The tackling was occasionally sloppy, leading the team in fouls with three, but that’s nitpicking on an otherwise accomplished performance.

MF, Sebas Méndez, 7.5 — Méndez played off to the right of Rosell, helping to provide a link to both Chris Mueller and Ruan, as well as cover for the Brazilian fullback. He made 92.8% of his 69 passes, second-most on the team, and led the team in interceptions, with three, stopping the counters that the Whitecaps were probing for. The 21-year-old had a confident performance in a box-to-box role in a midfield that did not include Kljestan for the first time in the Ecuadorian’s time with Orlando, playing in the same pockets of space that Kljestan usually occupies. O’Connor might have some thinking to do for his next lineup.

MF, Will Johnson, 6 — The quietest of the midfield trio, Johnson registered one interception, one clearance, and only made 34 passes in his 75 minutes before subbing out for Kljestan, but completed 94.1% of them, second among starters. His 44 touches were fewer only than Dwyer among outfield starters. The Canadian also took two shots, neither on target, and drew three fouls while committing none. He didn’t do much but when he did, he did it well for the most part. He’s probably fortunate the Lions got the win though because had they not, he’s likely called out as a passenger.

F, Nani, 8.5 (MotM) — Practically everything that happened did so through Nani and he showed O’Connor why he can’t spend two thirds of the game on the bench. He seemed to have the beating of former Lion Sutter but didn’t have as much luck against South Korean international Hwang In-Beom in an interesting, reoccurring battle as the Whitecaps were determined to leave Orlando with a point, doubling up on Orlando’s wingers to prevent any service from a team that’s known to play wide. It was frustrating to watch him continually put his foot on the ball and slow play down as is his stop-start method of taking on defenders to limited success. The brightest spot was when he was allowed to put his foot on the gas and stretch his legs, streaking away on the counter before eventually feeding Mueller, only to fire a shot off on the ricochet. He was also a danger from set pieces as always and it felt like as the game went on, he eventually had to find the breakthrough. Ironically, the scoresheet says he did but he knew little about the Kljestan shot that he managed to deflect into the opposite corner from where it was heading as he attempted to get out of the way. He led the team in shots (4) and shots on goal (2).

F, Chris Mueller, 7 — Mueller was Orlando’s second most dispossessed player, losing the ball six times, but that’s the nature of the position. Nani is first on the list as he lost possession seven times with both wingers regularly facing up to two, if not three, Whitecaps players who nearly escaped Central Florida with a point thanks to their defensive approach. Mueller’s 78% pass completion was only good enough for 11th on the team and none of his six crosses found a Lion, but it’s par for the course in these situations. He looked better than he did last week as O’Connor started his super sub for a second consecutive game.

F, Dom Dwyer, 5 — Dwyer had a quiet first half to say the least, it took 20 minutes for me to realize he was in the game and his first bit of action was to overrun a Nani chip that would’ve gifted him a header from five yards out. He came out flying in the opening minutes of the second half to get an early shot in that was blocked and that was pretty much it in his 71 minutes. Overall he struggled to make an impact against a Whitecaps side that took a cautious approach to their third game in seven days, registering seven touches, five passes at 60% accuracy and failed to win an aerial challenge.


F, Tesho Akindele (72’), 7 — This was Akindele’s first substitute appearance as a Lion as O’Connor recognized Dwyer’s ineffectiveness against Vancouver’s low block and decided to swap in an aerial threat. The 6-foot-1 Canadian was targeted soon after he came on, nodding a Moutinho cross over the bar. In his 20-minute run-out he had 10 touches, three more than Dwyer, and completed all four of his passes.

MF, Sacha Kljestan (76’), 7.5 — Kljestan was benched for only the second time in O’Connor’s reign but had an early look at goal two minutes into his substitute appearance as he could only drag a volley wide. He strung a few passing sequences together well as he looked to unpick an ever-retreating Vancouver back line and was the grateful recipient of a Ruan pullback as he made a late run into the box, seeing his shot slice off Nani and nestle into the bottom corner to take all three points. He managed a strong 20 passes, one of them deemed key, in his 15-minute cameo.

D, Kyle Smith (90+8’), N/A — Smith was an extremely late defensive substitute as the Lions looked to cling on to the win (and waste some time), He was credited with two touches. I blinked and missed them both. In such a short spell, it’s unfair to hand him a grade.

So, there you have it. There’s nothing like being able to give out good grades with that winning feeling. Who was your Man of the Match for today? Don’t forget to vote in the poll below with your choice and leave a comment with your thoughts!

Polling Closed

Uri Rosell19
Sebas Méndez19
Other (leave a comment telling us who!)1

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.

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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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Lion Links

Lion Links: 12/1/23

Rodrigo Schlegel fined, MLS roster updates, USWNT faces China tomorrow, and more.



Dan MacDonald, The Mane Land

Welcome to December, Mane Landers! It always feels like a good sign when a month starts on a Friday. I don’t have many plans this weekend beyond helping a friend move and trying to make pad Thai for the first time. It should be a nice next few days to reset after a hectic week. But for now, let’s dive into today’s links from around the soccer world.

MLS Issues Disciplinary Rulings After Playoff Games

Orlando City center back Rodrigo Schlegel was fined an undisclosed amount by the MLS Disciplinary Committee for not leaving the field in a timely manner after receiving a second yellow card in the team’s playoff match with the Columbus Crew. Schlegel did not crowd the referee or plead his case disruptively, but he did linger a bit before exiting the match. It was one of many fines handed out by the MLS Disciplinary Committee for violations during the playoffs, and Crew forward Cucho Hernandez was fined for embellishment for going to ground clutching his face after Schlegel shielded the ball from him.

The Vancouver Whitecaps players and staff received fines and suspensions for their actions during and after their playoff match with LAFC on Nov. 5. Head Coach Vanni Sartini was fined $20,000 and suspended for an additional five games for entering the field of play in a confrontational manner and his comments about the refereeing following his team’s elimination. Vancouver defender Mathias Laborda was also handed a one-match suspension for his actions during the match.

MLS Teams Update Rosters as Deadline Looms

The deadline for MLS teams to decline contract options is today and clubs around the league are getting their affairs in order. The Portland Timbers confirmed that Sebastian Blanco won’t be with the team next year, as he was out of contract after seven seasons with the club. Designated Player Jaroslaw Niezgoda and fellow forward Franck Boli had their options declined by Portland as well. FC Dallas triggered the options on the contracts of midfielder duo Asier Illarramendi and Liam Frasier, while declining the options for midfielder Facundo Quignon and defender Jose Martinez. The New York Red Bulls kept a key part of their defense by signing Dylan Nealis to a contract through the 2024 season. Nashville SC declined seven options, and veterans Dax McCarty and Fafa Picault are out of contract. Both players could be worth keeping an eye on as an Orlando supporter, depending on if Wilder Cartagena and Ivan Angulo will return. According to The Athletic‘s Tom Bogert, McCarty is not likely to return to Nashville.

Racing Louisville Names Beverly Yanez as Head Coach

Beverly Yanez was announced as Racing Louisville’s next head coach after serving as an assistant coach during the 2023 season. The 35-year-old retired as a player in 2020 and was an assistant coach with NJ/NY Gotham FC for two years before joining Louisville prior to this season. Louisville has yet to reach the playoffs since joining the NWSL in 2021 and Yanez is now the club’s third head coach. She’s earned plenty of praise from Louisville’s players and it will be interesting to see how her first season as a head coach goes in 2024.

Alejandro Bedoya Receives Impact Award

Philadelphia Union midfielder Alejandro Bedoya won the MLS Impact Award, along with a $100,000 contribution by Audi to The Philadelphia Equity Alliance. Bedoya has worked with the nonprofit to promote inclusive economic growth and reduce poverty. He was also named 2022 MLS WORKS Humanitarian of the Year for his efforts to make a difference in the Philadelphia community. The Crew’s Darlington Nagbe and Nashville’s Taylor Washington were the other finalists for this year’s award.

Analyzing China Ahead of USWNT Friendlies

The United States Women’s National Team will close out its 2023 schedule with a pair of friendlies against China this month. The two nations will clash tomorrow at 3 p.m. in Fort Lauderdale before playing again in Frisco on Tuesday at 8 p.m. Although China lost all three of its group stage games in this past summer’s World Cup, it recently won the bronze medal in the Asian Games. China fell short in Olympic qualifying though, and 2022 AFC Women’s Coach of the Year Shui Qingxia’s contract was terminated, with Wang Jun taking over in an interim capacity for these friendlies. The USWNT should be able to find success on set pieces and crosses, although China has been working on strength training this year to compensate for that weakness. Tang Jiali, Zhang Linyan, and Shen Menglu are a few of the players in China’s versatile attack that could spell trouble for the Americans.

Free Kicks

  • Orlando Pride defender Rafaelle started as Brazil’s captain and Marta and Adriana came off the bench in a 4-3 win over Japan in a friendly. In her international debut, 19-year-old forward Priscila gave Brazil the late winner. The two teams will play again on Sunday.
  • The Kansas City Current dedicated their press box to journalist and Kansas City native Grant Wahl.
  • The New England Revolution have promoted Curt Onalfo to sporting director after four years as the club’s technical director. Onalfo served as the interim sporting director after Bruce Arena’s resignation in September and now gets the job fulltime.
  • The MLS Players Association released a statement regarding Matt Miazga’s three-game suspension.
  • Pierre Emerick-Aubamayeng scored a bicycle kick and a late winner as part of his hat trick in Marseille’s 4-3 win over Ajax in the Europa League.
  • The 2023 Women’s College Cup semifinals kick off tonight, with Florida State facing Clemson and BYU playing Stanford. There are many talented players in action who are worth watching tonight before the NWSL Draft next month.
  • Lyon, which is last in Ligue 1 with just seven points from 12 games, has sacked Fabio Grosso after less than three months as head coach.

That’s all I have for you today. I hope you all have a fantastic Friday and rest of your weekend!

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