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Orlando City

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



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.


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.


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

Will Johnson4
Mauricio Pereyra1
Benji Michel11
Uri Rosell12

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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