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Orlando City vs. Philadelphia Union: Player Grades and Man of the Match

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Winning is fun. Orlando City got back on track yesterday with a big 2-1 victory over the Philadelphia Union in Exploria Stadium. After three disappointing results on the bounce, getting a win over another top side in the standings is a massive confidence boost. Orlando did a much better job controlling and using possession to attack the Union and held off a handful of quality chances to secure all three points.

How did each Lion fare in one of Orlando’s biggest wins of the season?

Starters

GK, Pedro Gallese, 8 — It’s great having an elite goalkeeper back between the sticks. Gallese wasn’t asked to do a lot for most of the game, but when Philadelphia got its chances, El Pulpo was there. Gallese made four saves in the game, including multiple huge stops in tight towards the end of the match to secure all three points. His reaction time is ridiculous and He did concede a goal, but that’s not on the goalkeeper. 

D, Joao Moutinho, 7 — Good performance for Moutinho as he continues his run of consistent game time. He continues to be a solid asset in possession, completing 50 passes in this game, and pushed a little more forward with a completed cross and a successful dribble. At times, he showed flashes of the technical quality and attacking instincts that made him such a weapon for Orlando in seasons past. Defensively, it was a bit of a mixed bag. Moutinho had a pretty solid night with three successful tackles, three interceptions, four ball recoveries, and two clearances, but there were quite a few times, particularly in the second half, when he would be caught out and give too much space in behind. Also, Philadelphia’s goal came from a missed clearance by Moutinho, so that’s a negative as well. 

D, Robin Jansson, 7 — Somewhat quiet — except for a smashed nose — but quality performance for Jansson on Thursday night. He was good on the ball again, completing 95% of his 37 passes, and his defensive stats continue to impress, with another seven clearances and four ball recoveries in this game. I don’t know of a time Jansson was out of position or got beat by his man in this game as he continues to be an elite MLS center back. Let’s hope his nose is all right after that collision with Rodrigo Schlegel late in this game. 

D, Rodrigo Schlegel, 6.5 — Schlegel always gives a strong performance when he’s called upon, and Thursday was no exception. He was good defensively in this game and made eight clearances and a tackle. While he’s not a great on-ball presence, he did complete 22 passes at 85% and cycled possession well. Towards the latter stages of the game, he did have some shaky defensive moments, including getting beat to a ball in the box for Philadelphia’s goal and getting caught high stepping to the ball opening space in behind, but in general Schlegel had a tidy game in this one. 

D, Kyle Smith, 7.5 — Kyle Smith played hero at the end in this game after a good overall performance. His goal line clearance at the end, while not incredibly acrobatic or spectacular, showed good defensive instincts and the type of gritty play that makes Smith such a beloved player on this team. It’s not always pretty with El Soldado, but it’s usually pretty effective. His defensive work, including another clearance and five ball recoveries, was business as usual for Smith. What was surprising was some of his offensive play including two successful dribbles, one of which was a great bit of skill. His crossing remains a blight on his resume, with none of his three crosses finding a target. Smith also completed 28 of 37 passes (76%), including a key pass.   

MF, Andres Perea, 8 — The young midfielder continues to impress this season. His moment of the match came in the 59th minute when he got his head on an excellent Nani cross and perfectly placed it in the far corner. I did not know Perea had that in his locker and it was a treat to see. Perea continues to be solid on the ball, completing a lot of efficient short passes and clean half-turns into space on the dribble. In this game he completed 41 passes at 87%, including a key pass, and he also cleaned up with solid defensive work, including a clearance, an interception, and nine ball recoveries. There were times he was sloppy in possession or put a foot wrong defensively, but it was a great overall performance in the center of the park for Perea. 

MF, Uri Rosell, 7 — Solid if unspectacular performance from Rosell. He’s the type of player whose impact isn’t super noticeable, as he mostly retains possession or closes off space defensively — all things he did pretty well! He completed 35 passes, mostly short passes in Orlando’s half, but also helped hold possession when the Lions pushed forward. Rosell also made five ball recoveries and an interception defensively. A good, complementary game for him as he too works back into consistent MLS minutes. 

MF, Mauricio Pereyra, 8 (MotM) — Just a few days after I criticized his largely lackluster season, El Maestro put on a show against the Union. His assist was absolutely spectacular, with an inch-perfect pass through the teeth of the Philadelphia back line to the foot of Benji Michel. Pereyra was much more involved in the game, controlling the tempo and the attack. He completed 37 passes at an efficient 90% rate and most of them were in the opposition half. He even had a solid chance on goal in the first half, the one real weakness to his game. If there was any real problem with Pereyra’s performance it was the second half. He ran out of steam toward the end and wasn’t as dynamic. And of course we have to mention the yellow card which will see him suspended for Sunday’s match, though to blame Pereyra for that would be harsh, as it was barely any contact and extreme embellishment on the part of Jose Martinez. 

MF, Benji Michel, 7.5 — It starts with his well-taken goal in the 10th minute. Michel made a great darting run in behind the Philadelphia defense and after a fantastic ball from Pereyra, he coolly slotted it home to the far post. Michel was also impressive in other aspects of the attack as well, providing a creative spark from the left wing, even registering a key pass. He completed 29 passes at a solid 83% and completed a dribble. Michel also got back and did his defensive duties with two tackles and four ball recoveries. This was yet another good performance for Michel, who is increasingly looking like a regular starter for this team. He did pick up a yellow card for taking off his shin guards as he came off the pitch.

F, Chris Mueller, 6 — Quiet night for Mueller in his first game following news of an impending transfer to Scottish side Hibernian and in a rare appearance up top. In 70-plus minutes of action, Cash failed to register a shot or key pass. He was also fairly sloppy, being dispossessed once and losing most of his duels. To his credit, he did create a half-chance with an aggressive run into the box before sliding it across to Nani who had the ball knocked away. Mueller also completed 15 of 21 passes (71%), drew a foul, and made a ball recovery. 

F, Nani, 7.5 — This did not start as a particularly great game for Nani. He was sloppy and largely unproductive for most of the early going, but a player like Nani only needs a few moments to make his impact felt. His assist to Perea off a recycled set piece was the little bit of brilliance we’ve come to expect from the captain. There was a run in the second half where he was clearly the best player on the field and exploited an overmatched Philly defense. Nani was also heavily involved in possession, completing 41 passes and five dribbles. He also chipped in a little defensively with a clearance and two ball recoveries. Far from perfect, but still another magical night for Nani. 

Substitutes

F, Silvester van der Water (73’), 6 — Nothing much to say for van der Water. Since his early breakout, he’s regressed hard to the mean and has been pretty much a non-presence, including in this game. Granted, he wasn’t asked to do much and the team played a rather defensive shape most of the time he was out there. In total he completed a dribble plus all five of his passes and made an interception. Not terrible, but far from impactful. 

D, Antonio Carlos (73’), 6.5 — Welcome back! Antonio Carlos has been out of the lineup since a scary looking injury against the New York Red Bulls back on July 3, and he got about 20 minutes of action under his belt in his return to the field. He made an excellent play to put the ball out of play at the end of the match, ending any chance at another last-gasp attack from the Union. Outside of that, he wasn’t asked to do all that much but looked good. Carlos completed nine passes, made two clearances, one interception, and a ball recovery.

F, Tesho Akindele (78’), 6.5 — Much like Carlos, Tesho had little to do in this game, but helped seal the deal with his excellent defensive work rate. While he only completed four passes and didn’t create anything offensively, he also made a clearance and ball recovery. 

MF, Joey DeZart (78’), 6.5 — DeZart isn’t a particularly dynamic player, but he’s a solid young option. In one of his longer Orlando City appearances, the second-year midfielder was good with the ball, completing five of six passes and helping the Lions see out the lead. 

F, Alexander Alvarado (83’), N/A — Alvarado made a late cameo to give Nani a much-needed rest. The Ecuadorian completed three passes in his short time on the field.


That’s how I saw Thursday’s match, but what did you see? Comment your ratings below and make sure to vote for your Man of the Match.

Polling Closed

PlayerVotes
Mauricio Pereyra10
Pedro Gallese31
Nani4
Andres Perea12
Other (Comment Below)10

Orlando City

Intelligence Report: Orlando City vs. LAFC

Get some insider information on LAFC courtesy of someone who knows the team best.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

We find ourselves at the end of another week, which means that another Orlando City match is almost upon us. Following a two-week break, the Lions will return to action with a home contest against LAFC.

A date with LAFC means I got some insider info on the opposition from Trebor Tracy, the managing editor of Angels on Parade. They’re another former SBNation blog that has gone independent, and they continue to do excellent work covering LAFC, Angel City FC, and Orange County SC, so make sure you check them out!

Catch me up on some of LAFC’s off-season transfer business. Who are some names that were brought in, and who went out the door?

Trebor Tracy:  LAFC came into this season as close to a rebuild project as you can be for a team many expect to compete for championships and trophies each year. In the off-season the team saw 15 departures from the 2023 squad, and that’s not counting loans out. Among the bigger names leaving Los Angeles were both goalkeepers that helped lift LAFC to the 2022 MLS Cup, midfielder Kellyn Acosta, defenders Denil Maldonado and Diego Palacios, and of course, the departure of inaugural signing Carlos Vela. This was a team expected to look completely different this season and it has. As for the arrivals, the team spent the off-season loading up on the likes of goalkeeper Hugo Lloris, forwards Kei Kamara and Cristian Olivera, and defender Omar Campos. The rough start to the year for Los Angeles had a lot to do with the newness of the team and having to build that familiarity within the XI. 

Of the incoming transfers, who has made the biggest impression? Is there anyone who you’d like to see performing better than they have been so far?

TT: Its been hard for LAFC to replace a lot of the departures — not just in terms of production, but leadership and experience in several cases. While not technically an off-season arrival, Cristian Olivera, who arrived in summer window of 2023, really came into his own this season. With an entire off-season under his belt, he has by far been the best of the new arrivals for LAFC. He is producing goals, creating opportunities for others, and has that confidence this team thrives off of. On the other side of the coin, Hugo Lloris has been the biggest disappointment. In fairness to him, he has drastically improved during the team’s recent run, but the start of his MLS career had him easily one of the worst keepers in the league. 

LAFC is on a five-game unbeaten run in league play, what’s been working so well for the team during this stretch?

TT: Speaking of that run, the play of Lloris is why they have done so well recently. Well, that and Denis Bouanga appears to have found his soccer boots again. The 180 those two have done has been the catalyst for the team’s great run of form lately. 

Will any players be unavailable for selection due to injury, suspension, call-ups, etc.? What is your projected starting XI and score prediction?

TT: Availability reports come out night before the match, and we have the team presser this afternoon. with a few players set to return, I am unsure at the moment as to who exactly will be  ready to go.


Thank you to Trebor for helping get us caught up on LAFC. Vamos Orlando!

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Orlando City

Orlando City Needs to Start Using the Scoreboard Again

A deep statistical dive into Orlando City’s offensive struggles. We’re warning you…there will be math (but we do it for you).

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

One of the more memorable scenes in my favorite movie of all time, Bull Durham, is when the manager walks into the showers after another loss, yells at the team about their recent performance, and ends with “this (baseball) is a simple game: you throw the ball, you hit the ball, you catch the ball. You got it!?” Soccer is, of course, a little different but the concept remains the same. You pass the ball, you shoot the ball, you score the ball. Unless you are Orlando City, recently.

Anyone can look at the recent results for Orlando City and see that goals have been, shall we say, less than plentiful. But why is that happening? Well, one idea may be that another team in Orlando is using up all the goals, with the Orlando Pride having scored 19 (excluding opposition own goals) to Orlando City’s 15, with the Pride having played four fewer games to boot, but goals are not a zero-sum equation (I know you asked your math teacher for years when you would ever need to use equations in the real world; you’re welcome!), so let’s dive into what has been going on for Orlando City and take a look at what may be causing an average of 0.94 goals/game (again, excluding opposition own goals) in the 2024 MLS season after an average of 1.6 goals/game in 2023.

Wayne Gretzky famously said, “you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take,” but I do not think a lack of shots taken is the main culprit for this Orlando City team this season. Yes, in the last match against the Red Bulls the Lions only managed five shots (all stats in this article are courtesy of fbref.com,  in collaboration with Opta, which codes thousands of matches every weekend across hundreds of competitions all over the world), but for the 2024 season, Orlando City is averaging 11.8 shots/game, 1.1 shots/game fewer than the league average of 12.9 but actually 0.1 higher than Orlando City’s 11.7 shots/game from 2023. Orlando City’s 11.8 shots/game ranks 23rd in all of MLS — not great, but the team with the most shots/game, St. Louis FC at 16.8, has only earned one more point than Orlando City after playing the same number of games, and the correlation (I told you there would be math) between shots/game and goals is relatively weak (r = 0.25, a strong positive correlation would be an r between 0.7 and the maximum r value of 1.0), so a higher value of shots/game does not necessarily lead to more goals.

What does tend to lead to more goals is more shots on target. I know, I know, you never would have thought of that. And as we look into shots on target for Orlando City in 2024, lo and behold, this is where we start to really see where the problems have arisen this season. Orlando City ranks 26th in MLS this year with 29% shots on target, so when you combine a rank of 23rd in shots/game with a rank of no. 26 in shots on target, you get a team that has scored a low amount of Goals as compared to the rest of the league. Orlando City’s 29% shots on target rate in 2024 is an 18% decrease from its 2023 shots on target percentage of 36% (7% raw decrease (36%-29% = 7%) but an 18% percent decrease (29%/36% – 100% = -18%), and the Lions’ 29% shots on target percentage is 1.28 standard deviations below the MLS average.

This is probably the time for me to tell you I was that high school math teacher who students asked about using math in the real world, and I did teach AP statistics, where we frequently talked about standard deviations and 1.28 standard deviations below the average is, in this case, to use a technical term, u-g-l-y and they ain’t got no alibi.

Is it as ugly as Bubba Sparxxx rapped about back in 2000? Was that just a question to make a pop culture reference about a song I enjoyed when I was in high school? Yes and yes. The first time I ever heard former Orlando City coach Adrian Heath interviewed he said, “Goals change games,” which of course is obvious and means that those who are taking the most shots need to be game changers. Looking at the table below, we can see who has been taking the shots and the differences between 2024 and 2023:

At first glance there is some good news. Orlando City’s leading shot takers this year are generally shooting on target around the league average, but it is on the clinical side, the goals per shot on target and goals per shot attempt where we can see that Orlando City is struggling.

We do see that Duncan McGuire continues to be clinical when he gets his shots on target, but the big drop for him is that last year he put nearly three out of every four shots on target and this year he is down to something much closer to the league average of around one out of every three. Among players with at least 17 shots last year (I chose this number because it would be 0.5 shots/game across 34 games and because it is my father’s favorite number), Duncan ranked first out of 244 MLS players in shots on target percentage and in goals per shots on target, and though his numbers this year are still above average, he is down to 43rd and 13th out of the 108 players who have taken more than 17 shots, respectively (keeping the same shot volume threshold for consistency). Four other major takeaways from me on this chart:

  • Facundo Torres was second on the list for most shots taken in 2023 and was an excellent finisher (this does include penalties, but they are shots and you have to make them), but in 2024 he is tied for fifth in shots with Dagur Dan Thórhallsson at only 15 shots taken.
  • Martin Ojeda remains a high volume shooter, but he is looking much more like Jordan Poole than Steph Curry this year with a lot of shots on target but not a lot of makes. And by not a lot I mean, sadly, zero.
  • Orlando City as a whole is taking shots from slightly closer to the goal but the team’s most frequent shooters are shooting from farther away than last year, and you do not need me as a math major to tell you that goalkeepers would prefer long shots over close shots.
  • Ercan Kara was a somewhat maligned striker for Orlando City, but he was pretty lethal when he got a shot off, putting more than two out of every five shots on frame and scoring at twice the MLS average on goals/shot. His 2023 shot volume is low on this chart because he left halfway through the season, but in his two years in MLS he scored at 21% and 22% on goals/shot, which put him in the upper echelon of shooters in the league.

Going back to McGuire and where he ranked in all of MLS, here is a heat map, but with the corresponding percentile ranks of Orlando City’s players among players who took at least 17 (hi Dad) shots (red to green scale — 0% (dark red, very low performance) to 100% (dark green, very good performance).

The comparisons between 2024 and 2023 are the most stark again in the columns involving goals, as in 2023 Orlando City’s most frequent shooters were scoring in the upper echelons of all MLS players, and this year there is much more red/orange than green for those with at least 17 shots. The other biggest differences of course surround who is taking the shots. Luis Muriel has arrived and has taken the most shots in 2024, but looking at his career shooting stats there is not a lot of evidence that being a lethal finisher is something in his skillset. Barbra Banda he is not, but then again nobody is Barbra Banda (except Barbra Banda), and expecting Muriel to change his playing style to be more of a finisher rather than initiator while adapting to a new league and teammates is lot to ask for someone who joined after the season began.

The bigger need for Orlando City is to get McGuire back on the field and to get Torres going, Facundo’s shots/90 minutes is down more than 50% from last season (largely owing to playing a lot of wingback over the last several weeks), and for someone who was in the 94th percentile in goals/shot in 2023 to have decreased their shot volume by so much is the opposite of what you want. Plus, Facundo is my son’s favorite player and he misses seeing Torres’ selfie celebration.

I want to end with a positive, however, and that is wrapped around the concept of regression to the mean. In the case of Orlando City this would actually likely be a positive regression as opposed to a negative one. During the last four years, MLS has been remarkably stable in terms of goals/shot on target (35%, 32%, 33%, 33%) and goals/shot (12%, 11%, 11%, 11%). Just because the league has been stable does not mean that Orlando City automatically will improve, but with the talent of the players on the squad and their history, I think it is more likely than not that Orlando City’s low performance so far in 2024 will come back up towards league average — much like a Major League Baseball player’s batting average on balls in play often evens out over time based on their level of skill.

Orlando City has talented players, including many who led the team to the best record in the team’s history last season, and I believe it is likely that we will start seeing small increases in goals/shot on target and goals/shot as the season progresses. I certainly hope we do, because it is much more fun when Orlando City masters this simple game and scores the ball, scores the ball, and scores the ball.

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Lion Links

Lion Links: 6/14/24

Orlando City prepares to take on LAFC, Lions linked with Alan Saldivia, Orlando City B draws against Chattanooga FC, and more.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Happy Friday! I’m working for most of this weekend but am still looking forward to the absurd amount of soccer ahead of us. Both Orlando City and the Orlando Pride have games Saturday, and the 2024 Euros should give us some exciting matches from teams we don’t watch all too often. Let’s dive right into today’s links!

Orlando City Prepares for LAFC

The international break is over and Orlando City is back in action Saturday night for a home game against LAFC. It’s been a difficult season for the Lions so far, and they have been shut out in three of their past five games. Points have been hard to come by at home for Orlando and a match against one of the best teams in the Western Conference won’t make that any easier. With David Brekalo at the Euros, Rodrigo Schlegel is expected to start and it would be his 100th MLS appearance. Ramiro Enrique would also make his 50th appearance across all competitions as a Lion should he take the field.

Lions Linked Reportedly Bow Out of Bid to Sign Defender Alan Saldivia

With the MLS summer transfer window looming, a rumor surfaced of Orlando City making an offer to sign Uruguayan center back Alan Saldivia from Colo-Colo in Chile. The Lions reportedly offered $1.5 million for the 22-year-old, but that doesn’t reach the $2.2 million Colo-Colo wants at minimum. The Lions reportedly would not go higher. While center back isn’t exactly a pressing need for the Lions at this time, Saldivia would have given the team a young and talented player who could anchor the defense for years to come.

Orlando City B Drops Points in Disappointing Draw

OCB hosted Chattanooga FC and had to settle for a 2-2 draw after giving up a lead not once, but twice. The Young Lions had Chattanooga on the ropes late in the match, taking the lead just before the end of normal time, only to get punched in the mouth in stoppage time and then lose the penalty shootout. It was the second straight 2-2 draw at home for the Young Lions and they’re still on the hunt for their first win this month. OCB’s next game will be on the road against New York City FC II on Wednesday.

Getting Ready for the MLS NEXT Cup Playoffs

The MLS NEXT Cup playoffs kick off Saturday as the best teams across four age groups compete in a knockout format. Orlando City’s U-15 squad was recognized as one of the title contenders in its age group and will take on Real Salt Lake in the round of 32 on Saturday . The team also did well in MLS NEXT Flex, and Jakob Garcia, who has scored 18 goals in 21 games, is the kind of attacker who can make all the difference in knockout matches. Orlando’s U-17 team is capable of making a run as well, although it faces a tough first match on Sunday against the Philadelphia Union, which won the 2024 Generation Adidas Cup. It should be a fun tournament, and hopefully Orlando’s teams can advance far enough to be included in the games streamed on MLS Season Pass.

Free Kicks

  • Carl Robinson is back in MLS after Atlanta United hired him as an assistant coach. The 47-year-old played for Toronto FC and the New York Red Bulls to close out his playing career and also served as the head coach of the Vancouver Whitecaps.
  • Chicago Fire Designated Player Xherdan Shaqiri reportedly wants to return to Europe. The 32-year-old has been with the Fire since 2022 but hasn’t lived up to his billing and his contract is set to expire after this season.

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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