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Orlando City vs. New England Revolution, 2019 U.S. Open Cup: Final Score 2-1 as Lions Win in Extra Time

Lions are through to the quarterfinals thanks to goals by Benji Michel and Tesho Akindele.



Nick Leyva, The Mane Land

Survive and advance is a good description of what Orlando City did tonight on a rainy evening at Exploria Stadium. The Lions played lethargic soccer for nearly 90 minutes, then scored twice in extra time and held on against a furious rally to nip the New England Revolution, 2-1.

Benji Michel opened his Orlando City account and Tesho Akindele added some much-needed insurance before New England scored late and came close to equalizing numerous times. The Lions are through to the U.S. Open Cup quarterfinals and will host New York City FC at 7:30 p.m. on July 10.

“Obviously, very pleased to get through,” O’Connor said after the game. “I thought it was a very tough game, as we knew it would be. Credit to New England. I thought they put up a great fight. I thought it was a very difficult game for both football teams, back and forth. But I thought the heart and the commitment that the players showed was outstanding.”

O’Connor put together a similar lineup to last week’s match in Memphis, but starting fullbacks Joao Moutinho and Ruan returned to the starting XI, pushing Shane O’Neill and Alex De John to the bench. Other than that, the personnel were only different on the bench, with Nani, Kyle Smith, and Michel dressing, along with last week’s reserves, Brian Rowe and Carlos Ascues.

The first half was as sloppy as the Orlando weather throughout the day, with neither team doing a whole lot. The Lions were slow and plodding, and as a result, New England easily picked off a pass nearly every time City approached the final third. The Revolution were easily the more motivated club for the first 45 minutes and that showed in their 7-2 advantage in shots, even though New England failed to put any on target (Orlando managed one).

Teal Bunbury got the game’s first chance three minutes in, sending a shot that Adam Grinwis parried, but it looked to be heading wide anyway. Cristian Penilla sailed a shot over the bar four minutes later.

Orlando’s first shot came off a counterattack that put Cristian Higuita into a good spot but the Colombian didn’t get much power on his effort and it was an easy save for Matt Turner in the eighth minute.

Santiago Patino fired a header wide off a free kick cross in the 16th minute and Orlando’s chances were done for the half.

Most of the rest of the first half was played between the boxes with the teams trading forays forward only to turn it over when they came toward goal. New England looked the far more likely team to score, getting deeper into the Lions’ end overall.

Late in the first half, the Lions tried to send a long ball to Higuita and Jalil Anibaba got to the aerial ball first, colliding with the Orlando midfielder in the New England box. He won the ball cleanly but Higuita was injured on the play and had to be subbed off with an apparent leg injury.

The half ended 0-0 with Orlando holding 57.4% of the possession and out-passing the Revs 86%-79%.

New England continued to get the better opportunities in the second half and it seemed like only a matter of time before the Revs would cash in. Sacha Kljestan blocked a shot by Anibaba off a corner kick in the 57th minute to deny a goal. Moments later, Dillon Powers arrived to make a vital block.

After a couple of Orlando crosses couldn’t find anyone in the area, a cross to an open Penilla looked like it would give New England the lead but the Revs forward couldn’t set his feet properly and the chance was wasted in the 66th minute.

After a weak shot by Chris Mueller fell right to Turner, New England nearly scored in the 75th minute. Grinwis did well to get down to deny a wicked cross that was back-heeled on frame by Bunbury.

Juan Fernando Caicedo hit the post four minutes later, then tracked down the rebound and missed wide.

Orlando City got a late flurry despite the second half being all New England, which coincided with Michel entering the game in the 81st minute. Akindele smashed a shot off the post five minutes later as the Lions started to find some energy. The rebound almost fell for Michel, but he was offside, and Ruan followed with a shot that didn’t matter, but it was right at Turner anyway.

Moments later, Powers fired and forced a great save by Turner, who committed to his right and had to reach back to his left to make the save.

The full time whistle blew and the game headed to extra time for two additional 15-minute halves, still scoreless. The Revs held a 14-7 lead in shots after 90 minutes but Orlando got three on target to New England’s one. The Lions held 56% possession and an advantage in passing accuracy (84%-79%).

In the first minute of the extra period, Michel got down the right. With no one else in the area he fired a bad-angle shot that forced Turner into a save. The Revs came back the other way and fizzed a cross through the six but no one could get a touch on it.

Michel’s earlier foray was a sign of things to come. The Lions broke through in the 96th minute when Moutinho got down the left and fizzed a cross in that deflected off the back of Michel’s foot. It fell for Carlos Ascues, who shot. Turner saved it, but Michel was there for the put-back to open his Orlando account and make it 1-0.

“I mean, wow. It’s an amazing feeling,” Michel said of scoring his first professional goal. “I’ve been dreaming of this since I was younger, watching the club and then thinking about me scoring in front of these amazing fans, and I finally achieved it. I scored my first goal in front of this club and I’m still just…thinking about it. It’s like amazing to me.”

Ascues freed himself up for a shot in the 100th minute but it was deflected out for a corner kick by the defense. A minute later, the ball fell to Akindele’s feet in the box. He was standing dead still and couldn’t get any power on his shot, but it deflected off Andrew Farrell and wrong-footed Turner, trickling across the goal line to make it 2-0.

After what seemed an interminable amount of stoppage time, the Lions held a two-goal advantage into the extra time break.

Nani nearly made it 3-0 just after the restart on what would have been a truly spectacular goal. The Portuguese star tried to catch Turner off his line from near midfield and the ball sailed just over the bar and landed on the roof of the net.

Orlando then went into conservation mode more out of self-preservation than sitting on the lead. Powers went off with what appeared to be a groin injury or cramps and limped off the field, being replaced by Alex De John. Akindele could hardly walk let alone run for the final 10 minutes.

As a result, New England sent numbers forward and was able to sustain some pressure over the final five minutes. The Revs broke through in the 117th minute on what seemed like their 20th dangerous cross of the game. Carles Gil sent a back-post ball that second-half sub Justin Rennicks got onto and nodded home to make it a game with just minutes remaining.

The Lions got nervy after that but were able to just see out the final few minutes, with Bunbury heading just off target in stoppage time. The whistle mercifully sounded and City had a trip to the quarterfinals.

“Credit to our back line,” Grinwis said of his defense’s work on the night. “I mean, even Joao Moutinho, who’s one of the shortest guys out there and he’s winning balls in the air left and right. I think we weathered the storm well, because they were just putting balls in on us left and right. It was tricky on the pitch and I thought (the defense) did really well to manage that.”

Orlando saw 52% of the final possession and was the better passing team (83%-80%) but the Revs fired more shots (22-15). The Lions, however, were the more accurate side, getting eight attempts on frame to just three for New England.

Orlando City returns to MLS action next Wednesday, June 26 at D.C. United.

Lion Links

Lion Links: 12/2/23

The Pride sign a new keeper, the MLS playoffs continue, the USWNT is in action, and more.



Dan MacDonald, The Mane Land

Salutations on this satisfactory Saturday, Mane Landers. We’re heading for the home stretch of 2023, and what a year it has been. Make sure that you are catching all of our Season in Review articles for both the Orlando City and Orlando Pride players. Things tend to happen personnel-wise in December, so be prepared. Until then, let’s check out today’s links. But first, let’s wish a happy 26th birthday to Orlando City goalkeeper Mason Stajduhar.

Pride Sign a New Keeper

The Orlando Pride signed Finnish goalkeeper Sofia Manner from FC Honka of Finland’s top flight, the Kansallinen Liiga. With the addition of Manner, the Pride have four keepers on the roster heading into 2024. Manner is expected to compete for the starting job, though the same could be said of both Anna Moorhouse and Carly Nelson. It is unlikely all four netminders will be on the Pride once the season starts. Manner has international experience and was the best keeper in the Kansallinen Liiga.

MLS Conference Finals Tonight

I wouldn’t blame you if you decided not to watch the remainder of the MLS playoffs after last weekend’s disappointing result. However, if you are going see how it all sorts out, you might want to study up on the matches. We’re all too aware that the Columbus Crew will be facing FC Cincinnati to see which club wins the Eastern Conference. Over on the other side, LAFC will take on the Houston Dynamo to determine the Western Conference champion.

MLS Player Moves

As the playoffs come to a close, the signings and transfers around the league are ramping up, but who will stay and who will go? New York Red Bulls midfielder Dru Yearwood is heading to Nashville SC as reported by The Athletic (paywalled) since Dax McCarthy is out of contract there and won’t be returning.

The Philadelphia Union have signed midfielder Jesus Bueno to a new three-year contract through 2026 with an option for 2027. Meanwhile, Gustavo Bou won’t be returning to the New England Revolution. So, um…maybe he’d like to come south and score goals for Orlando City rather than against the Lions? Before anyone gets too crazy, it should be on a non-DP deal.

USWNT Hosts China

The USWNT is back in friendly action against China this afternoon in Ft. Lauderdale at 3 p.m. and then on Tuesday, Dec. 5 at 8 p.m. in Frisco TX. Interim head coach Twila Kilgore will be in charge since newly-named Head Coach Emma Hayes doesn’t start until the 2023-2024 Women’s Super League season in England is over. Hayes is the current head coach of Chelsea FC Women’s. This is the first match between the two teams since 2018, and a lot has changed. The USWNT has been very solid on defense in 2023, allowing only two goals back in the SheBelieves Cup.

Free Kicks

  • If you haven’t heard of a “sin bin,” think of it like a penalty box in hockey. The idea has been getting a runout in lower league matches in English football by the International Football Association Board (IFAB) with some good results. It’s not yet confirmed, but MLS may institute the change in 2024. The idea is to reduce dissension by having a player sit for 10 minutes during a match. Tottenham manager Ange Postecoglou has spoken out against the idea. What do you think of the concept?
  • Real Salt Lake has promoted Kurt Schmid to sporting director and interim chief soccer officer.
  • Cristiano Ronaldo will have to deal with a $1 billion class-action lawsuit for his role in promoting NFTs for Binance. Maybe that’s why he signed for Al-Nassr in the Saudi Pro League?
  • Speaking of the Saudi Pro League, it looks like Mohamed Salah may not be leaving EPL side Liverpool anytime soon. The prolific striker is looking for a new contract to stay at Anfield.
  • I’ll take things Pedro Gallese would not do for $400, Alex.

That will do it for today. Please go forth and enjoy your weekend!

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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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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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