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Orlando City

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



After James O’Connor made 11 changes on Wednesday against Seattle, fielding a second string lineup to allow rest for much of his first team, the Irishman predictably made a further 10 this weekend as the Lions returned to full strength for the visit of MLS new boys FC Cincinnati in a crucial Eastern conference clash. Having thrown all of his eggs into one basket, his team backed him up and strolled to a 5–1 victory over the newest expansion side.

Here’s how your Orlando City Lions performed:


GK, Brian Rowe, 6 — Rowe came off his line to confidently collect a couple of balls early on as he looked to settle back in between the sticks following his midweek rest but was beaten in the 20th minute by Emmanuel Ledesma only for the woodwork to come to his rescue. Cincinnati’s second shot also beat Rowe, fired in from close range, but this time hit the back of the net. He wasn’t really tested again until a rising header towards goal but Rowe stretched tall in first-half stoppage time to keep things level going into the break. The second half left Rowe largely untested until garbage time when Ledesma just put wide his consolation attempt that had Rowe frozen. He seemed to have a much more active role in building from the back, completing 24 passes — two more than Tesho Akindele.

D, João Moutinho, 6.5 — After his midweek rest, Mountinho returned to put in a shift although he continued to clutch at his back throughout the game. Regardless, he made the fifth most passes, including one to Will Johnson for the secondary assist on Orlando’s opener, and connected on one cross. He was third on the team for touches, with 73, as he was in constant support of the attack, offering a safety valve for the likes of Chris Mueller and Nani when they found themselves without other options on the left. However, he only managed to register one defensive action, a sole tackle on the day, and was part of the group doing little to affect the Darren Mattocks goal. He made 55 passes at 86% accuracy.

D, Robin Jansson, 5.5 — I personally think Jansson has been excellent since arriving in March and he looked on form as he did well to keep pace as the last man against Darren Mattocks and shepherd the ball back to Rowe in the opening few minutes. But he was beaten at the second time of asking before Mattocks found Ledesma, only for the Argentine to hit the bar. The third time proved fatal, as Mattocks fired home past a statuesque Orlando defense with Jansson closest to him. He ended the day with one tackle, one interception, and one clearance in a performance to forget for the Lions’ defensive unit.

D, Lamine Sané, 5.5 — Sané was one of four players surrounding Mattocks on the first goal with the Bundesliga veteran doing little to take charge of the situation. He also came striding out of defense with the ball a couple of times as well as sending some searching long balls, completing three. His biggest contribution to the game was arguably to be the innocent victim of Kendall Waston’s suplex on a corner to earn a penalty that swung the game in Orlando’s favor. He made the second most passes on the team, with 66, and led in accuracy at 94%, although I can count on one hand how many of them were actually worth making. No tackles, no interceptions, but three clearances. Statistically a good game but in general the central defensive partnership left a lot of questions to answer.

D, Ruan, 8 — Ruan flashed one of his trademark lightning runs down the right as Orlando went on the counter early on but eventually had his run halted by substitute Alves Powell. He later had the same break down the left wing. This time Powell was called for the foul and got Cincinnati’s first yellow. His pace continued to cause all sorts of issues the entire game and he eventually beat Waston to make it to the byline and set up Nani for a tap in and Orlando’s third. However, as is the case with this performance, the Lions’ defense has not come out smelling of roses. They looked unsure in the first half and were redundant for most of the second. The Brazilian registered no defensive actions, gave away one foul, and was perhaps fortunate to not give up another. He made 30 passes at 83.3% accuracy but went 0/5 on crossing attempts. His output relies on high chance creation. Luckily he has the engine to sustain it.

MF, Sebas Méndez, 8 — Even without his usual midfield partner, Uri Rosell, Sebas Méndez totally bossed midfield as usual. He led the team with a staggering 100 touches and made a team-high 91 passes, including one key pass. Perhaps more astonishingly given the volume, he was second for passing accuracy at 93%, as he provided a link between both flanks in the middle of the park. He was also the second biggest contributor defensively, making three tackles, one interception, and one clearance, but his tackling was sloppy. He picked up a first half yellow for taking a nibble at Frankie Amaya as the 2019 first overall draft pick accelerated away from him, but the risk of a sending off did little to clean his act up. I’m surprised he wasn’t substituted instead of Cristian Higuita but that doesn’t detract from how excellent he was.

MF, Cristian Higuita, 7.5 — Higuita got his second start in three games — making his 100th competitive appearance for Orlando City — and took the opportunity to once again put his case forward for a regular spot. He came closest to drawing level just before the hydration break, trying to thunder one into the top corner from distance but it was wide of the post on his lone strike of the game. He had a similar game to Méndez in passing and tackling, leading the team with four tackles and two interceptions, as well as one clearance, and was third for passing, with 65 attempts at 91% accuracy. His inconsistency means he’s a high-risk, high-reward player compared to the likes of Will Johnson and Sacha Kljestan, who are consistent but with a much lower ceiling, and James O’Connor is starting to see the benefits of when the Colombian has a good game.

MF, Will Johnson, 7 — Johnson looked to respond quickly to the Cincinnati opener and had a flash at goal thanks to a ball in from Mueller, but the Canadian couldn’t find a way past an onrushing Spencer Richey. He turned provider for Akindele for the eventual equalizer, finding the forward with a first time pass on the turn. His next significant piece of action saw him end up in the book, getting a yellow for a desperate tackle. He led the team in key passes with three, acting as a quarterback at the top of the box to thread through passing lanes and also drew two fouls. In total he had three shots: two blocked and an especially weak third from distance that epitomizes some of the poor shooting we’ve seen from Orlando’s midfield this season. Please make it stop!

F, Nani, 7.5 — Nani passed, tackled and crossed well in the first half but a lack of genuine attacking output from open play made him look a little stifled. His set piece delivery was wanting for the most part, although Cincinnati looked worried by a free kick in first-half stoppage time. He came out in the second half with more intent, looking vastly improved, and took an early invitation to fire a shot at goal to force a diving save. His penalty attempt was abysmally placed but the Lions’ captain kept his calm to tuck away the rebound to give Orlando its first lead of the day in the 50th minute. He smartly peeled away from the defenders for his second goal, allowing space for Ruan to pick him out from six yards out. His day ended in the 66th minute with the Lions comfortably leading 4–1. Nani was tied with Akindele for the most shots, with four, getting 100% on target but his passing accuracy of 81% was 11th on the team.

F, Chris Mueller, 8 — Mueller’s creativity and energy shone against Cincinnati as he looked to be the forward most inclined to press the Cincinnati back line and continued to pick them apart, seeing some success one on one across his four registered dribbles and created some good scoring opportunities for both Johnson and Akindele. He came out equally as fast in the second half, running at two defenders before cutting a shot back across his body forcing Richey into a save on one of the two shots he took. Don’t let the fact he didn’t register a goal or assist detract from how good he was. He just needs to work on his crossing now, connecting on only one of a team-high eight today.

F, Tesho Akindele, 9 (MotM) — After spending the opening half hour trying to contend out wide, Akindele made the most of his first sight at goal as he fired in the equalizer, ghosting his way in between the Cincinnati center backs before his fellow Canadian countryman Johnson slipped him in. He was inches away from getting on the end of a Mueller cross that would’ve doubled his tally but eventually got his second after reacting fastest to a second ball in the box from a corner. All in all, Akindele provided a perfect illustration of the “take your chances when they come” clinical finishing that had been costing Orlando points this season, scoring on two of his joint-high four shots. That’s his one job and he did it twice. It proved the difference maker in both getting Orlando back in the game and then putting it out of sight.


FW, Dom Dwyer (66’), 7 — Dwyer was tightly marked from the second he entered the game but took a chance to strike from distance in the 74th minute to desperately end his goal drought only to see the ball sail over. Shortly after, he went in recklessly on Justin Hoyte for a yellow card, perhaps some signs that he has now been benched for two consecutive games despite the insane level of rotation. His celebrations were decidedly muted and dare I say bitter when he headed in Orlando’s fifth directly from a corner. Dwyer’s not the tallest man on the pitch by any standard but he did well to make the most of some half-hearted defending, make a run and direct the cross goalwards.

MF, Josué Colmán (78’), 6.5 — The game was all but over when Colmán got his customary cameo appearance. He showed some flair that O’Connor may deem as luxury but it’s both entertaining and encouraging to see that level of confidence and creativity from the 20-year-old Paraguayan youth international, who could have easily climbed into a shell given his lack of playing time. He sublimely picked out Dwyer from the corner for the fifth goal but was dispossessed twice as he looked to see out the game.

FW, Benji Michel (85’), N/A —If you thought the game was over when Colmán came on, spare a thought for Homegrown Benji Michel, who managed two touches in his substitute appearance with the score at 5–1 and nobody too bothered about continuing the game given the scoreline and heat.

There you have it, a five-goal performance from the Lions means Orlando City SC has an all-time 100% win record against FC Cincinnati and Nani extends his lead at the top of the team’s goal scoring charts, having now scored seven on the season. Agree with my Man of the Match pick or have a thought of your own? Vote in our poll or let us know in the comments!

Polling Closed

Chris Mueller6
Sebas Méndez12
Tesho Akindele31
Other (let us know!)3

Orlando City

Orlando City vs. Inter Miami: Three Keys to Victory

Here are three things the Lions need to do in order to set themselves up for a win over Inter Miami.



Dan MacDonald, The Mane Land

Wednesday’s match didn’t go the way anyone hoped it would, but now it’s time to turn our attention to a Sunday matchup with Inter Miami back in the comfortable confines of Exploria Stadium. What follows are three things that I believe will go a long way toward helping the Lions emerge victorious from the Tropic Thunder derby and keeping Florida purple.

Close Down Sergio Busquets

As many headlines as Lionel Messi has rightfully been getting since joining Major League Soccer, I think Busquets is just as important to Miami’s success. He remains an excellent midfielder and his ability to transition the team from defense into attack and link the two lines together is crucial. He has two assists and eight key passes in six MLS appearances and is passing with 92% accuracy —if you give him time, he will make you pay. Even if Cesar Araujo and Wilder Cartagena mark him tightly, he’ll still manage to find space at times and affect the game because he’s that good of a player. But the Lions cannot afford to repeatedly give him time and space to get on the ball, pick up his head, and play a pass or he’ll cut OCSC to ribbons. Getting tight to him and making his life difficult won’t stop him every time, but it’ll make life a hell of a lot easier. As soon as Orlando loses the ball in Miami’s half, someone needs to find no. 5 and close him down.

Play With an Edge, but Don’t Go Over It

This is likely going to be an extremely, fast, physical and heated game. These two teams don’t have any love lost for each other, and if last game is any indication, then Orlando is going to try to use its physicality to disrupt Miami from playing its brand of soccer. That’s not a bad strategy, and it’s one that was largely working during the aforementioned Leagues Cup match until the penalty kick call in the second half. If the Lions are going to try to repeat the tactic, then they need to play with physicality and intensity while toeing the line of what’s acceptable to do during a soccer game. Going down a man isn’t going to do OCSC any favors, so the boys in purple are going to have to flirt with the edge of the cliff without falling headfirst over it.

Stay Organized Defensively

We’ve seen some shaky defending during Orlando’s last two matches. Runners in behind were a particular problem during the match against the Columbus Crew, while Wednesday’s loss to NYCFC saw Talles Magno largely unmarked between two Orlando defenders to score the header that sealed the Lions’ fate. OCSC will likely still be without Antonio Carlos, but the Lions are capable of much better defending than they’ve done during the last week and they need to show it. Even if Lionel Messi doesn’t play, Miami has a whole host of guys who can hurt you in Josef Martinez, Leonardo Campana, Benjamin Cremaschi, Robert Taylor and Facundo Farias. The Lions need to be much more keyed in on defense than they have been the last two games, otherwise one or more of those guys is going to make them pay. Orlando has the firepower to put the ball in the back of the net, but it won’t matter if the team is giving up multiple preventable goals at the other end of the field.

If the Lions execute those three things then they’ve got as good a chance as any of getting a result on Sunday. Vamos Orlando!

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Lion Links

Lion Links: 9/22/23

Orlando City prepares for Inter Miami, MLS NEXT Pro Decision Day is Sunday, USWNT wins against South Africa, and much more.



Image courtesy of Orlando City B / Mark Thor

Happy Friday! It’s been a pretty busy week of apartment hunting and work for me, so I’m looking forward to some rest and relaxation this weekend. I don’t have many plans, but I did make sure to carve out a few hours to make a drink and get some reading done. My book club is fairly low maintenance, but I’ll be behind if I don’t finish Fourth Wing before the second book in the series comes out in November. Let’s get into today’s links!

Orlando City Takes On Inter Miami This Weekend

Following a 2-0 loss on the road to New York City FC earlier this week, Orlando City will aim to bounce back when it hosts rival Inter Miami this Sunday. Orlando has a chance to set club records for the most wins and points in a season since it joined MLS in 2015. It will be the third meeting between the two clubs this season, with Orlando beating Miami 3-1 in May before falling 3-1 in the Leagues Cup’s knockout stage. Although Miami will be without Lionel Messi and Jordi Alba according to Head Coach Tata Martino, the Herons still have plenty of attacking talent in the form of Sergio Busquets, Leonardo Campana, and Josef Martinez.

Orlando City B Readies for MLS NEXT Pro Decision Day

Sunday will also be the final day of the MLS NEXT Pro regular season, with nearly every team in action. Here’s everything you need to know about Decision Day across the league, with playoff spots still up for grabs. Orlando City B has already clinched its spot in the postseason, but can secure fifth in the Eastern Conference when it takes on FC Cincinnati 2. However, the difference between fifth and a lower seed won’t matter too much due to a new rule this year where the second and third seed in each conference choose which lower seed it wants to host in the playoffs. The Golden Boot race is competitive as well, with OCB’s Jack Lynn tied at the top with New York City FC II’s Matt Myers. We’ll see if Lynn takes part in Sunday’s match after giving the first team needed depth last weekend.

USWNT Beats South Africa in Julie Ertz’s Finale

The United States Women’s National Team won 3-0 against South Africa in the first of two friendlies this month. All three of the USWNT’s goals came in the first half, with Lynn Williams bagging a brace. In her final USWNT game, Julie Ertz started and earned plenty of applause from the crowd at TQL Stadium when she was subbed off in the 36h minute. M.A. Vignola made her USWNT debut in the match as well, coming on at halftime. The two nations will play again on Sunday in what will be forward Megan Rapinoe’s last game with the USWNT.

Europa League Group Stage Kicks Off

The first round of Europa League group stage matches is over, with all 32 teams getting things started across Europe. Brighton & Hove Albion’s first Europa League match was a rough one, as the English club fell 3-2 at home against AEK Athens. The Spanish clubs also struggled, with Villarreal getting shut out 2-0 by Panathinaikos and Real Betis losing 1-0 to Rangers. Elsewhere, AS Roma beat Sheriff Tiraspol 2-1 thanks to a winner from Romelu Lukaku, Liverpool won 3-1 over Austrian club LASK after trailing early on, and Marseille drew 3-3 with Ajax in a thriller. West Ham, Atalanta, Bayer Leverkusen, and SC Freiburg also won their group openers.

Free Kicks

  • Enjoy the sights and sounds from the Orlando City Foundation’s annual celebrity golf and footgolf tournament.

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

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Orlando City

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

How did your favorite Lions rate in Orlando City’s 2-0 loss against NYCFC?



Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Despite Orlando City being the best road team in MLS, the club fell 2-0 to New York City FC. The Lions still officially punched their ticket into the playoffs thanks to D.C. United drawing Atlanta United elsewhere in the Eastern Conference. The Lions battled throughout the night on the baseball diamond of Citi Field but were unable to find the soccer goal. It will be a quick turnaround now as the team needs to regroup before Sunday’s home match against rival Inter Miami.

Let’s take a look at how Orlando City’s players rated individually in the defeat.


GK, Pedro Gallese, 7.5 (MotM)  The foul in the box by by Ramiro Enrique led to Gallese needing to make a big play against Santiago Rodriguez’s spot kick. Unfortunately, Gallese couldn’t control the rebound on his diving save, leading to a tap-in header that he really could do nothing about. El Pulpo’s services were called upon four minutes in against former teammate Andres Perea from point-blank range, and then again in the 51st and 52nd minutes when the Octopus was able to make strong-handed saves. However, in the 68th minute, a perfectly placed Talles Magno header was placed where the Peruvian couldn’t make the stop. I don’t think either of the goals were his fault, nor would your favorite worldbeater goalkeeper abroad have stopped them. For that, Gallese is my Man of the Match for having made five saves in total and passing at an 81.1% rate while completing six of his 11 long balls.

D, Rafael Santos, 5.5 — The left back spent much of the first 20 minutes of the match getting faked and dribbled around down the channel. He continually jumped at a feinted cross or turned his back only for his man to dribble into an even more dangerous location inside the box. For a player who has been solid over the last few matches, Santos sure did look shaky and mentally unready for his matchup. His lone shot attempt was off target. He was 2-for-2 on crossing accuracy but just one of his four long balls found their target, while his overall passing rate was a lowly 65.4%, including one key pass. Defensively, he contributed two tackles, two clearances, and a foul while being fouled once himself.

D, Robin Jansson, 6 — It isn’t often that I look back on a match and can’t personally think of any Jansson highlights. He was definitely out there on the pitch, but he never stepped up above and beyond the call of duty like he is known to do. He likely escaped a garbage time yellow card while berating referee Ismail Elfath, but thankfully James Sands stepped in to push the Beefy Swede away to safety. Jansson had one tackle, a clearance, and a blocked shot. He passed at 84.6%, but only two of his 11 long balls were accurate. No wonder Facundo Torres was disappointed every time a deep ball came his way, as chance after chance was uncharacteristically wasted by Jansson.

D, Rodrigo Schlegel, 4.5 — It is never a great sign in a losing match when a center back doesn’t log a single tackle. It usually means they are whiffing, getting out-dribbled, or caught out of position. At times, it seems like each of those could have been the case for Schlegel in this match. Orlando might not get Antonio Carlos back this season, but if that is the case, then Schlegel has to do better, especially as he led the team with 92 touches. He was completely unaware of Magno on the second NYCFC goal and was part of a defense that fell asleep often on set pieces. He did offer one key pass, but his only shot missed the frame. He passed at an 84.5% rate, but like his counterpart, also struggled to connect on long balls. Rodri landed only three of 10 attempts. His two interceptions and two clearances might be the only things that help him save face on the night.

D/MF, Dagur Dan Thorhallsson, 6 — Dagur Dan’s first dangerous look of the night came in the 22nd minute as a ball deflected out to him just outside box. The hybrid wingback whipped a curling ball just inside the six-yard box that Enrique barely missed connecting on, which would have opened the scoring on the night. From that point forward, it was much of what we have been seeing from the Icelandic midfielder. He drifts wide to defend and then slides a bit more interior on the attack. I don’t hate it, but I also didn’t love it on a pitch where the small size already clogs the center of the park. He only offered one clearance in his defensive statistics. Offensively, he had a key pass, a through ball, and completed two dribbles. He also passed at an 88.6% rate on 44 attempts and was one-for-two on his crosses.

MF, Cesar Araujo, 6 — At times it seems the Uruguayan goes down softly despite being a bruiser in the defensive midfield on his own. I don’t necessarily hate it, as he does a great job slowing down the game at times when he rolls over, but there were a couple moments in this match where I wish he would have stood his ground and knocked the ball on forward to his teammates for a quick counter opportunity. Either way, Araujo drew a team-high four fouls yet again on the opposition. His passing was a respectable 86.8% on 53 attempts, and two of five long balls found their mark. His failure to properly mark Birk Risa on a set piece late in the game nearly cost Orlando City a third goal conceded. He made one clean tackle but also gave two fouls up. He took one shot on the night and would have done better to lay it off to a couple other Lions in the area.

MF, Wilder Cartagena, 5.5 — The Brazilian almost incited a riot on the pitch by running through a Pigeon after the whistle, but to be fair, it was a bang-bang play and he was coming in at full speed already. It didn’t take long after for Cartagena to earn his yellow card. He was fouled twice but gave three total himself. He also stepped up twice to clear the ball out of danger. With his 30 touches, he passed 20 times at 85% success but neither of his two crosses found a teammate.

MF, Ivan Angulo, 6.5 — I feel bad for players with attributes like Angulo when they have to play on the baseball fields. While he has the pace and could likely steal home, it doesn’t translate when you’re playing soccer in a compact outfield. His biggest strength is a push-and-go into space but that just isn’t available in Citi Field. Angulo did put his only shot on target when he was able to get involved in the attack. He also had one key pass in his 18 passing attempts (88.9%). Defensively, he made a pair of tackles and an interception. Angulo drew one foul.

MF, Mauricio Pereyra, 6 — The midfield maestro popped in and out of the half spaces throughout the night to distribute from one side of the pitch to the other. He led the team with three shots but not one of them was on target. With 53 touches on the ball, he was able to complete 80% of his 35 passes and one of two long balls, but he was sloppy in terms of staying on the ball too long at times, having two unstable touches and getting dispossessed twice. While it will go down in the match notes as a yellow card for persistent infringement, the referee was likely just trying to slow down a match that was beginning to get a little too chippy for his liking. The attacking midfielder put up a team-high four tackles in addition to his clearance and three fouls. Sometimes your skipper has to do the dirty work, and I’m ok with that.

MF, Facundo Torres, 6.5 — The Designated Player had a mixed bag in the first half, as his teammates seemed to miss him with their long passes. But down 1-0 at the start of the second half, Torres found a low driven cross slightly behind him just outside the six-yard box that he wasn’t able to put on frame. When he was on the ball though, he completed two dribbles and made three key passes to go with his two-for-three crossing and one-for-one long ball percentages. In total, 91.4% of his 35 passes completed which isn’t bad at all for only 46 total touches.

F, Ramiro Enrique, 4.5 — It wasn’t just the tackle in the box that caused Enrique to give up a penalty, but it was his errant pass that he attempted to lay off to Dagur Dan first. Ultimately, both errors equated to what was NYCFC’s first goal. I would like to say the poor play stopped there for him, but he blew what could have been a couple golden chances by dribbling too long and failing to see the open man to pass to. It truly is sad to see how a Player of the Matchday fell from his pedestal just days later. He was taken off after 58 minutes with just 16 touches to his name. Despite winning three aerial duels and making a clearance, his lowly 70% passing rating, missed cross, missed shot, and critical foul conceded really put a damper on his stats. If there was such an award that equates to opposite of MotM, I unfortunately have to cast it upon the MLS U22 Initiative forward.


MF, Martin Ojeda (59′), 6.5 — Ojeda replaced Cartagena as Orlando City had fallen behind by a goal and the Lions needed to create more offensive chances. While he did create one key pass, the Designated Player only found himself on the ball 22 times in his late minutes. He completed 66.7% of his 12 passes and completed his only long ball attempt, but was one-for-six with his crossing and didn’t attempt a shot. Defensively, Ojeda had one tackle and an interception.

D, Luca Petrasso (59′), 5.5 — The Canadian came on and just under 10 minutes later lost a 50-50 aerial battle in the channel which became a crossed ball to Magno that was headed in for the Pigeons second goal of the match. Petrasso took one shot that was blocked, but he had Torres standing right next to him, who would have been the better option. While he lost the only aerial that really mattered, he did win one of his own though, to go along with two tackles and a clearance. He missed his long ball and cross attempts but landed 88.9% of his 18 passes.

F, Duncan McGuire (59′), 5 — Big Dunc is back, but the Big Dunc Energy was not. With only six touches and no shots across more than half an hour, the striker should be disappointed with his impact. His only stats contributed were a successful long ball and an 83.3% success rate on just six passing attempts.

D, Michael Halliday (80′), N/A — The Homegrown right back came on to provide some late fresh legs while the Lions attempted to come from behind. It was a little too late for Halliday to make a real impact on his own. In his time, he managed 15 touches, won an aerial, passed at a 75% rate, and recorded a clearance.

MF, Gastón González (80′), N/A — The Argentinian winger made his return to the pitch after a lengthy injury period to garner a few minutes and get his legs back under him. His only shot was on target, which is hopefully a great sign for the future. He had seven total touches, completing both of his passes, but missed his only cross. He also gave up one foul.

That’s how I saw the individual performances on Wednesday night as Orlando City fell to expansion rival NYCFC. What did I get right/wrong in your view? Be sure to vote for your Man of the Match in our poll below and provide your thoughts in the comments section.

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