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Orlando City vs. Chicago Fire: Player Grades and Man of the Match

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Orlando City started out hot in its last match of the 2019 MLS season as Tesho Akindele scored early. But the team fell apart in the second half and lost to the Chicago Fire 5-2 at Exploria Stadium. The Fire scored three goals in seven minutes in the second half to ultimately seal the win. Here’s how everyone individually performed in the tough loss at home.

Starters

GK, Brian Rowe, 4 — He probably should have done better with the first goal. Rowe led with his feet to try and clear the initial cross but missed, and it led to Kyle Smith’s own goal. Rowe made a good save in the 30th minute. Brandt Bronico sent a good shot on frame and Rowe made the diving, fingertip save to keep the score tied at one. I’m not sure what he was doing on the fifth Fire goal, which popped up off his hands then he stood and watched Przemyslaw Frankowski walk by and head it in. He finished with five saves, but the big number here is the five goals allowed. Not all of them were his fault, but he did not have a good match.

D, Kamal Miller, 4 — Miller attempted to defend Aleksandar Katai in the 17th minute. Katai was no match though, and literally spun Miller around, before sending a great ball to C.J. Sapong that resulted in the tying goal. Katai toyed with Miller on the third Chicago goal, working his way into position and freeing himself up for the shot. The rookie had just one tackle in the match and struggled defensively.

D, Robin Jansson, 6 — Just after the half hour mark, he went up to clear a ball. Sapong pushed Jansson while he was in the air and the defender collapsed onto Kyle Smith’s knee. The medical team immediately came onto the field, and Jansson had to be stretchered off the field. He finished with 14 touches, one tackle, and two clearances. The good news is our Michael Citro talked to him after the game and Jansson said he was OK.

D, Kyle Smith, 3.5 — Smith scored the second goal of the match, but in the wrong net. He attempted to defend Sapong but was on the wrong side of the forward. Smith got back into the correct position but wasn’t able to clear the ball and scored an own goal. On Chicago’s third goal, Smith defended awfully as Katai toyed with him before scoring. Minutes later he dove in but missed the ball completely as Przemyslaw Frankowski back heeled the Fire’s fourth goal. Still, he was tied for the most tackles on the team (three) and clearances (four).

D, Ruan, 6 — Ruan did what he did best in the 11th minute. He intercepted a pass in the defensive end and then burst onto the other side of the field. He glided by Nicolás Gaitán, but then Francisco Calvo came in with a hard tackle and Ruan stayed down on the field. After the trainers looked at him, Ruan was able to get back up and stay in the game. He had a typical night making runs and finished with three tackles and a clearance. Offensively though, he did not add too much.

MF, Uri Rosell, 6 — Rosell had a very quiet first half, although he did finish with the most touches out of both teams (46). He also had the most passes (45). He continued that production in the second half, finishing with 83 passes and an impressive 89% passing accuracy. He had three shots, one on target, and one key pass. Defensively, Rosell had one tackle, one interception, and two clearances. He was quiet on the night, but solid in the middle of the field.

MF, Will Johnson, 6 — Johnson did an excellent job defending in the 27th minute. Jansson pushed up but lost the ball, and Johnson expertly dropped into the back line. Frankowski got the ball over the top and Johnson fought for a goal kick. He finished with two shots, one on target. He was one of the best defenders for the Lions with four clearances and a tackle before being subbed out for Sacha Kljestan. He had a 91% passing accuracy — second highest in the game behind Chicago’s Johan Kappelhof.

MF, Mauricio Pereyra, 6.5 — On the opening goal, Pereyra showed his vision and passing ability as he found Michel over the top, and was awarded an assist. In the 22nd minute, he gave a one touch pass from Nani that freed Akindele in the box. Akindele should have scored as it was a perfect pass from Pereyra. He had a fantastic dummy in the 42nd minute to feed the ball into Michel, a great play as there were three defenders around him. He had a brainless, lazy foul in the 69th minute but nothing came of the free kick. He ended the match with three key passes. His greatest ability is his vision and he was a key part of the match.

F, Nani, 4 — Orlando City started the match with plenty of energy and this was evident just seconds into the game when Nani committed a foul. He got a yellow card in stoppage time of the first half for yelling at the referee. He sent a perfect ball into Tesho in the 54th minute and the forward hit the post on the header, but was offside anyway. In the 93rd minute, he should’ve scored when one-on-one with Kenneth Kronholm but hit the right post. He had no key passes, just one shot on target, and was not a big factor in the match.

F, Tesho Akindele, 5 — He opened the scoring in the fifth minute. His shot hit the post, then Kenneth Kronholm’s heel, and trickled in the back of the net to get to 10 goals on the year — a career high. He should have had his brace in the 22nd minute. After a perfect pass from Pereyra, Akindele was one-on-one with Kronholm, but shot it right at the goalkeeper. That was about all he did in the match and was quiet the rest of the game. If not for his goal, his grade would be much lower. He finished with two shots, both on target, and two key passes.

F, Benji Michel, 7 (MotM) — The rookie made a good run in the second minute that ended with a tactical foul from Johan Kappelhof. He then immediately got into the box and just missed on the rebound. Minutes later, his tenacity played a part in the first goal. Later on, when he got his chance he put it in the back of the net. Kljestan played a great through ball and Michel beat Kronholm one-on-one to score. In the 85th minute, he should’ve score again but took one touch too many. Even when the match was well and decided, Michel still kept fighting, kept getting in good positions, and kept trying to find the back of the net. The rookie finished with five shots, four on target, three key passes, and was the most threatening player on the field.

Substitutes

D, Shane O’Neill (36’), 3 — The defender came on for Jansson and O’Neill didn’t have much work to do in the first half, his only defensive stats were two clearances. He did have 10 passes in those 10 minutes, all completed. His first true defensive action was in the 52nd minute. Frankowski had the ball inside the 18, and O’Neill did well to eliminate any real options and Frankowski could only shoot right at him. He should have done better on Sapong’s goal and he watched Frankowski score the fifth goal instead of challenging him on the goal line. The defender ended the match with four clearances and no tackles.

MF, Sacha Kljestan (55’), 5 — He missed a wide open goal just after coming on, albeit from a tight angle and just a couple of seconds after he’d threaded a perfect ball through the defense to Akindele. The ball came from his right and he took a left foot shot but hit the outside of the post. In 35 minutes he tied Pereyra and Michel for the team’s most chances created. He had a nice pass in the 74th minute and showed some clinical vision with a perfect assist to Michel. In addition to Kljestan’s three key passes, 19 total passes on 24 touches, and a 79% passing accuracy.

F, Chris Mueller (80’), N/A — A few minutes after coming on, he sent a cross from Kljestan back across the box to Michel with his head. Michel couldn’t finish but it was an excellent headed pass from Mueller. Still, Mueller was in alone and decided to pass instead of shoot. An odd decision from the second-year player. He had no shots and four passes on five touches.


That’s how I saw things. What did you think? Be sure to vote for your Man of the Match in the poll below.

Polling Closed

PlayerVotes
Will Johnson4
Mauricio Pereyra1
Benji Michel11
Uri Rosell12
Other2


Orlando City

Orlando City Can Build Valuable Momentum in April

The last two games of April present a good chance for the Lions to keep building momentum ahead of a challenging May.

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Dan MacDonald, The Mane Land

Orlando City got back to winning ways last Saturday and started a mini-undefeated streak in the process, as the Lions have now gone three games on the bounce without tasting defeat. OCSC has two more games to play during the month of April, and the scheduling gods have given the men in purple a chance to keep building on the recent run of good form, as a tricky and packed May schedule looms on the horizon. The last two April fixtures won’t be easy by any stretch, but an opportunity has presented itself if the Lions can play well and take advantage of it.

First, let’s turn our attention to Saturday’s game against CF Montreal up in Canada. Montreal currently has a record of 3-3-1 which is good for 10 points and eighth place in the Eastern Conference. These two teams faced each other in the very first game of the season, and it ended as a 0-0 draw, thanks largely in part to some shaky finishing on Orlando’s part and a couple excellent Pedro Gallese saves. Since then, Montreal has defeated a struggling FC Dallas team, an Inter Miami team that has looked equal parts unbeatable and extremely vulnerable at the back, and an FC Cincinnati side that so far has struggled to replace the goals of Brandon Vazquez. In other words, the wins haven’t come over bad teams, (aside from maybe Dallas) but rather teams that have had flawed, uneven starts to the season.

To be fair, many of the same criticisms could be leveled at Orlando City’s record. OCSC’s wins have come against Austin FC and D.C. United — two teams with leaky defenses that have each had uneven starts to the season — and the Lions have suffered losses that have ranged from uninspiring against Atlanta, to abhorrent against Miami. Where the two teams differ is that Orlando started the year battling on two fronts and then had key players missing through a combination of injury and international call-ups afterward. The Lions now have a nearly clean bill of health and looked much more cohesive with Wilder Cartagena and Cesar Araujo partnered in midfield once more — a welcome sight after some of the struggles that were endured when one or both were missing at various times.

The Canadian side also hasn’t kept a clean sheet since that opening game of the season against the Lions, a fact that could bode well for an Orlando side which has scored six goals in its last three games. As long as the defense can tighten up and not make the sorts of mental errors that led to goals against D.C. and the New York Red Bulls, there will be opportunities at the other end of the field for an attacking corps that has done a better job at putting the ball in the net than we saw during the first game of the season. In short, the game is a winnable one, and while getting road results in MLS is never easy, OCSC should feel reasonably confident about its chances to get points on its trip north of the border.

That leaves Toronto FC’s visit to the Purple Palace on Saturday, April 27. The Reds currently sit one spot below CF Montreal, in ninth place, with a record of 3-4-1 and 10 points. TFC’s victories have been over a New England team that has been struggling mightily, a Charlotte FC side that has had a decent but slightly inconsistent start to the year, and an Atlanta United outfit that can have the same said of it as Charlotte. The wins have all been solid ones, and the team looked pretty good in those three games.

On the flip side of things, the last of those wins came on March 23, with Toronto dropping its last three games in a row and conceding 10 goals in the process. They’ve got the second leakiest defense of any of the nine teams in the playoff places, while being tied with Cincinnati for scoring the fewest goals.

Then there’s the issue of player availability. The Reds’ injury list is a long one, with six players currently listed as out and an additional one as questionable. Among those listed out are Lorenzo Insigne, Richie Laryea, Brandon Servania, and Shane O’Neill. In other words, they’re likely to be missing guys that are key contributors for the team when healthy, and part of the recent losing streak can be attributed to dealing with the injury bug that’s bit the team with a vengeance. Playing on the road without a number of important key players is rarely a recipe for success, and Orlando City should have another good chance to pick up three points.


Now, this isn’t to say that taking all six points from these games is a foregone conclusion. MLS is a tricky league to get results in, and we have no way of knowing how the fortunes of Orlando, Montreal, and Toronto will change in the next eight days. But given the leaky defenses of the two Canadian sides, TFC’s injury situation, and Orlando City seemingly starting to find a better patch of form, the Lions have an opportunity to keep picking up points and climbing the Eastern Conference standings. Vamos Orlando!

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Lion Links: 4/19/24

Orlando Pride host the San Diego Wave, Orlando City B faces Crown Legacy FC, Europa League action, and more.

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Image courtesy of Orlando Pride

Happy Friday! Make sure to get your night plans in order as both the Orlando Pride and Orlando City B have games tonight. Figure out your drink of choice, charge those devices if you don’t plan on heading to the stadium for the Pride game, and knock out any chores before things get rolling. It should be a fun day, so let’s get it started with some links!

Orlando Pride Host the San Diego Wave Tonight

After earning their first win last week in Utah, the Orlando Pride are back in the City Beautiful for tonight’s game against the San Diego Wave at 8 p.m. The Pride’s four-game unbeaten run is on the line and will be put to the test against a Wave team that has four points from three games. San Diego has only scored two goals this season, but it has also secured a pair of clean sheets so far. The biggest storyline heading into the match is whether or not Barbra Banda will make her Pride debut. Hopefully Orlando can light it up at home and keep former Pride forward Alex Morgan and the rest of the Wave’s offense in check.

Orlando City B Takes On Crown Legacy FC

The Young Lions are also in action tonight at 7:30 p.m., with a match against Crown Legacy FC in North Carolina. Crown Legacy is only a point behind OCB, but is still searching for its first win of this MLS NEXT Pro season. OCB has played every game away from the Orlando area so far and ground out a 1-1 draw against Philadelphia Union II last weekend. Orlando hasn’t won a game since its season opener on March 16, but has been proven capable of getting points on the road. Wilfredo Rivera and Yutaro Tsukada linked up for the equalizer in that match, so hopefully they can keep that momentum rolling into tonight’s game.

Americans to Watch This Weekend

European soccer seasons and tournaments are nearing their ends and there are many Americans in important games this weekend. Haji Wright’s heroics put Coventry City into the FA Cup semifinals, and he will have a chance to impress again on Sunday against Manchester United. Elsewhere in England, Fulham duo Antonee Robinson and Tim Ream could put a dent in Liverpool’s title hopes, while Nottingham Forest’s Matt Turner and Giovanni Reyna will square off against Everton, as both sides aim to avoid relegation. Over in Italy, AC Milan duo Christian Pulisic and Yunus Musah will try to stop Inter Milan from claiming the Serie A title in a rivalry match at San Siro. There’s also a showdown between Americans in the Scottish Cup semifinals, with Celtic’s Cameron Carter-Vickers going up against Aberdeen and Dante Polvara.

Europa League Quarterfinals Come to a Close

The Europa League quarterfinals are done and dusted and only four teams remain in contention for some silverware. West Ham United took the lead against Bayer Leverkusen, but couldn’t overcome the aggregate deficit and the German club advanced. Leverkusen also scored a late equalizer to make it a 1-1 draw and extend its unbeaten streak to 44 games. Marseille scored at home against Benfica to send the game to extra time and then won the eventual penalty shootout. Atalanta did enough in a 1-0 loss to Liverpool to advance on aggregate, with Liverpool’s lone goal coming from an early Mohamed Salah penalty kick. AS Roma is also through to the semifinals after a 2-1 win against AC Milan, despite a red card in the first half. In the semifinals, Marseille will face Atalanta and Leverkusen will take on Roma.

Free Kicks

  • Houston Dynamo Head Coach Ben Olsen has agreed to a new contract that will keep him with the club through 2026. Olsen has quietly dragged the Dynamo out of the Western Conference’s basement and won last year’s U.S. Open Cup as well.
  • New York Red Bulls defender Andres Reyes was suspended an additional match for violent conduct in the team’s match against the Chicago Fire. This means Reyes will miss tomorrow’s match against LAFC and the home game against the Vancouver Whitecaps on April 27.
  • American left back Jorge Villafana is hanging up his cleats. He won the MLS Cup with the Portland Timbers back in 2015 and the Concacaf Gold Cup with the U.S. in 2017.
  • Replays won’t be a part of the FA Cup for the next six years. This will ease some of the schedule congestion for English Premier League teams, but it denies lower-division sides the chance at more revenue.
  • The folks over at Stars and Stripes FC shined a spotlight on forward Jubilo Iwata, who currently leads Japan’s J1 League in scoring after eight games. It’s always cool to learn more about some of the lesser-known players in the U.S. player pool.
  • An NFL game between the Philadelphia Eagles and Green Bay Packers will be played in Brazil at Corinthians Arena. However, there’s an unofficial rule at the stadium that green can’t be worn, as it is the color of Corinthians rival, so we’ll see if that’s adhered to come September.
  • Megan Rapinoe and Sue Bird’s production company will adapt Cleat Cute, a romance novel by Meryl Wilsner about love between teammates on a women’s soccer team. As someone who’s read it and loved it, I’m pretty excited for the show to say the least.

That’s all I have for you today. Stay hydrated and enjoy the games today. Go Orlando!

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Orlando City

Orlando City at CF Montreal: Three Keys to Victory

What does Orlando City need to do on the road against CF Montreal to take home all three points ?

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Dan MacDonald, The Mane Land

Orlando City opened the season against CF Montreal, playing to a 0-0 draw at Inter&Co Stadium back in February. Now, the Lions head to the Great White North to play the pesky Canadian club again. There’s no Concacaf Champions Cup competition to worry about this time, so hopefully Orlando City can get a victory.

What does Orlando City need to do to follow up the D.C. United victory with another win?

Just Say No

Outscoring your opponents while giving up two goals is all well and good, but outscoring your opponents while also keeping a clean sheet is much better. Orlando City has given up 13 goals over seven matches. It’s actually worse than that considering that the club has two clean sheets meaning those 13 goals came in just five matches. The Lions need to do better at not conceding goals.

Of course, one of those clean sheets came against Montreal to start the season, and the entire defense is seemingly healthy and ready to go. Our old foe Josef Martinez is always a threat and Matias Coccaro has three goals for Montreal so far this season. Stopping them is crucial. If Orlando City can maintain the same defensive discipline it showed in the previous match against Montreal, it will make earning points on the road much easier.

Designated Player Goals

Orlando City has scored seven goals so far this season. Duncan McGuire leads the team with three goals, thanks to his goal last week. Do you know who hasn’t scored yet? If you said any of Orlando City’s Designated Players, you would be correct. I’m not going to ring any emergency bells just yet, but it’d be a lot cooler if Luis Muriel, Martin Ojeda, or Facundo Torres scored a goal this week.

I think they are all close to breaking out. Torres has scored this year, just not in the MLS regular season. Muriel has been getting closer each match, and is still contributing in other ways. The same can be said of Ojeda. My point is that the goals are coming. Perhaps a trip to another country is exactly what they need to get off the mark.

The Battle on the Wings

Orlando City will be playing against former Lion Ruan. He lines up on the right for Montreal and will be a challenge for either Rafael Santos or Kyle Smith, depending on who gets the start. Of course, if Ivan Angulo is playing in his usual role on the left side of Orlando City’s attack, there could be some interesting races between the two speedy players.

I think that the other side of the field is where the match might be won or lost. Since Orlando City fell out of the Concacaf Champions Cup, the team has been on a more regular schedule. That has allowed Dagur Dan Thorhallsson to regain his form in the right fullback position for the Lions. He scored a goal last week, has an assist on the season, four crosses, and 10 key passes. He is an integral part of Orlando City’s attack and if he can win the battles against Raheem Edwards and Joaquin Sosa on the right side of Montreal’s lineup, he could have another big night.


That is what I will be looking for Saturday night. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below. Vamos Orlando!

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