Well, the best thing I can say to open this is at least it wasn’t any worse. When the starting lineup came out, I definitely thought the Lions were going to get blown off the pitch by Atlanta. Thankfully, the Five Stripes aren’t exactly playing the best football in Major League Soccer right now. It’s going to be a challenge to grade the guys after this latest lackluster, at best, performance, but I’m going to give it my best shot.
GK, Brian Rowe, 5.5 — I’ll preface this by saying that Rowe would have been my Man of the Match had it not been for that poor effort on Julian Gressel’s 51st minute shot that was luckily called back for an offside decision after video review. He came off his line decisively and smartly when it was the correct decision, such as when Josef Martinez had a free shot at goal in minute 49 and on the dangerous cross in the 64th that saw him stay down for a few seconds after the play. Rowe’s save on the Leandro Gonzalez Pirez header in the 26th minute certainly kept Orlando City in the match. His 58% passing accuracy on his distribution neither hurt nor helped the Lions.
D, Kamal Miller, 4.5 — I fully believe that Miller has a lot of potential and way more upside than negative aspects to his play. However, he let Pity Martinez have all the space he needed to make his first MLS goal, and what turned out to be the winning one for Atlanta, in the 15th minute. Miller couldn’t keep up with Pity again in the 44th and allowed him the opportunity to get a headed shot at goal off. The rookie defender did have an excellent interception, one of his three on the afternoon, in extra time to make sure Atlanta didn’t get a second goal at the death. Two tackles, two clearances, and a blocked shot rounded out Miller’s day.
D, Alex De John, 3.5 — It was clear that De John hasn’t seen the pitch for a while, as he’s been out with an injury and definitely needed to shake off some rust. Certainly, it didn’t help that he was expected to cover Hector Villalba, arguably the most underrated player on Atlanta’s squad full of highly rated players. He misjudged a jump on a pass out from the back in the 15th minute that ultimately led to Atlanta’s lone goal. De John made a great run into the box in first half stoppage time and cut a pass back to Will Johnson that ended up as a shot on goal for Orlando City. The first 10 minutes of the second half saw De John get burned by both Josef Martinez and Villalba down the left several times. He managed an interception and three clearances before being subbed off in the 58th minute.
D, Robin Jansson, 4.5 — This may have been Jansson’s worst, or perhaps least impacting, performance as a Lion thus far. He didn’t shut down Villalba in minute 15, affording him the time and space to play a perfectly weighted pass to Pity that of course went in the net. Jansson was mostly quiet for the rest of the match after that, until the 81st minute when he again allowed an Atlanta player to have too much space. This time, Josef Martinez missed the net with his subsequent shot. The Swedish center back finished with two clearances, one interception, and a blocked shot, along with a 90th minute yellow card.
WB, Joao Moutinho, 5 — On the other hand, this match was one of Moutinho’s better performances as a Lion. He did make one major mistake by allowing Gressel to get by him and get off the 51st minute shot that would have made it 2-0 had it not been for VAR. As Orlando City pushed for an equalizer over the last 15 minutes of the match, the best chances came from Moutinho making runs down the left flank and sending crosses into the box. Two of those crosses, one at minute 80 and the other in the 86th, essentially found Ruan who couldn’t capitalize on them. Defensively, the young left wing back only provided one tackle and two interceptions.
MF, Will Johnson, 5.5 — I’m personally indifferent about Johnson most of the time. I get why a lot of fans don’t care for him, yet I also get why the Orlando City coaching staff give him consistent minutes. He demonstrated both sides of the debate in this match. While he does hustle and play with heart, Johnson is often not skilled enough for his play to match his passion. That results in a lot of bad passes — his 84% passing accuracy was the second worst for the Orlando City midfielders — and some glaring errors, like the horrid back headed pass in the 23rd minute that both he and Rowe were happy to see go just wide of the net. Contrarily, Johnson’s hustle saw him end up in the right place at the right time to receive De John’s bouncing pass in first half stoppage time that he was then able to get on frame, forcing Atlanta goalkeeper Brad Guzan into a save.
MF, Cristian Higuita, 5 — Another player that hadn’t seen the pitch in a while and needed to get some rust out of his system was Higuita. A fan favorite, and the only remaining Lion from the 2015 inaugural MLS season, the midfielder was slotted into more of a No. 10 role than his typical defensive mid position. The switch worked out well for the most part, since it allowed Higuita to be a constant nuisance for Atlanta’s back line. Often times throughout the match, he was the only player enforcing the high press and it caused noticeable problems as early as the first minute. Higuita had a great takeaway at the top of Atlanta’s 18 in the eighth minute that may have helped prevent an even earlier goal. Mistakenly known as a player who fouls too much, he instead drew a yellow card foul from Michael Parkhurst in the 65th minute before coming off at minute 78 following a shot he sent over the crossbar.
MF, Sebas Mendez, 5.5 — I don’t necessarily believe that Mendez did anything worthy of Man of the Match, but he was the most solid midfielder on the day. He started off shaky, not defending Villalba well at all in the sixth minute, which led to a shot and then an early corner for Atlanta. Mendez was also badly beaten by Josef Martinez in the 25th, though his recovery save on the shot Josef got off was likely the best Orlando City defensive play of the match. A 94% passing accuracy on a team-leading 63 passes also led the Lions. Plus, I have to give Mendez a special shout out for the beautiful hard tackle he had on former Orlando City player Justin Meram immediately after Meram made his Atlanta debut in stoppage time.
WB, Ruan, 6 (MotM) — I still contend that Ruan needs a rest, and I’m betting that he may finally get it during this stretch of three matches in eight days, so I don’t see how anyone else can honestly compete for Man of the Match when he still puts in a great performance. The right wing back combined with Higuita often to push a high press in the first half leading to a couple of takeaways and one interception. Ruan’s excellent run into the box in the 33rd minute created Orlando City’s best chance of the game considering he put a perfect cross on Dwyer’s foot that the striker, not surprisingly, fluffed. The one dangerous defensive error Ruan made came on Gressel’s 51st-minute shot as he gave Villalba too much space to cut the ball back to Gressel. He got on the end of two of Moutinho’s crosses as the game wound down and sent in a low cross of his own that rolled just behind Akindele in the 83rd minute.
F, Dom Dwyer, 2.5 — I’m going to keep this as short as I can because quite frankly, I don’t want to even waste your time reading about Dwyer’s pathetic play this match. He sent a first minute shot a mile high and left of the target and then proceeded to flop any time a defender breathed in his general direction. See minutes 27, 29, and 38 for evidence. I’m sure a few might argue about the refereeing — I will not be one of those people as we all know PRO is going to PRO and the 11 players on the pitch have to control everything they can. Flopping and looking for a call on nearly all of your significant touches isn’t controlling what you can. Dwyer missed yet another sitter in the 33rd minute when he shot right at Guzan. Money is tight for Orlando City, meaning bringing in a high-quality striker isn’t an option right now. I’d rather see the rookie strikers, Santiago Patino and Benji Michel, get valuable minutes and start to grow than have to see Dom Dwyer disrespect the Lions’ crest by angrily ripping off his kit when his terrible play gets him subbed out of a match in the 64th minute.
F, Tesho Akindele, 4.5 — Akindele was mostly invisible for the first half on this match. I know that’s been said about his play a few times this season and the more it happens, the more I’m starting to worry. The thing is, when he makes his presence known, Akindele can be quite an asset to Orlando City. He made a good run in the 44th minute and tried to find Dwyer with a pass that had a little bit too much on it. The Canadian international’s defensive effort led to a nice interception in minute 75 after a giveaway from the Lions. He sent a shot right to Guzan in the 80th minute after some nice play from substitute Josue Colman. An 83% passing accuracy with one key pass summed up his afternoon.
D, Kyle Smith (58’), 4 — I would put Smith in the Akindele invisible category for his time in the match. According to the FOX sideline reporter, O’Connor believed Smith to be more “steady” on the ball than De John. Seems like a nice way of saying De John was probably going to cost the Lions another goal if he didn’t get subbed off. The most notable play for Smith came in the 62nd minute when he was far too slow shutting down Pity Martinez.
F, Chris Mueller (64’), 6 — As far as I’m concerned, this match was a shining example of why Cash should continue to play as Orlando City’s super sub. His energy off the bench was palpable and caused a very obvious momentum shift in favor of the Lions. Mueller’s entrance also meant the squad switched to more of a 4-2-3-1 formation. He took two free kicks, one straight at Guzan, and pressured Guzan to make a bad pass out of the back that Mueller then took too many touches on. In the third minute of stoppage, he appeared to be tripped by Jeff Larentowicz though no foul was called.
M, Josué Colmán (78’), 4.5 — Ah, the ever-elusive Young Designated Player, Josué Colmán. He wasn’t in the match long, but he did manage to set up a chance for Akindele in the 80th minute. Colmán did the Colmán thing in the 90th, however, when he attempted to dribble into two defenders and lost possession.
There you have it. How did you see it? Who was your Man of the Match? Make sure to vote in the poll below.
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