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Orlando City

Orlando City vs. Philadelphia Union: Final Score 2-2 as Lions Come From Behind Then Blow Late Lead

A draw feels good if you win the point late, but bad when you throw two points away late.



Image courtesy of Orlando City SC

Major League Soccer ordered that last night’s postponed match at Talen Energy Stadium be played the next day, and it was apparent that the Lions weren’t willing participants. After an extra night in Philadelphia, Orlando City came out of the gate lethargic, fell behind early, came from behind to take the lead late, and then threw that lead away even later in a crazy 2-2 draw against the Union.

Marco Fabian put the hosts ahead early, but Dom Dwyer’s incredible header drew the Lions level on a free kick delivery by second-half sub Nani. Santiago Patino came on for Dwyer and scored what appeared to be the game winner with his first touch, only to see Kacper Przybylko score in the 90th minute to steal two of those three points away from the Lions.

Orlando (6-9-4, 22 points) is winless (0-1-1) in July after a 4-1 run in June in all competitions. The Lions simply got overmatched and outclassed by Philadelphia (10-5-6, 36 points) for much of the game, but made the most of some late set pieces to at least be in position for a road win over the Eastern Conference’s top team. Orlando City has now taken points in six of 10 road matches this season.

James O’Connor stayed with the lineup announced Saturday night.

Orlando City hadn’t even yet possessed the ball from the opening kickoff when Fabian opened the scoring in the fourth minute. After the Union pinged the ball around the back for a while, they advanced down their right side and Fafa Picault was given plenty of space to cross in for Fabian — under zero pressure himself in the area from Alex De John — to just help into the corner of the goal with a slight nod.

Orlando should have equalized in the seventh minute. Uri Rosell sent a ball that fell for Dwyer’s perfectly timed run, but the striker needed a few steps to control it. Jack Elliott closed him down just as he prepared to fire and looked to bother Dwyer just enough to fire it at Andre Blake, who saved it easily.

Carlos Ascues gifted the ball to Philadelphia with a turnover and Przybylko came forward, cut across the back line and fired a shot past Shane O’Neill that Brian Rowe saved.

Haris Medunjanin fired a shot just a foot wide in the 19th minute after finding too much room at the top of the half circle.

Around the half-hour mark Orlando changed to a 4-3-3, moving O’Neill out to right back and pushing Kyle Smith up into the midfield. The Lions got a bit more possession but it didn’t really change things much, aside from calming the Union threat a bit. Orlando still never looked a threat to score or even to be able to get into position to become dangerous at all.

Fabian tried a long-range effort at the 30-minute mark but it wasn’t close to the target. A minute later, Danilo Acosta found Dwyer up top with a long cross but the forward headed well over the target under pressure from former Lion Aurelien Collin.

The last decent chance of the opening period went to Philadelphia off a corner in the 35th minute Przybylko had the ball fall at his feet on a corner kick scrum and fired on target but Rowe tipped it over.

The lethargic half finally came to an end with the hosts still holding their early 1-0 lead. Shots were in favor of Philadelphia, 7-2 (3-1 on target). The Union held a whopping 64% of the possession, which had been as high as 75% around 20 minutes into the match, and Philly out-passed the Lions, 89%-80%.

The second half started out with a couple of half chances for Orlando. Smith drilled a shot from distance way over the crossbar, and then Acosta crossed in behind Dwyer, who tried a bicycle kick but could only pop it up.

After that, the Union had a protracted spell of possession that ended with a shot by Picault that Rowe stopped in the 54th minute. Philadelphia didn’t stop coming, however, with Medunjanin firing over the bar again in the 57th minute and then Picault firing a cross from Przybylko straight at Rowe in the 58th.

On one of Orlando’s rare buildups, Dwyer found space outside the box, turned, and fired a laser just wide to the right of goal in the 60th.

The game changed in the 64th minute when Nani subbed on for O’Neill, who had a tough game after several hard collisions. O’Neill went to the locker room and Smith dropped from the midfield to right back.

Two minutes later, Benji Michel made a nice run up the right side, holding off Kai Wagner, who eventually fouled him, setting up a free kick from long range out on the right. Nani stepped up to deliver the set piece and picked out Dwyer, who redirected the cross inside the far post with the back of his head to makt it 1-1 in the 67th minute.

It was Dwyer’s second goal in his last three appearances, with the lone scoreless game being Wednesday when he got a run-out while his team was down two men.

With the score tied and both teams a bit tired, O’Connor brought on Chris Mueller for Michel in the 74th minute and Santiago Patino for Dwyer in the 80th, just after a Smith cross attempt had been knocked out for a corner. Nani delivered a ball into the box that Mueller nodded toward goal, but right at Blake, who fought it off. Patino swooped in and tapped home the rebound with his first touch to make it 2-1 with just nine minutes left in normal time. It was the rookie’s first MLS goal.

Philadelphia made some offense-for-defense subs and curiously won a free kick after Ascues cleanly cleared the ball in front of Collin, who was ducking down to try to head a low bounce. Collin bundled into Ascues after the Peruvian had cleared the ball and a free kick in a dangerous spot was awarded to the Union. Fortunately, Medunjanin’s free kick was blocked by the wall and Alejandro Bedoya headed the cross from the ensuing corner kick over the bar after Rowe had fallen down on the play.

The hosts leveled the game in the 90th minute. Philadelphia overloaded the right side of Orlando’s defense and made the most of it. Patino collapsed on Anthony Fontana, who was already covered by Mueller. Fontana slipped a pass to Matthew Real on his right and Smith was forced to step up, leaving space for Przybylko to run into, out-pacing Ascues with his run. Real found Przybylko, who slotted into the far corner to tie the game.

The Lions still had plenty to do to lock down that point in the five minutes of stoppage time. The added time only produced one clear-cut chance but it was a doozy and it was for the Union.

Real was all alone on the left after a throw-in and sent in a dangerous cross met by the head of an onrushing Elliott. Rowe made the save of the game to keep it out with a strong left hand and preserved the point for Orlando.

The Lions were out-shot, 21-7 (7-4 on target), out-possessed (62%-38%), and out-passed (89%-77%), but Philadelphia couldn’t out-score them. Considering City trailed the game for an hour and didn’t appear to present any real threat for much of the match, the point is perhaps fortunate, but it will feel to the team like points lost due to the 90th-minute equalizer.

The Lions are back in action at home on Wednesday night in U.S. Open Cup action when New York City FC visits Exploria Stadium. Orlando hosts Columbus next Saturday as the Lions try to get back on track in league play.

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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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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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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