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Orlando City vs. Montreal Impact: Player Grades and Man of the Match

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Orlando City will return home after coming away with a 1-0 win over the Montreal Impact in New Jersey. New York City FC’s 5-2 win over the New York Red Bulls at the same time made those three points essential as the Lions look to claim a home game in the 2020 MLS Cup playoffs.

It was a solid performance by the whole team as the Lions secured their fifth clean sheet of the season — fourth in regular-season play — and second against the Impact. Here’s how I saw the performance by the Orlando City players in this game.

Starters

GK, Pedro Gallese, 7 — There wasn’t a lot for the Peruvian international to do on this night as the Impact only had five shots on target and most were directly at him. However, a second half injury time shot by Bojan was headed just inside the post before El Pulpo came flying in to make the one-handed save. Considering that it would’ve been the equalizing goal, that save itself is enough to call this an excellent performance by Orlando City’s number one.

D, Kamal Miller, 5.5 — Kamal Miller wasn’t as involved in the attack as Kyle Smith or Ruan but did have a solid game defensively. He ended the game with a pair of tackles, an interception, and a clearance. He only played 56 minutes in this one but had another solid performance, contributing to an excellent defensive night for the Lions.

D, Antonio Carlos, 6 — This was a solid game by all defensive players and Antonio Carlos was no different. The team has been lifted by the Brazilian’s return to the lineup and he proved once again why in this game. He made three interceptions in the back and had eight clearances. Additionally, he blocked three shots. Carlos played the role of cleanup in this game, often being the last man defending to halt a Montreal attack and he was excellent in that role.

D, Robin Jansson, 6.5 — Similar to the other defenders, Robin Jansson had a great performance. The defense was tasked with keeping the 1-0 lead provided by Daryl Dike in the 39th minute and they did that well. The biggest moment for Jansson, which puts him a little above the other defenders in my mind, came when Bojan made his way into the box and fired on goal. It appeared as though the ball was headed toward the net before the Swede came flying in to make the block. While Gallese might’ve been there, Jansson made sure that the lead was protected. In the end, Jansson had seven clearances and two key blocked shots in the game.

D, Kyle Smith, 6 — Kyle Smith has had an up and down season in 2020. Some games he’s been solid while he’s looked like a liability in others. Tonight was a good performance for the right back, who moved to left back when Kamal Miller was replaced by Ruan. Early in the game, Smith got into the attack on the right, with a pair of crosses. But he factored most in his contribution to the clean sheet. He ended the game with four tackles, two interceptions, four clearances, and a blocked shot.

MF, Benji Michel, 5.5 — Benji Michel wasn’t as involved in the attack as he has been in other games but did come away with two shots on target. He only touched the ball 43 times, which is less than you would like from an attacking player with his ability. He completed 76% of his passes but wasn’t really involved in many dangerous attacks.

MF, Mauiricio Pereyra, 7 (MotM) — Mauricio Pereyra has been missing the last few games with an injury and it’s been noticeable. The midfielder was fantastic in this game and made the biggest play of the night. In the 39th minute, he played a perfect through ball for Daryl Dike, allowing the big striker to put home the winning goal. In 56 minutes, he completed 80% of his 35 passes, including two key passes in the attack. His passing accuracy and presence in the midfield was influential in the team being able to claim all three points.

MF, Sebas Mendez, 6 — It was another solid performance by Sebas Mendez, who has been a key defensive piece for Orlando City in 2020. He made five tackles on the night and had an interception in this game. He nearly provided an insurance goal when he dispossessed Bojan to launch a counter-attack but Clement Diop made the save on the final ball. When Mendez had the ball, he completed 91.6% of his 71 passes, helping to start an attack on several occasions.

MF, Andres Perea, 6 — Similar to Mendez, Andres Perea had a solid game in a defensive midfield role. He had three interceptions and four clearances, helping the Lions remain in fourth place in the Eastern Conference. He made a total of 81 passes going forward and completed 86.4% of those passes.

FW, Daryl Dike, 6.5 — The rookie striker has been the big man up top that Orlando City has been missing since Cyle Larin left. He scored his third goal in three games in this one but it’s the play itself that was impressive. After using his body to shield the defender from the ball and going to ground, he quickly got up and made a nice run for Pereyra. His shot was perfectly placed to the back post for the game’s lone goal. He wasn’t that involved in his 84 minutes, only touching the ball 34 times and taking two shots, but his job is to score and he did that once again.

FW, Tesho Akindele, 5 — Tesho Akindele has had some great games this season but this wasn’t one of them. He wasn’t invisible, nor was he a liability, but he didn’t make the impact you want a veteran striker to make. He completed 81.8% of his 33 passes in this game and took two shots, with one on target. While he touched the ball more times than Dike and had the same number of shots, it was the conversion that separated the performance by the two.

Substitutes

MF, Junior Urso (56’), 5 — Despite coming on for 34 minutes, Junior Urso didn’t make that much of an impact on the game. He touched the ball 25 times and completed 75% of his 20 passes. He made two key passes in the second half but his primary goal was to help defend the team’s 1-0 lead. He was successful in that as they got the win but only recorded one clearance defensively.

D, Ruan (56’), 5.5 — When Ruan came into the game, the Lions were still looking to tack on a second goal. They nearly did in the 80th minute when a break gave the Lions their second chance. Unfortunately, the break was too slow. This wasn’t the fault of Ruan, as his teammates didn’t utilize his speed by sending him into space. By the time he reached the ball, Diop was able to come off his line to make the stop. A minute later he found Michel but the midfielder wasn’t able to get much on the shot. It was a solid 34 minutes for Ruan but less impact than he probably would’ve wanted.

MF, Alexander Alvarado (76’), 5.5 — Alexander Alvarado came on for Akindele with 14 minutes remaining, looking to help seal the win. He made five passes in his 14 minutes, completing each one successfully. At the point of his entrance, the team was defending multiple attacks by the Impact and Alvarado helped. He made two interceptions that helped the team clear the ball and maintain the one-goal lead.

MF, Joey DeZart (85’), N/A — With five minutes remaining, Orlando City made a pair of substitutions, one of which was Joey DeZart for Michel. DeZart only touched the ball three times in those five minutes and recorded one clearance.

F, Matheus Aias (85’), N/A — A late change for Dike, Matheus Aias came on for the final five minutes of the game. He only touched the ball four times and passed once in the short time he was on the field.


That’s the way I saw Orlando City’s individual performances. Let us know what you thought about each Lion and don’t forget to vote on the Man of the Match.

Polling Closed

PlayerVotes
Pedro Gallese5
Mauricio Pereyra38
Daryl Dike12
Robin Jansson1
Antonio Carlos11
Other2

Lion Links

Lion Links: 2/20/24

The Wall sells out, Robin Jansson earns recognition, Concacaf W Gold cup preview, and more.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Happy Tuesday, everyone! We’re now just one day away from the first competitive Orlando City game of the year, and it can’t get here fast enough. As usual, we have plenty to cover this morning, so let’s jump straight into it.

The Wall Sells Out for Orlando City’s Season Opener

The Wall, the supporters section of Orlando City’s stadium, has sold out of single-match tickets ahead of Saturday’s home opener against CF Montreal. Limited tickets for the match are still available for the rest of the stadium, and hopefully it will fully sell out for the first match of the season. This Saturday will be the 10th consecutive time in which the Lions start their MLS season at home. It should be a great match and a chance for Orlando to get its season off to a good start between Concacaf Champions Cup matches against Cavalry FC.

Robin Jansson Praised as a Top Defender in MLS

Orlando City center back Robin Jansson was recognized as one of the best center backs in MLS by MLSsoccer.com‘s Joseph Lowery. The 32-year-old has been an integral part of Orlando’s defense since joining the league in 2019 and should continue anchoring the team’s back line this season. Not only is he excellent in terms of defense, but the Beefy Swede can also make an impact on offense with his passing and surprising runs up the field. Jansson is one of the most consistent defenders in the league and agreed to a new contract with the club earlier this month.

MLS Transfer News Roundup

The 2024 Major League Soccer season might kick off tomorrow, but transfers are still flying thick and fast, which means we have things to catch up on. We start with one of the teams opening the season tomorrow, Inter Miami, which has officially transferred midfielder Gregore to Botafogo in the Brazilian top flight. We move on to NYCFC, which has completed the signing of striker Jovan Mijatović from Red Star Belgrade. The 18-year-old Serbian youth international has inked a deal that runs through the 2028 season, with an option year for 2029. We finish up with the Houston Dynamo, which have signed Coco Carasquilla to a contract extension. The Panamanian midfielder’s deal now runs through the 2025 season and has option years for 2026 and 2027.

Concacaf W Gold Cup Preview

The inaugural Concacaf W Gold Cup kicks off later today, so make sure you get up to speed on everything you need to know about the competition. The United States Women’s National Team has been grouped with Argentina, the Dominican Republic, and Mexico, and will be looking for a strong showing following a disappointing campaign at last summer’s World Cup. The tournament will feature a total of 12 teams, with eight Concacaf representatives and four from CONMEBOL. The top two finishers in each of the three groups advance to the knockout round, along with the top two third-place finishers. The USWNT begin play tonight against the Dominican Republican at 10:15 p.m. from Dignity Health Sports Park.

Americans in Midweek Action

With a number of American players taking part in games during the working week, get everything marked down on your calendar so you don’t miss anything. Things get started this afternoon with a huge game, as Malik Tillman, Ricardo Pepi, Sergino Dest, and PSV Eindhoven take on Borussia Dortmund in the UEFA Champions League. European competition continues on Thursday as well, with Christian Pulisc, Yunus Musah, and AC Milan facing Rennes in the Europa League play. Things finish out on Friday as the red-hot Brandon Vazquez and Monterrey face Juarez in Liga MX competition.

Minnesota United Close to Coaching Hire

A coaching search that will surely go down as one of the most thorough in MLS history is nearing its conclusion, as Minnesota United is reportedly close to naming Manchester United assistant Eric Ramsay as the team’s new skipper. While nothing is official yet, Ramsay is said to be the leading candidate, and The Athletic‘s Tom Bogert says that the team is closing in on the hire. If he joins, Ramsay will become the youngest coach in league history at the tender age of 32, and he will also become Minnesota’s second coach following Adrian Heath’s departure in October of last year.

Free Kicks


That’s all I have for this morning. Vamos Orlando!

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Opinion

Orlando City’s 10th Anniversary is the Time to Remember the Club’s Originals

Orlando City’s 10th year in MLS should be used to honor the players who built the club.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC

The 2024 season is Orlando City’s 10th in Major League Soccer. The club has scheduled several events throughout the year to celebrate having been in the country’s top division for a decade, but the season should also be a time for fans to reflect on the people who made it happen without getting to experience the result.

Orlando City arrived in Orlando in 2010 with the goal of reaching MLS. However, it was the first professional soccer team in the city since the 1990s and resides in a football hotbed, leaving many to wonder if the team would be successful. The most famous doubt came at the team’s inaugural media day, when longtime WESH 2 sportscaster Pat Clake told club founder Phil Rawlins and inaugural Head Coach Adrian Heath that, while he wished them luck, a professional soccer team in Orlando would never work.

The Orlando project got off to a much better start than the Austin Aztex, Rawlins’ former project. During the team’s first season in 2011, Orlando City substantially outdrew its predecessor, proving there was an appetite for soccer. But there was another factor to the team’s popularity. The Lions won…a lot.

The success of a team at home has a significant impact on the enjoyment of attending games. In four USL Pro seasons, Orlando City was 40-3-9 (W-L-D) at the Citrus Bowl (now Camping World Stadium) and Walt Disney World’s ESPN Wide World of Sports, winning three regular season titles and two USL Pro championships. Seeing the local team win and score frequently is much more likely to result in people returning for more games. That’s exactly what the Lions did, and it helped to create a following.

When MLS considered Orlando City for expansion, the league looked at average attendance, season ticket numbers, and community involvement. All of these factors were directly related to the team’s success on the field. For this reason, the key players on those teams are responsible for Orlando City being in MLS in the first place. 

In addition to their work on the field, the players from the USL Pro era worked in the community to build a following. They spoke with local groups and were active throughout Central Florida, convincing people to attend games. It was all about the effort of getting the team into MLS. Unfortunately, many of those players didn’t get to experience the results of their labor.

The core of Orlando City’s team from 2011 to 2013 remained the same, with Miguel Gallardo in goal, Luke Boden at left back, Rob Valentino at center back, Kevin Molino and Jamie Watson in the midfield, and Dennis Chin up top. The success they had resulted in the club being announced as the newest expansion side on Nov. 19, 2013. However, of those six stalwarts, only Boden and Molino continued with the team into MLS.

Over the past 10 years, Orlando City has had several star and fan favorite players come and go. As the club’s USL Pro era gets further in the rearview mirror, the players who built the organization are forgotten or unknown by a large portion of the fanbase that didn’t experience the early seasons.

To the club’s credit, Orlando City worked to keep the memory of the team’s foundation alive in recent years. This preseason, Chin, Lewis Neal (a 2011 original who returned to the team in MLS), and Dom Dwyer (who was on loan with the team in 2013 and returned in 2017) were involved in the popular away jersey unveiling. Additionally, Chin signed autographs and took part in a Q&A session during the Society XXI preseason game against the New England Revolution. They’ve had other events, like the 2022 U.S. Open Cup games against the Tampa Bay Rowdies, when former players have been invited back.

Additionally, the club raised banners last year for the 2011 and 2013 USL Pro championships and announced this year that it will display the trophies in a new permanent exhibit called “The Vault.” The club also released an updated version of the three-lion USL Pro logo from those first four seasons.

When people consider the factors that resulted in Orlando City joining MLS in 2015, the fan support during the USL Pro years is the first thing that comes to mind. But without the success of those teams and the work the players put into building the following, the club likely never would’ve made it to the top division. This 10th anniversary season is a good time to remember those club legends.

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Lion Links

Lion Links: 2/19/24

Orlando City wins preseason finale, post-match concert artists named, U.S. Open Cup in jeopardy, and more.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Merry Monday morning, Mane Landers. We’re about to get to see Orlando City play matches in both the MLS regular season and the Concacaf Champions Cup. Cavalry FC is up first on Wednesday and CF Montreal on Saturday. That’s a whole lot of Canada to start things off, eh? Before we get to the links, please join us in wishing a happy birthday to Orlando Pride star Marta, who turns 38 today.

Orlando City Defeats the Rapids in Preseason Finale

The Lions won their final preseason match against the Colorado Rapids 3-2 at Inter&Co Stadium on Saturday. Kyle Smith got the scoring going mere seconds into the match and Facundo Torres doubled the lead on a penalty kick before the end of the first half. The Rapids tied it up in the second half, but Orlando City rookie Jeorgio Kocevski scored a late winner in stoppage time to keep the Lions unbeaten in the preseason. Orlando ended the preseason schedule with a record of 4-0-1.

Orlando Postgame Concert Announced

As I get older, I see each decade get its time in the nostalgic spotlight. Evidently, it is the 1990s’ turn. Orlando City announced a concert that will follow the Austin FC match at Inter&Co Stadium on March 23. You didn’t ask for it — and neither did anyone else — but Vanilla Ice, Rob Base, and Montell Jordan are headlining an “I Love the 90s” post-match concert. I’m not entirely certain if everyone will be required to stop, collaborate, and listen, but it’s certainly a possibility.

PRO Referee Strike Looms

Normally, if I told you that Orlando City didn’t have to worry about the Professional Referees Organization (PRO), I’m willing to bet you’d be pretty happy. Now it’s a real possibility that the Lions’ first match will likely have stand-in referees. The Professional Soccer Referees Association rejected a new collective bargaining agreement with PRO, meaning that there will be a lockout. PRO has identified “qualified replacements” ready to make sure that matches will be able to be played.

Open Cup in Jeopardy

The start of the 2024 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup is only a month away, although that isn’t a certainty. U.S. Soccer and MLS are still not seeing eye to eye regarding how many of the senior squads will participate. On the other side of the equation, the USL is pushing back against the demands from MLS.

Ultimately, this is a power struggle between the upper levels of organized soccer in this country. If a compromise solution can’t be found, it could mean that the Open Cup won’t take place this year. If that happens, it won’t help any of the involved parties and it will be devastating to the supporters of all the clubs at every level.

Free Kicks

  • Thanks to Zakaria Taifi’s mother, Alyssa Taifi, we know that Orlando City B defeated Philadelphia Union II by a score of 4-0 in a preseason scrimmage, and that there was some chippiness in the match.
  • Inter Miami is under pressure to get roster compliant. As such, Federico Redondo will not be joining the Herons due to Miami’s inability to bring him in because of MLS regulations regarding payment methodology.
  • Inter Miami midfielder Victor Ulloa announced he is retiring, which will also help Miami’s roster cap problems.

That will do it for today. Check back for our coverage of Orlando City’s two matches this week. Vamos Orlando!

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