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2020 Orlando City Season in Review: Kyle Smith

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Kyle Smith was one of James O’Connor’s guys from the Louisville City FC days, and was one of two LCFC players brought in by O’Connor when he took over in Orlando. When there is a coaching change, guys like that don’t usually end up staying on the roster, but Smith earned the respect of the front office and Óscar Pareja with his work ethic, and that paid dividends for all parties when João Moutinho got injured. He isn’t the flashiest player, the biggest name, or even the first team choice, but the man earned his place on a much improved Orlando City roster.

Let’s dig deeper into Kyle Smith’s 2020 season.

Statistical Breakdown

Smith played in 16 league games this season. He started 11 of those games and accumulated 1,026 minutes on the field. He also appeared in all four of Orlando’s knockout round games in the MLS is Back Tournament (all off the bench for 18 total minutes) as well as both playoff games. Smith was Pareja’s utility man, playing at both fullback positions, and in the midfield as needed.

Pareja’s fullbacks are expected to get into the offense and Smith took eight shots, with five shots on goal. He did not score a goal but he did record one assist. He committed 25 fouls, and suffered seven, which is not surprising given his defensive role on the field. Defensively, Smith ended the season with 14 interceptions, 38 tackles, 38 clearances, and four blocked shots. Smith completed 81.6% of his passes with 38 long balls, 10 crosses, and 10 key passes.

Best Game

Smith’s best game was the 3-1 win over the New York Red Bulls on Oct. 3 that extended Orlando City’s unbeaten streak at the time to nine games. Smith made some key defensive plays to help keep the Red Bulls from scoring more than one, and had a 74% passing rate, seven tackles, a clearance, five crosses, and an assist in the match. Check out Smith’s inch-perfect cross onto Daryl Dike’s head to get his only assist of the year.

Smith’s performance earned Man of the Match honors from The Mane Land in our player grades for the match, and from both Michael Citro and myself on The Mane Land PawedCast.

2020 Final Grade

Smith did everything asked of him and more for the Lions this season. While no one would argue for him starting over Ruan or Moutinho, he proved himself to be a more than adequate replacement. During the season, Smith averaged a 5.5 in The Mane Land’s player grades pieces. However, The Mane Land staff was impressed enough with the performance of the backup role player to give him a final composite grade of 6.

2021 Outlook

Smith will be back in purple for the 2021 season, as Orlando City exercised his option. I anticipate that Smith will continue to be the plug-and-play backup that every successful club needs to have. With a year under Pareja’s system, and more minutes than might have been expected, Smith has become a valuable piece for Orlando City as the club looks to better 2020’s results.


Previous Season in Review Articles (Date Posted)

Orlando City

Orlando City vs. San Jose Earthquakes: Preview, How to Watch, TV Info, Live Stream, Lineups, Match Thread, and More

Orlando City completes its three-matches-in-eight-days marathon with a cross-country trip to San Jose.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Welcome to your match thread for a late Saturday night matchup between Orlando City SC (3-5-4, 13 points) and the San Jose Earthquakes (3-9-1, 10 points). This is the only meeting between the teams in 2024 and the first time the teams have met since 2021.

Here’s what you need to know ahead of tonight’s match.

History

Orlando City is 2-1-3 in the previous six MLS meetings with the Quakes since the club joined Major League Soccer in 2015. The Lions have yet to win an away game in the series, however, going 0-1-2 on the road against San Jose.

The most recent meeting took place on June 22, 2021, with the Lions beating the Quakes down, 5-0. Orlando got things started with an early penalty kick goal by Nani, followed by braces from Benji Michel and Daryl Dike to easily put the game away. The lasting memory from the game is Michel’s celebratory dance wearing a cowboy hat that came out of the stands.

Prior to that Orlando City romp, the last time the teams met was on Aug. 31, 2019 when the Lions got freight trained 3-0 at Avaya Stadium, giving the Quakes their first win in the series. San Jose’s offense came via a Chris Wondolowski brace and an early opening goal by Magnus Eriksson. Orlando looked flat and weary out of the gate.

The Lions were victorious in Exploria Stadium in the 2018 meeting on April 21, a 3-2 Orlando win. It was the first win in the series for either side after three straight draws. Chris Mueller, Sacha Kljestan, and Dom Dwyer gave the Lions a 3-0 lead before Florian Jungwirth pulled two back in the game’s late stages.

The Lions led all of the first three matches in the second half only to see San Jose pull level, with two of those tying goals coming late. In the 2017 meeting, Carlos Rivas finally broke the scoreless tie and gave Orlando City the lead in the 81st minute, but Wondolowski spoiled the Lions’ night with an equalizer two minutes later as the teams drew at Avaya Stadium, 1-1.

In 2016, the Lions were gut-punched in the 94th minute in an emotional match that ended in a 2-2 draw. It was the first home match following the Pulse nightclub tragedy and what appeared to be a storybook ending to a cathartic win turned sour on a last-gasp equalizer by Shea Salinas. Seb Hines — now in his second full season as the Orlando Pride’s head coach — opened the scoring for Orlando, only to see Chad Barrett tie it up. Julio Baptista restored the lead in stoppage time, but Salinas ruined everything.

The two teams also drew in the first meeting, a 1-1 affair at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, with the Lions down to 10 men after Brek Shea was sent off in the first half. Kaká and Wondolowski each scored from the penalty spot four minutes apart in that initial meeting.

Overview

Orlando City is unbeaten in its last two games following a 0-0 home draw against Inter Miami Wednesday night. The Lions and Herons looked shattered in the second half of that game, and neither side would give an inch defensively. On the first clear looks at goal the teams had, both goalkeepers were outstanding, keeping the game scoreless. Orlando looks to earn points for the third straight match, but the team didn’t get to rotate much in the last week due to injuries, and things may not be back to normal just yet.

San Jose is in the Western Conference cellar with just three wins and 10 points from 13 matches. Still, the Earthquakes can score. San Jose has put the ball in the net 22 times this season. Only three Western Conference teams and five clubs in all of MLS have scored more. San Jose’s big problem has been shipping goals. The Quakes have conceded 32 times in 2024, which is dead last in Major League Soccer. The closest team to giving up that many is Portland, which has yielded 27 goals and just beat San Jose 4-2 on Wednesday night. That game was wild, with a horrible penalty throwing the Timbers a lifeline while they trailed 2-0 late. The bad call also resulted in the sending off of defender Bruno Wilson, though he will be eligible for this match after his one-game suspension was rescinded by the Independent Review Panel. Portland not only scored the penalty, but roared back to win 4-2 in a crazy game that included a second penalty on the Quakes later in the match.

Former FC Dallas coach Luchi Gonzalez is in his second season at the helm in San Jose. His team features a standout forward in Cristian Espinoza, who has two goals and a team-leading eight assists on the year. That gives him a direct goal contribution on nearly half of San Jose’s 22 goals in 2024. He’ll be the man Orlando must stop from scoring or setting up others, but the Quakes still have Jeremy Ebobisse (three goals), as well as a new No. 9, Amahl Pelligrino, who leads the Quakes with four goals on the year.

The Lions will need to avoid getting in a shootout with the Earthquakes, try to conserve energy, and play tight defense like they did on Wednesday.

“A really short period to prepare the game, but it’s the way that it is,” Orlando City Head Coach Oscar Pareja said about tonight’s game. “We’re traveling to the west coast, we had a very good flight, the boys look very fresh, and today we will train in the evening to keep our preparation and to keep recovering the team. So basically, that has been the routine so far and we’re just trying to get in and use this momentum to keep adding points.” 

The Lions will play this west coast game without Ramiro Enrique (right ankle), Mikey Halliday (right knee), Robin Jansson (right ankle), and Tahir Reid-Brown (left thigh). Cesar Araujo is also out tonight due to yellow card accumulation. The Earthquakes have three injuries heading into this game, with Daniel Britto (lower body), JT Marcinkowski (knee), and Jamar Ricketts (lower body) listed as out.

Match Content


Projected Lineups:

Orlando City (4-2-3-1)

Goalkeeper: Pedro Gallese.

Defenders: Rafael Santos, Rodrigo Schlegel, David Brekalo, Dagur Dan Thorhallsson.

Defensive Midfielders: Wilder Cartagena, Nico Lodeiro.

Attacking Midfielders: Ivan Angulo, Martin Ojeda, Facundo Torres.

Forwards: Duncan McGuire.

San Jose Earthquakes (4-2-3-1)

Goalkeeper: William Yarbrough.

Defenders: Vitor Costa, Tanner Beason, Rodrigues, Carlos Akapo.

Defensive Midfielders: Niko Tsakiris, Carlos Gruezo.

Attacking Midfielder: Amahl Pelligrino, Hernan Lopez, Cristian Espinoza.

Forwards: Jeremy Ebobisse.

Referees

REF: Malik Badawi.
AR1: Ryan Graves.
AR2: Adam Garner.
4TH: Brandon Stevis.
VAR: Kevin Stott.
AVAR: Mike Kampmeinert.


How to Watch

Match Time: 10:30 p.m.

Venue: PayPal Park — San Jose, CA.

TV/Live Stream: MLS Season Pass on Apple TV+

Radio: FM 96.9 The Game (English), Mega 97.1 FM (Spanish).

Twitter: For rapid reaction and live updates, follow along at @TheManeLand, as well as Orlando City’s official Twitter feed (@OrlandoCitySC).

Enjoy the match. Go City!

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Opinion

Examining Orlando City’s 3-5-2

Let’s talk about Orlando City’s three-center-back formations, and try to determine if they should be the new norm.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

In the last two Orlando City matches against the Philadelphia Union and Inter Miami, Oscar Pareja has deployed his team in 3-5-2, and 3-4-1-2 formations, respectively. While Papi typically prefers to set his team up in a 4-2-3-1, injuries to fullbacks Rafael Santos, Dagur Dan Thorhallsson, and Mikey Halliday have necessitated some creative problem solving. The two uses of the 3-5-2 and its slightly tweaked variant have been met with success, as the Lions have taken four points from their last two games and, as a result, there’s been some calls online for the team to persist with the formation. With that being the case, let’s do some digging into how the formation has served OCSC, and try to determine if it’s a viable option going forward.

A big thing to note with Orlando’s use of a three-man back line is the presence of Wilder Cartagena as the middle center back. It isn’t his natural position, but Rodrigo Schlegel’s suspension for the Union game meant that Pareja needed to conjure another center back from somewhere, and he elected to shift Cartagena into the back line rather than use Kyle Smith or one of Abdi Salim or Thomas Williams.

Against Philly, a normal 3-5-2 was used, with Pedro Gallese in goal, David Brekalo, Cartagena, and Robin Jansson in the back line, Ivan Angulo and Facundo Torres as wingbacks, Nico Lodeiro, Cesar Araujo, and Martin Ojeda in the midfield, and Luis Muriel and Duncan McGuire up top. The only tweaks against Miami were Schlegel replacing the injured Jansson and Ojeda pushing up to sit behind the two strikers in a 3-4-1-2 formation.

In the Union game, Orlando did a great job at pushing numbers forward quickly when it won the ball, and all three of its goals came in situations where the attack was pressed quickly when the Lions won possession. The Lions took 13 shots, with eight of them from inside the box, and totaled 1.25 expected goals (xG). The team’s best chances of the night came with McGuire’s headed opener and Muriel’s second goal, as both came from inside the box and both were converted. Against Miami, the Lions took 14 shots, with seven from inside the box, and totaled .69 xG. OCSC’s best chance came from Martin Ojeda’s 32nd-minute shot from inside the box, which was well saved by Drake Callender.

In essence, Orlando created more chances against the Union, and was more clinical about finishing those chances. However, the difference in attacking output wasn’t drastic, and we might be able to put it down to Miami being a better team than Philly and the Lions playing the Herons on short rest.

Against Philly, OCSC had a rough outing defensively. While one of the Union goals came from a penalty kick, the home team took a whopping 29 shots during the game with all but eight from outside the box, for a total of 3.85 xG. Against Miami, the Herons took seven shots with six inside the box for a total of .60 xG. Aside from Gallese stonewalling Luis Suarez just minutes into the game in a 1-v-1 chance, the defense largely did a good job of limiting chances.

Even accounting for two penalty kick attempts inflating Philadelphia’s expected goals, the Lions did a far better job at limiting dangerous chances against Miami. That could be due to the team being more comfortable with the defensive setup after using it for a game or a more cautious approach by Oscar Pareja due to Miami’s considerable firepower, even without the injured Lionel Messi.

The numbers and the eye test say that there’s enough reason to consider continuing to use the formation going forward. The Lions have shown that they can create chances and score goals, and they’ve shown that they can have a solid defensive outing, although it would be nice to demonstrate both characteristics in the same game. That, my friends, is where things start to get tricky, because persisting with the 3-5-2 or a variation of it isn’t as simple as obeying what the numbers say.

Let’s talk about Orlando’s personnel. Thorhallsson and Santos both seem to be working their way back from injury, and once healthy they could theoretically slot in at the two wingback positions, which should help Orlando avoid the defensive mess we saw against the Union. That means we need to figure out what to do with Torres and Angulo. Despite his slow start to the season, Torres is a guy you have to have on the field, and in order to do that, I propose slotting him into Ojeda’s spot in the 3-4-1-2. The problem there is that he hasn’t looked super comfortable when operating as a central playmaker, but this could be resolved by instructing Muriel to drop off McGuire and play a little deeper, and giving Facu free reign to roam into the wide areas where he’s more comfortable.

Assuming Jansson will be missing for a few more games, I think you keep Cartagena at center back, considering how well he’s played there. Ojeda and Angulo come off the bench as impact subs, and you can rotate Ojeda into Lodeiro’s spot in the midfield as necessary to protect the Uruguayan’s legs. Once Jansson is back, he can slot in as the third center back, and Cartagena can move into the midfield, with Nico likely being the man sacrificed in games where Pareja wants more defensive stability, or Cartagena/Araujo dropping to the bench if Papi wants to go in guns blazing. I don’t particularly love that option though, as you generally want your best players on the field, and I have a hard time justifying breaking up the Araujo-Cartagena partnership that’s seen so much success.

The immediate problem with any three-center-back formation is Araujo’s yellow card suspension, which will mean he’s unavailable for Saturday’s game against San Jose. Theoretically, Cartagena could move up the field to take his place and Smith could slot in for the Peruvian, or Felipe could start in Araujo’s place, but if Santos and Thorhallsson are fit enough to start, I think we’ll see the return of a four-man back line. Otherwise, the same lineup would be starting its third game in eight days, and on a West Coast trip to boot. That seems like a recipe for disaster, so while I think there’s a way to trot out a 3-5-2/3-4-1-2, I don’t think we’ll see it on Saturday.


In short, the two formations have shown enough promise for them to merit some more looks, while bearing in mind that we’ve only seen a small sample size. The biggest challenge with continued use comes when Orlando has a clean bill of health and you try to figure out how to get as many of your best players on the field as you can. At that point it becomes a question of whether one of the new formations maximizes this team’s strengths, or if the best course of action is to revert to a 4-2-3-1 and keep the 3-5-2 in the back pocket for when its needed.

Either way, the strategy is going to be something interesting to keep an eye on going forward.

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Lion Links

Lion Links: 5/17/24

MLSPA releases player salaries, Duncan McGuire discusses move to Blackburn, Orlando Pride prepare for the Seattle Reign, and more.

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Dan MacDonald, The Mane Land

Happy Friday! The weekend is nearly here, with plenty of soccer both here in the domestic leagues and abroad. I have a pretty packed weekend but am looking forward to watching Orlando City and the Orlando Pride in action. It should be a nice next few days, so let’s get it started with today’s links!

MLSPA Releases Player Salaries

The Major League Soccer Players Association unveiled the base salary and guaranteed compensation information for every player under contract with the league as of April 25 — except Wilder Cartagena, apparently. Luis Muriel is the highest-paid Orlando City player, and his $4.3 million in guaranteed compensation is the 12th most in the league, while his base salary is just over $2.83. As for other Orlando newcomers, Nico Lodeiro’s compensation is $800,000 and David Brekalo’s is $683,000.

Lionel Messi predictably tops the list of all players with $20.4 million guaranteed for playing with Inter Miami. To put that number into perspective, it’s more than the compensation of every team in the league except his own team (Miami), Toronto FC, Nashville SC, and the Chicago Fire. Orlando City is 22nd in the league in compensation, clocking in at $15.07 million.

Duncan McGuire Weighs In on Moving to Blackburn

Orlando City forward Duncan McGuire had a hurricane of an off-season due to a transfer saga that nearly saw him join Blackburn Rovers in England. An administration error by Blackburn prevented the move from going through, and McGuire ultimately returned to Orlando. In the time since, there have been reports that Orlando offered him a new contract and that Blackburn still wants him to join in the summer. McGuire spoke about whether he is still interested in a move to Blackburn after the difficult experience.

“It’s tough to say,” McGuire told GOAL.”That was a pretty bad mistake, a pretty bad mistake by them. I’d be open to maybe having a conversation but it would have to be a lot to get me to go back there. On the plane ride back, I just felt like my tail was between my legs. I asked my agent how often this happens and he was like ‘This doesn’t happen’.

“I didn’t burn bridges with my teammates or have it be like ‘Oh you wanted to leave and now you’re back’. When I got back, it was like I never left.”

Orlando Pride Prepare for the Seattle Reign

The Orlando Pride will take their six-game win streak on the road for a match against the Seattle Reign Sunday night. The Reign are coming off of a 4-0 loss to the Portland Thorns in their sixth defeat of the season, but Pride Head Coach Seb Hines discussed how the Reign played better in that match than the score suggests. The Pride have also never won in Washington, and the turf and atmosphere of Lumen Field could give Orlando some trouble after a long trip. Injuries, particularly to the midfield, have made things difficult for the Pride, but midfielder Morgan Gautrat detailed how the team’s chemistry has helped them get results despite the adversity.

Nashville SC Fires Gary Smith

Nashville SC has parted ways with Gary Smith, who had been the club’s only head coach while in MLS. Smith joined Nashville back in 2018, coaching the team for two seasons in the USL Championship before. With a defensive style, Smith led the team to MLS playoff appearances in all four years but couldn’t put together a deep run. Nashville is currently 10th in the Eastern Conference and Rumba Munthali will serve as the club’s interim head coach while the club searches for a new permanent coach.

Charlotte FC Transfers Enzo Copetti Out

Another Designated Player is leaving Charlotte FC, as the club transferred Enzo Copetti to Rosario Central in Argentina’s top flight. The forward recorded eight goals and three assists across all competitions while with Charlotte, and has played less than 500 minutes this season. Copetti is the latest Designated Player transferred out since Dean Smith took over as Charlotte’s head coach, with Kamil Jozwiak sent to Granada and Karol Swiderski loaned to Hellas Verona. Despite the turnover, Charlotte sits fifth in the Eastern Conference and could make some noise this season if it brings in the right players in the summer transfer window.

Free Kicks

  • Former Lion Miguel Gallardo spoke with the folks over at The Blazing Musket about the New England Revolution and the art of goalkeeping.
  • Our condolences go out to the friends and family of Derek Sanderson, who played for many teams across many leagues back in the 1980s, including the American Soccer League’s Orlando Lions.

That’s all I have for you today. I hope you all have a fantastic Friday and rest of your weekend!

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